THE TALE OF WIGGY AND TUNA: I've been promising to write this story for ages, and I'm finally getting around to it. This is the story of traveling with BFF Tina from London to Wales by train in the spring of 1999. We've recounted this adventure many times (with accents) to everyone we know, and have even threatened to turn it into a musical. This may not be as funny as the date from hell who inhaled salad like a Hoover, but maybe you'll find it amusing.

First, some back story. Tina had never been to England, so I thought it was high time to drag her along on one of my annual jaunts. I booked the entire thing and she was able to get us "buddy passes" via her father who was retired from Delta, so it was super cheap. Traveling to Europe was cheap and easy back then anyway. Remember when you could show up 20 minutes before your flight, sprint through security and joke about the bomb you were carrying in your bag? Yeah...good times. The flight was uneventful, thanks to the pills Tina and I were popping. They might have been vicodin or flexoril...something from the pharmacy...but we were looped, and that's how we liked it.

I made a huge mistake in booking the hotel that year. It was a hike from Lancaster Gate tube stop and was in this old building in Bayswater with no lift. Of course, they stuck us on the fourth floor in a room so damn tiny you walked in and fell across the beds. The bathroom was, literally, a former closet. And I kid you not, you could only wash half of your body at a time in the shower. It was a real shit hole, so we tried to stay out of the room as much as possible.

Tina wasn't very impressed by London. I could tell. One thing I've always found interesting when dragging friends along to the UK is how nonplussed they are by the various accents. Tina thought everyone would sound like Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in Howard's End so she was flummoxed most of the trip. She kept turning to me for translation or asking the person to repeat themselves. London, for all its perceived quaintness and charm, is a big, dirty, hectic city and Tina wasn't prepared. She was looking forward to our train trip to Wales where we would take the ferry from Holyhead across the Irish Sea to Dublin.

After four days in London, we set off early on a Wednesday morning to Euston Station to get our train. We found it and settled into facing seats across a little table. It was a fast train so it should be a pleasant three hour trip with lots of opportunities for sight-seeing and chatting. However, as we were waiting for the train to depart, our attention was on the mother and her twin daughters across the aisle from us. The girls, who were nine or ten, were dressed alike and were that scary The Shining "REDRUM" sort of way. The twins were fussy at the early hour and were demanding juice and asking questions, while the mother looked frazzled and at the breaking point.

The train left on time and the girls quieted down and went to sleep, but we only got as far as Milton Keynes when the train broke down. We all had to disembark with our luggage and wait on the platform for half an hour until another arrived. To our horror we found out this would not be a "fast train", but one that called at every, single fucking little village. I knew then we would miss our ferry, which we had already booked. A three hour journey became six plus. And after all the commotion, those little twin girls were now wide awake, and they were going to be trouble.

Before I get to that, let me tell you about the people sitting near us. Across the aisle was a woman we swore was Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. She had obviously been told this a zillion times, but was chatty and fun and didn't seem to mind that we called her "Duchess." Just behind her was this older man and much younger woman who claimed to be married. To this day, Tina and I are convinced it was his daughter and he was molesting her. He had her hand in a death grip and she looked incredibly uncomfortable for the whole trip.

Ahead of us was an elderly Welsh couple who could have been aged 60 to 100. Their faces were lined and they looked really tired. Across from them was the mother and her twins. The mother was nodding off and finally put her head against the window and went to sleep. This left the girls on their own. They quickly moved to the seats facing the elderly couple.

"What's your name," they asked the old folks in unison, in very proper accents. The old couple told them and the girls said their names were Eleanor and Abigail. "We're bored," they cried, "let's play games!" Thus began the six hour ordeal of "I spy with my wee little eye..." Tina and I exchanged glances and then with the Duchess and the molester and his wife. This was going to be a long trip.

The old Welsh couple tried to be good sports, but inevitably the little girls would spy something green out the window. If you've ever been to England, everything is green all the time. The old couple would name off grass and trees, but the little girls...who seemed to be symbiotically linked...would scream "Noooo!" The thing they had spied was some sign or building that had passed by five minutes earlier. The demeaning tone in the twins' voices as they mocked the old couple for getting the wrong answer made me want to reach over the seat and slap them both up side the head. In between "I spy", the girls told horrible knock knock jokes and the old couple, who were hostages at this point, gamely asked "who's there" every time. I felt so sorry for them. Their voices were becoming weaker and they kept looking at the mother, who was lightly snoring and drooling on the window.

As we crossed into Wales, the passengers in our car began to thin. The Duchess got off, then the molester and his wife/daughter. I realized that the only people left in the car were Tina and me, the sleeping mother, the old couple and the twins. We pulled into a station and the old couple stood up. The twins immediately started to protest. "No, you can't go...we want to play more games. We're going with you." The old couple patted their heads and said they had to go, but not before one last knock knock joke:

"Will you remember us tomorrow?" they chirped
"Yesss," the old couple replied.
"Will you remember us next week?"
"Will you remember us next month?"
"Will you remember us next year?"
"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"

Tina was going to get up and kill them, but I grabbed her by the sweater and told her to move quietly to the other end of the car while the twins were hanging onto the legs of the old people, still begging them not to get off the train.

We slumped down in our seats as the train began moving again. The twins started playing hide and seek, running up and down the center aisle, diving under the tables between the seats. Sure enough, one of the twins crawled under our table. She was holding onto our legs. I will never forget the look of sheer horror on Tina's face as the other twin ran up and dove under the table, too. Tina swears I let out a little shriek when the girls popped up across the table, looked us over and asked, "What's your name?"

"I'm Tina," Tina said.
"We're going to call you Tuna."
"I'm Collin."
One of the twins got up and crawled into the seat behind us and reached down and grabbed a handful of my hair. "It's real!" She exclaimed. "I thought it was a wig! We're going to call you Wiggy! Wiggy and Tuna!"
"What are your names," Tina asked.
"Her name's Eleanor, but I call her Smellanore," the one who had grabbed my hair said.
"And her name is Abigale, but I call her Big Bum," the one sitting across from us said.
"Smellanore and Big Bum and Wiggy and Tuna," Tina said under her breath, "Oy, I say, oy vey."

Rather than play games, they wanted to play 20 questions. I've never been grilled so thoroughly since that time I was a suspect in a murder investigation (but that's another blog post...curious aren't you?). They wanted to know why we were in the UK, where we had been, who we had seen, why we were going Ireland. If these girls were at Gitmo, the terrorists would have given up Bin Laden's hiding place by now.

The train finally arrived at Holyhead and we started collecting our luggage. The mother had woken up and staggered up the aisle, yelling at the twins and not even acknowledging our presence as babysitters. Inconsiderate cow. I'm not sure how it happened, but Smellanore and Big Bum snatched our ferry tickets out of Tina's bag and went running off the train with them. We chased them into the terminal and they decided they wanted to play keep away. We were literally climbing over and under chairs trying to catch the twins and get our tickets back. The mother, slumped in a chair, finally said to her daughters, "Give the people their tickets and stop making so much noise. Your mother has a terrible headache."

Since we'd missed the fast ferry -- which would have crossed to Dublin in an hour and a half -- we had to switch our tickets and were put on this massive ocean liner that took twice as long. It looked like the Love Boat. "What if Smellanore and Big Bum are on this boat," Tina asked fearfully. We got up and went quickly out to the dock with the twins in hot pursuit screaming that they wanted to go with us and play more games. We got onto the ferry and hid for awhile in a hallway. We went up to the main lounge and looked around, but the twins had taken another ferry. Sadly, we have no photographic evidence of the twin girls. We have a ton of photos from the trip, even some taken on the train, but we thought that to aim the lens on the twins would have attracted their attention. But trust me when I tell you they did sorta look like The Shining sisters, so just sorta go with that.

We were supposed to be at our bed and breakfast in Dublin at around 3 p.m. When we finally arrived at 9 p.m. We got a taxi from the central bus terminal and told the driver the bed and breakfast address was "The Paddocks". "Everything in Ireland is called The Paddocks," he said crossly, but somehow managed to get us to the home of the kindly Mrs. O'Hanlon, who met us at the door. "Oh, I thought you weren't coming," she said. "Would you like some tea?" Ahhhh...

That night, as we lay snug and exhausted in our beds, Tina started singing, "Knock, knock,'ve forgotten us already." We still snicker about it today. And we still might turn it into a musical.


Anonymous said…
You are a freak magnet. This was pretty funny.

Clare said…
How did you not kill those twins???

I hope you complained to the rail company about your nightmare train trip.

Oh and Americans often complain about our small hotel rooms and bathrooms but that's how things are over here. We always marvel at how massive hotel rooms and bathrooms are in the US. It's like an apartment on it's own lol!
Collin said…
I'm not even sure what the complaint would have been...or if they would have believed us. lol

I am used to small hotel rooms in Europe, but even this bathroom was ridiculously small. It was like a wardrobe.

Thanks for wading through the tale. :)
Lisa Allender said…
If u make this into a musical, I'd like to audition for the twin-girls...
Collin said…
LOL. We'll just use a mirror, Lisa. It will be very avant-garde.
Come to Sussex next time. Brighton is London-by-the-sea but nicer with enough quaintness to satisfy the heart of a visitor from the USA, and Lewes nearby, lovely, picturesque and chock-full of poets, as is Brighton. And there's Sussex University, of course.

The story: I just wanted it to go on. What if Smellanore and Big Bum turn up in your Irish idyll where you are pleased to relax from your journey away from obnoxious London? If you told it I'd believe. I would, really.
Jennifer said…
Yes, make this into a musical. I'll come to it when you open at the Fox! I will bring Simon Cowell as my date.
michi said…
*LOL* much enjoyed.

i'd be careful with the musical though. i mean, what if you attract the attention of grown-up smellanore and big bum? and THEIR twin daughters? that could ruin an opening night ...


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