Saturday, May 08, 2010

Crazy Train Lady

I went up to Scotland the other week. I enjoyed it, I’ve never been up there, it was a nice treat.

The trip itself didn’t get off to a great start though. I had packed, only had to toss in my tooth brush, a towel and then I was ready to go. I set the alarm on my phone for 8:20, plenty of time to get down to the station before 9:30 to get my train. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the living room and only realised this in the morning, when in a state of panic I turned on the TV to discover that it was now 9:40.

I was out of the house in 7 minutes, down on the platform at East Croydon in under 20 minutes and arrived at Kings Cross only 7 minutes late for the train. I was honest with the man on the ticket counter and he validated my ticket for the train half an hour later. I managed to find an unbooked seat – my journey could now continue.

However, what I didn’t realise was that I was about to sit next to the craziest woman I’ve ever met - and in this case, enjoyed meeting. She may have talked non-stop for 3 and a half hours, but I think it was worth listening too. Certainly more interesting than any work of fiction I could’ve indulged in.

It started off quite innocuously as she told me about how she was going up to see her elderly mother who’d been having a rough time recently. She’s not been well recently, but she’s 82 so she’s still a fighter. Her mother had a fall and was ill and the doctors said her hip was fine, but she insisted on an x-ray for her, and it turned out she had. Then there was a mercenary man going around to all the injured old lady, offering them a stair lift, ready for them as soon as they got home if they signed here. She swore at the salesman, even though the doctor recommended one; she’d go down on the stairs on her bum, as she had for ten years already.

Mundane so far. But we would gradually go to more crazy places. She was a writer, she’d written for the Times, Guardian, Independent and so on. Her claim to fame is as one of the creators of a famous book from the 70s called ‘How to be a Sloane Ranger’, which although humorous, many people took to be quite serious. There were two follow-ups, but they delivered diminishing results.

She is also still an editor on the Good Schools guide and told a good anecdote about a school ranked excellent. It was a modest school, with modest resources, and it seemed like it couldn’t keep a head teacher for more than a year. This was because the school hired disgraced, highly regarded teachers, who had been dismissed from former jobs for misbehaving – sleeping with staff, even pupils. So it got the best candidates, at a reduced cost, who needed the work to bounce back.

It was at this point that the crazy claims started to seep in. “You do know that Tony Blair’s gay? Oh, yes, he had this thing going with this press officer”. Then on to Gordon Brown “Did you know that he signed the gun license for the man who went on to commit the Dunblaine massacre?”*

We would then go on to considerably stranger places including playing croquet on elephant back at the foot of the Himalayas, diarrhoea advice from Glenn’s Close’s father, game reserve management in Africa, selling bootleg whisky with the help of President Kennedy’s former bodyguard, and visits from the Warner Brothers to her Scottish childhood home.


* I haven’t found any evidence of his, well, not on Wikipedia anyway.


Anonymous said...

I think you had the singular honour of the company of Ann Barr, and I quite envy you.