Friday, March 31, 2006

Train, train, train, foot, train, bus, train

I believe in public transport. An essential criterion when buying this house was proximity to a decent local bus route. We are also within walking distance of the London and airport buses, which was a desirable rather than an essential, but something I take advantage of whenever the opportunity presents itself. I held onto my Young Person's Railcard until the very last possible day, and still get trains whenever it makes sense to rather than knee-jerking myself into the car.

This is partly because I don't particularly like driving, and if you're going to get pedantic about it, partly because I don't have a car of my own (and even when I did it wasn't really a car that liked being a long way from home, and it let you know about it). But it's mainly because I think we should promote mass transport, both environmentally and sociologically, and in my own imperfect little way I try to put my money where my mouth is. And if *I'm* going to get pedantic about it I would say that this is one of the reasons I don't have a car of my own.

But hell, they don't make it easy for you. First of all train fares cost a fucking fortune, and cost double for two in the way a car just doesn't, and then you have to fight drunken breastfeeding Glaswegians (no offence) for the seat you booked, and then the train limps into to Birmingham New Street and coughs its last and you have to decant into a giant roller skate pulled by pit ponies and it takes you seventeen years to get to Preston sitting in the same traffic you'd have been in if you'd driven in the first place, only with less privacy, a shorter temper and a fuller bladder.

This is only a slight exaggeration. I've taken the last train north for Easter many times, and it's never been pleasant. On one memorable occasion the smokers (and I was proud to be counted among them in those days) were herded into a rickety carriage with no electricity (= no light and no heat) and we lit candles and shared beer and sang songs as we inched north. We were four hours late on a three and a half hour journey, and ex-housemate S and I literally fell out onto the platform, so pissed were we. It was memorable, but I'd rather have got there on time and not had the vestigial smell of chilly train carriage piss hanging around for the whole weekend.

So... Japan we ain't, when it comes to rail travel. But I try and keep the faith, and as we are journeying north this easter for the parentals' 40th wedding anniversary, I thought I'd be organised and book train tickets.

And this was the suggestion for the return journey:

Six hours, six changes. Chances of a journey this convoluted going smoothly: slim. Chances of us paying fifty four quid each for the privilege of getting on a bus at Dorridge (Dorridge? Dorridge? Where the fuck is Dorridge?): zero.

So it looks like the M6 at snail's pace, playing I-Spy and trying not to split up. Housemate K suggested flying from Stansted to Blackpool. I know short haul flights are evil, but you know what, two flights would cost the same as one train ticket and take 45 minutes. If we didn't live two hours from Stansted I think I'd be doing it. I'd hate myself, but I would stay sane. As things stand, it looks like I'm going to hate myself *and* go mad. Bring it on.



Anonymous Charlie said...

Preach on, Sister Joella! Six o'clock on Easter Monday might not be the best time to start your train journey, but then why the hell shouldn't it be? I hate driving - I'm bad at it and it's hard to open your sandwiches - but rail travel is ruinously expensive, and frequently very inconvenient. And that's before we get started on the 23 empty first class carriages I have to walk past to fight for my seat with breastfeeding Glaswegians (no offence) in Cattle Class. Never mind taxing us off the roads with fuel duty (which they don't seem to be doing anyway), if the government actually made rail travel a sensible, affordable option, I'd never drive again.

Dorridge, by the way, was where the bunged-up bloke on the Tunes advert was travelling from when he asked for "a decond class redurn to Dottingham". No? Anybody?

9:54 am  
Blogger Jo said...

I have pointed out to my parents that it was really inconvenient of them to have got married on April 16th when they could have worked out that their ruby anniversary was going to fall on Easter Sunday, thus making everyone's journey home from the party a complete nightmare. But they are unrepentant.

There are versions of the journey departing earlier in the day which 'only' have three changes, but a) they that wouldn't have been so much fun to rant about (especially as they didn't feature Dorridge) and b) you can't actually buy tickets for any of them. Not even first class ones. The drunken breastfeeding Glaswegians (no offence) have clearly bought out the entire train already. I despair.

1:09 pm  
Blogger Phil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:48 pm  
Blogger Phil said...

Use the M6 toll you'll be fine. Oh and why not buy a comfortable and reliable old car off ebay, like a mid-eighties automatic mercedes
diesel. Its a form of recycling, it wouldn’t cost much more than say ten pairs of returns. Driving an automatic Mercedes is as stressful as a massage. You could run it off biodiesel with no modification. They have decent stereos too so you could play mid eighties themed music. It would be like drifting up there in your armchair with a clear conscience.

4:03 pm  

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