Saturday, October 20, 2007

More or Less Drunks

Last night, I began my weekly trek to Withernsea, to do my radio show. My first connection is at Reading train station. This week, the Virgin Trains service to Birmingham New Street was significantly late. Many trains were late, most of them belonging to First Great Western, who are the biggest users of Reading Station. Over the public address system, there was an announcement that delays were being caused by "congestion at Reading Station." It was very cold and the good thing is that Reading provides heated waiting rooms on some of the main platforms. I had forgotten that it was the beginning of half-term holidays from school, so all travel services were busy.
We finally got underway, thirty minutes late. I was worried that this might cause me to miss my connection to Derby, at Birmingham New Street. I hoped the train would make up time on the journey. No such luck. As we got nearer to Birmingham, the service manager on the train announced that a request was being made of Central Trains to hold their 11:10PM departure for Nottingham, till we arrived. That was the one I needed to go to Derby. As we slowed for our approach to New Street Station, the manager announced that Central Trains had agreed to wait. What a relief! He advised that they were expecting seven passengers from our Virgin train, so that we should rush to platform 7A. Once they saw that seven people had boarded, the train would depart.
Rushing through the station, I managed to get ahead of almost everyone else, except for one couple, in front of me. These twits managed to get behind an intoxicated couple on the stairs, down to platform 7A, who were moving very slowly. We all bunched up behind them. The intoxicated couple looked back at this mass of people bunched up behind them, seemingly oblivious to the delay they were causing. "Hurry up!" I shouted, in exasperation. Finally, I was down on the platform, but there was a new problem. There were two trains standing at the platform. One was the one I needed and the other the next train waiting to depart that platform. Which was which? I took a guess and boarded the nearest one. On board, I asked a woman if it was the train to Nottingham? She said she didn't know. Oh for Pete's sake! How could you be on a train and not know where it's going? Just in time, the train guard announced that it was, indeed, the Nottingham train. I'd made it.
In Derby, I had about forty minutes till my train to Sheffield. I needed to pee, so I walked over to platform 1, where the toilets are located. As I walked up to them, a cleaner said, "the toilets are locked up, mate." I don't know which annoyed me more, the fact that the toilets were locked, or that ridiculous Midlands accent the cleaner spoke to me in. And I hate being called "mate," by a total stranger. How stupid, locking the toilets when there are still trains arriving and departing. I'd have to wait and use the toilet on the train. I made my way back to platform 2, to wait for the Sheffield train. At least the waiting room was very warm. It was so cold outside, I was worried about my four hour wait in Sheffield. Usually, I spent two hours in a late night restaurant across from the train station, having a Coke. It's heated in there. However, they close an hour before the train station reopens. Normally, I spend the last hour walking around, but despite wearing a warm sweater, it was freezing out.
On previous trips, I noticed that every time I went into the waiting room for my platform in Sheffield, at 4:30AM, there were one or two people already in there. Was it possible to spend the whole time in the platform waiting room, even while the station is closed? I decided to find out. I went to the restaurant and bought a Coke, then made my way back toward the station. On my way back, I encountered a drunk man, hanging out near the top of the stairs down to the station entrance. He said something to me, but I just grunted a response and kept on my way. Once inside the main station hall, I ran into another drunk man. As I tried to walk past him, he grabbed my arm and asked me directions. "Don't touch me," I said, rather sharply. He let go, then I said, "I'm not from this country. You'd better ask someone who is." I turned and continued on my way to platform 2.
The drunk man shouted after me, "what d'ya mean you're not from this country?" Then he swore at me. I stopped. Turning on him, I said, "if you weren't drunk, I'd kick your ass." As he tried to comprehend what was happening and mumbled curses to himself, I continued on my way. I'd run into a lot fewer drunks this week, but the ones I did come across were a lot more trouble. I succeeded in staying in the waiting room, even while the station closed. While it was warmer than being out on the street, Sheffield had the only waiting room I'd encountered which wasn't heated. I sat there in my coat, shivering. I could have used a hot tea.

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Blogger Leigh Russell said...

Your life sounds really exciting, with all the places you've visited and amazing adventures you've had! It was hard to believe you come from Bracknell. Then I read your blog - delays at Reading, on the way to Derby, toilets locked (!) and no hot tea.... Yup, that's the good old England we all know and love! Welcome back.

1:38 AM  

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