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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This time last year, I was taking a leisurely trip up to Liverpool for a fab four (well, two) days on Merseyside at the nation’s leading retinal screening conference. I’d have taken a ferry across the Mersey, but I’ll never walk alone in Liverpool due to the constant threat of mugging, and I didn’t have anyone to go with. So I stuck with Virgin Trains. Who charge passengers to use their wi-fi.

Fortunately, things have moved on in 2013. Quite a long way on. About 175 miles, to be exact. This year’s conference is in Newcastle, which means I’m currently on the East Coast train from Kings Cross to Inverness, luxuriating in a full fifteen minutes of free wi-fi (per journey) (subject to terms and conditions). It’s just long enough to publish a blog post and contact for a loan to get me from the station to the hotel.

I received a text message half an hour ago from someone a lot more organised than I am, informing me that the taxi journey to the conference costs twelve quid. Which, when you add in my usual tip, brings it up to about £12.20. Obviously that’ll be a drop in the ocean compared to my room service bill, but even so, it’s a lot.

To be honest though, I should be grateful I’m on my way at all. I had an inkling that things weren’t going to go well today when my conference posters fell out of their tube within thirty seconds of leaving the flat this morning. That prompted a decision to carry them horizontally, which duly made me the most unpopular person on an overcrowded bus. I might have got away with that, but unfortunately Lisa’s Mum got on halfway to the station, and was forced to squeeze past me down the aisle, accompanied by half the residents of the sheltered housing.

Despite that, however, I made it to Brighton station in plenty of time for the 10:19 train, which was perfectly scheduled to get me up to London for the midday train from Kings Cross to Newcastle. Interestingly, the previous train was delayed by 14 minutes, and I watched with smug satisfaction as the 9:49 passengers became stressed at their 10:03 departure, while the electronic board proudly displayed that the 10:19 was ‘On Time’.

Right up until 10:09am. When it changed from ‘On Time’ to ‘CANCELLED’. The muffled tannoy announcement, which appeared to be spoken by a man with laryngitis wearing a scarf across his face whilst chewing on a toffee, suggested that they’d had a sudden signal failure. Now, I’m not saying that the next two hours were stressful, but when you’ve spent forty-five quid on a ticket which is only valid for that midday train, you do tend to feel a slight sense of nervousness. Particularly when you end up on a train which stops at every pointless, godforsaken place in Sussex. Like Burgess Hill.

Fortunately, having dashed across Victoria station with a poster tube and a suitcase, looking like some kind of crazed pole vaulter going on holiday, I succeeded in hopping straight onto the underground, and after performing the same dash across Kings Cross, I made it onto the Newcastle train with less than five minutes to spare.

I’m currently somewhere between Doncaster and York, where I’ve just snapped this picture...

I’m taking a photo of coals to Newcastle.


Jon the Bassist said...

I think that is Portishead B power station in somerset. Where you going?

Phil's Mum said...

No Jon, I definitely recognise it as being near the A1 just before the M62, where you turn off to go to Blackburn!