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I’m Dan. This is my first post. I warn you I’m not usually one to moan, I think, but I feel the need to get something off my chest.

I live in the beautiful city that is Liverpool and I attend university in somewhat of a lesser city, however a city that is dramatically on the rise thanks to the BBC, that is Salford. This naturally means that for me to make the most of the glorious opportunity I have in being able to attend university, I must make the hour long commute. My preferred method of transport is train: it is quick, there’s no hassle with parking spaces or traffic, and it is cheap. Hold that thought. Three years ago, when I began the voyage into studenthood, an open return with a railcard cost £7.something. Today, 20/1/11, the same journey costs £9! What has happened? I have certainly seen no rise in minimum wage to accommodate this extra expense, nor have I seen any improvements made to my commute. Is this another scheme by those pesky tories to make every single person in Britain feel the strain that our great country is under? Is it just the way the economy is going? I honestly don’t know the reasons.
When I arrived at 9.40am to purchase my ticket to Salford, I chose the self service ticket machine as my preferred vendor. I find that the real people behind the glass tend to talk to much and want to discover every little detail in your foreseeable future. However, when the simple and quiet machine declined to give me a ticket under £12 due to the early hour of the day I was reduced to visiting “the glass people”.

The lady dealing with my ticket was nice. She was polite, which is more than you can say about a lot of people involved with customer service .  I questioned the rise in ticket price, not from three years but to much more recent times, as in two weeks ago recent. She brushed off the matter as if I was being daft for asking; it was as if she was saying “yes, what do you expect? Student!” Then she tried to make me out to be even more daft than I may admittedly be:

“it’s only gone up 20p.”

I told her: “no my fine dear, but only two weeks ago this same journey cost no more £8.45.”

“Yes…,” she was now looking at me, waiting for me to realise the error of my ways, “and it’s now £9.”

“Yes,” I I waited giving her chance to catch herself, but she didn’t budge. I tried harder: “It was £8.45… and now it’s £9.”

“Yes. 20p”

“No silly lady. It is 55p!”

“No!”

At this point I was showing her my fingers. Only one hand was needed to prevent confusion.

After I proved her mathematics to be incorrect, she blamed the time of the hour:

“Oh, it is early.”

“It is early?” Is this some recognised exemption from life’s little challenges? Or does it belong solely to the National Rail? If I boarded a train without my ticket already purchased, would I just have to remind the ticket inspector that it is before 10am; and maybe a little wink and nudge to show him/her that I am in the know. Would this suffice? I don’t think so.

Usually these little things don’t bother me so much but being incorrectly patronised and told that ticket prices had risen nearly 10% I wasn’t in the most open of moods.

Furthermore, when I boarded the train more drama ensued. I happened to be fortunate enough to have a seat: a privilege for a mere £9. The seat was placed right infront of somebody listening to Dizzee Rascal in a poor set of headphones. This didn’t bother me too much as I’m sure I have been guilty of that myself, just with slightly better music. This man, we’ll call him “Savage”, then proceeded to burp in my direction. Give him his due, he tried to hide it. However, his techniques need development. He leaned forward and quietly burped into the space between the window and my chair. Fortunately, he was chewing airwaves. I didn’t know they still made them, but the ice cold chill and minty freshness of his surplus breath was unmistakable.

To my right were two girls: late 20’s, tracky bottoms, pony-tails, shoddy tattoos from their teens etc. They also had a sleeping child infront of them. One of their conversations involved the sentence:

“You’re mum needs to get off ’em. They’ll be taking her away again.”

As well as:

“Don’t tell her you’ve got the money, that way we’ll know if she really would’ve spent it or not.”

Seriously people, Corry and Eastenders et al would be out of business if for a minute we decided to remove headphones and books from public transport. Great drama. They continued to read out their horoscopes. This was shortly followed by a communal lack of understanding. Not such a bad thing.

I tried to focus on the matter at hand, I had a spanish test and was trying to do some last minute revision, and cursing myself for not paying enough concentration on the 24.10.2011: at this point all spanish had been replaced by tales of treachery and plans on how they were to spend their new £200 loan (“£65 on clothes for me and you, £70 on the babby” Maths wasn’t their best subject).

At Warrington, temperatures rose. I wandered at this phenomenon: then the Savage walked past my window. He had alighted the train and taken his airwaves with him. In his place a large group of tourists, or a school trip, boarded. They, as they do, decided to stand in the aisle. Again, not my problem for I had a seat, this was merely an observation. Behind me, the Savage had been replaced by two foreign individuals. They didn’t know each other and were both of a different nationality and both on their respective phones and both talking in their native tongue. I had a french conversation and a chinese conversation happening behind me, a spanish conversation happening in my head, and a hilarious manc conversation happening to my right. The group were too engrossed in their technology to notice any of this.

This marked the train pulling in to Manchester, and I have to say what a mighty fine way to spend £9. I take it all back, I was fully satisfied on my journey. It provided much food for thought; probably not the best for Spanish revision but that’s by the by. I enjoyed the journey so much I made the same journey home that night; with my return ticket that is valid for another month! You’re not taking that liberty from me too.

Dan Owens