ON SATURDAY my friend David and I went on a trip to Weymouth.
It’s three hours by rail from London, with no changes, courtesy of South West Trains. We sat in first class, along with an old man who spent the entire journey listening to music, a young woman, and – towards the end – some SWT employees who gossiped loudly about staffing issues and shift patterns.
We’d gone for first class because it was only a couple of pounds more than standard class and on the assumption we would be treated to a slightly more refined service.
We were not.
Aside from slightly larger seats and a tea towel slung over each of the head rests, there was no difference whatsoever.
But what was most irksome was the absence of freebies. Or to be even more precise, the fact it was one of the coldest days of the year and yet there was no complimentary hot drink.
For any poor bastards in the front carriage of standard class, there was no complimentary heating either. The train manager reassured passengers that “the other carriages are toastie warm”. I know she was trying to sound colloquial, but instead she ended up sounding twee and a bit over-familiar.
She actually had a bit of a torrid time, this train manager. Half an hour into the journey she had to appeal several times for “the owner of the black BMX bike that has been left by the buffet car” to remove said vehicle, then an hour or so after that she pleaded for “the owner of the tartan wash bag” that had been left in the ice-cold front carriage to collect said item before it was “removed and destroyed”.
There was no such excitement on the return journey, save for when the driver announced “CCTV is in operation throughout the train; this is especially directed at the passengers in the rear carriage”. This wasn’t us (we were at the front), but rather a group of teenage girls who had been shouting and mithering on the platform and were presumably still shouting and mithering on the train.
As for Weymouth itself, we didn’t exactly catch it at its best. It was so cold on the beach that I lost all feeling in my fingers as soon as I removed my gloves off to take a photo.
Then we were more or less turfed out of a branch of Costa Coffee when an old woman pointedly parked her walking frame by our table and proclaimed “I’ll be back in a few minutes”.
Meanwhile the amount of flags on display throughout the streets inferred the town had already started celebrating the royal wedding.
Still, it’s clearly in an agreeable location and on anything other than a day with temperatures below freezing it’s probably quite charming.
The train line’s pretty agreeable too, passing through the New Forest before hugging the south coast and tottering round the edge of Poole harbour.
Just make sure you keep your tartan wash bag close and carry a flask of hot drink at all times.