Sunday, 14 August 2011
I am on the Birmingham to Ely train. The joys, the joys! The train to Birmingham was twenty-five minutes late. I rush from platform to platform and miss my connection by half a minute. Kind employee tells me the next train in an hour's time will probably be on the same platform but he can't be sure. Fine, as it is now 3:30 I might as well eat something.
If anyone knows Birmingham New Street they will know it is the most hideous and inconvenient major city station in the country - and I have been to all of them. There is no architecture to look at, no major hall to watch the crowds swirl and disappear onto trains down long romantic platforms. You have to climb up and down stairs with all your luggage because there is no passing between platforms otherwise, nor are there convenient escalators nearby. Oh no, you don't want to spoil your passengers. I saw a youngish man go up and down the steps in a tearing hurry because he was rushing for a train but his luggage was too clumsy. As for the elderly, lame, inform - there is a lift somewhere. Probably.
So I am stuck there for an hour. You want something hot to eat? Forget it, unless you want a burger. I buy a burger. But you know what burgers are. You have your luggage and must work with one hand. Why? Because there is nowhere to sit. Nowhere in the whole station. I sneak my burger and cup of tea into another establishment - the very establishment at which I did not particularly enjoy a meal on the way to Windermere. But at least you can sit and the kids behind the counter are not going to chase you away. Then I buy a paper, bump into Rosie, one of my MA students, then sit in another bar and sip a cold lemon tea because they don't do hot ones.
Eventually I make my way down to the platform which, because it is too narrow, is naturally crowded. I get on what seems to be the right train - the girl in the aisle opposite checks with me that it is. She isn't certain. How would she be? Nor am I. I hope so. It is so.
Then the predictable happens. This train too is delayed and sits half an hour in a field. I am going to miss my Ely connection. That's two out of three connections missed and two hours added to a seven and a half hour journey. And there is precious little on Ely platform on a Sunday evening. I dream I have been there before. I have in fact been there before.
At least I have a plan. When I get to Ely I will riot and go on a looting spree. I shall text myself first to make sure I am there. Then once I, me, and myself have formed a proper gang, I will nick a train, take it home and flog it to some unsuspecting naive idiot who will fondly imagine it actually goes somewhere.
Travelling in this poor bloody country is - take this advice from me, Monsieur, Signor - not advisable.
I take my pulse. I find I am dead.