The train was part of the new Virgin direct service to Shrewsbury, not that we knew that when we booked it, only heading as far as Birmingham. I'll overlook that Virgin might have suggested this would have been a better journey than the one I had planned but, hey, I'm in the mood to be generous. Which I wasn't when we boarded the train at Euston. We found our reserved seats in Coach D, except Coach D was quite definitely second class. We were not alone. Half the carriage had similarly upgraded to nothing. The other half was fighting hand to hand over the seats in Coach E, the only bona fide first class carriage.
Back in Coach D, the passive-aggressive sweat of Middle England was overwhelming the carriage. Those with second class tickets were utterly bemused. By Watford there was an undeniable whiff of a Blitz spirit brewing as the people opposite us ordered their free orange juice nevertheless. Via tannoy we were told to put our first class tickets on the table in front of us to claim our complimentary microwaved cardboard snack. “Oh no this is just embarrassing now” someone said, a little too loudly. “Let's have an outbreak of class warfare in Coach D”. Then I realised that was me. And it was definitely getting a bit confusing. One of the people in our second-class, first-class coach had paid the full walk-up standard fare. It was more than we'd paid for two first class tickets.
Being good Guardian readers we finagled free orange juices for the woman and her two kids squished into the seats next to us, a closeness that had replaced our pre-booked single seat luxury. As our reward the boy sat on the mother's lap and poked me in the face no more than seven times between Watford and Coventry, entirely unadmonished. Frankly, this is exactly why we chose not to sit with the proletariat in the first place.
Virgin have considered my complaint and offered me a free first class return sometime in the next six months. Just me, mind. I'm not sure what Anne did to upset them.
(Image Omnibus Life in London - William Maw Egley 1859)