Dom Joly: The train can take my strain, but only if it's first class

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The Independent Online

Trains are hard for me. They are the Ground Zero for anyone who wants to make a "HELLO, I'm on the train" joke about me while shouting and waving their mobiles around in an "isn't this hilarious?" kind of way. I know I brought it upon myself: the big-mobile character I created in 'Trigger Happy TV' will be a millstone around my neck until the day of my funeral at which someone will inevitably set off their mobile and shout "HELLO, I'm dead", to the accompanying titters of the three ageing friends who turn up.

First Class is OK: I can see people miming the action to companions but they keep quiet. Sadly, I can't afford First Class unless someone else is paying. Who the hell can afford it? It's £180 return for the 80-minute trip from Kemble to Paddington. I could get to New York for less.

I always scour the First Class carriage for the likes of Richard Branson or the ubiquitous Duncan Bannatyne, but it's always dull middle-of-the-road businessmen talking business bollocks like they're auditioning for 'The Apprentice' – "that's just not within his skill set, Darren. Tell the numpty that there is no way that this will turn pro-active without me breaking some numbers".

No wonder there's a credit crunch. Just getting into the office is a bankrupting experience, never mind the idiocy of what you actually do when you get there.

When I can't find anyone else to pay then I am forced into the indignity of "Standard Class" where really rubbish businessmen scrape their knees on violent parole offenders. I got on one of these cattle transporters last week.

It was not too busy at first, and I got a table and almost managed to stretch out. Then the carriage filled up at the next stop and I was jammed into a corner with my Beijing Olympics rucksack stuffed between my feet.

I got on the mobile (a little one) to do an interview with somebody from a magazine. I zoned out and related parrot fashion my series of "amusing" anecdotes about whatever it was I was plugging.

Suddenly I felt a sharp kick in the shins followed by another one. Opposite me, a short, fat, angry man brandishing a half-empty pint of lager was scrunching his face up into a look of peculiar anger.

I finished my interview and then asked the short, fat, angry man what the problem was? Apparently my bag was not allowing him to fully stretch his legs out.

I was tempted to comment that his legs were so tiny that they might be the first pair I'd ever seen that would be able to do so on the glorious First Great Western cattle service. I decided not to: he was a short, drunk, fat angry man and they often carry knives.

We had a bit of a verbal to-do, with him suggesting that I thought I owned the train and with me retorting that if I ever did own the train he would never have been allowed on as we would have a very strict no short, drunk, fat, angry men policy that I would get tall, muscular, skilled men to implement.

Things started to get heated and he suggested that we both get off at the next station and have a fight.

I told him that I was getting off at the next station anyway but was going to get into my car and drive home. I suggested that he was drunk as a skunk and should just shut up.

Fortunately a businessman intervened and told us both to shut up and forget about it. For the next 10 minutes we both sat in silence – me pretending to read and him muttering ominously under his breath.

"Let the train take the strain," the old saying went. 'Nein' bloody 'danke'.

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