The train I catch from Waterloo to home is a great big long one, which splits in half at Salisbury. I'm not entirely sure what happens to the other half most days.
Maybe it gets dragged into the sidings and ceremonially vacuumed* by the High Priestesses of Rail Travel.
Maybe it gets broken down and turned into spare parts to keep the other trains running for a few more days.
Maybe the mechanics and train wranglers spend the night making sure that none of the heating works in carriage two, or that the internal doors keep opening and closing every 30 seconds for no reason for the entire journey.
Maybe the back end driver just says "Ah, fuck it" and gets out, abandoning his half of the train at the platform for the remainder of the night, till the day shift get in and park it up out of the way.
I really don't know.
One of the reasons I don't know is because SouthWest trains don't share any of the back story with the passengers. Take this evening, for example.
I met my lovely mate Spencer after work for a long-delayed catch-up chat, so was on a later train home than usual. All was well, I had a good seat** and it wasn't too crowded. Even though my posh headphones have stopped working properly, and music only comes out of the right earpiece at the proper volume, the left one mysteriously reduced to a tinny whisper, I plugged myself in and enjoyed some music.
The train gradually emptied, so I was able to squirm round and make myself more comfortable. Then the guard's voice came onto the tannoy system.
"Hello there," he said, chummily. "This is your guard speaking with an important announcement. Please listen." I took my one functioning earpiece out of my ear and perked up, wondering if they were going to tell us that a member of the Royal Family was getting on at the next stop and could we all please brush our hair and polish our shoes.
"This train will be arriving in Salisbury shortly, where it will divide. The rear coaches will continue on to Bristol, the front coaches will terminate."
What? Hello? That's not what usually happens. Usually the rear coaches terminate, or sometimes go off jauntering around the West Country, but the front coaches continue their creaky progress to Exeter or Yeovil.
"All passengers who wish to continue their journey beyond Salisbury, please get off the train here and make your way to Platform 4," the guard continued. I could tell he was grinning as he said that.
There then followed complex instructions how to get to Platform 4. It involved several ramps, an underpass and some strategic shoving. The train we had to get on was already full, the passengers watching our arrival in smug comfort as we re-enacted Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, huddled in our coats against the bitter cold, laden with baggage and packages. The bastards.
Two minutes from my station, a dishevelled-looking bloke approached me. He stared intently at me, saying "Excuse me...I want you to do me a favour." I looked at him doubtfully, the moment uncomfortably prolonged by the man with the refreshment trolley passing between us.
The dishevelled bloke then launched into a long, confusing story about how he had just arrived in the UK that morning (he looked as though he'd been travelling for some time), was due to meet his parents at Crewkerne station, but he didn't have a UK mobile phone, and would I lend him mine, he'd pay for the call, it would literally only take one minute. He had a handful of change, jingling it as he spoke.
Rather than pushing him away with a long pointy stick, as was my first impulse, I said no, I was getting off the train at the next stop, and we were due to pull into the platform in less than a minute. He looked disappointed and said "It'll take less than a minute, are you sure you won't lend me your phone?"
Yes, I was quite sure.
As I left the train, I heard him asking the old chap sat in front of me the same thing. I can only assume he kept asking till somebody gave in and let him make his call. Or let him leg it with their phone.
Other news: Spencer and I saw some interesting sights in London this evening. One of them was a heavily-pierced man wearing a multi-coloured hat, carrying a giant backpack with several pairs of shoes hanging off it, and long khaki shorts, much like Lofty in "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum".
The other was this gentleman:
He's not shy about declaring his faith, bless him. His jacket AND his backpack.
Also: Went to Fat Club on Wednesday and have lost another 3.5lbs, therefore have lost half a stone in the last 3 weeks. As a reward I have made an appointment to get my hair cut at the posh saloon in Salisbury. Yeee-haw.
*Unlikely, given the filth in every crevice and cranny
**As good as they get in filthy cramped standard class, at least