Sunday, August 12, 2007

Weekend services

I often say to people who invite me into London for social purposes on a Saturday that I try to avoid commuting at the weekend, lest it should lose its lustre through the tiresome combination of engineering works, reduced services and deserted station that tends to constitute the railway experience at weekends. Whether that makes me a a miserable git is open to question, as I will make the effort in exceptional circumstances - someone's birthday or some other special occasion, or if there is any chance at all I might get a game of football out of it. Yesterday was even more special than that - The Wife had been invited to a Hen Party in Covent Garden, and I assumed the role of chaperone. Lest I should seem overprotective here, let me clarify the reasons for my solicitousness - she is, to corrupt a well-known phrase, commuting for two at the moment.

Consulting the weekend timetable, I was a little surprised to discover that in fact it was all but unchanged, with practically a full service running (provoking a twinge of sympathy for the gallant men and women that staff the railways - don't they deserve a weekend too?). But it made our quest simpler, so we selected a train to aim for and set off in plenty of time. Now, as I have noted before on this blog, I am accustomed to walking to the station every morning, but it was a hot day and The Wife didn't want to tire herself out, so we drove. On reaching the station, I dropped The Wife at the ticket office, after checking very carefully that I had a pound for parking, and took the car into the unfamiliar surroundings of the station car park (which is so long that if you park at the far end you are pretty much within walking distance of London anyway).

I crawled past the first few bays, looking in vain for a space, because I really didn't want to have to leave it down the far end and have to sprint for my train. For some reason, the powers that be reserve certain space in priveliged positions (ie less than a ten minute hike away from the platform) for certain customers who can afford to pay extra, which means that even on weekends these space have barriers erected preventing Joe Public, or in this case me, from using them. At one point I thought I saw one of them free, and moved to pull in, only to be confronted by a cleverly camoflaged barrier clearly erected with the intention of luring unwitting drivers, Siren-style, into an embarressing and potentially expensive situation. Executing a perfect (though I say so myself) three point turn, I headed back out in the wider expanse of the car park slightly frustrated but intact.

Only a few minutes later, I managed to find a space, locked the car and sprinted off toward my rendez-vous with The Wife before heading over to the platform, where our train was approaching. On we climbed, and proceeded in extreme comfort through the Hertfordshire countryside and past Stevenage. It was all going so well, but then The Wife turned to me and said "You did get a car park ticket didn't you?" Whoops!

Whst to do? I was already past Stevenage, and the train was non-stop to London. I had a leisurely evening of drinking, talking and possibly even treating myself to a special fried rice lined up. And it was coming up to 5pm on a Saturday. Was anyone really going to be checking the car park? The Wife didn't think so. But I had traumatic memories of getting stuck outside Hyde Park back in days of yore when my Grandpa's car got clamped and we had to wait around for hours (and pay fifty quid) to get it released. Driven on by these visions, I decided that I would not be able to relax until I knew that the car was safe. I couldn't abandon The Wife, however, so I took her all the way to Covent Garden, before heading back the way I had come, waiting twenty minutes at Kings Cross and getting a train back to Hertfordshire. By a happy twist of fate, there was a fast service back to London within five minuites of my arrival, so I dashed through the barriers, grabbed a car park ticket, stuck it on the windscreen, checked that the car hadn't been clamped already (it hadn't), and ran back over to the other platform past the bemused station staff. The whole thing took about two hours, and frankly was all a bit of a waste of effort (I doubt anyone would have checked it anyway) but I felt, morally speaking, that I had done the right thing.

So, we've established that I'm a bit of an idiot. But was it a noble gesture that proves my moral rectitude, or just a waste of time? Eh?


At 11:14 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Chopski said...

It gets worse as you get older. I often get to work think I haven't locked the front door, drive all the way home, find I have, then am late for work!!

At 4:53 PM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

I would have done the same...wouldn't have been much fin to find your car clamped at the end of the journey home with a pregnant, tired wife.

At 10:20 PM GMT+1 , Anonymous The Model Commuter said...

Certainly a heroic effort :) Having just left my watch on the train yesterday I can't really comment on forgetting things.

At 10:32 AM GMT+1 , Blogger paddy said...

At last I've found someone like me.
Idiot is too broad a term, but perhaps .....compulsive.
You are a gentleman and that's what matters.
Y;-) Paddy

At 10:57 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

Good to have you back! I would be exactly the same - although I would imagine the missus' condition has probably heightened your senses and fears...

At 2:24 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Aw shucks guys. You're all the greatest.

And I'm glad everyone got the meaning of the "commuting for two" line. Thought it might be a bit obscure.

Cheers all!


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