The Train Man

A man sat next to me on the train and started talking. His voice was soft, with a faint Liverpudlian accent. He lisped – he pronounced ‘ess’ as ‘esh’ – and his words ran together. He was difficult to understand. He was in his forties, maybe, with younger eyes. His teeth were bad; brown and unbrushed. His coat cuffs were greasy and his blue trousers were flecked with white.

‘How long does it take to get to Chester?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I get off at Warrington.’

‘I’ve just got myself a new girlfriend for Christmas,’ he said. ‘That’s good, innit?’

‘That is good,’ I said.

‘Just in time for Christmas,’ he said. ‘That’s good, innit? Presents an’ that.’

‘That is good,’ I said. I nodded and smiled.

‘Only been together a few days,’ he said. ‘Took her out last night and then we stayed up having a few beers. She got a taxi home at about three o’ clock. That’s good, innit?’

I nodded and smiled.

‘I’ve said I’m going to go and pick her shopping up. That’ll make her happy, won’t it? One good turn an’ that.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘That’s nice’.

‘I had another girlfriend for four and a half years. She had a lovely personality an’ that an’ she was hilarious. Y’know, a good sense of humour. But she didn’t give me any love and affection. She wouldn’t put her hands round me and kiss me an’ that. But this new one, she puts her hands round me and kisses me an’ that. She gives me love and affection.’

‘Good,’ I said.

‘Because that’s the most important thing, innit? To be wanted.’

‘It is,’ I said.

‘Surroundings and that don’t matter. It’s who you live with that matters. Some people in slums are happier than them in mansion houses or hotels or semi-detached houses. It’s who you live with.’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘What time does the train go back to Earlestown?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know, I’m afraid,’ I said.

‘I’m just having a ride out on the train and back to pass the time, like. It’ll get me back just in time to go and pick her shopping up. Eleven bags. That’ll be some weight, won’t it?’

‘It will,’ I said.

‘She’ll still be in bed. Won’t be up until eleven after being up until three drinking beers.’

I laughed.

‘She lives in a nice house up by the hospital. Much nicer than mine. Hey – once I move in with her I’ll be sorted, eh?’

I laughed. He meant it though. He was smiling the most genuine smile. He had grey stubble. The train pulled into Warrington Bank Quay station.

‘Excuse me please,’ I said. ‘I’m getting off here.’

The man got up too. He stood at the door that divided the body of the carriage from the exit compartment. ‘How do you do this?’ he asked, gesturing at the door. ‘Press the button?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Press the button. Just that button there.’

‘That’s good, innit?’ he said, as he pushed the button. ‘I’ve always used me hands. Didn’t realise they were automatic.’

He got off the train with me and stayed on the platform as I descended the steps to leave the station. I thought about the eleven bags of shopping. Something about that shopping didn’t make sense.


7 Responses to “The Train Man”

  1. I wonder if the eleven bags actually contain his new girlfriend? Would a girlfriend divide up into eleven bags? Eleven would be about right, I think. Touching story, though.

    • Thank you Nick!

      I think eleven bags would be about right, yes. Depends on the size of the girlfriend though.

      Depends on the size of the bags too.


      What else might fit into eleven bags?

  2. socrates adams Says:

    i liked this! happy new year.

    • fellhouse Says:

      Thank you Socrates! Happy New Year to you too. Any readings in or around Manchester coming up in the near future?

  3. This was great to read Tom. And I can even hear in my head how you responded.

    For some reason I imagine your friend to sound a bit South West – with all the “an’ that” and “innit” and “that’s good”. But then maybe that’s just me being all Gloucestershire.


  4. Aw, I did like that. His girlfriend isn’t in the bags, she’s not even going to answer the door when he turns up. He’s got to go back to his slum, on his own….

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