When it came to my journey to and from Somerset, I did what any sane person would and double checked the train times the night before. Good job really, as Southern Trains had just removed the one I was booked on. They were also warning about slow running trains and potential cancellations, and so I was at Crawley station before six in the morning.
There was no slow running into Victoria, and an easy bus ride across to Paddington got me there in plenty of time for my train, enough time to get a Maccy D’s for breakfast.
I settled into my seat in the quiet zone, and was pleasantly surprised when the booked seat next to me wasn’t taken up.
A young couple got on the train at Reading. Came and sat across the aisle from me in the quiet zone. Only for him to start up a loud running commentary of everything they were passing outside. It was at a volume where he was drowning out my music in my headphones. On and on he went until I took my headphones off and said, “for crying out loud, this is supposed to be the quiet coach, no one needs your loud running commentary all the way to Somerset”. He shut up and took out his PSP and put his own headphones on.
The pair of them sat opposite each other and both had big bags on the seats next to them. OK, the train isn’t busy, but there are large luggage shelves above all the seats. And then she proceeded to take her shoes off and put her feet on the seat and shift about across the both of them scraping her feet all over both. No one needs that, keep your nasty feet off the upholstery you ignorant little skank.
The train didn’t run slowly and was only two minutes late into Taunton, and I got to Cannington in plenty of time to have a wander around before the meeting started.
A quick interlude about the stay. They had big tower fans in the room. I plugged it in and pressed the button, but it didn’t start, so I adjusted the dial and off it went. Only to stop a few minutes later. So, I adjusted the dial a bit more and off it went again, and then a few minutes later it stopped. I did this four times before I realised that the dial on the top of the fan wasn’t a temperature dial, it was a timer, and I’d been setting it to ten minutes and not ten degrees. Once I eventually worked this out, it got the full two hours. (Yes, it hadn’t occurred to me as to why they hell there would have been a heat setting of one hundred and twenty degrees.)
Coming home was different. I’m glad I’m someone who likes to be early to make sure that they are on time. If I hadn’t been ten minutes early to get the bus, I’d have missed it and had an hour and a half to wait for the next one. As I’ve said before, there is nothing worse than public transport which is early.
After a walk around Bridgwater, which I’ve written about separately I headed to the train station and sat waiting for a train to Taunton. The announcement came over the tannoy.
“We are sorry to announce that the 11:21 service to Cardiff Central via Bristol Temple Meads is delayed by approximately 22 minutes. This is due to lightning dame to the signalling system.”
I looked up at the clear blue sky. What effing lightning? Have you seen the weather? There isn’t a cloud to be seen. No rain. Nothing. How? Just how?
They also announce ‘mind the gap’ several times. And when the train to Taunton pulls up, I see why. They aren’t messing about with the gap here. It’s officially turned in to a day out. The step up from the platform to get up onto the train is taller than some people I know. And even I could have fallen through the gap down onto the tracks. It isn’t just a case of mind the gap, it’s effing dangerous. How about building the platform a foot or two higher?
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not Paul Simon, and this is not Widnes train station, but I am homeward bound. This is Taunton calling, or should that be this is Taunton taunting? I have a lot of time to wait for my train here. I left Bridgwater an hour earlier than originally planned. Mainly due to the unrelenting sun and heat, but partly getting any train that is available sounds like a plan for today because you never know when there may be delays, and partly because all the shade offering interesting places were shut.
I would like to do the same now I’m at Taunton, but I have an advance ticket with mandatory seat reservations, which the staff at the station and the guards on earlier trains tell me can’t be used. I don’t even want to think about how much they would want to gouge me for if I was to try and get a ticket for one of these earlier trains. And so, I wait.
I use the facilities and look to go in the café. But is looks like there is only a Starbucks here. And they can stick their overpriced rubbish where the sun doesn’t shine. Which today may be quite far away.
I see a fellow traveller with a bottle of Pepsi in front of him and get a bit excited. Until I ask him where he got it from to be told he bought it with him from town. Which, as with so many train stations, isn’t anywhere near to the station that serves it.
A vending machine calls to be, but drinks are hanging off the end of their racks and a bottle of water is at a funny angle in the fetch mechanism. I look at the pay point on the machine which reads ‘the machine is out of service’.
And so, I amble down to the barriers and ask a member of staff if there are any local shops that might sell drinks. At first, he tries to direct me back up to the Starbucks on the platform, as if he is on commission with them. Seeing the face I pulled at that suggestion he mentions there is another café on the far platform. A little local on, cheaper than Starbucks, and I wonder why he didn’t mention that first. And I think commission again.
I wander over to the far platform and its café. I get two drinks and an ice cream and head back to the platform will eventually go from.
The platform is covered, which is fine if it is raining, but it is a glass roof, which is less than useless in the sun. There is no shade, but I find the waiting room. I walk in and it is great. Aircon is in full effect. It feels cold. At first anyway, it ends up a comfortable temperature once I acclimatised, which is better than outside, and would have been even better if planks stopped opening the door and standing on the threshold trying to find their tiny mind to make a decision about coming in. Letting all the heat in with them.
I look up from writing and there appear to be clouds. The unrelenting sun is forced to relent (for a bit anyway). And as the time for my train gets closer, I venture back out and walk up to the far end of the platform to be level with where my coach will be. The rain starts just as colleagues from work turn up. And the train, which has been showing as on time for the last hour and a half now shows it will be half an hour late, as announcements using excuse roulette come over the speakers.
The train turns up thirty-four minutes late, and everyone has scattered to their pre-booked seats. Only for there to be someone sat in mine. As one of a party of four around the table. Late trains causing pandemonium for seating. Which shows what utter richards the earlier train’s staff were being.
There was a table across the aisle from the one I had booked which had a spare seat. It had the added bonus of me needed to ask someone to move their bag from it. I put my headphones in, and turned the volume up a bit to try and drown out the inane chatter from the table of old know it all know nothings sat in my seat. The concept of quiet coach had gone right out of the window. And I sit there wishing these loudmouths would too.
The train is trundling, it’s going a lot slower than the one did coming to Taunton. And to spice things up a bit they’ve chucked a couple of extra stops in there as well. I am trying to write, but despite it being the quite coach I find myself too distracted to concentrate.
I also sit there hoping this is not the same physical train as I travelled to Taunton on. As if it is then I’m sitting on skanky feet’s seat.
Then the trolley turns up. It must have had a rough journey down the train as it is very nearly early. Not content with stealing my seat the stupid old goats jump in with their order first and take all the remaining food on the train. It may have only been fruitcake left at that point, but it was edible. It’s all I can do not to jump up and beat the old goats to death with their fruitcake slices.
Perhaps I should have taken the packet of biscuits from the room this morning after all.
As the train draws near to Reading the announcement is made that it is running 94 minutes late, and due to that it will be terminating at Reading. So, everyone jumps off, crosses the platform and gets on the other train sitting waiting to head off to Paddington. I had already thought about getting off at Reading and getting the Gatwick train, only to check and see they had all been cancelled for the day. The train sits there for another quarter of an hour before starting to move – to a big cheer from those on the train.
It trundles for a bit and speeds up the closer it gets to London and once it pulls in at Paddington there is a stampede to get off the train. I amble off, as it is going to be potluck once I get to Victoria anyway.
You know that feeling when you fly to a hot country, and you come out of the air-conditioned plane and make your way down the steps to the tarmac, and the heat hits you. Getting off the train at Paddington was the worst I have ever known that to be. I’m not sure, but I think I passed two melted people on my way out of the station.
The bus stop outside the station was shut. Because of course it was. So, I walked up to the next one. It was so hot out there I couldn’t even be bothered to take my camera out of my bag to take a picture of the blue (well brown in this case) plaque to Alexander Fleming and his discovery of penicillin in St Mary’s Hospital.
It has to be said I fluked getting a train at Victoria. There was a delayed one that stopped at Crawley that I just walked onto and got a seat. It even ran at a reasonable speed and I got home less than two hours after the original plan, which in the scheme of things isn’t that bad and was better than some of my colleagues. It just seemed like it was a lot longer.
So, same again in the winter snow drifts anyone?