Travel in hope


…because there really is no other way, is there? Not at the moment. Although the second tube strike has just been called off, the last one didn’t cause me much heartache because I used those funny things with the two hinges that stick out of the bottom of my arse. Plus when you travel on my kind of budget you get used to discomfort.

Still, they accumulate, all these notices of delays and cancellations, landslides and floods and washings-away. Last Friday, for example, I joined the stampede out of London through the bottleneck that is Waterloo. A landslip at Crewkerne had joined the jollifications further west and SW Trains had decided that the Exeter train should terminate at Salisbury, and passengers for the West Country would complete their journey on a rail-replacement, er, rail. Thus it was that we were decanted from our outrageously packed train at Salisbury and guided aboard another, larger, more comfortable, um, there really is no other word for it: train. Mysterious. In fact, so large and commodious was this emergency substitution that only two stations on the rest of the journey across three counties could accommodate it. Everyone wishing to disembark anywhere other than Exeters Central or St David’s would have to swing, bang and apologise their way up to the front six carriages. Eh?

Still, that was a well-oiled operation compared to Sunday, when suddenly there were no trains at all. Come 3pm on the Sabbath, half a dozen disconsolate strangers stood staring at a departures board that could only boast one train, going the wrong way, in two hours’ time. Then a bloke with a beard, baseball cap, fleece and tie barrelled along the platform and bellowed ‘I got a minibus outside. Gohna Salisbury. Get in.’ We all looked at each other, shrugged and obeyed. Apparently irked by Crewkerne’s attention grab, Gillingham had kicked its signalling to the kerb, and the Lord of Misrule had come to town. Buses and coaches were being whistled up out of sheds; trains were being shunted all over (‘Tell him he’ll have to go via Westbury’) and rail-company employees were positively trotting about, even the fat ones. ‘Everyone going to Gillingham, everyone going to Gillingham, FOLLOW ME NOW’.

Especially notable was everyone’s reactions, mostly kind and considerate, mostly good-humoured, invariably polite. Bravo Britain. Mind you, I can afford to smile wryly. I’m not travelling with children or steamer trunks or a heart condition. Nor am I watching rats swim through the drawing room of my luxury riverside property on the upper reaches of the Thames. Instead, I’m thanking the heavens that due to an immature but entrenched fear of debt I’m in rented accommodation which is owned by a lovely landlord who bought on top of a hill. 


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