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Friday, December 07, 2012

As it transpired, yesterday's trip to Gloucester could hardly have been more difficult if I'd stepped off the train and straight into a puddle right up to my middle. I'm beginning to understand how Dr Foster felt. I'm never going there again either.

To be honest, any day which begins with my alarm going off at 4:45am is always going to struggle to be a good one, but I was quite optimistic when I left home in the dark shortly after 6am to catch a bus to the station. In fact, my journey to London went very smoothly. Right up until the point when the ticket inspector checked my ticket, saw that it said 'Brighton to Gloucester', and said "Oooh, you've got quite a journey ahead of you!". That's what they call tempting fate. I was doomed from that moment onwards.

Having watched the sun rise over East Croydon from the window of a moving train, I got to Victoria before 8am, and took the tube to Paddington. Which is where my problems started. Frankly, darkest Peru had better transport links than Paddington yesterday morning. According to the announcements, there had been some kind of power failure, resulting in delays, cancellations and breakdowns. Mostly mental. As the Evening Standard put it last night, "there were delays of up to an hour and a half for First Great Western, Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express services to and from Paddington. This was due to line-side equipment failure between Hayes & Harlington and Southall".

The tannoy informed me that the only trains which were definitely running were up on the electronic board. Out of fourteen available platforms, there were two in the next hour. Neither of which were mine. The announcer cheerfully told us that we could go to Waterloo instead, but I'd had enough of a battle to get to Paddington, so I decided to fight the war where I was.

As luck would have it, I soon noticed that one of the two trains, which was already running half an hour late, was due to stop at Swindon. And I knew I could change there for Gloucester. So I hopped on it and hoped for the best.

My meeting was being held in the eye screening department of Gloucester Royal Hospital at 11am. It's a three minute walk from the station. There was a train which left Swindon at 9:54 and was due to arrive in Gloucester at 10:52, getting me there with five minutes to spare.

Unfortunately my train got to Swindon at 9:58. And it was an hour until the next one. After a brief conversation with a bloke in a high visibility jacket, I was advised to get a train to Bristol instead. Apparently it's a much nicer place anyway. Which is how I ended up on the platform of Bristol Parkway station at 10:54am, talking on my mobile to someone who was in the room I should have been in.

My journey from there to Gloucester was on a small two-carriage train, the likes of which I'd expect to see at a children's theme park. And it only got me there fifteen minutes earlier than if I'd stayed in Swindon for an hour. But still, it made the journey more exciting.

I spent the next four hours in a room with some of these people, discussing weighty issues, and feeling slightly out of it on cold remedies. I'm still not sure I was coherent. Or that I even spoke English.

Fortunately, by the time I got back to Gloucester station at four-thirty, there was no mention of delays. My train left on time, and sped through the countryside at high speed. Until we reached Slough, at which point it ground to a halt. The driver announced that he'd "just been told" there was a signal failure near Southall. I could have told him that nine hours earlier. We crawled for the next half hour, and got to Paddington forty minutes late.

But the good thing about leaving home at 6am, getting back at 9:30pm, and spending ten hours on a train, is that it gives you time to do other things. Namely curse Network Rail and vow never to visit Gloucester again. But in addition to that, I took with me a copy of 'The Hunger Games' which I'd bought on the cheap, just to see what all the fuss is about. It's 454 pages long, and when my train finally pulled into Brighton last night, I was on page 395, and there were only three people left alive. It's a shame I wasn't delayed another hour; I could have finished the darn thing.


A Passer-By said...

Looking at the photos of the people you were meeting with, the last but one person certainly looks a bit dodgy!

Phil's Mum said...

It was certainly an eventful day and a half!

Phil said...

You'd better hope they don't add another photo to that page. Althea's not to be messed with.

Jon the Bassist said...

OMG that really was a bad train day!
What went wrong with the vertical hold setting on your shirt?

Phil said...

That's our esteemed web designer failing to resize our photos. If you right-click on my pic and save it to your computer, you'll see it's a massive 1.36MB photo squeezed into a tiny space. Hence the distortion. It looks fine in Google Chrome though. Or printed out and framed.