Monday, July 26, 2010

Planes, trains & Automobiles

I have an appalling reputation among some friends when it comes to train travel. I might look like I know what I’m doing, what with the back and forth air travel to Bangkok, but as they informed me, airlines go to some length to make sure I don’t climb aboard the wrong 747. One friend flatly refuses to catch a train with me ever again in case we end up in Scotland like we nearly did last time (twice in one weekend) when we were trying to get to Derby and then back to London.

But I am in the UK and I have to get around and without a car it has to be train travel. I confess I’m fast losing my confidence with British trains and I’d already had one dicey trip earlier this month. (And it was The Friends who don’t trust my ability to get on the right train.) The one I was on split in two before my destination. If you wanted one route you needed the first four carriages; if you wanted the other terminal, you took one of the back four. Except being unfamiliar with the line I didn’t know which branch my stop was on. As it was after a few minutes private panicking I asked someone and then breezed off the train like the experienced international traveler that I’m not.

Anyway the next hurdle was getting to my Arvon holiday. At least this time I wanted to go to Scotland. I arrived in plenty of time at Euston; so early in fact that there wasn’t a single sign on the information board of any train going to Scotland. I’d been having delusions of my sleeper being in black and white and having a Brief Encounter type of experience for days and I think it must’ve clouded my judgement. This time in my panic I thought I’d got the wrong London station and honestly I was too embarrassed to go to the enquiry desk in case they identified me for the cretin I am and I phoned the rail enquiry people so I couldn't see their look of pity. (I was at the right station all along but just SO early that my sleeper train hadn’t appeared on the board yet.)

And honestly, it’s never ending because then I had to negotiate the return journey.

Four of us left Moniack Mhor at an unholy hour on Saturday morning all because of my early flight to Birmingham. The worst thing is that I didn't even want to go to bloomin’ Birmingham but getting the flight to Manchester would've meant getting up before I'd gone to bed so I booked the more reasonable flight and planned to take a train to Manchester. I'd be at my friends’ for lunch.

The last night at Moniack Mhor was a jolly affair and it's possible I got my quantities of sleep and wine a bit confused. When I arrived at Inverness Airport and looked at the departures board I saw my flight was delayed by three hours. I'll spare you the step by step but four further delays ensued and in the end I spent eight hours enjoying the delights of Inverness Airport: D'lish, (which really wasn't) WH Smiths and a Starbucks with no squashy seat to doze in.

The only good thing to happen in my day of travelling was that I arrived at Birmingham just in time for the direct hourly train to Manchester. It was the rather ominously named 'cross country' service. I took this to mean we'd have a lovely windy tour of the central section of England. I did eventually arrive but not even in time for dinner.

My kids who are suddenly able to get themselves (more successfully than I it transpires) around the country on public transport, had arrived perfectly.

I think I might have to start following them from now on.


Queenie said...

Oh JJ... oh no... *wipes tears from eyes*... 'At least this time I wanted to go to Scotland'... hahahahaha *wipes more tears*

Talli Roland said...

Oh no... :0

I'm bad with trains, too. In Poland I was forever getting on the wrong train!

Jen said...

Oh dear God... I can see you now: huge sunglasses, hat pulled low over your eyes and a grubby mac pulled close around your body as you furtively make shameful calls to the Rail Enquiries for the Terminally Bewildered.

I've had to avoid train stations since the 'running down the platform in the wrong bra' incident. When I say 'avoid', I do of course mean that I'm banned now from that station.