Hen parties on trains? Do one, says Rachel Parris. Unless she’s invited, that is…
Illustration by Claire Jones
London to Brighton: Friday, early evening. You find your allocated seat, take off your coat/cardigan/hemp poncho, place your bag and belongings on the next seat in order to passive-aggressively dissuade anyone else from sitting there, get out your Kindle/knitting/dream-journal and sit back and relax.
Or do you?
Is your serene and cultured journey (FINE, you were mostly going to play Candy Crush, WHATEVER) suddenly shattered by the smashing of wine bottles, the howl of portable speakers and the unmistakable squeak of window against inflatable penis?
THE HEN DO ON THE TRAIN.
Is there a more feared social encounter in the history of domestic travel? Matched only by the Sitting-Opposite-Your-Ex scenario or the Lads-On-Tour rigmarole or the Neighbour-Reading-Mein Kampf-Too-Eagerly conundrum; the Hen-Do-On-Train holds a special place of horror in the heart of any seasoned traveller.
Now, sure, it’s #NotAllHenDos but it is most. No matter the age, the place or the sexual preferences, it seems that once someone puts a ring on it, the hens start preparing for an ASBO.
The most recent one I came across was a group of ladies aged around 45 in matching “Pink Lady” jackets, their voices projecting better than Brian Blessed, wielding an enormous bottle of something called “Flampagne” and novelty dick-shaped straws. The bride was dressed as Sandy at the end of Grease and, it would appear, towards the end of a very, very long night. They screamed and sang and fell over and howled along to Spandau Ballet hits and while at the start of the journey I wanted to hammer them with one of their own dildos (they’d brought three), by the end I was jealous not to be part of it all.
Why? Because we’ve all been there. The Hen-Do-On-Train provokes a heady mix of fear, envy and familiarity because we’ve all been those guys. We’ve done the public singing. We’ve worn the L-plates. We’ve drunk something horrifying out of a phallic receptacle. I’ve been on around five hen nights and, like Cinderella at midnight, once that train departs, all your basic social skills melt away around you, leaving a shrill, sex-obsessed harpy, intent on making the bride wear a tiara and shout “cock” in public (the Cinderella analogy ended a while ago by the way). This is simply the way of things. As inevitable as being sick in the vestibule: as natural as an organic lubricant in the bridal goodie-bag. And it’s GREAT. How often do you get the chance to properly let loose with your best friends, to dress up stupidly, shout and sing and not give a damn about what people think?
Not often enough for my liking.
I have a hen do coming up that promises to be a refined affair: a few friends in a secluded cottage in Wales, playing games and eating nice food. If this be the case, rest assured I’ll be getting the train there, by myself, dressed in a feather boa and leopard print leotard and drinking Flampagne out of a straw shaped like a penis. Because THAT is how a hen do is done.
But until then, every Friday evening, on a packed commuter train, faced with these clanging public-botherers, I will continue to quietly raise an eyebrow, tut inwardly, pop on my noise-cancelling headphones and wait until it’s my turn again.
Rachel Parris is a comedian, musician, actor and improviser. She is best known for her award-winning musical comedy songs, presenting Thronecast on Sky Atlantic and improvising in hit show Austentatious. @rachelparris