Thursday, November 29, 2012

Travelling companions

So I'm back after a hectic trip to London, made more chaotic by the inevitable rail delays because of the awful flooding in northern England. Getting there a few hours late is nothing compared to having your home or livelihood threatened or destroyed by rising flood waters.

On Monday I left Edinburgh at 11:30 in order to get to London at 15:54 and on to my meeting at Westminster at 18:00. The weather was dark, wet and gloomy and by the time we arrived in  Newcastle, the conductor's announcements were becoming increasingly pessimistic. Twitter had tales of replacement buses and being decanted off one train and on to another after much hanging around on cold, dark, wet railway stations. It seemed only chaos and misery were ahead.

Very luckily, our train was the one that people were decanted on to. Sadly, there weren't enough seats or luggage room for everyone who joined us.

My seat was at a table with a guy who spent most of the journey going through his iTunes library and ignoring what was going on. Opposite was a very bright and smiley 8 month old baby boy called Cooper, travelling to see  family with his Mum and Granny. They live four doors down from the shop on the Black Isle where we buy our groceries when we're on holiday so it was great to chat about the area and all sorts of other things. Little Cooper was a delight and showed a great deal more patience than many of the adults on the train. I found myself getting riled at one woman who kept telling this toddler she was with that she was going to smack her. The toddler was not even making a noise and was being pretty good, considering. I found the threats of physical violence towards a child much more irritating.

As I was getting ready to leave the train, two hours late in Kings Cross,  I saw a friend of mine, known to some as the Minister for Sinister, slumbering at the other end of the carriage. I thought I'd have a wee bit of fun, so rang his mobile. When he answered, he was completely freaked out by hearing my voice next to him and coming through his phone. He really jumped. I am quite proud of myself for out-creeping him for the first and probably only time ever.

We arrived at 17:54. My meeting was due to start in Parliament at 18:00. I reckoned that I'd be about half an hour late. I didn't reckon with a queue to get into Parliament that was about half an hour long so I arrived far too late. However, some good chat took place in the pub afterwards so not all was lost. I had never been in St Stephen's pub across the road from Parliament, on the same side of the road as the Westminster tube station. It's lovely - and the very nice young man behind the bar now knows how to pronounce "Glenmorangie" correctly.

I left King's Cross yesterday at 10 am ( having been up till nearly 2 at a fantastic party). On that journey, I was really lucky to have really lovely women to chat to. The three of us seemed to click and were soon putting the world to rights, talking about politics, religion, kids, all sorts. You're not supposed to discuss these controversial things, especially with complete strangers,  but I'm all in favour of it - the more people try to understand each other, even when they disagree, the better, in my book. One was heading up north for work, the other to see family with her gorgeous, dimply, smiley 7 month old, Lennox, who delighted us all. Again we were delayed, by an hour this time and he was just such a sunny, cute little thing who was completely unfazed by his confinement. It also turns out that one of them may have been at Braemar Youth Hostel in 1985 when I had my Summer job there. Small world, or what? Anyway, I am extremely grateful to my travelling companions for making the journey so pleasant.

By the time we arrived in York, there was only one train per hour being allowed in each direction. We were very lucky in that it was our train, with quite a slight delay, which was that one. The people from the 9:30 train had been left on a freezing cold platform to await for our arrival and they then faced a three hour journey north with no seat. I have to say, though, they were

The train fell silent when we passed through the areas worst affected by the flooding in Yorkshire andnear Darlington. Seeing buildings and trees half submerged made us all think about the lives affected. It really was devastating. The Government really has to get a deal on the flood insurance sorted as soon as possible. Going through it is bad enough. Making these people face the prospect, possibly the inevitable prospect, of it happening again without insurance is unthinkable. Our delayed journey is over. Their ordeal is far from it.

I'll tell you some more about what else I got up to in London later. Those who were also at the party can rest easy - what happened at the Ministry of Sound stays at the Ministry of Sound.

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