Susan Morrison: Branson’s train had us in a right pickle

King's Cross can prove baffling for even the most seasoned of travellers. Picture:  Matthew Chattle/REX/Shutterstock
King's Cross can prove baffling for even the most seasoned of travellers. Picture: Matthew Chattle/REX/Shutterstock
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The three of us were ­coming home from ­London, clustered around our bags at King’s Cross, squinting at the big board. We must have looked like refugees, because a beautiful young woman in a uniform took pity on us and asked us which train we needed. Sensing help, we shoved our tickets at her.

Seriously, one member of the party is a Phd, the other a world-recognised expert in her field. Granted, you have to factor in me doing my best to ­lower the group IQ, but what is it about ­travelling that turns even the most ­accomplished of us into nine-year-olds just looking for a grown-up to take charge?

The Spiegeltent in St Andrew Square

The Spiegeltent in St Andrew Square

“Oh”, said the lovely girl, “you want the two o’clock from Platform 3.” She added, in a quite ­excited manner: “You’ve got open tickets.” Cue three baffled women. She sighed and said: “Well, on a Sunday you can upgrade to first class for 25 quid.”

Well, I’ve done the first class thing before and I know just how fancy dan that is, so we all agreed that’s the way to travel.

“You’ll need to be quick, it’s popular,” she said. “You’ll need to find three seats without reservations on them.” She explained it like we were Special Forces on a secret mission. As far as we were concerned, we were.

We three hit that train like Wallace’s army. It was a thing of beauty to watch Ellie surge through first class like an avenging Valkyrie, swooping on the seats to glare at those already occupied whilst I hammered along the carriage checking out the reservation slips.Sam is from ­England, so she did the apologising.

We hurled ­ourselves into an unsecured table with four seats, crowing in victory as we nested in with our bags and smugly surveyed those not quick enough, or indeed bolshie Scot enough, to seize the upgrade.

One day, comrades, all shall travel in leather-seated luxury. Actually, it’s not luxurious for those of us with short legs. Sir Richard seems to have designed the first class seats on his trains to accommodate the taller businessman, which means I tend to slither about, but it’s the principle of the thing.

However, they’ve stopped handing out complimentary booze. That was a bit of a blow, but we compensated by eating all the free sarnies they could throw at us whilst wolfing down tea and coffee with the reckless enthusiasm of a Temperance Sunday school outing. Then we threw caution to the winds and bought wine. So, if you were on the 2pm from Kings Cross last Sunday and you were in first class, we’d all like to say sorry.

In our defence, it was fine until York, but, yes, we were the ones who, as the train took that long slow swing into Berwick, raised our arms in the air and went ‘Wheeeeee!’.

Platform 9 & half-daft

King’s Cross Station is full of people throwing themselves at a wall. It’s something to do with Harry Potter, apparently. Well, that’s what they told me, but I suspect that it’s really some strange English ritual, done before boarding trains. They have some funny habits down there, like Morris dancing, eel eating and liking Boris Johnson.

I’ve got the blues over lack of Spiegeltent

The grand old Spiegeltent won’t be coming back to Edinburgh this year. Her festival home was St Andrew Square, which belongs to Standard Life, and they don’t want the Jazz and Blues Festival or the Fringe there any more.

They want to lure high-end retailers into that shiny new development of theirs, which looks weirdly worse than the building they knocked down. They worry that elite shopkeepers, like TK Maxx, might panic at the sound of a jazz trumpet solo or the sight of a flyer-er in the rain.

Harvey Nicks, the highest of high-end retail, seems to have coped just fine for years.

They’ll miss having their customers on their doorstep. Let’s be honest, the Jazz and Blues Festival is practically their entire demographic right there. Soulful music seems to bring out a desire for cashmere and silk scarves. The women dress nicely, too.

Last Stand

It’s a shame The Stand won’t be there. There’s always a healthy dollop of local Scottish talent in the Fringe roster and St Andrew Square gave the club space to stretch out and give more room to rising talent.

The Stand is a Living Wage employer so every year hundreds of young people got a decent-paying summer job, where they got to learn vital life skills like how to direct tourists all over York Place whilst avoiding being hit by a tram, how to punch a wasp before it lands in a pint and how hand out soggy flyers with a smile whilst dressed in a giant plastic poncho.

Fair dos, George W. Bush couldn’t do that. Especially not the poncho.