Thursday, June 18, 2009

An unplanned evening in Hertford

Having publically hailed the new train timetable as "genuinely innovative", it was only a matter of time before it caught me out. And as it turned out it wasn't very long at all. As I mentioned when last we spoke, you see, those scamps at First Capital Connect's Operational Headquarters, hidden away in some secret location in the Hert of Heartfordshire (see what I did there? Ho ho) have been adding extra stops, apparently at random, to individual services. It really does appear to be somewhat arbitrary, almost as if they've dropped the names into a hat and picked them out one at a time, rather like the old-fashioned FA Cup draws back in the early-90s before they went all Blankety-Blank, when Bert Milliichip and Graham Kelly would sit there self-consciously in front of an oak-pannelled wall and awkwardly rummage around in the velvet bags without so much as a smart one-liner. The thing is, what I hadn't noticed was that on some services they've really gone to town (so to speak) by sending them to totally new places that aren't even on the same route. I discovered this last week, on the way home from a pleasant evening in a pub near Kings Cross, when I found myself quite unexpectedly, pulling in to Hertford North at 10:20pm. And, equally unexpectedly, getting off there.

I had, as I mention, been to a pub, and had enjoyed a couple of drinks - nothing excessive and certainly nowhere near enough to render me less than compos mentis. I did get a dirty look from some guy in the seat in front of me on the train, which I thought at the time was down to me shouting into my mobile phone. When I got home, however, The Wife sweetly informed me that I smelt "like a brewery" which though most unfair, because firstly as I say I hadn't had much to drink, and secondly because breweries actually smell quite nice. I know - I've visited a couple. But I digress. When the train pulled in to its first stop, I was just coming off the phone and as I hung up I glanced out of the window and was rather surprised to find that we had stopped at Hertford North. Hertford North, you see, is (or was) on a different branch of the line from the beautiful market town where I reside, involving (or so I thought) a substantial cross-country detour. So I quite reasonably assumed that I must be on the wrong train (I hadn't checked the electronic boards before getting on, as I was running a bit late). I hastened to my feet, somewhat unsteadily (much to the amusement of the chap who had given me the dirty look, who clearly seemed to think I was under the influence), grabbed my bag and bounded for the door, leaping from the train just as the excitingly-named Hustle Alarm started to sound.

Glancing up at the electronic board (a quick learner, you see) I was dismayed to discover that I had falllen victim to the train company's ruse, and that the train I had got off, which was even now chugging out of the platform, was in fact headed for my home town. And as it turned out, there were no trains, either going back into London or headed to my destination, for almost an hour.

The only good thing to come out of it all is that I can now state definitively that Hertford is not a twenty-four hour town. That hour passed very slowly. And the toilets were locked.