Thursday, October 15, 2009

Delayed Reaction

I was going to write about my trip to Paris and the relative merits of the Eurostar and Paris Metro commuting, but something terribly exciting happened this morning which demands due attention. My train, having hitherto swept gracefully through the tranquil Hertfordshire countryside, ground to a halt somewhere in the vicinity of Haringey. What, we wondered, could be amiss? Had a tree up ahead shed its leaves on the line in honour of this week's launch of the "leaf fall" timetable? Could Sharon Shoesmith have decided to hijack the train in revenge for Haringey Council's treatment of her? No, announced the driver, with scant respect for narrative drama, it was that old chestnut "overhead line problems."

So far, so uninteresting, you might think. And you would be right, except that the driver then decided that he really needed someone to talk to and spent the ensuing forty-five minutes using his passengers as a kind of sounding board, giving us a rambling commentary on the progress of the delay (if you'll pardon the contradiction), and even at one stage treating us to a snippet of his radio communications with HQ ("Romeo 1, can you hear me, over?" - that sort of thing).

We were all listening with some amusement to his ongoing explications of nothing very much ("Just to keep you updated, I've not had an update" - Sky News would have been proud). But then things got really trippy, when he gloomily informed us that he had been instructed to get out and "check our pantographs." Say what? No one knew what he was on about, obviously, but it sounded jolly exciting, like something out of the Da Vinci code, maybe. Naturally I've done my research, and can reveal that according to the totally-reliable Wikipedia, the aforementioned pantograph is "the device that collects electric current from overhead lines for electric trains or trams." Had we but known that it was just a grand way of saying "overhead line problems" we would none of us have been so impressed, but as it was, my fellow passengers and I passed the rest of the journey in a ferment of excitement over what on Earth the driver could be about.

Things got weirder still. The brakes started to groan - not just that momentary groan you get when the train stops but a long, whining, pained groan that seemed portentous, like the Hades chorus in one of the classical Greek tragedies. Then the excitingly-named Hustle Alarm (that beeping you get when the doors close) started to sound intermittently, despite the fact that the doors remained motionless throughout. Was the train possessed? Were the Gremlins attacking (I realised, guiltily, that I had eaten after midnight)?

After three quarters of an hour, the train lurched back into life and our new best friend, the driver, whom we all felt we had got to know on a deep and meaningful level, apologised profusely for the delay. Suddenly we were pulling into Kings Cross and free to get on with the day, as if the whole surreal incident had been but a figment of the imagination, a dream. We looked and one another and found reassurance that it had all been real.


At 8:51 AM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

Too much cheese before bedtime, JD? :-D

At 6:25 AM GMT+1 , Blogger DJ Kirkby said...

How completely odd, I am so glad I rarely have to travel any distance by train.

At 9:28 AM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Hi Rish it isn't as freaky as Forest going on a winning streak.

Hello DJ nice to hear from you - it enlivened the routine, at least.


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