Susie Rushton: The seductive power of first-class travel

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

What had got into Liam Traynor, the 20-year-old from north London who this week was in the Old Bailey after cheating nearly £20,000-worth in train tickets in eight weeks? According to his lawyer, he was "seduced by the comfort, tranquillity and adventure of first-class travel".

Traynor, who doesn't have a job but rode in the most expensive carriages costumed in the respectability of a pin-striped suit, became obsessed by superior service and wider seats.

And who can blame him? I haven't gone to the lengths that he did – defrauding the hand-held ticket machines used by inspectors – but in recent months, I've got into the habit of trawling, in search of cheap first-class fares. To be affordable, the journey has to be planned several weeks in advance, and I have to commit to a particular train. But the hassle is worth it: the relative peace, the reclining chair with a slightly thicker pile of faux-velvet, the little lamp on the table, the free cup of tea. While air travel has become the cheapest way to get around, with an experience to match, railways still offer some glamour.

Unfortunately, as Traynor himself discovered, the parvenu traveller can very quickly get used to sitting in the carriage at the front (or back). When the day arrives that you find yourself back in standard class (I miss my specified train, say, and wind up having to buy a whole new ticket; Traynor gets caught and has to pay the defrauded fares back out of his trust fund) – boy, does it feel like a bumpy ride.

Curtains for the cosy local

Pubs are closing at a rate of 50 a week – and this weekend I thought our local was going the same way. A corner pub with a shortage of outside seating and a slightly soulless, black-painted interior, I've never felt much affection for The Curtain's Up (there's a theatre downstairs, since you ask), apart from for its convenience, and that it doesn't show sport.

Last week its windows were suddenly papered up, apparently having taken its final bow. Then, yesterday, came the thrilling news that the closure is temporary: a bright pink sign appeared outside the pub announcing that a chain had bought it, and that from early August its swing-doors will lead into a wonderland of eggs Benedict, wine that's not only from Chile and, yes, televised sport. It's archetypal of what's happening to the old boozers across the country: as pricey pints of lager become less popular, the successful publicans aren't the mum-and-dad-run establishments, but award-winning companies that specialise in food and satellite television. "An atmosphere just like your own living room" is what we're promised at The Curtain's Up. The last hope of the British pub is that going out is the new staying in.