I went on my first train trip on Friday, my first trip for about 30 years. My previous experiences had sworn me off for about the majority of my adult life (!) that’s how bad they were. But you all said it would be better. You said I would love it. You said they went fast. And I believed you.
And so I booked online, First Class, in a Quiet Zone. My train was 10 a.m. from Euston to Manchester, due in at 12.07. I couldn’t do it that fast in the car and anyway I was too tired to drive this week. Not only had I been working in Birmingham last weekend and driving to and from, but I hadn’t been expecting to have to go to Manchester on Friday and so had rather badly planned a karaoke night out on Thursday and I only got into bed at 1.30 a.m. and you can’t get up five hours later and drive to Manchester and be there for 12.30 and drive back the same day. Not if you believe in Extreme Self-Care anyway.
£8 Congestion charge, £22 parking, £10 in taxis in Manchester and £114 for the train ticket itself, all in all that’s about £100 more than driving but technically it should have shortened my day by about 5 hours and time is, after all, money so it wasn’t difficult to justify. They say you can work on the train but I didn’t take my laptop as I didn’t want to carry it. I thought I would relax with my brain training and my book. But the train goes too fast and is too wobbly to do brain training so that was a no-no.
I was on a train which is called a Pendolino. You probably know what that means. It means it bends from side to side and it goes like shit off a stick. And it made me seasick, which is a first as even the sea doesnt do that to me. I had to tap on myself. And it got in early, 12.04 – even after stopping at Stoke, Macclesfield and Stockport. Say what you like, that was magic. Even though I did get up far too early and had enough time to kill at Euston (where’s the Starbucks?) to have got a good head start on the train, Top Gear stylee. New to this, and not knowing the ropes, I had provided far too much time. I was frightened of missing the train and having to pay another fifty quid! Silly really.
I got a taxi easily to my meeting, and relatively easily back to the train. Another day, another Hilton.
I got on the 18.35 due in at Euston at 20.42 and it was all going so well, swimmingly in fact. A chap and I were esconced in the Quiet Zone. He had 2 seats to himself and got out his laptop and watched a film while he had a couple of drinks or four on Virgin. We had dinner, he had bangers and mash, and I had mushroom risotto, mine was inedible. But we were both enjoying the quiet and the return train didnt make me sick perhaps because I couldnt see the movement in the dark, or perhaps because we weren’t going so fast this time.
Yes, you guessed it. It all went tits up!
We pulled into Tamworth and sat there for half an hour. Then we moved on a bit to Nuneaton and sat there too awhile. It seems that someone has picked 7 p.m. Friday to kill themselves by jumping on the line at Leighton Buzzard and you can’t blame Virgin for that. In train speak, this is known as “a fatality”. I was reasonably sanguine about the whole thing, having half expected it to be honest with you, and I had a great book with me which saved the night. Cityboy is so good I had to sit up last night until 2.30 finishing it. Good job I dont have to drive anywhere today either.
Then, after a while at Nuneaton, the worst thing imaginable happened. My Quiet Zone was invaded. All the passengers from another train were loaded onto ours and told to sit anywhere. I lost my waiter service, my peace and quiet, my sanctuary and my temper. The newcomers started chatting and making mobile phone calls and disrespecting my Quiet Zone and they hadn’t even paid First Class prices!
Eventually we arrived at Euston at 22.15 – I could probably have driven that quicker and in my own space and at half the price. I was exhuasted and beside myself.
Would I do it again? Possibly, if circumstances demanded it but not if I had a choice. Am I right to be reverting to being a petrol head? Definitely. Am I entitled to a refund for loss of First Class amentiy? I certainly hope so.
Elapsed time 07.30 (left home) to 23.00 (arrived back home) – enough time to drive it! You’ve gotta laugh at life sometimes, or you’d go stark, staring bonkers.