How old do I look?

At the moment, I travel to London whenever possible by Hull Trains in order to avail myself of the Club 55 deal, which lasts until the end of this month.  It means I can get a first class return ticket for £40 instead of £170 (advance) or £230 (full fare).  The only downside is having to admit that one has reached the age of 55.   Travelling back last Thursday evening, I asked for a Club 55 ticket when the conductor came round (you can buy tickets on board Hull Trains).  I should have been flattered when he asked if I had proof of age, but as he had preceded the question with ‘Do you have a rail card?’ this rather dispelled any expectation as to what he was thinking.  It also induced a mild panic.  I don’t normally carry my passport for the purpose of purchasing a domestic train ticket. 

My initial thought was that I was going to have to buy a full-fare ticket.  However, after a few moments thought, I remembered I had in my briefcase the page from the PSA Awards booklet from the occasion when I received my Special Recognition award.  (I keep it in case I need to produce a biographical note for meetings – as it is written by someone else, it doesn’t seem too egocentric.)   I recalled it included not only my picture but also the year I was born.  Its inclusion was not necessarily something I welcomed at the time – but it served its purpose on Thursday.

The question in the title is rhetorical.


About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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24 Responses to How old do I look?

  1. Carl.H says:

    I bet he wished you “Good luck” as you disembarked too, only for you to fall into his trap by replying in English….Ooops sorry that was the Gestapo Officer in “The Great Escape”.

    We certainly seemed to be heading the way of “Papers please” under Labour, ID cards, stop and search, cctv everywhere even Supermarkets who now require pensioners to declare themselves over 18 to buy alcohol. I`m pretty sure that as it mentions “Club” in it`s title there will be some legislation somwhere that probably requires all members to have their club cards.

    “The only downside is having to admit that one has reached the age of 55.”

    There`s possibly a case for ageism against the train company, see Baroness Murphy for advice. 😉

    • Lord Norton says:

      Carl.H: I certainly seem to have a lot of membership cards. None, though, identifies my age and as I don’t buy alcohol or cigarettes it has never been an issue! Mind you, as I have mentioned before, I have been old since about the age of 14 and have more or less looked the same since – and indeed retained the same views.

      If there was a case to be brought on grounds of ageism, I presume it would have to be brought by someone under the age of 55, since they are the ones who cannot obtain the special deal.

  2. ladytizzy says:

    For me, the inglorious moment was when an American student called me M’am – I had barely finished celebrating my 30th birthday.

    I am slightly surprised that the conductor didn’t recognise you – as a regular subscriber to Club55, I hasten to add. Does Hull Trains have that many staff, or customers, that they are unable to acknowledge a regular?

    • Lord Norton says:

      ladytizzy: They generally recognise me. The conductor was quite apologetic in explaining he was required to ask. Mind you, he did claim he was mixing me up with another passenger when he asked if I had a travel card and I said no! I was once buying a ticket at the ticket office in Hull station when the person behind the counter said ‘How’s Lord Prescott getting on in your place?’ I had no idea he knew who I was.

  3. Howridiculous says:

    Dear Lord Norton,

    I’m sure you don’t look a day over your age.


  4. Chris K says:

    So a Palace of Westminster identity card and portcullis tie didn’t make you trustworthy in the conductor’s eyes!

    My parents took advantage of the Club 55 offer when they came to visit me. Well, my dad did anyway. My mum was relegated to standard for the return trip!

    I’m going back to my home town for a couple of days this week. I booked first class because it was only £3 more than standard, costing about £15 in total. Bargain, the only downside is if I don’t catch that certain train I lose my money and then have to buy a full-price new ticket! Hope the tube’s working properly.

    On Carl H.’s point about examining one’s papers, I agree entirely. The Manifesto Club had something to say on this a few months ago, but unfortunately politicians are too keen to be seen to be “tough on ‘underage’ drinking” to take any notice. Not that, I suspect, IDing everyone remotely young-looking does a thing for tackling ‘underage’ drinking.
    It presents a real problem for foreign students, who either have to carry their passport around or otherwise hope that the landlord knows the Korean for “driving licence”. I hate the impression it gives of the United Kingdom.

    • Jonathan says:

      Chris K: apparently they are even more strict about it in South Korea, so be sure to have both your passport and driving licence to hand if you visit there… and you need to wait until you’re 19 too!

      • Chris K says:

        That makes me feel slightly better, then. At least for the Korean students! I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as, I believe, you can go to gaol for an extramarrital affair there.

        In Hong Kong recently and I was only deemed of questionable age once, in a bar. I was with my uncle and the barmaid merely asked him how old I was, and then served me my 500ml “pint” of Asahi. And in Honkers, unlike here, ID is compulsory for most people to carry.
        Apparently it’s a bit stricter if you go to one of the, err, ‘clubs’ in Wan Chai district.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Perhaps Hull Trains work on the same principle as many supermarkets, which require ID when buying alcohol or tobacco if you look under 25. Assuming a similar 39% margin, you’d need to look 76 before the guard took your word for it!

    Price aside, I think I’d prefer the Hull Executive, which you mentioned before, as it would mean spending the journey in an Intercity 125 rather than a DMU. But perhaps that’s just the secret train spotter inside me talking!

    • Lord Norton says:

      Jonathan: The trains used by Hull Trains are as fast as the InterCity 125 trains and more modern: the engine doesn’t need to be separated from the passenger carriages. They are not only comfortable but in first class you get a complimentary meal; on East Coast services you have to pay.

  6. Carl.H says:

    I think Lord Mandelson uses Club 55 too…

    (whistles innocently and hopes he avoids the Tower once more)

  7. Croft says:

    Clearly that’s not an approved form of ID LN you’re lucky you met someone with common sense – sadly a capacity apparently now removed surgically from a large proportion of officialdom.

  8. Carl.H says:

    There`s something odious going on in this Country, MP`s and now Councils seem to be able to choose who has the power over them, even where High Courts are concerned.

    “We will look at this ruling and decide what course of action the council will take.”

    • Carl.H says:

      Erm I think I`ve lost the plot, who IS running this Country ?

      A judge will now scrutinise whether the act is legal and justifiable, and could make wide-ranging recommendations.

      I hope the Judge makes better decisions than Parliament in this case, at least it WILL have his full attention, it didn`t have Parliaments !

  9. djb13 says:

    I tend to carry my passport with me at all times. Firstly, if Tesco has a good deal on alcohol it means there’s never a dispute over my age (though, being very tall, I’m generally estimated to be well over my real age). Secondly, it means that if I get invited for an impomtu night out, I can go without having to pop home. Thirdly, there’s always a little part of my mind that’s still five, and secretly hopes I end up involved in a spy-film-type situation, and will have to escape the country.

    • Croft says:

      NUS card not working for you at the bars? – carrying a passport seems just asking for you to lose it on a ‘good night out’ and they are expensive to replace.

      PS I see LN has a rival for the ‘post’ of constitutional historian and peer. In the words of ‘Highlander’ – “there can be only one”!

      So what will it be; pistols at dawn, scones at twenty paces in the Lords Dining Room…awaiting with bated breath 🙂

      • djb13 says:

        NUS doesn’t mean anything in front of a bouncer. It’s driving licences (I don’t drive, and hate cars) or passports. I’m fairly good at hanging onto my passport. Like my phone and wallet, if it’s not in my pocket, I notice pretty quickly.

        Who’s LN’s rival?

      • Croft says:

        Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield

    • Lord Norton says:

      I’m not principally a constitutional historian! I get called many things.

      • Croft says:

        I thought of a few descriptions (!) but that covered both your areas of knowledge pretty well and seems to be the way both of you have been described in the press.

      • Lord Norton says:

        You shouldn’t believe everything you read in the press. Obviously, I exclude publications like The House Magazine (‘greatest living expert on Parliament’) and The Daily Telegraph; oh yes, and the Sunday Times. Once I have checked my records, I may need to exclude The Times as well. Some publications are clearly more discerning than others.

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