A Kiwi comedian whose train trip to Edinburgh turned into an 11-hour nightmare has emerged with plenty of new material and important travel tips for anyone taking public transport overseas.
“Lean into the Kiwiness” is the advice of James Nokise.
A “she’ll be right” attitude and the ability to see the funny side of things helped on the odyssey through Scottish backroads in a shared taxi during the small hours of Tuesday morning – “my first time changing countries in a cab”.
It was a journey that was followed by 22 million people on social media, as Nokise live-tweeted every twist and turn.
It has been a wild week, says the stand-up comic and sports reporter, who is currently covering the Rugby World Cup. It all kicked off on Monday, when his northbound train from London was cancelled by Avanti. The UK rail operator sought to fix this by ordering 75 taxis for passengers – and dispatching them the length of the British Isles. Sharing an international taxi ride with three strangers was a scenario straight out of a sitcom.
“I love British trains when they work,” says the 40-year-old Nokise. “The key word is ‘when’.”
A surreal reminder of how inescapable public transport is – and that his 600km nightmare was real – was seeing his story covered the following morning by Metro, a free paper distributed on UK buses and trains.
The trip from London to Edinburgh is one he has taken many times. He had a similarly unpredictable journey to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year.
“I ended up on an overpacked train that had to stop in Doncaster while the conductor tried to convince people to get off.”
Despite some challenging episodes, trains are a great way to get around Europe on a budget and – perhaps – on time. His only advice to anyone planning a trip on public transport overseas is to travel light.
“I think the key thing for travellers is don’t overpack. You don’t know when you’ll get caught out, and sometimes it’s hard for a big suitcase to fit in an emergency taxi.”
Nokise says he’s a fan of Europe’s embrace of train travel and New Zealand’s tentative revamping of passenger rail – though he’d like to ask KiwiRail to “please fix the tracks so we can have faster trains”.
However, any future New Zealand rail experience could learn a thing or two from the UK, especially its mistakes.
“It seems dumb, but honestly: clear communication is golden, even if it’s bad news,” he says.
“People are gonna be a lot less angry at staff when they know that there’s nothing they can do about it. Delays suck, but what breaks people is not knowing why things are delayed.”
As the producer of the podcast Fair Game: Pacific Rugby Against the World, Nokise has been bouncing between France and the UK on trains for the summer.
“I was actually on my way to Edinburgh after being in France all weekend,” he says. While the northbound train from King’s Cross in London is a very different prospect from France’s high-speed TGV trains, it has provided him with “a whole misadventure to try and turn into new standup material”.
He is already looking forward to heading back to the New Zealand summer. If it weren’t for the rugby, he wouldn’t normally be in chilly Scotland at this time of year.
“No matter how hot the place you are going is, sneak a thermal in the luggage in case you get stranded on the train back home!”