You know what! It wasn’t a good trip home. The day itself was fine. I was there at Sledge-Lit 3, the Sci-Fi and Fantasy convention hosted by the indefatigable Alex Davis. (An all round nice guy and really good convention organiser.)
The day drew to a close, I loaded the unsold books, my convention goody bag, display stuff etc into my rucksack. I was carrying between 35lb and 40lb, or over 16kg so I wasn’t running anywhere.
Anyway I got to Derby Station in good time, to discover my train was running late. So late I’d arrive in Sheffield too late to get the Manchester train. But help was at hand, there was another Sheffield train coming through ten minutes earlier so I got on that. It was the 18:15, it had come from Birmingham and was packed. Absolutely heaving, so I sat on the seat with my baggage on my lap (because everything was full) and just waited for my legs to go totally numb.
But we got to Sheffield in good time, and I got on the right platform for the Manchester train. This is where the problems started. All the bits of trouble earlier in the day, whether due to cracked rails or bad weather, were beginning to multiply. Instead of leaving at 19:11, my train was stuck in the queue and left about ten minutes late. Well I did have perhaps a quarter of an hour to change trains at Manchester, so I had a little time in hand. We were OK until somebody got stuck on the Stockport Viaduct and we sit in Stockport waiting for something to happen.
Eventually it did and I arrived in Manchester Piccadilly after the last Barrow train had theoretically left. That being said it’s a train that can start late, so I lumbered (rather than sprinted) to Platform 14. If you don’t know Manchester Piccadilly, platforms 13 and 14 are almost a separate station.
I made it to platform 14, the train had gone on time, before I ever got to the station. So I went to find Northern, who had taken the money to get me home. Their chap at Piccadilly looked at the timetables, told me to get the Preston train, and the staff there would make sure I was home.
So we had a happy half hour plus, sitting in the waiting room on Platform 14. The drunks weren’t too drunk and they were courteous. A young lady with a phone was providing timetable updates for everybody there. (I think she was some sort of Paramedic at work but am probably mistaken), and the father of a small family of ‘sub-continent extraction’ had a great sense of humour and fun and we hit it off immediately. So yes, none of us really wanted to be there, but do you know what? It was OK and we all got on happily enough so by about 10pm when we finally got the Preston train, it was more like people going on some sort of outing together.
The photograph is Platforms 13 and 14, but in daylight. Actually it has more atmosphere after dark, especially when it’s been raining.
Well we got to Preston. The rail service had been replaced by a bus (this was scheduled works, I’d known about it in advance. I’d hoped to avoid it.) I asked the Northern Rail people there and they said ‘Get on the bus and it’ll be sorted at Lancaster.’
Fair enough. At Lancaster, at 11:44pm the station was shut, there was nobody about but me and a Turkish taxi driver called Ozi.
Ozi knew the system. He explained that he would take me to Barrow, give me a receipt and Northern would pay it. If I’d arrived when the station was still open, the station staff sort this and the passenger isn’t bothered for money. This is plan A, it’s happened to me before, but as there was nobody there we had to revert to plan B.
There was one problem with plan B. The taxi fare was £90, and I didn’t have £90 on me.
Ozi wasn’t bothered. He’d take me to a cash machine.
Problem number 2 is that I’ve never used one and haven’t a clue what my pin number is. I don’t bank on-line either, because no way am I going to do banking transactions on a phone with the derisory anti-virus capabilities they have.
So I went through my wallet, raided the float for the book selling, gave him £50 in notes and promised him the remaining £40 when we got home.
Ozi was fine with that, especially when I explained that home was actually a slightly shorter distance than taking me to Barrow station.
So Ozi and I set off into the night. The weather got worse but we made it. I gave him the remaining £40, shook hands with him, because he’s a nice guy and a gent, and climbed upstairs to bed at exactly 1:01am.
And guess who’ll be at Barrow Station a 9:30am on Monday? (I’ve got to drop somebody off anyway.) And I’ll have taxi receipts, tickets, photocopies of receipts and tickets and everything. Because, funnily enough, I’m going to put a claim in!
But hey, everybody was good to deal with, the midden does occasionally hit the windmill, and I got home OK. So somebody was doing something right.