This is the final part of my series of posts on my trip away for the Bank Holiday weekend, which included front row VIP tickets to Caro Emerald‘s 2017 UK “Emerald Island” tour and also a gig by my best friend Claire’s band Iconic at Lady of the Lake in Lowestoft
Now, in this final part, it’s the journey home.
The original plan, as suggested by thetrainline.com, had been to take the 17:07 from Lowestoft, changing at Ipswich, Ingatestone, Newbury Park, and London Waterloo. However, this involved a Bus Wanker Replacement Service on one of the legs, and I noticed that the 17:52 (changing at Norwich, Cambridge, London Kings Cross, and London Waterloo) seemed the much better route and didn’t have any bus onanism. So that was the train we aimed for.
It was too early to eat, so Claire made me some sandwiches to take with me, and we got down to Lowestoft Station in good time. Plenty of time for a final selfie. 🙂
The train arrived on time, and consisted of just a single carriage which I think must be the smallest train I have ever travelled on. Claire and I hugged goodbye, and I got my heavy case into the train and onto a luggage rack, and then settled down in a seat to watch a film on my tablet. I’d watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s coming down (something I forgot to mention in Part 1) and on the way back I thought I would watch Dogma.
The Guard came round to check our tickets, and she asked me if I was going via Cambridge and when I said I was she nodded and told me that I’d chosen the best route, which was nice to know.
In no time at all we were at Norwich, and the Guard pointed me in the direction of my next train without me asking, so I thanked her with a big smile (and didn’t mention that the app on my phone had already told me which platform to head for).
I wasn’t waiting long at Norwich, and was soon on the Cambridge train and resumed watching my film.
At Cambridge there was quite a walk to my next train. No stairs, fortunately, but it seemed a long way. The train was waiting and open, despite not departing for 20 mins, so I was able to find a carriage with a luggage rack and stow my case, and then sit down and continue to watch my film.
Just before we were due to depart, a family got on with two young children. I wasn’t sure if it was a mum with two kids, plus their grandfather, or just a couple with an age difference. The kids seemed a little ebullient but I just put that down to excitement of a train journey.
As the non-stop journey from Cambridge to London Kings Cross progressed, the kids got more and more fractious and out of control, with the mum engrossed in a book, and the man doing nothing, and the kids running around the carriage, larking about, laughing, screaming, and generally running amok. I was getting very irritated, and about 15 mins from Kings Cross I just snapped, gathered my things, loudly said “For F*CK’s sake!”, and moved to the next carriage. The trouble was, whilst the automatic sliding door out of the carriage worked, the one into the next didn’t and there was no button to press. I was worried about getting trapped between carriages, so backed out (awwwkward!), then tried again and backed out again. A cute young man who was sat near the door stood up and helped me, showing me that you sometimes needed to wave at the sensor to get it to open, which worked. So I put my hand on his arm, smiled, and thanked him for his help (even though I was burning with embarrassment under my foundation). Then I was through to the next carriage and some peace and quiet, although my case was still in the original carriage and I would have to retrieve it when we got to Kings Cross.
At Kings Cross, I returned to the original carriage to get my case, and fortunately the family had already left the train which avoided any awkwardness, and I proceeded down the platform towards the main ticket hall to get myself across to Waterloo. There were several routes I could have taken, none of which were direct, but I decided on the Piccadilly line to Piccadilly Circus, then the Bakerloo line. I could have taken the Victoria line to Oxford Circus then the Bakerloo line, or the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square then the Northern line, although I never seem to have any luck on the Northern line and tend to avoid it wherever possible.
Pausing for a selfie outside Kings Cross, I did a ker-clunk, ker-clunk, ker-clunk with my case down the stairs into the Underground station, and made my way towards the Piccadilly line platform. This was the worst part of the trip due to all the stairs, and I was pretty tired and pissed off by now as you can probably tell from the selfie.
At one point a nice man offered to help me with my case, but since I was only a few steps to go I politely declined but it was really nice of him to offer.
I arrived at Waterloo with plenty of time for the train I was meant to catch, but old habits die hard and I swept my eyes over the departures board, and instantly saw a Basingstoke train about to depart in 2 mins. I know from my commuter days that the Basingstoke train is a fast train that almost always stops at Fleet and if it doesn’t then it definitely stops at Farnborough, so I hurried to the train and got on with literally seconds to spare – the Guard had closed all the doors but his own. This did mean I had to try to walk my case through the First Class carriage. In there a lady was stood taking her coat off and tutted loudly at me waiting for her to sit down so that I could get past her. The sheer cheek of me! As I passed her I apologised for the dreadful inconvenience I had caused her. It’s possible that I didn’t sound entirely sincere. 😉
Trying to manoeuvre the case down the aisle was a real pest, as it was too wide to be wheeled on its wheels and I had to drag it sideways and it kept trying to rotate and jam between the seats. I will definitely never travel with this case on the train again. I think next time, if there is one, I will use a much smaller wheeled case, possibly one of the newer style 4 wheel cabin trolley cases with detachable stowaway bag on top. Or I might just take my car next time. Wheel see.
Once through First Class and into the next carriage, and finally seated, I checked the info display and sure enough the train did stop at Fleet and it was indeed an express, stopping only at Farnborough before Fleet, so was the fastest possible train I could have got. What with the lack of waiting for my connection and the faster train, I reckon I’d shaved off 30-45 mins from my journey.
The trip went by quickly – it’s only 40 mins from Waterloo to Fleet on one of these express trains – and I soon arrived at Fleet.
The final leg of my journey was a taxi home. I could have just used a rank taxi, but I thought it would be cheaper to call a local taxi firm using a phone app I have for them, so I was waiting for around 10 mins for them to arrive. Because it was now around 10.30pm the fare for the trip home came to £18 rather than the £12 of the trip down. I gave the driver a £20 note and told him to keep the change and he seemed genuinely taken aback and said “are you sure?”. I thought this was quite funny because in my days of working in London, a London cabby would have probably said “is that all?”.
I got through my front door at around 11pm, around 5 hours after I had set off. From experience, I could have left 2 hours later had I been in the car and still arrived home at roughly the same time.
The house seemed everso empty after my weekend away. I wasn’t ready for bed, so spent some time pottering around the internet, but in the end tiredness overcame me and I went to bed.
It had been an awesome few days and, whilst tiring and frustrating, the train journeys had been a bit of an adventure and something to blog about too.
Will I repeat the train journey next time? I honestly don’t know. When on the train, it’s not too bad. You can relax, watch a film, doze, look out the window, all sorts of things. But the extra time, and the interminable connections, make it very frustrating. By contrast, the car is door-to-door and is a resource that Claire and I can use whilst I’m with her, but it means far more concentration and all you can do is listen to music. Also, congestion can make the car journey very miserable. So it’s swings and roundabouts really – neither is ideal.
Claire and I have mused that it would be wonderful if it were possible to fly from Blackbushe Airport to Beccles Airport, but of course no such service exists (and I’m sure it would be prohibitively expensive if it did), and it would of course be even better if we simply lived closer to each other although neither of us are in the position to be able to move house right now, and it would be a major upheaval.
That concludes my series of posts about that weekend. I hope you didn’t find them too boring.
To misquote John Ebdon: “Anyway, if you have been, thanks for reading.”