Seasonal joy


I’m waiting for a train. A replacement train. It could be worse. We were initially promised a coach to get us to London.

I’ve been directed to platform 2b: the train will be “standing class”. What on earth is “standing class”? Will I be permitted to stand in a First Class carriage?

Of course, it’s all because of one of those overhead power line problems. I appreciate few things more than experiencing a severely delayed service on a train for which I’ve paid a premium price to arrive in London in time for an appointment, when I could have saved a small fortune if I’d chosen to be deliberately late on the first ‘cheap’ train.

But what’s interesting (and heartwarming) about this sort of situation is that it doesn’t take much to bring a smile to the faces of the great British Travelling Public in the stress of adversity.

We all reached rock bottom with the single disembodied voice announcement that the service would terminate at a station well beyond a practicable taxi distance from London. Followed by silence. No other announcement or information of any sort, good or bad, helpful or unhelpful.

As the train pulled into Peterborough, rumours ran wild. A single further announcement told us there would be a coach link to London and platform staff would have further information.

The doors were flung open, the frustrated commuters descended, and a lone platform employee in a fluorescent orange vest looked up in alarm as a swarm of shouting suits surrounded her. “I’m not platform” she squeaked in fear, and we swarmed over the footbridge to harry another target.

Then someone spotted the illuminated announcement screen announcing the next train to Kings Cross would leave in 10 minutes. Incredulous, we gazed up at the taunting, spiteful information board.

And then a real platform man in a yellow fluorescent jacket with a whistle stepped up and said the trains were running, the lines were clear, the problems were solved.

We were all so happy.

Each and every person lined up to ask him the very same confirmatory question, as though the miracle were just too great to be believed without individual cross-examination.

The season of goodwill is now upon us. Even if we have to stand and not a buffet car in sight.


3 responses to Seasonal joy

  1. The joy of British rail travel, only for those in no particular hurry with someone else picking up the tab. How I enjoyed my time traveling the country by rail, wondering everytime what would happen and where would I end up. Usually Ely station in the dark with an hour or more to wait.


    • gillianholding – Author

      The return trip has been great fun too. I arrived at kings cross an hour and a half early for my train, sat and watched three leeds trains depart and then caught my allocated train only to find no ticket restrictions were in operation!!!! Oh, and no refreshments trolley or buffet car either way.

  2. That’s why I avoid the trains if I possibly can; that and the traumatic memory of one awful trip from Limoges to Helensburgh in 1979!

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