The Train Fiasco

One little bit of fun I experienced lately was one Friday evening, just trying to make my way home.

In my wisdom, I’ve been trying out new ways of Going Home and Coming Back. My new strategy was to travel late at night, often on the last train, partly because it’s cheaper, and definitely because it’s quieter.

So that was the plan, one Friday evening.

I eventually arrived home at 3:30am, some nine hours after leaving.

It was quite possibly the worst experience I’ve ever had on public transport. Everything that could go wrong did. I left my house on time, and arrived into Basingstoke. Where I waited, and waited. Eventually, the connection arrived that got me to Reading.

And that was that. The train went as slow as possible up the country, getting stuck at various bits, and then they gave up and terminated it at Banbury. The reason was that someone had jumped in front of a train. All very tragic, and all completely beyond their control.

So there wasn’t much I could do but ride it out. Some coaches turned up, but a woeful number. Hundreds of us were milling around, in the deadness of anEnglish town that we all only know due to a nursery rhyme. More trains kept arriving and being terminated. The anger swelled.

Some time later, after telling us that no more coaches were coming, they got the line open again. So we all squeezed onto a Silverlink train and got to Birmingham Moor Street at 11:30pm. I should have been home by this point. Instead, I trudged across the city to Birmingham New Street, where I knew I would either be put in a hotel or a coach.

In the event, none of it happened. They somehow managed to get a merry band of 20 or so of us onto a specially laid on train which took us to Manchester. Arriving at about 1:45am, we were all pretty knackered, but still – I was in the wrong place.

Eventually, they organised taxis for us. Which wouldn’t take me all the way. So I had to pay out my own pocket for another taxi, and they “assured” me that I would be reimbursed if I claimed it.

I’m still waiting. That’s £20 I’m out of pocket. I sent all the forms off like a good Citizen should. But they’re ignoring it. Or it’s got “lost in the post”. Which would piss me off royally. I did take scans, because I had a feeling this would happen, but it’s such an inconvenience.

Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed, but I wasn’t as pissed off as I thought I would be. The whole time I had a “ho hum” mentality. It was no one’s fault. I couldn’t do anything about it by getting angry. I just had to lap it up. It’s the price I pay for not being able to drive.

But still, I was most pleased when I finally got home, and got to sleep.

Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the fact that I would be disturbed at 7am the next morning.

My family’s dog has lately decided that it doesn’t do weekends. It starts crying, pleading, for its Mamma to get up now bright and early at 7am, or before. That’s because it’s what it’s used to during the week. It never used to do this. Now it does. And my bedroom is right above it.

Hell. No one else could hear it. Either that or they’ve got used to it. So I had to suffer. Until I gave up. At 7:30am.

I was not impressed.

A Nuclear Error

The situation in Japan is truly shocking. Since the earthquake and tsunami struck, the pictures we’ve seen relayed back here on TV have been astonishing.

But when it first struck, I was actually somewhat relieved. It is tiring to see time and again the poorest, most desperate countries being devastated by natural disasters. Here in the UK, we are extroardinarily fortunate. So this time, I thought, if there is suffering, at least it is happening in a country that is extremely well prepared for it.

It was only when I saw those truly distressing pictures of the tsunami wave that I realised just how impossible it was to prepare for that. If it had just been an earthquake, even one as large as this, it would not have had such a huge impact.

And yet, it’s more than that.

The Japanese have been struck with a triple-whammy. But it’s the third aspect that is raising so much worry. At least you can see a tsunami. At least you feel an earthquake. But you can’t see, hear, smell, feel or touch radiation.

I don’t think ever before in the history of natural disasters has so much gone so bad so quickly. I am gripped by the coverage. I want to know every last detail. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is read back the last seven or eight hours of the live text commentary given by the BBC News site.

I have always cared a lot about international events. The past month has been filled with them, and that’s turned me even more into a news junkie. But this one has left me truly shaken: because more so than anything, no one really knows what’s going to happen next. Our meddling with nuclear power, and something we don’t truly know how to control, is and always has been dangerous. Now we are reaping the terrible consequences.

I hope that this incident draws to a close safely and with no more loss of life. It has depressed me like nothing else about the sad and declining fate of humanity, that we are steadily being brought to our knees by technology and “progress” that we’ve never understood and allowed to take over.

I should be, and always am, grateful that my extraordinarily dull existence, in contrast to the horror in the news, at least allows me the privilege to not live under the fears of natural disasters, warring neighbouring countries, or the brutality of a dictatorial regime.

But what this incident proves is that even when you think your existence is pretty cushy, you never know what’s around the corner…