This is not a blog I ever envisaged writing, not this week anyway, not yesterday, not today, and certainly not as I boarded the 16:41 train home from Preston en route back from Liverpool. Yet perhaps it’s a story not that far removed from the torture that I’ve endured on the bike these last three and a half years.
Shit happens: it’s how you deal with it that matters….
The trip from Preston to Glasgow takes two and a half hours, or thirty miles in LCFN miles speak. I’m a twelve and a half mile an hour sort of a guy. But this journey’s gonna take six…
No sooner had I boarded, found my seat, got the laptop out and started working, than the train manager, a Gringo Joonya sort of a chap, came on the wireless to announce that a freight train was broken down north of Lancaster and that we’d be sitting in Preston station awaiting further instructions. Not a problem, been there before: I even told the couple opposite that with a bit of luck we’d find ourselves in refund territory: half and hour late and you get half yer fare back. Over an hour and you get the lot. It’s just a shame that you don’t get a Glasgow to London season ticket for being two and a half hours overdue. I kid you not, I even phoned Jane to alert her that she might need to come and pick me up at Central: the last rattler to Stewarton was looking dodgy at one point.
The start of this episode felt like going to the bike shed at the end of a long LCFN day at work in Glasgow on a cold January afternoon and finding a flat back tyre. Been there, done that: irritating but you deal with it. Deep breath, relax, move on…
At least I had heart failure to play with. My trip down south was productive (they usually are) and I had plenty of test data to mess with as I fired up the laptop. Research into disease is always interesting but this one is particularly engaging. I’m lucky that I love my work: it helps to pass the time on occasions like this.
17:15 arrived and so did another announcement…
“We’ve been advised that the freight train is actually stuck at Penrith and it’s blocking the main line to the north. It is anticipated that a recovery engine will be onsite at 18:20”.
FFS, that’s an hour away!!!!
The realisation then hit home that we were stuck here until at least half six because you can be sure that there are other trains parked further up the line.
Half six? And then some…
This isn’t quite stick a new inner tube in the tyre and it goes pssssssss territory, but it’s heading that way.
Shit happens and you deal with it. Still quite calm…
“We’d like to advise customers (note that we’re customers now, not passengers anymore) that this train is now cancelled. Customers should make their way to platform 3 where another Glasgow train is waiting”.
Now I should point out at this juncture that the 16:41 was a ¾ full, air conditioned electric powered Pendolino with eleven coaches. The train on platform 3 was a ten coach ¾ full diesel. Let me say right now: 11 into 10 doesn’t go. What was the problem with punting 10 onto 11 in order to save a train and get everyone up the road in one go?
I know… common sense! Or lack of.
The dirty, smelly diesel was rammed. And I mean rammed, And it was a stuffy 85F or thereabouts.
This is now akin to swapping bikes under duress on a baking hot summer’s day and wondering if you’ll ever get moving.
18:30 came and went.
It’s good to know that on a cold winter’s day, Virgin supply a free sauna: complete with germs. I expect to fall ill around Saturday.
19:00 came and went.
We’re still at Preston, albeit that we’ve moved from platform 4 to platform 3 and managed to find a ‘seat’ (my neighbour was size 18 at a guess). And I still had work to do on heart failure…
19:29… Wahay, we’ve started moving!
Two hours and forty eight minutes after boarding train number one, I was finally on the way home.
Fifteen minutes up the road, we arrived at Lancaster, and some people opposite got off: fantastic, size 18 lady moved into the window seat across the way. Sorted!
A bloke gets on, a guy who looks like he’s lived a hard life, and he has a fighting dog in tow. I’m not good with dogs so when he decides to sit by me, I politely advise him that I’m not good with dogs, and I’m feeling particularly uncomfortable with his brute eyeing me up: I’m sure it was thinking ‘bite sized chunks’. He moved: across the way, and parked himself next to the size 18 lady. A result of sorts, but the dog was now parked right across the aisle and blocking the way for every punter who wandered up and down the train. I’m sure there would’ve been more if it hadn’t been for the risk of losing a limb en route.
Movement was my cue to chuck the day job and switch into blogging mode. Nine hours was enough for this particular day…
By now I’m comparing this to the day I cycled from my house to the boat at Ardrossan, legged it over to Arran, biked round the island, make the return boat by two minutes then cycled home in the summer of 2016 with the mercury hitting 33C… a ten hour adventure that will certainly rival this by the time I get home: I left the office in Liverpool at half two for what it’s worth.
I look up and the sign at the end of the carriage that says this is coach J. Does that J stand for Journey? Or Juration (see what I did there?). Or Just Jammy? I look around the carriage and people are flagging. That wartime spirit of five o’clock is long gone. The Dunkirk spirit has been replaced by the dungeon spirit and it’s not funny anymore.
I’ve had enough. I want home. I don’t want my mammy, I want my wife: and wee Dennis.
Back in the winter of 15/16, I travelled on three successive long haul trains back from Englandshire that were either late or cancelled, and each paid for the next. Eventually, the final delay got myself and the boys to Newcastle for a fiver to see the Baggies. Virgin trains and I just don’t see eye to eye I’m afraid. And their WiFi’s shite. Neither am I a fan of the railways on our local line, the trains randomly fly straight through the station when they’re running late so as to make their ontime KPI’s in Glasgow. Passengers (sorry, customers) don’t matter, it’s only the bottom line that counts. Late and they get fined. Turn up on time with an empty train and they don’t. Customers? Pah….
This journey has been a shambles. The original delay wasn’t Virgin’s fault but why the F did they decide to squeeze eleven into ten when clearly the opposite was the better way to go. That was Virgin’s call, and frankly it was ridiculous: for the passengers, sorry customers.
But… like many an LCFN adventure, you buckle down, you accept what lies in front of you, and you deal with it. This journey has been the train version of LCFN rolled into six hours.
Hang on in there…
It’s a winter’s night. It’s a cold, dark night.
The journey fae hell: just feckin do it!