Sunday, 17 April 2011

Why it's better to stay than to (try to) leave...

The date is Friday April 15th. Tooting is destined for the uncharacteristically sunny North East, specifically to Newcastle where she is to stay with an old pal for a couple of days. This is how she got there ... 9:52 am - Tooting pops into ... well, Tooting to have some breakfast and run a few errands. She parks, as always, in the Sainsbury's supermarket, and goes to the cafe across the road and has a coffee and an indulgent Danish. She then goes to a couple of shops to pick a few essentials up for her trip, and then to Sainsbury's for a flying grocery shop. 11:53 am - She goes to leave Sainsbury's car park to discover that she's over-run her two hour parking allowance by a minute. "You'll have to pay the fine at the machine, madame," says the grinning attendant. WHAT?! I spend hundreds of pounds in this supermarket and you're begrudging me a flaming minute?! He continues to grin and shrug. 12:05 pm - A £10 fine later, she arrives home, unpacks the groceries into the kitchen, irons a top, packs her weekend bag, waters the plants, puts the rubbish out and puts the laundry away. 12:45 pm - She leaves the house. 12:46 pm - She goes back to the house, picks up her train ticket, and leaves again. 12:58 pm - She boards the Victoria train and makes her way to the tube to Kings Cross. 1:50 pm - She arrives with a respectable forty minutes to kill before her train leaves. She gets some cash out, buys a paper, a coffee and a sandwich. According to the display boards, her train, the 2:30pm, is "on time," the platform will be announced at 2:15pm, and the gates closed at 2:28pm. By 5:30 she'll be out in the Toon, and she's feeling perky. 2:15 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:20 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:25 pm - the platform number is not announced. 2:28 pm - The train status changes to "delayed". An announcement is made. "Would all passengers please note that, due to an incident at Biggleswade, some trains might be subject to delay. Please watch boards for further details." 2:40 pm - A new announcement. "Due to a person being struck by a train at Biggleswade, some trains might be subject to delay." All trains on the board now read "delayed", so there seems to be no "might" about it. A passing man in uniform mutters into a walkie-talkie as he passes that, "this shit usually lasts at least an hour." Tooting texts her pal to say she'll be a bit late. 3:15 pm - Train status changes to, "cancelled" and the tannoy crackles into life. The only option presented is to go to St Pancras and get a train via Carlisle. This will take until some time next Thursday to arrive. Alternatively, go home and try again tomorrow. 3:20 pm - She goes to advanced bookings, to switch her booking to a train in the morning. She is advised that a train has to be delayed by two hours before it is considered delayed enough to transfer tickets. But my train has been cancelled. "Not by two hours, it hasn't." The logic is beyond her. "But stick around. Things will be running again soon." Isn't this entirely NOT what she had been told five minutes ago? She shuffles, perplexed, back onto the concourse to mill aimlessly around, wondering who to believe. 3:4o pm - Tooting finds a seat next to an old lady and shares a bag of liquorice comfits with her, whilst comparing notes on destinations and plans. 3:45 pm - There is some movement over to our right. Tooting's new old lady friend says, "I think there might be a train going over there." She looks where she's pointing her crinkly arthritic finger, and see that she's right. People are going through the barriers. Without so much as a backward glance, Tooting leaps up, grabs her bags, and starts running. Survival of the fittest. Through the barriers, along the platform, past as many people as she can get before she thinks her lungs will burst, then through the next door and into a seat. Phew! 4:05 pm - The train glides out of the station. Everyone on board cheers and settles in. 5:15 pm - Just north of Grantham, the train slows and stops. We sit and wait. There is an announcement. "Sorry for the delay ladies and gentlemen. We're experiencing some signalling problems. We'll get moving again as soon as possible." 5:25 pm - "We are sorry for the ongoing delay, ladies and gentlemen. Unfortunately we are experiencing complete electrical failure between here and Newark. We are likely to be held here for some time." 5:55 pm - The train reverses back into Grantham station so that we can stretch our legs. 6:40 pm - An alternative train pulls up on the adjacent platform, and everyone pours out of one onto the other. This train will follow a diversion around the signal failure, and link up with the East Coast Mainline at Doncaster. This is a diversion which is anticipated to take an hour. 8:10 pm - We link up with the East Coast Mainline. 9:30 pm - Nearly nine hours after leaving the house, seven hours after her train was meant to depart, five and a half hours after it did depart, Tooting arrives in Newcastle, the promised land. Tired, emotional, starving, and hoping that the rest of the weekend was going to be more relaxed. Which is was.


  1. Can you imagine being that person who got hit by the train, with that guy calling your situation "this shit."

    Sorry you had such a rough day of it :(

  2. Good effort. You must have staying power as great as Ballabriggs!

  3. I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this rendition of events! You are a talented writer, but sorry about the hell of a journey. I am due to get a train to the West Country this friday and am feeling decidedly 'put off' by your tale . . . hhhmm, fingers crossed.

    Hope you had an amazing weekend and I've just done a plug for crafty pint over on my latest blog post :)

    See you soon.


    PS can you believe I was a month out with the Wim open studios (it's May) - good job we didn't try to fit that in too then?! ;)

  4. Tooting! A place where revolutions are in waiting...and they'll have a long wait.


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