I’m a big fan of Caro Emerald, and almost a year ago I bought two tickets for her 2017 UK tour. In fact I think I might have bought the tickets the moment they went on sale. I went a little over the top and bought VIP tickets with a Meet & Greet with Caro beforehand, because I was a little more flushed with cash back then.
I chose Ipswich as the venue because, even though it wasn’t my closest, it was one that my best friend Claire could join me at and I thought it would be a nice thing for us to do together. As it happened, it fell on the May Bank Holiday weekend so a plan was hatched to stay with her and make a long weekend of it.
Since it was a Bank Holiday weekend, with the ensuing traffic chaos, I decided to take the train. Normally I would take my car, but I know from experience that the journey can take over 4½ hours when the M25 is rammed, although I have done the journey in as little as 3 hours when travelling back late at night. But I thought it worth trying the train.
As the weekend drew close, I packed a case. I chose to use a medium wheeled trolley case, and as often happens you tend to pack to fill the case – just one more skirt, maybe another top just in case, a couple more pairs of tights, a spare dress, maybe another skirt, then an extra top. By the time Friday came around the case was pretty full and also rather heavy. I should have immediately thought that this would be an issue but I thought it would be ok.
I booked a taxi, which arrived late and got me worried about catching my train. The driver was really nice, and put my case in the boot for me, and unloaded it at the other end. The meter came to £12.20 and he said to call it £12, but I gave him £13 instead and he seemed genuinely surprised by the tip.
I needed to pick up my pre-booked tickets from the ticket machine (I could have done this days beforehand but didn’t get round to it), and as poor luck would have it there wasn’t a machine on the London-bound platform and I had to head over the footbridge and back again. This was when I realised my case was going to be a real encumbrance. I really struggled with my case, visibly so, to the extent that a rail Employee suggested to me that I might want to use the lifts.
I made it back to my platform with literally minutes to spare before the 10:54 train arrived, which kind of set the tone of the whole journey, as it turned out.
The first leg of my journey was to London Waterloo, and it passed without much fuss. It’s a journey I know well as I worked in London for a while a few years ago and that’s a trip I did every working day.
The journey recommended by thetrainline.com was to catch the 13:00 from Liverpool Street, but I reckoned I could easily get the 12:00 instead, as on paper the trip across from Waterloo to Liverpool Street was pretty direct and short.
The Waterloo & City line was very quick, and I arrived at Bank in no time, but I had forgotten what a long walk it is from the Waterloo & City line platform to the Central line. I started off trying to carry my trolley case up and down the steps, but quickly got weary of this and just yanked it up and down the stairs with a ker-clunk, ker-clunk, ker-clunk. I was rather cursing the fact that my case was so big and heavy at this point, and was getting quite hot and flustered. At one point my case went curiously light, and I turned to see that a man had picked the other end up for me to help me up some steps which was really nice. I gave him a big smile and said thank you.
I finally got to the Central line platform and caught the tube for the next leg of my journey.
I arrived at Liverpool Street station only a few minutes before the 12pm train departed, and managed to get on it with literally seconds to spare, stashed the case that I was now starting to hate, and plonked down in a seat very much out of breath. The lady in the next row smiled and said something like “just made it, eh?” and I laughed and said “only just!”. She smiled and replied “well, you made it and can relax now”, and we chatted for a few minutes before we settled down for the journey.
Since I had a good hour or so on this leg, I took the opportunity to do my nails. I was wearing a sparkly pink that had definitely seen better days, and wanted to replace it with a sparkly purple. I’d brought all I needed with me, or so I thought, but it turned out that I had forgotten nail varnish remover. I knew I would have very little time when I got to Claire’s so just decided to paint over the top of my pink and hope for the best. It came out really well, and I didn’t even get any overspill. Yay me!
As we drew closer to Ipswich, I was getting increasingly worried that we were running late (we’d had to slow down due to a signalling issue), then to my relief an announcement came over the tannoy that they were holding the connecting train for us but that we should make our way directly to it when we arrived. So when we arrived, a whole crocodile of people, including myself, headed for the waiting train. It involved yet another ker-clunk, ker-clunk, ker-clunk up some stairs, over a footbridge, and down the other side.
When we got to the train it consisted of only two carriages, and it was a little crowded and there was much tutting from people already on the train who had had to wait for us. I found myself in a single seat opposite the loo, with my accursed case jammed against my legs. To make matters worse, a lady with two screaming kids was on our carriage. She was on the phone the whole time, totally ignoring them, as they shrieked, yelled, laughed, argued, and bounced off the walls, and she just let them get on with it. It was hell, even with my headphones on and the volume turned up. This was quite the worst part of the journey. They got off at Saxmundham, much to everyone’s relief.
Finally the train arrived at Lowestoft, and Claire was there to meet me as she had left work a little early. However, we had to pick her kids up from school on the way home, which we did. When her daughter came out, and I’d said hello, she went immediately to my Rainbow Dash handbag charm – she and I both have a love of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – and soon some of her friends joined her, all gathered around me looking at it. I felt like a minor celeb. 😀
Claire’s son then came out, so we gathered our kids and headed over to her house, where we had about 40 mins to get ready to go straight out again – to drive all the way back to Ipswich where I had changed trains earlier. It was unavoidable – I wouldn’t have been able to meet Claire in Ipswich as I would have had nowhere to change, freshen up, and redo my make-up, and I would have been stuck with my millstone of a case until she arrived as well.
I would be staying in Claire’s daughter’s room, with the kids playing “musical beds” during my stay, thanks to Claire’s mum putting one up each night, and it was the best room ever with loads of My Little Pony stuff. 🙂
It was all a bit of a rush, much like the whole day had been so far. I had decided to wear a nice dress from Monsoon even though I knew I would be a little over-dressed. I got ready as quickly as possible, fixed up my make-up (there was no time to take off part of my foundation and to shave again – I’d just have to hope for the best), then wolfed down some soup and bread that Claire’s hubby had made for us, and then we were out the door.
We arrived at the Ipswich Regent about 10 mins before the Meet & Greet was due to start at 6pm, and looked for a parking space. It was touch and go for a while, as the small car park near the theatre was full, but luckily someone was leaving and we got a “dead man’s shoes” parking space, and got to the theatre with literally only a few minutes to spare. It felt like every leg of my journey that day had been like that. But finally we were there and the rest of the weekend would be more relaxed, so it was a big relief.
I’ll cover the concert itself in Part 2.
So, to summarise – the journey was hectic and stressful, but it did reinforce my belief that people are much more friendly and helpful when you are in girl mode.