Far From Home

At 5:15 this morning, my body performed the magic trick it often performs, and woke me ahead of my phone erupting into whatever the factory default alarm clock noise is (I don’t know, because I’ve always woken up before it, and switched it off). After dragging myself out of bed, and downstairs for a shower and a shave, I retrieved the clothes lined up the night before from the junk room, and set about filling my work backpack with the usual collection of bits and pieces I travel with.

An hour and several cups of coffee later, I left the house, and wandered to the nearest bus stop to catch the first bus of the day out of town. Twenty minutes after that, and a further fifteen minutes on foot, I arrived at the first railway station of the day, and managed to scrape onto an earlier train than planned. The lady that chose to sit next to me at the first station we stopped at elbowed me twice, flicked her throw in my face three times, and then pretty much leaned against me as she slithered into the seat. I couldn’t quite work out if she wanted to sit on my lap, or was just hilariously clumsy.

After half an hour we arrived into London Marylebone railway station, and descended into the depths of the underground. While wandering along I discovered my zipper was undone on my trousers, and strategically adjusted my coat to cover myself while zipping myself back up. I probably looked like some kind of pervert.

Another half an hour later I re-appeared above ground at London St Pancras, and set off in search of something to eat for breakfast. After acquiring a pastrami sandwich from a ridiculously overpriced store within the station, I sat down to eat, content in the knowledge that I had ages until my train was leaving. It was right over there – about fifty yards away. And it was already boarding. Damn.

Two minutes later I had a seat on said train, and fininished stuffing my face with pastrami sandwich, while also taking pictures to post to Instagram (and cursed that I had forgotten to take any of the sunrise earlier in the journey).

This is starting to sound like a marathon, isn’t it – and in many ways it was. The train out of St Pancras took me to Chesterfield, somewhere in the middle of England. I’m not entire sure where it is, because it’s not really noteworthy for anything (other than a church with a wonky spire). After standing on a cold, windy railway platform for a few minutes, the next train arrived that took me on to my final destination – Barnsley in Yorkshire.

I would love to describe the rolling countryside surrounding Barnsley, but in reality I didn’t take much notice because a friend began firing instant messages at me, and the best part of an hour melted away in moments. Before I knew it the train was slowing, and I made a call to a co-worker who had stayed overnight in the local hotel.

“I’m here!”

(for some reason writing “I’m here” always makes me laugh – it reminds me of a stand-up routine where it was claimed when upper class English people orgasm, they shout “I’m arriving!”)

We agreed to meet up at the local coffee shop, and I somehow lucked into finding a table amid the lunchtime chaos. For the next hour I kept up the caffeine intake, before finally setting off for the “work” part of the trip – or rather, the “pretending to be clever in front of a room full of business people” part of the trip.

Two and a half hours later (no, really), we said our goodbyes, and set off across the country to our evening destination – a hotel on the outskirts of Chester. The GPS confidently told us it might take an hour and a half. If I ever meet the guy that did the prediction bit of GPS systems, I’m going to publicly ridicule him. Or pour custard over his head. Not sure really. The journey took at least double the estimate. Who would ever have guessed that Manchester during the rush-hour is a giant car-park ?

Immediately after arriving I checked in, found my room, swapped my work suit for jeans and a loose flannel shirt, and wandered down to the restaurant to meet my co-workers. A couple of hours later, I wandered back to the room, having done my best to make conversation, and not to eat like a horse. I’m not very good at making conversation, and I’m also not very good at eating however people that don’t eat like horses eat.

Now I find myself kicking around the room with perhaps an hour to kill before turning in for the night. The internet will once again be my friend – turning a very boring (and hilariously dysfunctional) hotel room into a rabbit hole worthy of Alice. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I just spotted a rabbit looking impatiently at a pocket watch.

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