It is not-so-merry mayhem on the station platform.
The poor chap in the ticket office is desperately trying to deal with London-bound customers who now look as if they
won't be London-bound, at least not anytime soon. I am just one of many, struggling to make sense of why the railway companies have chosen today for their engineering work. Did they plan it on purpose, when they knew I would be travelling to Wimbledon for
lunch with a couple of Darling Daughters, a couple of grand-children, my old school friend and her Darling Daughter, who is also my lovely god-daughter. I hope you have managed to work out all those relationships, I could draw you a diagram, if you like. On
the back of a train ticket, perhaps.
Two trains have already been cancelled and there's no telling whether the 11 a.m. will arrive. The chap in the ticket office, looking increasingly harassed, tells us it
is all a bit of a gamble. He lets us into a secret: those signs on the platform announcing arrivals - well, they can't be relied on, whatever they might say, and are subject to change at the very last minute. You don't say! we all marvel. He tells us we could
always catch the train to Brighton, from where there are likely to be more trains to London. Or rather, he hastily recants, presumably for fear of retribution, there should be...
One couple, having ranted
and railed for a good ten minutes or so, announce to everyone who is interested and a lot of people who aren't, that they are going to catch a train to Barnham, wait there for eighteen minutes, then catch a London train. I silently wish them luck as they set
off to climb the steps across the platform. I have taken that journey before, with Mr B in tow, and neither of us would recommend it. Still, they deserve full marks for trying. The chap in the ticket office is clearly pleased to see them go. They were, indeed,
The Brighton train arrives and I think I might get on it but it is absolutely packed and there's no room for Little Old Me or for a young mum with her three children. We are left on the platform,
looking disconsolately after the retreating back of the Brighton train. "Is it always as bad as this, travelling by train?" the young mum asks me. I think of all the trouble-free journeys I have made and reply, loyally, that they're usually OK. It turns out
that she never travels by train but thought it would be a treat for her youngest boy. I tell him that we might have fared better if we had travelled by Thomas the Tank Engine, pointing to the picture on the front of his sweatshirt. He looks at me with solemn
eyes as if to say what very strange people you do meet on station platforms.
An elderly woman is frantically calling somebody (husband? friend? daughter?) on her mobile phone, asking them if they can check
out a rumour she has heard that There May Be Trouble Ahead. At Clapham Junction, too, which is where I will be changing trains. I eavesdrop shamelessly on her conversation but it is inconclusive. I think about asking the man in the ticket office but he really
does have enough on his plate. Plus he would doubtless tell me that it will all be a gamble. I reason with myself that I would be catching the train anyway, come what may, and would deal with whatever trouble lay ahead when it (or I) arrived. This approach
has landed me in lots of trouble in the past but I never learn.
The young mum and I wonder together whether the London train will be as packed as the Brighton train was. I don't think I can stand all the way
to Clapham Junction. We then need to decide which end of the platform to stand for the best chance of an uncrowded carriage. The oldest of the children is trying to persuade his younger sister and brother to give him one of their sweets, claiming to have eaten
all of his. I tell them about my sister who always had sweets left after I had greedily scoffed all mine. This time all three of them look at me as if I am totally barmy. The oldest boy, having failed to persuade either of his siblings to part with so much
as a single Haribo, produces an unopened packet from his pocket, as in, one he bought earlier. I admire his chutzpah.
The train arrives and Hallelujah! there is plenty of room. I enjoy a pleasant journey to
Clapham Junction, passing the time by writing this blog. I do apologise if it is somewhat railway-related but that's the thing about the blog; it reflects what I am doing at any given time. I change trains at Clapham and arrive at my destination only just
over half an hour late.
As I enter Bill's, I scan the place for signs of my lunch companions. And there they all are, smiling fit to burst, rising to their feet to greet me with a hug and a kiss. Young Faris
holds out his arms in welcome (or perhaps he is after my water bottle, it's hard to say.) I have arrived! It is so, so lovely to see them all.
You see, it is better by far to travel hopefully than not to travel