"The Llandudno train was gratifyingly
empty, so I took a seat at a table for four, and contented myself with the thought that I
would soon be in a nice hotel or guesthouse where I could have a hot bath followed by a
generously apportioned dinner. I spent a little time watching the scenery, then pulled out
my copy of The Kingdom by the Sea to see if Paul Theroux had said anything about
the vicinity that I could steal or modify to my own purposes. As always, I was amazed to
find that as he rattled along these very tracks he had been immersed in a lively
conversation with his fellow passengers. How does he do it? Quite apart from the
consideration that my carriage was nearly empty, I don't know how you you strike up
conversations with strangers in Britain. In America, of course, it's easy. You just offer
a hand and say, "My name's Bryson. How much money did you make last year?" and
the conversation never looks back from there.
"But in England--or in this instance Wales--it's so hard, or at least it is
for me. I've never had a train conversation that wasn't disastrous or at least regretted.
... Over a long period of time it gradually dawned on me that the sort of person who will
talk to you on a train is almost by definition the sort of person you don't want to talk
to on a train, so these days I mostly keep my myself and rely for conversational
entertainment on books by more loquacious types like Jan Morris and Paul Theroux."