The 8.57 train leaving Oban on a Saturday morning isn’t only a means of travelling to Glasgow. Often it is my best chance of getting some sleep following a Friday night at the bar, and sometimes it is my first opportunity in the day for a cup of what is generously described on the ScotRail menu as “coffee”.
Nobody ever wants to sleep on the train. There are potentially as many as a thousand arses each year sitting on the seat you are contemplating slumber on and I struggle enough with the prospect of sleeping with one person, let alone scores of strangers. Then you consider the decor of the carriage and the faded purple and tired green pattern on the seats and you think that surely nobody could wish to sleep on Smurf vomit.
As soon as I finished peeling the reluctant skin from my orange I could feel my eyes become weary. Although I am a notoriously shy peeler of oranges in public situations due to my frequent inability to remove the skin in one fluent piece, I felt a certain confidence on this occasion when I observed the small boy of maybe five or six years of age opposite me use his nimble little fingers to peel a satsuma in a single complete effort. If he can do it there’s no reason I can’t, I thought to myself in a surge of optimism, and I reached for the orange from the bottom of my satchel. I pierced the top of the orange with my index finger and began to loosen the skin from the juicy fruit contained within. Things were going pretty well and the skin was coming away with ease. I felt relaxed and was pretty sure that the five-year-old boy sitting across from me would be impressed if he cared about such matters as much as he appeared to be interested in his colouring book, in which he used blues and greens to bring scribbled life to wildlife scenes. I couldn’t help but suspect that I was taunting me, and this only added to my determination to peel the orange whole. Then I reached an impasse and there was nowhere left for my finger to go without starting a second string – and that one proved so hopeless that there immediately followed a third attempt at peeling the orange. I folded the discarded pieces of skin into my empty coffee cup, hopeful that the child across the table hadn’t noticed my failure. The fruit itself was consumed in less time than it took to free from its jumpsuit, and I was left wondering if the healthy intake of vitamin C I enjoyed from the orange was worth the charade.
My eyes became as heavy as a plump robin on a thin bare branch and I could no longer keep myself awake. My head craned to the right, resting against the cold hard window – the worst pillow imaginable. Even worse than at the Travelodge. It wasn’t particularly comfortable and to make matters worse I felt certain that I was dreaming about falling asleep on the train. I could picture the scene clearly in my mind’s eye: a loose earphone dangling errantly from my ear, my eyes flickering like a faulty fairy light as I drift in and out of a barely sober slumber and my mouth hangs open like a snowmans, frozen in dumbfoundment. In my dream I could see a small formation of saliva gradually dribble down my chin in the manner of a drop of rain which grows bigger as it runs down the length of the window of the train. I immediately woke up, my hand desperately reaching towards my chin in an attempt to conceal the drool — but there was nothing there. My brow furrowed and I scanned the faces of the commuters sitting around me, hopeful that none of them had witnessed my flailing at an imaginary dribble. I discreetly returned the earbud to my ear, settled back in my chair and vowed that I would not allow myself to doze off again.
When I next woke up the train was nearing Glasgow Queen Street and I was feeling hungry. After enjoying a pint of Caesar Augustus upon arriving in the city I decided to venture towards the Christmas market at St Enoch Square, where a colleague had suggested that I should try the duck fat cooked chips. I purchased a carton and found a quiet spot to savour them. In my hungry haste to shove as many thin pieces of potato as possible into my mouth a couple of chips fell to the cold ground, where inevitably a flock of city centre dwelling pigeons quickly arrived. The birds cooed as they surveyed their unexpected meal of a couple of duck fat cooked chips and as I watched I was filled with the horrible realisation that I was about to become responsible for inadvertent cannibalism.
I briefly considered that maybe the pigeons would know that the chips had been fried in duck fat, either from a recognition of the scent or from an unexpected (at least from my point of view) ability to read from the sign above the stall. But my hopes were dashed when the birds wasted no time in scoffing the tasty treats, and I was left pinching myself in some doomed attempt to waken myself from this fowl nightmare.
Celtic 5-1 Motherwell
JJ 0-1 Sleep