“I now toy with the dilemma of either just going along with her or embarrassing her”: Rick Wakeman explains how to deal with strangers on a train

Cartoon of an annoyed Rick Wakeman with a busy body on a train
(Image credit: Kevin February)

In 2016, Rick Wakeman told Prog readers about a frustrating train journey in a column that carried a subtle warning against being one of those people.

It happens a lot and it’s a bloody nightmare. That dreaded moment when you’re trapped in a conversation, especially if you’re on a train and there’s no way you can get off – you simply have to endure an hour or so of sheer hell.

Sarcasm doesn’t seem to work for these thick-skinned people. Let me give you an example, drawn from many such experiences. I’m on the train. It’s an hour-and-a-half journey to London. I’m sitting quietly, trying to finish off some ideas I have for a new album. Then it happens.

I see her out of the corner of my eye. A woman in her late 40s is heading my way. She sits down in the seat opposite me.

“I hope you don’t mind my sitting down here and talking to you but this is an opportunity I really couldn’t miss.”

I reply politely: “Well, to be honest, I’m trying to finish off some important notes and have to get them done before we get to London.”

She ignores me and simply steps into action. “My son is in a band.”
(Oh shit. Please God, turn her into a mute.) “He has his own band and they play all your stuff just as well as you, if not better.”

Resigned, I put down my pen and ask her what instrument her son plays.

“Trumpet!” she says proudly.

“And what do the other band members play?”

“Guitar, bass, drums and harmonica.”

“No keyboards then?”

“No, they don’t think they need them.”

I lean forward and say in a very polite tone: “But all my stuff is keyboard-based, so how do they manage to play my stuff without any keyboards?”

She looked well and truly flustered by this question and tries her best to bluff her way out of it. “He’s a brilliant trumpet player.”

I sigh and try another tack. “So which of my pieces do they play?”

She has now attained the score of 8.7 on the Flustered Meter. “Er, the most famous ones.”

I smile. “Such as Tubular Bells and War Of The Worlds then?”

She looks relieved. “Yes, both of those.”

I now toy with the dilemma of either just going along with her bullshit or embarrassing her by pulling her lack of knowledge apart, but I don’t have to as a man sitting on the other side of us leans over toward her and says: “Actually, nether of those are Rick’s albums.”

She goes bright red, splutters something about confusing me with someone else and gets off at Colchester.

I sit back in the seat and open my notebook again. The man who intervened says: “Do you mind if I join you? I’d love to talk about No Earthly Connection.”

I close my notebook, fart quite loudly and say: “Please do. Be my guest.”