I’M coming round to the view that a train carriage is a mobile equivalent of a village hall.
Perhaps it’s only trains from Hartlepool that are like that.
We are a bit like a big village anyway and most trips to London tend to involve bumping into old friends and meeting some new ones.
On my trip down last week, I was purring anyway as we passed alongside main roads shrouded in mist.
I haven’t driven to London for years and I have no particular desire to do so.
Compared to a long and trying car journey, it’s much less stressful to arrive feeling relaxed and with the virtuous feeling of having got a bit of work done too.
As well as chatting to some familiar faces last week, I found myself sitting opposite Geoffrey and his wife who were both Mail readers and nostalgia addicts.
They were huge travel fans too and delighted in keeping journals of their travels over the years.
Like me, they loved the feeling you get when you come across an accidental slice of history.
One old lady they’d met on a previous trip had told them about marching with Oswald Moseley’s fascist black shirts before the war.
When they looked shocked and disapproving, she quickly explained that it was totally unintentional!
As a child, this lady and her little sister had simply used the curiosity of childhood to tag on to what looked like a circus parade with people in funny uniforms.
When she got home and told her parents where they’d been, she had the telling off of her young life and a quick course in political reality.
This same lady had impressed them with the “so what” attitude of the seasoned mature traveller.
On being told that one trip could be dangerous and was against Foreign Office advice, she had replied that she was 86 and being shot would be an interesting end to an exciting innings.
Perhaps the funniest thing about looking at your fellow passengers is the information that you don’t know.
There must be loads of interesting stories lurking on a busy train.
One I did learn about came from old friend Steve.
By an odd coincidence, I’d bumped into him at the Mail’s Best of Health Awards a couple of weeks before after not seeing him for years.
Then, there he was again on the same train heading, I learned, to be a guest with his wife at a Buckingham Palace garden party.
My trip to talk to a dinner at a broadband conference was way down on the pecking order.
It’s not a stereotype to say that we do have a more human approach to life if you have North East blood in your veins.
On trains from our patch, even strangers nod and smile and enjoy a conversation, but also know to leave you in peace if you look busy.
On reaching London, and this isn’t really a stereotype, you have to change gear and realise that smiling and wishing a stranger “good morning” is seen as deviant behaviour.
I wish that sometimes I could be a bit nosier and more direct, but perhaps it’s better to work out your own life stories for people you see on trains.
I saw one couple with a huge bundle of Hartlepool Mails tied with string, alongside a carrier bag in which I spotted a good collection of proper food, including peas pudding.
I’m guessing that they were off to visit a Hartlepool exile living in London who was missing the good things in life – or perhaps on missionary work to take a southerner a taste of civilisation.