Returning Home From MOVES

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On August 7th and 8th I attended the MOVES conference in New York. It was excellent fun, with some very good talks, and it was particularly good to meet up with so many long-standing friends like Robert Vallin, Cindy Lawrence, John Conway, Art Benjamin, Mark Mitton, and many more, to renew acquaintances/friendships with people I've known more-or-less in passing such as Peter Winkler, as well as to make new friends, like Tori Noquez, a freshly-minted PhD in logic (and hence scary).

My time was full, including a visit with magicians to a magic shop, which was an interesting experience, and then later attending my first ever actual magic show, which was stunning.

On the 9th I met up with another new friend, Josh Spodek, and got a tour of MoMath, the National Museum of Math in New York. Fantastic.

The 10th was comparatively quiet, with another visit to MoMath, another visit to the magic shop, and then a gentle wander around a small part of Manhattan - basically north along 5th Ave, across to Broadway, back up to Madison Square and Madison Square Park, and then finally it was time to get the train out to JFK and start my journey home.

I'm always early for flights because of my odd combination of passport and residency, so I had time to kill. Then it was boarding, push-back, and away. We landed at Gatwick more-or-less on time, despite having been told as we were leaving JFK that we had a howling tail-wind. Indeed, we might have had, but we were held on the ground at JFK for a good 20 to 30 minutes, and that used up the time we would have saved.

Oh well.

So we landed on time, and then a long wait at Border Control. I was, of course, on a 'plane mostly full of non-Europeans, so I was in the "popular" queue. It was a good 40 to 50 minutes of queueing, and when I arrived at the desk the agent had a young lady behind her shoulder. "Training?" I asked. "No," came the reply, "I'm shadowing for the day."


I handed over the completed landing card and my passport, pointing out the "Indefinite Leave to Stay" sticker, and the photo page. The agent turned to the shadower and said "This is a good passenger, he has his paperwork completed and readily to hand."

So that was nice.

I then said "Usually the next question is 'So how did you get the Indefinite Leave?' and the answer is 'Four years approved employment.' Although I don't get asked that as often as I used to." The agent then said to the shadower: "And he's done this before."

Grins all round.

So it all went swimmingly, and it was off to the station. I had come through in good time and my train wasn't for another 70 minutes, but there were other trains, so I decided to go down onto the platform and see if I'd be allowed to travel early. I asked the staff member on the gates if, having gone through, if I discovered that I wasn't going to be able to travel was I going to be able to come back out.

She was clearly slightly confused and somewhat officious. "Why would you want to go down now?" she asked, in quite demanding tones. "Your ticket isn't valid for over an hour yet!" I started to say that sometimes the train manager/guard will exercise discretion and allow one to travel early, but she really wasn't having any of it. So I went and got a coffee, and then went through anyway.

13:07 - 13:31 GTW - CLJ Southern
13:39 - 15:00 CLJ - MKC Southern
15:19 - 17:24 MKC - CRE London Midland
17:49 - 18:08 CRE - CTR Virgin Trains
18:15 - 18:41 CTR - BEB Merseyrail

I'm like that.

And as luck would have it, I was, indeed, permitted to travel an hour early, and that was a great start to this part of the journey home. It was, after all, going to be many hours.

Schedule shown at left.

But then it all fell apart.

The route home. Expected in red,
actual in purple, "as planned" in green.
As you can see, my tickets had me on a Southern train from Gatwick (GTW) to Clapham Junction (CLJ), then another Southern train from Clapham Junction to Milton Keynes Central (MKC). There I would get a London Midland train from Midland Keynes to Crewe (CRE), a Virgin Trains train from Crewe to Chester (CTR), and finally a Merseyrail Electric train from Chester to home.

With this schedule I avoided having to go through London, and with the tickets I got it was actually really cheap. More, the leg from MKC to CRE was First Class, so should be comparatively quiet.

But at CLJ it was announced that, due to trespassers on the line, the trains were, in essence, cancelled. Certainly the one I was scheduled on came up on the board as late, then later, then cancelled, and so it was a question of what to do.

What to do?

Well, I jumped on the next train going into London. There I got the underground (using my Oyster card) through to Euston, and so I was in Euston - where I shouldn't be able to get - with a ticket that wasn't valid for onward travel. However, a little research showed that the train I was scheduled to pick up in MKC was, in fact, departing Euston in about 5 minutes. So I dashed down, found the train found the train manager, and explained.

And he let me travel!

And so it was that I arrived home at the expected time, although not via the expected route. Tired, but content.

And that was my journey home.


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