Today I have travelled home via another country. This would not be unusual if I were airily spanning oceans after being seriously inconvenienced by airports. Or if my train had Chunneled to France to hunt down some smelly cheeses and fine wines.
But no, my journey from London to Ledbury ignored the traditional route of Reading, Cotswolds, Home, instead choosing to detour via Abergevenny. Interesting piece of social mobility there I thought as we passed our fourth hour searching for clues to where we might be.
Much of the problem was that little could be determined by squinting into the rainy darkness. Although our “train host” – where do they dream these names up from? – hardly aided the process as she came over increasingly sulky and refused to explain our random itinerary.
She started well to be fair offering up apologies and excuses as an increasingly number of stations were lopped from the list of stops. But after two hours of the shirts of extreme stuffedness demanding that they be let off right now and helicoptered home at the train companies’ expense, she somewhat lost interest in being polite and helpful.
They were finally abandoned at Didcot where they could be found calling their lawyers, and asking if anyone realised how important they actually were. Not me, I was cheerily giving them a forehead hosted “L” betwixt thumb and forefinger. Mature Response? No. Appropriate response? Oh yes.
Eventually we rolled into Swindon only to roll straight out again after discovering the station was flooded. Surely that’s something you’d check beforehand “Hello Signalman? Yes got 200 pissed off passengers here, anything I should know? Station flooded you say? Right-o, well best carry on until we get there and then reverse straight out eh?”
This reversal of fortunes triggered a tremendous shunting exercise which put me in mind of Thomas the Tank Engine on speed. This worrying grinding went on some way past Cheltenham Spa which first woke and then surprised the bloke opposite me who thought he was heading home to Oxford. He was grumpy enough, when finally let off for bad behaviour at Newport, for me to silently award him a “possible Northerner” badge.
We did finally arrive at Ledbury – albeit by some circuitous route – before the sun came up, but the final scores on the doors were “Working 8 hours” “Commuting 8.5 hours“. It failed the alien test* a million times over, but did give me time to write to First Great Western with suggestions on renaming all their train engines. For this one I’m sure they’ll accept my proposal for “The Reykjavik Express”
* try explaining something you’ve done to an alien recently arrived on the planet. If they look at you strangely and then blast straight back to their home planet, accept you’ve just done a very stupid thing.