It all looked so simple. When I ordered the train tickets a few days ago, I thought I would be daring, and order specific times for specific trains. This snap decision would come back to haunt me pretty spectacularly today.
I left the house, walked to the station, and got on the train as I have done countless times before. After four stops on the first train I would change trains, and get on the one bound for London. After arriving at Paddington I would switch to the Underground, re-surface at Kings Cross, and then head north to Leeds. Simple.
Ten minutes after setting off on the first of four trains, the train sat for several minutes in a station. The public address system crackled into life, and the driver started apologising repeatedly – I didn’t actually catch what he was going on about. I heard the words “signalling problems”.
Everything fell apart twenty minutes into the five hour journey, when we finally arrived at a station where I should have walked across the platform to a connecting train. I could see it vanishing into the distance. Fifteen minutes until the next train – a stopping train that would likely stop at Narnia and Cair Paravel before arriving in London. Suddenly the timed train tickets looked like they might be completely worthless. I started reading the contracts on the train operator website – there was a section about being able to get on the next train if it was their fault.
Ok. I might be an hour later than planned. The public address system at the railway station then crackled into life – requesting that people headed to London should investigate alternative travel plans, due to severe disruption of the underground trains. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. In a fit of cleverness, I had a look at an app on my phone. The term “person on line” appeared. Now did that mean somebody was walking on the train tracks? Or did that mean somebody had jumped in front of a train ?
This is where the story turns around.
Somehow – and I’m not entire sure how – I had it in my head that the north-bound train – the two and a half hour leg of the journey – would leave London at 3:01pm. I ran onto the concourse at Kings Cross at 3:01pm, and looked forlornly up at the display boards. 3:05pm. I had 4 minutes to make it to the train, which it turns out was fifty yards from where I was standing.
You have never seen a guy with a backpack run so fast in your life.
I made it. I considered ducking onto the train early, but spotted station staff ahead, and kept running past carriages, looking for mine. After perhaps 500 yards, I clambered aboard, the doors closed behind me, and the train almost immediately began moving. Half-way along the carriage I found my seat (mercifully not sat in by somebody else), and slumped down, struggling for breath.
No sooner had I sat down, the business man sitting next to me asked if he could get up to put the skin of the orange he had been eating in the bin. I said “of course”, and let him out. When he returned, he rather mysteriously said “I won’t disturb you again”. It had a ring of finality about it. I wondered if he was planing to jump from the train window en-route.
I’m here now. In the hotel. I couldn’t face sitting on my own in Pizza Express on my own again, or pretending to be trendy at the new bar across the road, so I bought food and drink from the 24 hour grocery store at the end of the road, and returned to my room with a bag of pre-made salad, cookies, and wine.
Here’s the thing – when you drink half a bottle of wine before 8pm, a wave of sleep hits you like a brick wall. I’m typing this, and struggling to stay awake.
Let’s try not to think about tomorrow, and the unveiling of the impossible monstrosity I’ve been working on to the client. Let’s hope it’s an easy day, and then an easy weekend. We know that’s not going to happen, but let’s hope.