The Night Train

The train rolled out of the station gently at the ungodly hour of 11:55pm, it was 5 and half hours until we would reach the destination of London Paddington, through the night we would travel pushing through the storm raging outside of my carriage. The “Night Riviera” sleeper train is a service that runs 6 nights a week from Penzance to London Paddington, and the same number running the opposite way. It’s an idyllic ideal of boarding the train in the Evening, settling into bed and waking up in London wide eyed and ready to start the day. Sadly I am lucky enough to be a poor student, so I was not privy to a bed, instead I got to sleep in the Standard coaches at the back of the train, relatively uncomfortable semi-reclining seats in a carriage with a bit too much lighting for any normal person to sleep without and eye-mask (I didn’t come that prepared).

Knowing sleep would be difficult to achieve in these adverse conditions I took matters into my own hands and decided the sensible idea would be to get drunk prior to boarding the train. I achieved this by attending my Student Union Bar with a small cohort of my closest most reliable friends who enjoy inappropriate levels of midweek drinking. I have to say that turning up to a Student Union Bar with a rucksack and pulling a suitcase behind me was a fun experience and one that I’m sure isn’t experienced by many, but I left 2 Pints of Cider and 4 Jack Daniels and Cokes later smiling from ear to ear and ready to get some well deserved rest. I managed to make it to the station without falling over and set myself down to wait the few minutes until My train would chug it’s way into the station ready to haul my alcohol ridden carcass through the stormy night into The Big Smoke, and without fail it turned up ready to complete it’s task.

I boarded the train and set out my seating area, luckily the train was incredibly quiet and I had a whole batch of 4 seats to myself, I got out my blanket and settled down to drink a little of my special reserves of Whisky I lovingly prepared in my hip flask to give me that final kick into sleep land. The method I used was to recline my seat and the seat in front of me fashion a sleeping bag out of my blanket and lie under the table bridging the gap between the two seats, thus making some kind of epic seat, mid air, hovering bed combo. Here I remained for most of the next 5 and a half hours apart from for a little walk to the buffet to get myself an Egg sandwich and the odd toilet break. The seats are made of the kind of material which makes you feel like you’ve slept with your face pushed on sandpaper, without actually ripping any skin off your face. A better description of the fabric would perhaps be to point out it’s similarities to the fabric used on coach seats in coaches that take Children on school trips to France, all in all in my view it’s a great choice of fabric for those who make seats designed to aid in sleeping on the go, and yes I am absolutely being sarcastic.

I woke up at half past five as we pulled gently into Paddington station, but as they let you stay in your uncomfortable non-lethal sandpaper seats until 7am I decided to take full use of the opportunity to increase the amount of time I subjected my face to a good grating. I remained in a non-sleeping while not awake mode for the next hour, periodically loosing feeling in parts of my body all whilst feeling a bit on the hungover side of the spectrum of morning feelings of wellness. Before a while my bladder got the better of me and up I got, taking my toothbrush with me to try to brush some life into my dehydrated non-lethal sandpapered body. Much to my dismay a disgustingly cheery station worker was stood on the platform as I stood brushing my teeth, needless to say I wasn’t pleased to have someone attempt conversation with me whilst minty white liquid dribbled down the sides of my mouth. Not the perfect morning.

After having had enough of subjecting my body to undue physical stress I decided it was time to get up and face the day, all at the god awful early time of 6:50 (please bear in mind that my earliest lecture is 9am and I struggle to make it to that on time so this time in the morning is not something I ever see in my day to day life.) I still felt like arse so I went to the cash point to get some money to pay for my stay in one of the most expensive places to survive in the whole of the UK, and set off underground into the heart of the City that would be my home for the next 3 days.

Realistically I might have been a bit harsh on the train trip, it wasn’t all that bad, the seats were a bit uncomfortable, and the lights were a bit too bright. But I got on the Train in Plymouth and got off in London, all whilst falling asleep. Half of my misery was self inflicted due to the excess consumption of alcohol, so I’m not really in a position to criticize my journey, if I could have afforded a nice bedroom compartment then my journey likely would have been even better still, but as I mentioned travelling on a pittance is something that comes with a lot of sacrifice, comfort being one of those things. Would I travel on the “Night Riviera” again? Absolutely, it’s the best way to get to London and have the whole day of arrival free to explore and enjoy the great city of London (even if it is ridiculously expensive).

Carly Bell