I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
When I was serving in the Navy during the late sixties and early seventies we used to be sent by the cheapest route possible during our travels. We also had to travel in uniform which is a lot different than recent times when, for reasons of security, it is considered essential for service personnel to travel in civilian clothes. In fact it used to take me so long so travel to my home town in Scotland that it was hardly worth it if I only had one week of leave. It never made sense to me that I could travel from London to Edinburgh in just eight hours, yet it would take me all night to get from there to Inverness and, even then, I still had another twenty six miles to go on yet another train.
Back in those days service people were treated differently than today. For example, we could not get credit or hire purchase. I remember when we went to buy a vacuum cleaner not long after we first got married and we had to use the wedding present money to buy it as we were refused credit.
It seems to have gone completely the other way round since then, which I think is a great improvement. The general public also had a different attitude towards service personnel back in those days as well. It was more like we were just tolerated and no more and other people were often not too pleased to be in the same compartment as us while travelling on the trains. It was quite common for them to get up and leave if we entered a compartment that they were in. I don't think this was due to our behaviour as we were well monitored by the military police that used to travel on the trains with us during main leave periods. In fact, on one occasion that I can recall, a mate of mine was lifted by the military police for being drunk on board the train while on his way home on Christmas leave. He spent his Christmas leave locked up so I think that was one Christmas he would never forget!
We used to take some cans of beer and the odd bottle of spirits with us to pass away the long hours of the journey north. We also played cards where you could lose or make a lot of extra money to spend on your leave. On one occasion while heading home on leave, I found myself having to cross London during the rush hour. This, in itself, was bad enough but I was also having to carry my full kit with me due to the fact that I was on end of commission leave. So there I was, travelling across London with my full kit bag plus a suitcase to carry, stuck on this tube which was packed so full that, if I had fallen over, I would have never hit the floor. Close by me was one of those... well you know the type! They never complain straight at you, but rather moan to everyone close by who will listen to them and he was really getting on my nerves!
When you're carrying a full kit bag and a suitcase the only way to do this is to put the kit bag, which is really heavy and about four feet tall, over your shoulder. To do this you need space to swing it up onto your shoulder and, as it was coming up to my stop, I started to prepare this procedure by signalling to those closest to me who were nice enough to understand my predicament. Everyone except this annoying little pip-squeak bloke wearing the bowler hat and the chip on his shoulder knew what I was trying to do and, as they made space for me, I started to swing the kit bag.
Just then the tube came alongside the packed station platform and some of the people started to alight. My kit bag landed on my right shoulder, but not before it came into contact with my annoying little friend sending him flying back into the crowd trying to reach the door to get off. He never reached the floor, as the carriage was far too crowded, but I did hear and see a lot of chuckling smiling faces as he went flying back! They must have been just as ticked off as I had been by his arrogant loud objections to my presence on that tube. I did, however, apologise to him as I left saying, 'Sorry mate, I never heard you there'.
I found myself on the tube system several times after that situation but, fortunately, never did meet anyone else with an attitude to service personnel using the tube system during rush hour!