Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson • 9 November 2007 • The SnowBlog

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson

In which I finally get round to saying what happened to me yesterday
So, I've been cursing First Great Western Railways for running a once-per-hour service to London from The Sticks (where I live), but missing the hour that would get me to London when I need to be there. So instead of having half an hour to travel from West to East London, I have an hour and a half. Which is far too much time. Or maybe they know something I don't, because something always seems to go wrong with my journey and I end up being late. So much so that I'm seriously beginning to wonder if I should get the earlier train and leave two and half hours to get from Paddington to Brick Lane. Last week I got creative and tried Chiltern Railway's line instead. I bought my train ticket and car parking ticket (which they print out on the same piece of orange and palest-green card that train tickets come on). Then I carefully put the train ticket on the dashboard of the car and set off for London with the car park ticket in my pocket. When I got to the other end and found the car park ticket wouldn't allow me to travel on the tube, there was a certain amount of administrative hassle involved in sorting everything out. I can't blame Chiltern Railways, though; they were super helpful and it was very nearly entirely my own fault (though making the two types of ticket look alike could easily confuse a stupid person).

This week it was back to First Great Western and they really excelled themselves. They got me in late to Paddington and as I was packing up my stuff a man came round saying to hurry up because the train was behind schedule. I obviously wasn't quick enough though, because just before I got to the door it closed and then wouldn't open. On the big inter-city trains there's no handle and no way to wind the window down. There's just a button you push and pushing it did nothing. I made my way down the train pushing all the buttons and none of them worked. The train was deserted and there was no way off it. I spent the next two minutes trying to wave at passing staff, without success, before the train pulled out of the station to head off to the storage depot in Harlesden. Surreal. Twenty minutes later, when we got there, I was able to attract someone's attention and actually get off the train. But of course I was now in a depot and not a station. The driver kindly arranged a cab for me and apologised: the platform staff aren't supposed to seal the doors without checking the train is empty - which I think is an excellent rule. Unfortunately for me, the cab took half an hour to arrive, despite it being 'two minutes away' for twenty-five of those minutes. So yet again, the hour-and-a-half I'd left myself to get across London wasn't enough. I'm going to try my current approach a few more times before switching to Plan B, whereby I come up to London the night before and spend the day trying to get to Brick Lane for three.

I almost can't wait to find out what will go wrong next week.

Forgot to mention: on the way home the hour-and-a-half journey turned into two-and-a-half-hours because one of the train's headlights started to fall out and we had to wait for a man to come and glue it back in. I suppose it wouldn't do to drive a train without both headlights working. You could end up anywhere.


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