"This is fucking boring," he said, sounding thoroughly fed up, "kiss chase, why don't we have a game of kiss chase?"
Sitting beside me was a famous wine columnist. I won't name-drop, but only because I cannot remember her name. You would expect that we were having an intelligent, cultured and mind-numbingly boring conversation about wine, journalism and Chateau Magdelaine. Truth is we were distracted by the Jacob's Creek boys to our right.
One thin, the other fat, proportionally identical to Laurel and Hardy, two strangers who had met at the station. They each had a bottle of wine, in front of them an array of discarded Fosters cans. Hardy seemed a pleasant chap, sitting there quietly, quiet and sleepy. Laurel was wired and extremely rowdy, one of those types who, when inebriated, will badger anyone and everyone around them in a relentless attempt to be the most irritating donkey on the planet. He looked very similar to the freaky guy in Something About Mary, the one with hives.
With Hardy falling asleep, Laurel turned to the seat behind him where a spectacled gentleman was sleeping peacefully. He shook the gentleman and woke him up, "where are you going?" he asked. "York? I get off after that," he said and then in delicious irony, "don't worry, if you're still asleep when we get to York I'll wake you up."
"I get this train every few weeks," I heard him say, "drink my arse off every time." Could have fooled me. A lady came by selling tickets. "This whole service is great and you, my dear, are a darling." A passenger squeezed past on their way to the toilet. "He just wanted to rub past you," said Laurel, "the perv," before waxing philosophical in drunken optimism.
"The worst things in life are train fares. The best things in life are everything else." To be fair, there is a lot of truth in that statement, although it is incorrect. The worst things in life are public toilets.
As the ticket ladies moved up the carriage he turned back to Spectacles behind him, waking him rudely. "What do you do for a living?" he asked, before launching into a monologue. Did I say monologue? Soliloquy would be more accurate. Laurel spoke at great length, uninterrupted except for when he interrupted himself, speaking vaguely in Spectacles' direction, but certainly not to him. Spectacles sat there nodding gently, the colour draining from his face. My companion turned to me, "he needs nothing more than a good slap," she said. So I got up and...
Laurel's language got progressively worse (for which I apologise) as he ranted against bankers, doctors and pretty much anyone who earned more than him, "so far up their fucking arseholes," he raved. It wouldn't have been a good time for my companion to let on that she spends her time travelling across Europe, visiting the odd château and drinking expensive wine.
We arrived at York and Spectacles escaped with an exhausted expression draped over his face. The poor chap looked like a man whose soul had slowly been sucked out through a straw. "Listen mate, " said Laurel, placing his hand on the poor chap's shoulder, "Ah fuckin' hope all goes well for ya fella." If Spectacles hoped for anything it was that Laurel slipped on the kitchen floor when he got home and died in a freak teaspoon incident.
And that's when he suggested playing kiss chase. I thought for a moment that Laurel could in actual fact be Rubbish, but then remembered that Rubbish only drinks apple juice. From miniature kiddie cartons I suspect.
"Why don't we have a game of kiss chase? There are plenty of girls around," he said, bubbling with enthusiasm. He winked at a blond further up the carriage. "She's alright," he said, "and her, and her, but that one's asleep so she can't play," and as if to explain the sleeping beauty's exclusion from the game, "it wouldn't be fair" he said kindly.