It was the opinion of their father that four sisters should not travel together in one car, or any other road using vehicle, just in case it was wiped out in a road traffic accident or struck by lightning. (The Royal family follow a similar mantra…) Three sisters or less in a road vehicle was more of a grey area. Distance was definitely a factor. A trip to the garden centre or into town with a car full of siblings wasn’t as treacherous as a motorway journey.
The sun was shining, the sky a jigsaw blue with puffy white clouds. Wintery, not warm – unless you were waiting on platform one, in the sun. Sisters, numbers Two, Three and Four, stood on the other side of the railway tracks, shivering in the shade on platform two. Bags at their feet, coats buttoned, scarves and gloves on. It was a very pretty station, Grade II listed, in fact, and the sun set off the vintage platform to perfection. Well, platform one, anyway.
The three siblings were off to visit their big sister, Number One, in Hertfordshire. Dinner out, a sleepover with a lazy morning, Sunday lunch and then home. Number Four had booked the train tickets, reserving seats at a table. As the sisters excitedly found their places they also found a young woman, on her phone, engrossed in Facebook, sitting in one of their reserved seats. The ensemble politely pointed out the reserved sign, but as they only physically needed three of the seats, and it didn’t really matter which three of the four, Facebook lady opted to stay where she was.
The sisters settled themselves in, stowing their belongings and chattering non-stop. Facebook lady appeared not to notice. Number Three, a seasoned traveller, had come well prepared. A small cool bag nestled in amongst the gubbins of her overnight bag, housing three miniature bottles of chilled to perfection Sauvignon blanc. A further rummage produced plastic wine goblets, which rolled in a lazy arc on the table. Number Two picked one up and laughed. They were like joke glasses, perfectly functional as long as you didn’t want to stand them on a table – they were tulip shaped, with a stem but without any roots. Number Three frowned, confused. She was sure that the glasses had worked when she packed them. She burrowed about in her bag and triumphantly pulled out the bases to the glasses. Detachable bottoms. Of course. Just what one needs from a plastic wine goblet. More delving amongst her socks and PJs and Number Three produced bags of what she referred to as ‘healthy snacks’ – multigrain corrugated looking crisps. Number Three’s current healthy eating spree did not include chilled to perfection Sauvignon, so to balance out this treat she had opted for low fat corrugated snacks as an accompaniment. Numbers Two and Four had to admit that this logic had served Number Three well, as she had been continually hitching up her jeans all morning – a direct consequence of her new healthy living.
As the sisters assembled the glasses and opened their alternative crisps, they looked at one another, each with the same thought. It felt vaguely rude to be partaking of delicious substances and not to include the random woman at the table. But then, it was her decision to remain in a reserved seat and share a table with three such enthusiastic, highly animated strangers. And there was only three of everything. A silent assent between the sisters decided that they would not be offering their treats to the Facebook lady. They bumped plastic glasses and drank a toast to sisters.
The train gobbled up the tracks, whizzing through beautiful countryside and idyllic looking villages. The sisters sipped their wine and nattered. Facebook lady swiped her finger up and down, following the weekend plans of her friends. After a brief stop at a picturesque station, a very well spoken voice addressed the passengers through the tannoy system:
“I would very much appreciate it if the relative of the person who banged on the side of the train as we were leaving the station would tell them not to do it again. It is very difficult to stop the train and inadvisable to do so as… she may end up like a crushed peppercorn.”
The sisters chuckled with glee. Fellow passengers laughed in surprise. Was the relative of the reckless train banger in their carriage? The Facebook lady swished her hair to one side and clicked her phone camera. Number Two looked sideways at her. Was she taking a photo’ of Number Four, opposite?
The rather beautiful voice of the railway chap came again, warning all passengers to keep their belongings with them at all times as, “unfortunately not everyone is as honest as we would like.” There was a moments pause, the sisters tittered and nodded in agreement. The carriage listened expectantly. “We therefore ask that passengers please report any suspicious, nefarious or downright shady behaviour to a member of East Midland Trains.” Nefarious? Shady? Such very splendid adjectives were an unexpected joy to the ears, especially when delivered with such deadpan smoothness by a yummy voice, and especially when chilled to perfection Sauvignon and three high spirited sisters were involved. Number Four cried silent laughter tears, her hand swiping at her wet eyes. Number Three’s shoulders moved up and down as she wheeze-giggled, like Muttley, the dog from Wacky Races. Number Two gave an unladylike snort of glee. The entire carriage responded noisily with bursts of laughter and talking.
The sisters had barely finished their wine before the silver tongued train man piped up once more. This time it was to impart important information about Sinead, who was serving a variety of snacks and beverages in the buffet cart. “Although,” he was compelled to point out, “she’s not serving Charlie.” Guffaws of pleasure rippled through the carriage. Who was Charlie? Number Two’s interpretation was that the charlie in question was cocaine, but perhaps it was actually a code meaning something else entirely, known only to the railway workers. Number Four was inclined to think that a bet had been made and that the lovely voice man had been challenged to include certain words in his announcements. In which case he was surely going to win!
Facebook lady held her phone up to her face and pouted. She angled it a little higher and tilted her chin. Number Two caught the eye of Number Four. Facebook lady appeared to be documenting her journey with selfies. Number Four’s mouth twitched and she looked determinedly out of the window. The invisible voice spoke again. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Sebastian, thank you for travelling with East Midland Trains. I’m coming to the end of a very long day and apologise for being not quite myself.” The sisters laughed along with the rest of the passengers. An on board comedian was an added bonus to anyone’s train journey. Sadly, the sisters had to leave Sebastian earlier than others to complete the final leg of their journey, but their laughter could be heard still, even as they ran to make their connecting train – Number Three holding up her jeans as she did so.