Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Travelling to Ireland after the End of the World

We're still alive! Hooray!

And I'm on a train in the Lake District, coming into the same station as last time where I did not see any lakes. This time I've seen quite a lot of lakes, but they tend to be lakes in the middle of fields that aren't really supposed to be lakes (there's been a lot of rain and some train lines are down because of it. Fingers crossed, the trains I am taking today will not be affected).

I am somewhat worried, however, that my train will not make it into Glasgow in time for me to connect with my next train to Ayr, from where I will take a bus to Cairnryan and then a ferry to Belfast. By the time you read this post, all will have been revealed, and you shall see whether I needed to use my travel insurance...

I got to the train station in London in reasonable time and stood with the hordes of other people with suitcases, staring up at the boards where they tell you what platform your train is on, approximately eight minutes before it's due to leave (is this done for some reason other than stressing people out? Why can they organise platforms nicely in Germany and Austria and tell you weeks in advance, whereas in London we get eight minutes?). The train to Glasgow was late. Other trains kept leaving. It got to our departure time, and they still hadn't told us, though the announcements did advise that the train would be delayed.

Finally the platform came up. Number 3! It turned out that pretty much every person standing in the packed station hall was going to Glasgow, and there was a mad rush for Platform 3, suitcases sliding and banging behind. I must admit that, once on the platform, I ran - my ticket doesn't have reserved seats, which meant that if I didn't get in first I'd be obliged to stand.

I found a likely-looking carriage and got in, staring at all the reservation screens and trying to find one that was available. Unfortunately I was not in one of the two separate carriages set aside for the unreserved passengers (and they were being pretty unreserved, too, what with a five hour journey with no seat at stake).

I got out and ran for the right car, but by the time I got there there was barely standing room. One lady had to get off the train because of claustrophobia and I was one of the last to squeeze on. Then we stood for a while before a conductor asked if anyone would mind taking a later train, because they couldn't really have so many people on board (safety and that sort of thing. Not good when you can't move for suitcases and scrunched-up people).

I set myself up with my four bags (suitcase, backpack, food bag, other food bag), finding that there are actually far more places to stuff things when you're sitting in the aisle on your suitcase. I had one food bag to my left, my backpack to my right, and my other food bag above. Two and a bit hours later, enough people left the train that I got myself a seat, all to myself, and celebrated with lunch.

Awwwww! The driver just came on and told us they are organising ahead! I am doing a sail-rail ticket and I wasn't sure how officially connected-up it was, but it turns out that they have organised for us to take a later train (yes, I will miss the train I'm supposed to get) and then THE BUS WILL WAIT FOR US. Awww. Thanks Virgin Trains.

I have apple pie and mandarins for dinner. I'm looking forward to it, and trying to convince myself that 2.10 pm is in no way dinner time when you've just had lunch.

2.24: I have scored myself a window seat! Ha! And eaten most of my mange tout. We will get into Glasgow in a little over an hour, ten minutes before sunset.

3.07: Going past Scottish lowland mountains with black vegetation across their smooth, rounded sides and a spattering of snow in patches on top. Low clouds drift fingers along their ridges. I have the theme from Skyfall stuck in my head (if you've seen the movie, you should know why).

6.40: I am checked in at the ferry! All gone well so far, with train and bus and ferry matching up nicely.

7.28: leaving port! I like ferries. They're like huge coffee shops that move. Well, this one is. I have myself a high-backed chair with a view into the black out the port hole. About to start my apple pie :)


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