Saturday, 22 August 2009

Relax - Take The Train

I was tidying up my computer this morning, and found this blog post which I wrote while I was in England in June, but never published because I couldn't get online. But I know you enjoy my rants, and this is definitely ranty, so here goes...

I left Liverpool this morning. Train to Doncaster. Being Mr Super-Organised, I had booked a ticket in advance. Being a suspicious foreign git, though, the website refused to accept my payment card. I enlisted Offspring to do it on my behalf, using his UK credit card. He emailed me the reference number for the booking, and in theory I should have been able to pick up the tickets from a machine at Lime Street Station anytime before the trip.

I noticed the document said I would need the number of the card used to make the booking - I made sure to get it from Offspring.

So, I turn up at the station in plenty of time, find the machine, and am somewhat dismayed to find the bugger actually wants me to put the card into the machine. I go into the Virgin Trains help office, and complain a bit. First thing they say is 'these trips are nothing to do with Virgin.' Not my problem, I say, it's your machine, and it would have been useful if the confirmation email had said they wanted the actual card, not just the number. What am I supposed to do? Ooh, they say, get your son to go to a railway station and pick up the tickets, and then he can fax them to us. Yes. Brilliant solution, with 40 minutes before departure.

So I mentally break their windows (I'd decided against trying to tell them that I am Richard Branson, and congratulating them for their diligent foiling of this obvious fraudster), and go to the ticket office. I find out a ticket will be 33 squids, they will not accept my payment card, and there are supposed to be cash machines at the entrance to platform 7. The cash machines are surrounded by steel construction barriers, and I can't get to them. So I head off out of the station: the wrong way, as it happens. I get some way up London Road, and there is not an ATM to be seen. So I head down into the City Centre, and eventually found one. Get cash, and rush back to the station, sweaty, panting and pissed off.

When I return, a queue has assembled at the ticket office - the old lady behind me wants to talk to me about the weather. I finally get away from the ticket office with my ticket and ten minutes to spare before the train leaves. I am fairly desperate for a quick beer by this time, but both bars in the station are closed. Never mind, there'll be a buffet service on the train.

I get on the train, and off it goes. The guard comes round pretty sharpish, and I ask him if there's a buffet. No, he says, they were all made redundant six weeks ago, you should've got something before you left. Yes, thanks and fuck off. This train actually goes from Liverpool to Norwich, and takes about five hours - imagine being stuck there without refreshment for that trip.

Crossing eastward over the Pennines, the heavens open, and when I get off at Sheffield, where I have to change trains, I take a moment to get my waterproof jacket from the bottom of my case. The other people on the platform enjoy the view of my underwear, PJs and other stuff as it tumbles onto the wet platform. I am irritated by the 'safety announcements' on the PA every two minutes: 'it's raining: wet patches on the platform may be slippery, be careful and don't sue us, you stupid people.'

The train to Doncaster, when I eventually find it after hoiking my luggage up and down stairs between several platforms where the train *could* have been, is spacious and fast. It gets to Doncaster in record time, but Doncaster station doesn't have a platform ready for it. So we wait outside the station for a slot, and actually arrive five minutes late.

The final irritation. Doncaster recently got itself a transport interchange (bus station next to railway station, some taxi ranks nearby) combined with an extension to the big mall. I'd arranged to meet my dad and his girlfriend at the pub across the road. But I find out that the old crossings are now gone. The only way to cross the road is to go into the mall extension, up the escalators, and bumble round like a lost thing. A two-minute dash across the road has now become a 25-minute trip through northernChav central. Carrying half a ton of luggage.

Anyhoo, I'm here. No Internet, nothing to do. Shall try to find a spot of wi-fi (yeah, right) either in the village or in Donny.

Gee, but it's great to be back home...

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