Two of the child bride's sisters are visiting the Cope estate at the moment, which means the days and nights are filled with the sounds of their virtually yelling at one another, punctuated by frequent explosions of cackling laughter.
The child bride comes from a large family, and the best way to be heard in a large family is to speak louder than everyone else. When the family members get together, the house reverberates with a noise that is almost physical; it pushes you around and makes you feel claustrophobic. Well, it does that to me.
And now that experience has come to my tiny house, in my tiny space on this tiny island. Rachel and her sisters seem to have lost any sense of the concept of "inside voice" and bellow at one another like excited deaf people. They quote lines from films they watched as children (almost always in that loud and high-pitched Queen Victoria voice that everyone does), gossip about so-and-so who lived down the street and is probably gay now, and cackle with laughter over every little thing.
It's that sisterly thing, of course. I know several guys who are very close with their brothers and they just don't act like this with each other. When my brother and I get together, we more often than not stare at each other until he asks me a question out of politeness ("So, how's that book going?"), and I accidentally answer in seriousness and he says, "Yeah. That's cool," which is Jon Code for: "I'm not going to make fun of you right now, but I reserve the right to do so at a later date."
Thursday found the sisterly triad and me wandering the streets of Bath, where the presence of other loud American tourists helped to lessen their effect just slightly. I was secretly happy when Jenny didn't respond to the text I sent her about our being there. For the sake of our friendship, I wasn't particularly eager to subject her and Chris to this mobile theatre of cacophony, but I felt it would be rude to visit their fair city without so much as a hello.
Anyway, we had an alright time, eating dinner at a Spanish restaurant in city centre that is effectively buried underneath the road, and were in good spirits as we arrived at the station to catch our train home.
As we walked into the station, I heard the announcement for the train to Cardiff Central and shot off up the steps. Now, I am one of those people who prides himself on being able to catch trains. If I had somehow been able to transpose my train-catching skills to rugby, I would have been Eastside Banshees RFC's top try-scorer, because I bound up steps, leap over things, break through crowds and run at shocking pace when trying to save myself 30 minutes of sitting around waiting for the next train.
For those of you playing along at home, most of the train doors here are automatic. They will all close at once but for one, that one being where the conductor stands. He/she leans out of said door while the other doors close, gets the signal from the platform conductor, shuts his door and signals to the driver that they are good to go. In that space of time that the other doors are closing, one can jump on the train via the conductor's door.
And so it was that I flew onto the 20:08 train from Bath Spa to Cardiff Central.
"Alright, mate," said the conductor as I got on. "Let's go."
"Just a sec, my wife and her sisters are right there," I said, pointing to the three-woman hurricane that was now about 30 feet from the train.
"No time," the conductor said. And he pressed the button to close the doors.
"Whoa. Hold on," I said, putting my shoulder into the doors to stop them from closing. "I can't leave without them!"
"Well, get out, then," he shouted. And he pushed me out of the train.
By this time, Rachel and her sisters were standing outside the door, looking shocked that I had been forcibly removed*. I spun around and shouted back at the conductor through the half-closed doors: "Come on, mate. They're all here. We're all standing right here."
"No!" he blustered, frantically pressing the button to close the door.
But then karma kicked in.
The doors refused to shut. He had fucked them up by throwing me into them. When it became obvious that he was going to have to completely reopen the doors to shut them, he grumbled permission for us to get on. He was still fussing with the thing as we sat down.
Even though it was dangerous to shove me from the train -- my foot could have gone into the gap, my foot could have caught the door or I could have been turned and gone head-first into the concrete platform -- I've decided not to file a complaint with First Great Western. It's just as effective to blog about it and less likely to result in any kind of unnecessary disciplinary action for a conductor who was probably just having a shit day. After all, this train had come all the way from Portsmouth; I'm sure he had been dealing with charming idiots all night long. And besides, he was polite to us once we were seated.
Still, one has to wonder sometimes why I am such a Britophile.
*Well, perhaps Rachel didn't look shocked. My being attacked by someone wouldn't surprise her at all -- she would assume I had done something to provoke them.