< Back

And so this is Christmas!

And so this is Christmas!

Ramblings with a Railcard serves up a hot toddy of seasonal cheer

Last month my editor complained about the fact that there wasn’t enough about trains in the rambling articles. You wouldn’t argue with somebody with such big tattoos, bulging biceps and hairy arms. So this week she sat me down and gave me a much clearer brief.

“Write about Christmas and Rail Travel” she ordered, the Woodbine barely moving in her mouth. So if you do notice me wandering off the point a bit we can blame it on Johanna’s cigarette making lip-reading "difficult".

I’m tempted to start by saying that lots of people get on trains and go away for the Christmas holiday period. There is nothing that can be factually disputed in this statement, although some may baulk at the insertion of “holiday” to describe a colonised pagan festival that now has become a Christian one. I’d love to explain more about this but Johanna is brandishing a sprig of holly around the place at the moment. It may be safer to stick to the matter in hand.

Christmas and Easter though are the busiest two periods on the rail network. Christmas, if my hazy knowledge of scripture is right, fits because King Herod ordered all boys back to their place of birth so he could monitor the predicted arrival of a messiah. So for over 2000 years families have maintained a tradition of "going home for Xmas".

OK! Within any luck Johanna will just read the 1st two paragraphs and the last one and then nods. She always reads my stuff when she comes back from having her mid afternoon kebab and chilli sauce , makes her quite aggressive but better than when she used to insist on sucking garlic bread in the office – so off we go.

Christmas: another year, another bundle of presents that nobody wants. I bet nobody ever reading this has ever got exactly what they wanted have they? The pleasure, of course, is in the giving, not the receiving. If you believe that though it doesn’t matter what people give you? “Ooh look!” you will squeal in delight, “a potato peeler – how sweet… Do you like the four litre Lamborghini I bought you?” All your family will sit around sniggering as they drive off down the road whooping, leaving you to scrape through the courgettes and carrots. Remember, “It’s the giving that matters”!

I hate buying presents. My wife insists I keep all the receipts so that she can take the things back she doesn’t like. This is humiliating. It suggests I have no present buying ability whatsoever. So for me the pleasure is not in the giving but the bright smile on her face when she sees how much there is to take back. I know that from Boxing Day onwards we will be popping in and out of shops clutching credit notes and cash tendered beaming with Christmas cheer. It is the virtual joy of Christmas, not the reality.

Hang on – Johanna’s back – better put something train-like to keep it moving on... Of course the new err, Class 580’s(?) run by South West trains hardly need any festive brightening up. Their colour schemes are so vibrant and jolly that a Xmas tree would look almost pathetic against the background of their livery. Much the same can be said for Virgin’s fleet too – the redness of their buffet cars being a delightful backdrop for festive cheer.

OK, so where was I? Oh yes, if there is one thing worse than presents its family! I think I can safely say that I would rather attempt to untie my umbilical cord than spend Xmas in an extended family group. You just get settled after lunch when some idiot will suggest going out for a walk (which they never seem to do on the other 364 days of the year by the way) or worse still… play a game.

At least now you don’t have to be humiliated on a monopoly board, or show you have the detective skills of Clouseau whilst playing Cluedo. Now you play an electronic balancing game where you can show the rest of your family that you can walk across a canyon on a tightrope! Hooray – that’s an everyday skill that you really do need is it not? I know I can’t do this but why do I have to be humiliated by my eight year old nieces and nephews who can?!

I jest of course throughout all of this. Christmas is a time for doing whatever you want, however you want to do it (providing it harms nobody else). It is the time of the year when we can reflect on the 12 months that have gone and look forward to the year ahead; when we can reflect on our good fortune, wonder at the choices we can make and recognise that we are fortunate and blessed to live in the times that we do.

For those who are content, warm, fed and loved we hope your Christmas is a good one, and for those in despair, wracked with worry or thinking negatively about your futures – we hope for better times for you and yours and all those that matter to you. If you’re travelling to see friends (only by rail, of course) or staying on your lonesome we hope that the festive period brings you all that you want and a little bit more too.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Until next time.

David Sindall