Train travel in the UK can be an utter joy: imagine the train arriving fashionably late, the beautiful English countryside (as seen through a dirty, smeared window), while you raid the buffet car (if your train has one) for an overpriced stale sandwich or a cup of tea that has the same temperature and a similar taste to molten lava. And there’s always the chance, of course, that the family from hell will decide to take up residence on the table opposite you and spend the next few hours ignoring their boisterous eight year old as he flicks the results of his frequent delving into his nasal cavity towards your Kit Kat.
Ok, that was sarcastic. Given the not-so-joyous joys of rail travel, here are a few things you could get up to on the train, in a bid to distract yourself.
1. Play the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire online game
The famous television show is now a national institution and its appeal still holds for many today. You can while away the hours playing the game for free, or actually try to win some money, and while Chris Tarrant may be mildly irritating, he is less disconcerting than the strange man who may or may not be sitting behind you.
2. Write that best-selling novel
Everybody has a novel in them, or so the experts say. Time, it seems, is the biggest obstacle for many would-be authors in actually getting down to the mechanics of writing, so with time to burn and your laptop or tablet at hand, why not make a start on the first chapter? The story of a man trapped on a train, slowly driven insane and destitute by the lunacy of the passengers around him and the price of sandwiches is an epic that’s itching to be written. Maybe…
3. Read a book
If writing that bestseller or the appeal of online games doesn’t grab you, then the wise traveller should always have a good book for company. You don’t have to buy an actual book nowadays, with a number of book reading machines and tablet PCs allowing access to thousands of books at the touch of a button. You can even switch on your iPod, listen to the velvety tones of Stephen Fry reading you a Harry Potter novel, close your eyes and imagine you are on the Hogwarts Express.
4. Do some work
If you are excessively dull / extremely diligent—delete depending on your attitude—then you can always spend your time productively completing that latest report or invoice for work. Admittedly, it may not be that easy to concentrate with a mother screeching at their child every 30 seconds, another child dropping Transformers onto your head and your Maltesers rolling around the table due to the train coming to a screeching halt every few seconds, but at least you can tell your bosses that you tried.
5. Sleep, or at least pretend to.
For those on a long journey, sleep is their biggest ally but also the most elusive. Your fellow passengers will instinctively know that someone is attempting to sleep and will unconsciously create an orchestra of noise, involving coughs, sneezes and other bodily emissions that are not entirely sociable in a confined space. Add into that a cacophony of screeching children, arguing adults, the occasional announcement that the train is now not stopping in Birmingham and has been directed to Coventry via Inverness, and you will soon discover why sleeping is almost as difficult as making the trains run on time.
It is worth remembering, however, that despite the five tips above, the best two ways to kill time when travelling by train, is either to send someone else, or go by plane instead.