Shazia’s week

I thought we were on a train, not a space shuttle whisking us away from apocalyptic doom.

It has always baffled me why people talk very loudly on their mobiles about personal things. Admittedly, I soon become engrossed in the conversation, hanging on their every word, but I do feel hugely embarrassed for them at the same time.

On Saturday morning I had to catch the 7.40 from London to Manchester. The train was cancelled, leaving a lot of annoyed Manchester United fans swearing and threatening to headbutt the next Virgin train.

I hovered behind them while pretending to be foreign, so that if they tried to speak to me I could pretend I couldn’t speak English and thus avoid becoming an accessory to their thuggery. When the next train arrived there was a mad scrum of people pushing, shoving, kicking, and trampling over each other. I was bemused: I had been under the impression we were about to board a train to Manchester, not the last space shuttle sent to whisk mankind away from Planet Earth’s apocalyptic doom.

I found a seat in the corner and huddled under my coat so that no one would acknowledge or speak to me. The last thing I wanted was a conversation with a stranger at eight in the morning about his kids whom I’ve never met. It’s fine on a ten-minute journey, but you run out of things to say after half an hour, and that is when they start showing you pictures on their mobile. I have no idea why people sit next to me on a train and then open up to me like I’m their official biographer, but I don’t like it – and therefore opt for an icy demeanour, and maybe a forced smile as I thrust my way past to the buffet car.

One rowdy football supporter shouted: “I hope they bloody win. The last seven times I’ve been up here the silly idiots have lost.” He was drinking vodka at 8am and his attitude was rather frightening, so I was amazed when his phone rang to the tune of The Sound of Music. He then said: “Yeh mate, I’m on the train, on the train yeh, she was OK, I dunno I used the garden hose on her, she loved it I’ll give her a go on the lawnmower next, she wants it.”

I could feel the concern rising in the carriage. It sounded like this man had tried to hose down his poor wife to death and had been unsuccessful, so was now resorting to lawn-mowering her. It’s always disturbing listening to people’s private lives, more so when you don’t get the full picture, just a rather bizarre piece of the jigsaw.

I was in Manchester filming at a wedding exhibition for a television show I’m involved in. It was totally absurd – I didn’t realise just how much money people spend for one day. Hair, make-up, hotels, honeymoons, cars, food, music, carpets, and confetti ranging from £8 to £800. What happened to the good old days when rice was thrown in the faces of the happy couple?

The most ridiculous item was toilet paper with prints of the bride and groom, retailing at £185 per roll. What a bargain! I think patterned toilet paper is a bizarre invention. One must think: “In a minute I’m going to ruin this.”

For International Women’s Day I was asked to give a funny talk to a corporate company at 1pm on a Friday afternoon. There were 300 women in the audience, and Sue Lawley and Sally Gunnell were also making speeches.

It was quite scary. All very serious, with people using long words and talking about things that folks in the real world have never heard of, like flipcharts, gross-per-annum and the Loire Valley.

It is always difficult to raise the roof with a business crowd. I contemplated doing a runner instead of facing the wrath of 300 unamused executives. But when I got on to the stage I was given a surprisingly warm and friendly reception, and I left feeling slightly less intimidated by the corporate world. Maybe I should buy some shoulder pads and a BlackBerry.