Yesterday was an all-change kind of day. The time has come for B to finally leave for Moldova. My new flatmate was moving in. And because of what the rail operators delight in calling ‘adverse weather conditions’ I had decided to head up to the Lakes, where my parents live, early. After all, the last thing I wanted to end up having to do was get involved in a scrum on Christmas Eve.
The day began with a lunar eclipse, the first time on the winter solstice for about four hundred years. I should have known it was an omen of what was to come.
Euston station was mayhem. A chaotic mass of trip hazards and health and safety breaches made from drag-along luggage and the addled people dragging them along. I had a seat reservation, but that meant nothing, because the two trains before mine had been cancelled. As soon as the platform number was announced, there was a stampede for seats.
So I ended up standing on a train that looked like this:
And, well, somehow the Indian train looks better…
I mentioned this to my mum on the phone, while standing on the train, and got chatting to a lovely lady from Mumbai, who gave me a su doku puzzle and half an egg sandwich. Down the aisle, three girls got their phones out and started singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody. Bizarrely, given how uncomfortable we were about to be for three hours, everyone was remarkably good-natured.
Even when the train manager announced that the train had been diverted via Crewe and now wouldn’t be stopping at two of the scheduled stations, no one grumbled.
(This is, I believe, what is generally referred to as ‘the Dunkirk spirit’. Although, as a friend of mine pointed out on Sunday, when he was asked if he’d experienced ‘the Dunkirk spirit’ while waiting for his plane to let off the passengers at Heathrow, he wasn’t at Dunkirk, and so he wouldn’t know.)
Anyway, the train eventually arrived, late of course, into Manchester, to the sound of the singing girls giving us renditions of Christmas carols. From Manchester I was supposed to pick up a train to Windermere. That morning, when I’d checked online, all the trains in the north were running fine – the mayhem was in the south. But as the day had gone on, clearly the trouble had spread. The east coast was practically shut, so everyone was making their way up the west, landing in either Preston or Manchester. BUT, the drivers picking up trains from Preston hadn’t been able to get to Preston to pick them up… so trains north were sparse.
My Windermere train was cancelled, so I got on a train to Barrow-in-Furness. Right direction, not really the right destination. We were squeezed onto that one like commuters on a London train. Plus the ever-present, lethal, drag-along luggage. I had a nice chat with two women from Bolton, about how Everton fans are proper football fans, wearing short sleeves in the snow, whereas City fans are soft and wear snoods… My accent get broader and my vowels get flatter, the longer the journey went on.
When we got to Preston, lo and behold, our train magically became suddenly driverless. People got on. Then they got off. Then they got on again. Then they got off again.
The question was whether to stay on that driverless train, or whether to hop over the bridge to another driverless, but bigger train to get at least as far as Lancaster. That’s what I did, and it proved to be a good call, because the new driver of that train then decided he would stop at Oxenholme too. How kind.
When I finally arrived in the Lakes, seven hours after leaving London, the country lanes were clearer and better gritted than the high street outside my flat.
Snow causes mayhem, the trains grind to a halt, diversions stop you going where you want to go, and then to crown it all, just before bed last night, the whole house shook with the force of a 3.6 earthquake.
I’m just waiting for the locusts and boils and the rivers of blood.