Ayrshire Institutions: The Last Train Home

Getting the last train back from Glasgow after a big night out can be an adventure in itself; Whether you saunter on down the carriage with your blue lagoon in hand, or rush in covered in sweat because it’s a Saturday and you forgot the last train on a weekend is at quarter past 11 so you ran full pelt because you swore you would not be getting the vomit comet bus home at 3 in the morning EVER AGAIN. At the weekend, with carriages packed with all manner of inebriates, football fans to hen do’s, work nights out to gig-goers, the atmosphere can turn from camaraderie to hostility in an instant. That social pressure cooker environment has no doubt produced some memorable moments in your life, as it has in ours. In loving tribute, we’ve collected a few of these stories from our readers- some …… For those not familiar with the last train just assume these stories will be PG 13 at best. Think of this like tales of the unexpected or twilight zone, except you know what to expect and it will probably be more purile.

Our first story is a cautionary tale about being a little too straight-laced.
It begins with the all too familiar conundrum of a broken toilet door. As the out of order sign flashes incessantly, a group of frustrated passengers congregate outside, shifting awkwardly and muttering to themselves. Until a hero announces himself from among their ranks. “Ken you can jimmy the door open on these toilets, aye?”, he says. our story teller doesn’t see exactly what this enterprising gentleman did to open the door, but for the grunting and banging it sounded like he just broke it down. Now, I’m sure you respect private property as much as everyone else here at the ACU, but our story teller was desperate. With half an hour till his stop and his back teeth already floating, he did what everyone else in that carriage did- queued up and pissed in the sink (the toilet was really, genuinely out of order.)

Now you might be thinking all’s well, that ends well, and if this were a Shakespeare comedy you might be right. But it’s not, so you’re wrong. About ten minutes later, after everything has seemingly settled down, a young man comes up to the toilets, sighs, and- to no one in particular- says “Out of order, aye?” At this, half the carriage jumped in all at once, a smug chorus telling him exactly how to strong arm the door. Surprisingly, however, the young guy balked at the thought of joining this mob of relieved delinquents. “am no breaking into a broken toilet” he says, and sat himself down. It quickly became apparent that, much like everyone else a few moments ago, this boy was struggling, but after a while of moving around on his seat managed to get comfortable. The next five minutes went by uneventfully, and likely would have continued as such, had God been watching that night. As the train draws near Dalry, just passing the bridge that flies by over head, there’s a wee bump in the rail. An insignificant hiccup, under normal circumstances almost imperceptible, that is, unless you have a bladder full of vodka coke and a head full of misguided principles. Watch, as our story teller did: the bump approaches. The bump passes by. On the honourable young mans face, a thousand emotions all expressed at once. Relief, rising to panic, then to anger, and finally to acceptance as his integrity slowly pools around his feet. The train rumbles on. The out of order sign blinks mockingly. A choir of neds laughing. A harrowing scene.

The next stop on our journey drags us kicking and screaming through the unwanted details of a couples married life. Good advice for a happy marriage is not to go to bed angry, and much like the marriage bed, the last train home is not something you should climb aboard if you’re in the middle of an argument. Hash it out before you get on, because, by god, you won’t be the first couple to decide on divorce on the last train home. Three lads, one of them our story teller, were sitting down when a couple, already arguing walks on, sitting on the set of seats behind them. The theme of this argument, as is the case with a great many relationship woes, was jealousy. Now jealousy is a slow and insidious poison- it makes people act in ways they would never otherwise and hurt those they love the most. This couple, a pair of rockers in matching denim jackets that had been married for near 15 years(Mr and Mrs Rocker from this point onwards), were arguing because Mrs Rocker was jealous of two things: The first was that Mr Rocker had taken his previous wife on holiday to Turkey five times, but not once taken the current love of his life so much as down to Wales. Without knowing the full details of their relationship, this seemed a reasonable concern for Mrs Rocker to table. The second reason she was upset was that Mr Rocker had previously been willing to engage in something she had termed “experimental sex”, but was now beginning to bore her. The other passengers shift in their seats. Mr Rocker turns red as a stop sign. Visibly embarrassed, he attempts to rein in the situation by pleading with her, saying He’d take her to Marmaras tomorrow if she would only stop talking. But it wasn’t enough, Mrs Rocker had tasted blood. The poor guy was crucified. despite Mrs Rockers complaint that he was somewhat boring these days, apparently in his hay day he would engage in things we’re unable to describe due to decency’s sake, however rest assured the other pasengers were given a full, if unwelcome account. We don’t know how this particular story ends however, with our story teller having to get off at his stop before the drama was over. For our part, the ACU hope the couple managed to patch things up, go off on a nice trip abroad and do things to each other that would make your mother blush.

The last stop on this frankly arduous journey is a bit of a weird one. The last train is never a sober affair, and consequently full of red faced older gents who think their insistent patter is a gift. Imagine you and a few friends managed to bag a table seat, it’s a long way home and you’re thankful you won’t be standing the whole way. Things are grand but then one of these guys swaggers up, no big deal yous have a spare seat and he seems nice enough. Yous all get chatting and you can tell he’s had a few but so far he’s amicable enough and you share a few exaggerated polite laughs. Until the conversations takes a turn. Apparently his daughter is away on holiday with her boyfriend, just turned 16 and they are away celebrating. That’s lovely, you begin to say, before he bulldozes over your pleasantries with “she’ll be pumping away like a rabbit the now” with a massive grin on his face, laughing away like he just told the funniest joke in the world. The conversation stopped dead. No one else at the table laughed, no one else on the carriage laughed, and there was still twenty minutes to go before the the story teller’s stop, every minute of which was filled with this father, oblivious to the change in atmosphere, elaborating endlessly on how lewd a time he expected his daughter was having. Awkward.

On a characteristically more serious note, please remember to treat rail workers with decency and respect; the last train home is always a mess, and it’s them that have to clean up the booze, sick and whatever else we leave behind when we get off. They have to deal with the drunk patter and break up the fights. They make sure we get home safe, so spare a thought for them.


Ayrshire Institutions: The Number 11 Bus

by James McLean

In most working-class areas, it would be safe to assume that there’s that one bus route that has a bit of a reputation. The one that you’d avoid except for the fact that you need it to get to work or it happens to be the cheapest way to get to where you need to go. As a Kilwinning native that bus for me is the double decker number 11 that travels between Kilmarnock and Ardrossan. Probably the most used bus in North Ayrshire the number 11 is regular, fairly priced, and even has free Wi-Fi these days! The drama really isn’t with the buses themselves; they are well looked after and a brand-new fleet was even commissioned at the start of 2018, which of course was very exciting. The thing is that everyone that has been on the number 11 at one point or another comes away from it with some kind of story about a crazy event involving some of the strangest characters you are likely to meet.

Such stories are usually equal parts shocking and entertaining so this week we have collected a few of these stories to share as we take a look at a bona fide Ayrshire institution.

Let’s begin with the top of the bus. In personal experience it can be a bit of a gamble going upstairs on the bus. Don’t get me wrong most of the time everyone just keeps to themselves and lets the journey go by, carefully avoiding awkward eye-contact with other passengers, but there is always the chance of something odd happening. To start with, from my own personal experience, myself and a friend were on our way to Ardrossan at some point in the evening. We sat upstairs. Other than us there was one other passenger who was occupying the back seats and looked as if he was asleep. Five minutes into this journey we heard a noise that sounded like a water tap being turned on. This was soon followed by the distinctive aroma of pish and a thin stream trickling it’s way towards the seats where we sat in increasing horror. Our fellow passenger obviously couldn’t hold it and relieved himself where he sat. We bolted downstairs before the frankly impressive flood could wet our shoes.

Another interesting story I’ve heard from the top of the 11 was told to me by a young woman who, at the time, was visiting her boyfriend. Everything seemed normal until the bus stopped in the Pennyburn scheme in Kilwinning. Suddenly two men wearing balaclavas sprinted upstairs. They quickly surveyed the passengers before shouting “He’s no here!” and running back off, seemingly to wait another ten minutes for the next bus to check that one instead.

The number 11 is no stranger to violent altercations. This next story comes from fellow ACU contributor Alex. Once while on the bus, two men came onboard and, through overhearing their conversation, it became obvious that they were attending their mums funeral while also wearing track suit trousers. This fact seemed to amuse a drunk passenger who was sitting behind Alex. The drunk started to make fun of their choice of wardrobe causing the two men to start attacking him, at which point our friend Alex stepped in to try and split them up. The two attackers commended Alex for looking after a stranger like that, while STILL trying to punch him. Meanwhile the drunk man insisted they would just have a “Rolly polly” for a bit and be best pals afterwards. The two men clearly didn’t share in the drunks resilient optimism, so Alex convinced him to get off and wait for the next bus.

It can be pretty easy to fall sleep on the bus, especially after a shift at work or a few down the pub. Sometimes you can even run the risk of missing your stop which would be annoying for anyone. The guy in this story definitely thought so. Another journey underway and as the bus passes Greenwood Academy he wakes up, realises he’s missed his stop, and starts screaming at the driver, wanting to know why he wasn’t woken up! He starts attacking the safety glass between himself and the driver, who swiftly chucks him off. Not satisfied with this outcome the guy attacks the bus in a tantrum, all the while screaming about how he missed his stop. After exhausting his attempt on the buses life, he decides to take on a more manageable opponent in the nearby bus shelter. The bus left him there, hammering hopelessly away at the shelter, likely until his arms grew limp.

This story in particular brings up an important thing to consider when talking about these buses: the men and women who’s job it is to safely transport everyone up and down this route really are unsung working-class heroes. They don’t get nearly as much credit as they deserve. They make sure you get to where you need to go, and a lot of the time take a ton of abuse for doing it. I personally have witnessed bus drivers being shouted at and attacked on numerous occasions and nobody deserves to be subject to that while at their work. Your bus driver deserves respect so the next time you need to make use of the many bus services, remember and thank your bus driver.

These are just a few stories and we’d love to hear of any of your wild stories of bus travel! Let us know on out Facebook page and we can see who’s got the best one!