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Then I tried to get home.
Saturday, Feb 15th, 2020, and I'd delivered a Maths Masterclass at in (or near) Treforest, just north of Cardiff in South Wales. I'd packed my things and was offered a lift to the station, which was gratefully accepted. It was raining, although not torrentially, but Storm Dennis was due to hit, and we were feeling the initial effects.
The journey from Treforest to Cardiff was trouble-free, and upon arrival the people on the gate agreed that even though my ticket was scheduled for later, travelling earlier would not only be acceptable, but advisable. I checked the departures board.
My train was running late. 28 minutes late.
The plan was to take that train to Crewe, thence Chester, and finally home by about 18:00. The best laid plans ...
We stopped at Newport, where it was announced that we would all have to disembark, as the train was being cancelled and sent back to Cardiff. There was a suspicion that there was flooding on the line or something, so now the question was ... what to do?
Advice was to take the 14:44 to Bristol, and from there a train to Birmingham. That seemed reasonable, but there was another train showing on the schedule that would take us directly from Newport (current location) to Birmingham. That left at about 15:00 (times will be approximate throughout) and got to Birmingham significantly earlier, but there was the concern about potential flooding and line closures.
So I asked the chap in the little booth ... "Are there any problems showing on the direct line to Birmingham?"
"No" came the reply.
Two ladies on the platform were listening with interest, I'll call the "J" and "S" until (or if) I get permission to mention them by name. We chatted, and decided to let the (now late running) 14:44 go, and to get the train directly to Birmingham.
So we were off at about 15:00, running at reduced speed because of the weather, but on our way. Temporarily, as it turned out.
We were scheduled to pass through Gloucester at about 15:45, but we slowed, paused, crept along, stopped, and then the announcement came that we were being held at a red light. Our driver had called ahead to see what was happening, but no news as yet.
And so we waited. And waited. And waited. J, S, and I chatted, and occasional announcements were made about how sorry they were, but we were still there, on the train, stationary.
The trolley came through, and we were offered complimentary tea, coffee, water, and snack. I had a coffee, J and S both opted for a Gin and Tonic. The train manager came through with forms to complete for compensation, and more announcements were made. We are actually assured that when we'd got as far as the trains could get us, taxis or buses would be provided.
And we waited.
And then we reversed. Back to Newport. On the way we paused at Lydney and anyone who chose to disembark were given the opportunity, and we had a brief "Forward and Backward" as we changed lines to get on the correct track, but we were back in Newport, some four and a half hours after setting off, no further on.
The train arrived and we got on ... as it happens, into First Class. At this point "J", "S", "J the second", and others (!) decided that enough was enough, and they were going to sit in First Class. It was only one stop. The Train Hostess was rather agitated about this and tried to make us move, but we didn't. I explained a little of the journey (or lack thereof!) that we were having, and she backed away, making mention of the train manager.
"What will they do to us" someone muttered, "They'll throw us off at the next station, but we're getting off anyway."
A short time later the Train Hostess returned, and gave me a Five Pound voucher! Astonishing! But she clearly had some sympathy for us, and it was a lovely gesture. I gave it to "J the second", then went back into the next carriage to thank her. And she gave me another one!
Well, the day isn't going to be a complete loss.
So into Bristol Parkway, and our strongly made-up friend was suddenly all smiles. Apparently she had arranged a bed, and was going to be OK, much to our relief. We, on the other hand, now managed to find a train to Birmingham New Street, and the four of us were off again.
Not sure if you, gentle reader, know Birmingham New Street station. We pulled in at about 21:35 and made our way up to the main concourse. There "J (the first)" and "S" took their leave of "J (the second)" and me, making their separate ways to Manchester and Ludlow respectively.
Suddenly I realised that there was a 21:36 to Crewe, and we had a very real chance of getting home. It was leaving now! But we were in the wrong lounge !
Down the escalator, run along platform six, up into the other "lounge", along the concourse, down to platform 4b, just in time to watch the train leaving.
OK. Pause. Now what?
We depart at about midnight, and arrive in Chester at 00:25.
And that's it. No more trains. Perhaps we could have found someone and asked about taxis, but to be blunt, at this stage we just wanted to get home. "J" had been in touch with her daughter and had offered to take us home, but I'd been in touch with my wife, Rachel, and she came down from Bebington to collect all three of us.
We dropped "J" in Great Sutton, then "P" at Hooton station (where he had left his car), and we were home by about 01:15.
Has a nice ring to it.
So there we are. I, for one, was about 13 hours in transit.
Wonder if I can get my ticket refunded ...
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