At work nothing had changed as I soon discovered when checking tickets on a busy train. I approached a typical Glasgow hard man and before I could ask him for his ticket he pointed his finger at me and said in a loud voice,|
"Ah know you!"
Pause. Silence. Everybody looked.
"You used to be a Boxer."
"You fought Joe McBride in the Kelvin Hall."
"Ah wis there."
Violent stab of finger.
"You knocked him out in the third round."
"Aye, Ah know you."
He then folded his arms, stuck out his chin and stared at me, daring me to contradict him. I couldn't tell him that the only connection I had to Boxers was my dog. I didn't say a word. It's difficult to look menacing and modest at the same time. I squared my shoulders, stuck out MY chest and chin, nodded and swaggered off to do the rest of the train. I had no problems with any of the passengers but it wasn't until later that I realised that I never did get to see his ticket.
I like American tourists. They come in all shapes and sizes with accents to match. One summers day I worked a train from Perth to Inverness. We stopped at Dalwhinnie where six Americans joined the train. I went through to check their tickets. "We need to buy them," one said. I replied, "£6" and before I could say anything else one of them jumped up waving a £10 note crying excitedly, "I'll get them, I'll get them." A voice straight out of a John Wayne movie drawled, "I think he means £6 each." He was correct.
The benevolent but subdued Yankee had to pay £36.
There is a ubiquitous weed which plagues railway embankments, derelict sites, river banks and any spare bit of ground. It grows en masse and is tall with purple or pink flowers. I was on a train between Larbert and Stirling and I entered a First Class Compartment. Two plump elderly Americans were there. He pointed out of the window and asked, "What's the name of those flowers?" I, being a keen botanist replied, "Rosebay Willowherb." "Rosebay Willowherd", he said. "No," I replied, "WillowherB", emphasising the 'B'. "WillowherD", he answered. His wife then spoke in a very broad Brooklyn accent, "No John, he said Willowherb - Bee as in Boid!".
In September 1994, after 25 years on the Railway as a Cleaner, Fireman, Freight Shunter, Freight Guard, Passenger Guard, Senior Conductor and Conductor I applied for the post of Trains Inspector. A Conductor with four years experience got the job.
In November 1995 I took part in a Scotrail Friendly Course. The object of the Course was to show that Scotrail is run as a team effort and not by individuals. There were thirteen of us from different departments and we stayed in the Station Hotel in Inverness for two days. There were two Facilitators, one under the influence of Influenza and the other one kept eating Peppermints. We were split up into groups and given problems to solve. Each group was allocated a room but unfortunately they were on the second floor and it was disconcerting to troop through the Lobby of the Hotel, clutching pieces of paper, climb two flights of stairs, solve the problem then retrace our steps. This went on for hours, only being interrupted by lunch.
I was given a voucher which entitled me to two courses. Standing in line with a tray I perused the menu. Lasagne, Macaroni, Haddock... Good, I thought, fish and chips.
The foreign Chef had a strange accent,
"Fish and chips please."
"No cheeps," he announced and filled my plate with a small square of white fish, three tiny potatoes and two slices of carrot.
"Suet - two choices," he said.
I looked puzzled. Suet for a dessert?
I was about to ask if it was beef or mutton when he spoke.
"Suet - fresh fruit salad or sponge trifle?"
With relief I realised that he hadn't said suet but sweet.
"I'll have the salad please."
He gave me the sponge trifle.