Saturday, July 01, 2006

Escape from Stevenage

Phew! What a week that was. It's not always easy being a Happy Commuter when delays strike. First there was the Kings Cross fire on Monday which prevented me from getting home, and then come Friday morning I was marooned in Stevenage for nearly an hour (this may not sound like much, but if you've ever been to Stevenage, you'll understand) because my train to Leeds was stuck behind another train which had broken down as soon as it left Kings Cross. See? Even when I'm not travelling through Kings Cross it catches up with me. It might be karma. But it's probably more to do with the fact thst they're on the same line.

As a result, I was late for a rare meeting with The Chairman at Coporate HQ. I briefly considered trying to turn the situation to my advantage by getting off the train at Peterborough, heading back into London and making a show of settling for a videoconference (I hate videoconferences) to save The Chairman's time, but my father counselled me that this would not, in practice, achieve anything, and I was better off being there in person. That's what fathers are for.

As it turned out, the train crew did a sterling job of making up the time and we beat our revised ETA by a full 15 minutes. Now what normally happens when I visit Corporate HQ is that I take the local train from Leeds to Guiseley and walk to the office, thereby saving both company money and time (there is always a block on the Leeds-Guiseley road - if you've ever been there you'll know what I'm talking about). On this occasion, however, I had missed my connection by all of 3 minutes and had to fork out 15 quid (speedily reimbursed by our lovely and talented Accounts department) on a taxi. On the plus side, I spent the 20-minute journey engaged in a very enlightening discussion on the origins of Sikhism with the driver: that doesn't often happen in London.

The adventure did not end there, though, because my afternoon meeting with The Managing Director was cancelled, and so I took unchracteristically decisive action and resolved to return to London early and catch up with my capital-based colleagues who were having farewell drinks with DM (see previous post) which I had reluctantly agreed to forego. Arriving at Leeds by train this time, I hastened to the departure screen to find out the time of the next London service only to discover that - shock and horror - it didn't stop at Stevenage. An understandable and wise scheduling move, you might think, except for the fact that on my ticket in very large print were the instuctions "Stevenage - NOT LONDON". My plan, you see, had been to get to Stevenage and then travel the rest of the way on my normal daily pass. I was a litte concerned that I was outside the law, having endured the wrath of the GNER ticket inspectors over this sort of thing before. But the Jonny Vegas impersonator who checked my ticket was actually very nice about it and despite the train "running at a reduced seped" because of a broken window (that's what you get for going through Doncaster, I suppose) we arrived at Kings Cross exactly 15 minutes (spooky!) behind schedule.

I got to Soho in good time to join my esteemed co-workers at the Marquis of Something Or Other (what is it about Marquisses that they all seem to have pubs named after them?) on Charlotte Street for the valedictory drinks, and was exceedingly glad to have done so. Even better, my dear, sweet wife waited (and waited) until I eventually got home at about 9:30 to have dinner, and I was able to tuck into a large portion of gorgeous homemade chilli con carne before retiring, tired but happy, for an excellent and comfortable night's sleep.

The moral of this particular tale? I suppose it must be that it's always good to be Happy, because Things tend to turn out better if you are.

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