all aboard! britain’s most popular freak show experience

The Carny’s could never have hoped for mobility like this – where everyone is unwittingly a paying participant. Britain’s wonderful freak shows have not been lost, they have simply moved.. onto the trains. Sit on one for a small while and you will soon see what I mean.

There’s the completely synaptically-deranged couple, who choose a new seat every five minutes – either through some kind of agitated OCD or irrepressible repulsion to the person next to them. I was actually lucky enough to witness quite a peculiar instance of this the other day; a couple, one of whom bore more than a passing resemblance to Prince Philip (could it be he’s finally snapped?), hell bent on sitting as close to their luggage as humanly possible, without actually sitting next to it, resulted in some truly spectacular locomotive acrobatics. Then there’s the welcome return of the sideshow dwarfs – gloriously hyper-energetic folk, who tumble and somersault over tables and chairs: the oft-named children. These tiny models of the human form display the ability to quite naturally annoy literally everyone within a one-carriage radius. Screaming in utter delight as their harsh and cunning ring-masters (ma or pa) egg them on. This, I think, must be some clever design on their parents behalf, as it nearly always results in a glut of empty seating around them, a yawning void for yawning ma to stretch out in. Only for a minute though, as it is soon filled by some wide-eyed seat-hopping goon. The Bearded Man makes an initially unimpressive appearance, but then you look, and actually his hair seems to be fused with the fraying fabrics of the trains ancient seats. One, naturally, ends up concluding that he has, does, and always will live on board the train – feeding through the ever-growing grey tentacles that snake their away across the carriage and into your food and drink, sucking out all their nutrients like rapacious roots, leaving behind dead hairs, like anorexic soldiers, strewn cross the green battleground of your luggage; which you discover much later to your disgust.

As we tear through stations, the haggard, gormless mugs of witless pedestrians stare back at us – like rancid sheep in filthy petting attractions. And this is where the experience is at its most cunning; both us and them are at once the spectator and the spectacle – both have paid the price to participate in this nation-wide scheme; to keep the circus constantly in a state of operative migration. Who needs to stop for a meal, when there’s a Snack Bar? Who needs to get out for toilet break, when there’s a rudimentary puke-bucket with feeble flushing action RIGHT NEXT to your, yes, your! seat? I bet you’re not even astute enough to understand just how fortunate you are. And who needs to sleep in a lay-by or hotel overnight, when you have all the real experiences of the night-time, with none of the hassle of getting into a bed and sleeping under heavy, irritating, all-cotton blankets; or the nuisance of having to get all wet and soapy in a warm and soothing shower, not to mention the risk of getting shampoo in your eyes, under cheap fluorescent lighting? Losers! that’s who. The fiends bent on spoiling this truly awful (yes, I’m using that word quite pretentiously) experience for the rest of us!

In retrospect, this cirque du gare really comes as no surprise; on a train people become just a grotesque parody of people. But, I urge you all to get on a train nonetheless. We cannot let such an historic, an entertaining mode of transportation disappear.

j.

post-script; is Carny unPC? Unsettled-entertainment-troupe-coordinators, otherwise.

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