musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

On the Slow Train to Nowhere — May 19, 2017

On the Slow Train to Nowhere

This weekend I am escaping.

I love my family dearly. But like all jobs one occasionally needs a holiday. I think it may be getting on for two years since I last went away without any of them. It’s due.

And so I am travelling up to Sheffield, the city of my university, to spend a weekend without kids and husband. And chores. And football. And the Cub Scout bridge walk. At which it always rains.

Normally I can’t get away on these weekends (which I would like to say have been a regular fixture but really can’t as the last one was 2 years ago) until I have finished pitch side duties around Saturday lunch time. This time the football gods had given me a reprieve and Youngest had no fixture on the weekend. (She is planning to make up for it exercise wise by running the bridge walk in an attempt to cross off all 80 slots on her sponsorship form. I am somewhat regretting my 50p a bridge pledge).

As such I am leaving on Friday. Today in fact.

Last time I got away on Friday (probably about 5 years ago) I sat on the M1 for a good 4 hours. With my left leg screaming from over use of the clutch. Yes my American friends I drive a manual (or stick shift as you call it) along with the vast majority of people here in the UK under the age of 65. Except my husband, he drives an auto. It’s not beige though. Yet.

‘So’ I thought to myself ‘I will get the train’. Where I live is on the direct line to Sheffield. Couple of downloaded episodes of Being Human and a large cup of tea and the job is a good one.

Of course life is never that simple.  First off for some inexplicable reason there are only 2 direct trains all evening. One at 17.41 (much too early to be sure of a home husband and fed, piano lessoned children) or 20.09 (bit late but my friends are night owls so should still be up when I arrive c 22.30) so I plumped for that.

My first inkling that something might go amiss was when my husband sat for two hours at Luton this morning trying to get to work on the same line but in the other direction due to ‘signalling problems’.

Now I am sure there are lovely bits of Luton, although I am yet to see one, but really he didn’t need to spend 2 hours there. Stuck on an overcrowded train.

He finally got to work over 3 hours after leaving.  I spent all day following the disruption updates which stated when ‘normal’ service would be resumed.  First by 12 noon. Then by 2 and then by 4 as trains and drivers and staff got themselves back where they should be.

All good. Husband’s return journey went without incident. Everyone ate. We said our teary goodbyes. Well Youngest was teary the other 2 put their i phones down for long enough to be given a brief hug and husband dropped me at the station.  Too early. At my request. I needed to collect my tickets and buy that large cup of tea.

Of course the train was running late. Predictably.  So I sat in the platform waiting room sharing despairing looks with fellow travelers and resisting the urge to start one of those episodes of Being Human, 2 of which were no longer going to be enough to fill the time.

The train was delayed due to a ‘train fault’. What sort of fault was not specified.  The lady with the whistle and the flag  (which is no longer a flag but a sort of over sized table tennis bat) who was there to wave (bat) the train off also turned up too early. As she exclaimed to a colleague (this presumably being a 2 person job) she had been unaware of the delay. That didn’t fill me with much confidence. To be honest.

Anyway the bat lady, her eastern European colleague, my fellow passengers and I then played delayed train roulette.

In my experience of delayed trains (which after 2 years of commuting to London is quite considerable) the word ‘delayed’ after the train time means either ‘we have absolutely no idea when the train will arrive’ or ‘the train is so late it hasn’t yet left it’s starting point and we don’t want to tell you because people will get annoyed and we can’t face that’ or ‘if we don’t tell you how delayed the train is when we give you an actual eta you will feel nothing but relief at having some certainty’. All these options add up to one thing. Fuck.

As I was sat there a time popped up. 20.16. Seven minutes late. Now in the scheme of things  (specifically the UK rail network scheme of things) this hardly constitutes a delay. 7 minutes. I laughed inwardly. Knowing as sure as night follows day that this would not be the whole story.  No siree!

Sure enough over the next 20 minutes the estimated time of the train oscillated between a best case scenario of that 20.16 and a worst case of 20.31. I leave you to guess at which time it actually turned up.

Anyway I then performed my ‘the sign said first class was at the front and so I needed to be at the very back of the train to find my reserved seat, which only a fool would travel without on a Friday night going north, but actually first class was at the rear requiring me to sprint almost the full length of the platform’ run. I was somewhat thankful for the delay at this point as I had already consumed all of my large tea which would have been a severe handicap during this manoeuvre.

I needn’t have bothered. Reservations had been dispensed with. Presumably because of the delay. Or maybe because the train was made up of old rolling stock  (which may have explained the earlier fault) the sort which require paper tickets to be shoved in slots on the backs of seats. I guess the people who used to slot reservation tickets into slots have been reassigned since new rolling stock which have computerised displays that can presumably be programed from a cental point came on line. Maybe they are all batting off late trains?

Luckily for me there was a seat opposite a luggage rack. The table already had 2 men seated at it but I am not the sort of lady who worries about such things. In any event the younger of the 2 seemed to be doing some coding on a lap top and the elder was reading Scuba Diving International. Which I expect to appear on Have I Got News For You any episode now. He was perusing an article dedicated to doing up a dry suit properly. Preliminary risk assessment satisfied I dumped case in rack and plopped down. Requiring dry suit man to move his legs.

Off we went.  About 500 meters outside the station we came to a halt. The tannoy man came on to explain that we were stopped at an unexpected red signal and he would update us all when he knew what the actual fuck was happening. Dry suit man sighed and got up returning with a can of Carlsberg. It looked tempting. And I am teetotal. And hate lager.

About half way down the can we started to crawl along at about 5 miles an hour. Tannoy man came back on to say we had to go slowly as we had passed the red signal. On the one hand moving was good. On the other crawling slower than the M1 felt like a lose to be honest. I risked eye contact with dry suit man. We exchanged frustrations about the state of the nation’s railways and used words like third world and bloody ridiculous and then we lapsed into that ‘fellow sufferers’ silence. Coding man (well boy really) risked a tut.

Anyway I am still here at my due into Sheffield time somewhere on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border.  Dry suit man and coding boy have long since left. I miss them. I only have some Japanese tourists left. God alone knows what they must think.

If I ever get there it will have felt like the Great Escape. Or that scene in the Shawshank Redemption when you realise he has tunnelled out with a spoon.

Hope my mates have the kettle on. It’s a long time since my last brew.

The Great Sofa Delivery Scam — August 11, 2015

The Great Sofa Delivery Scam

sofa

We have been waiting for our new sofa for weeks…. It feels like decades…maybe eons.

Our new lounge is not currently in use as we have no seating in it.

Soon Middlest is having a sleepover party for his birthday. In order to escape 5 ten year olds- who will no doubt commandeer the TV for Wii playing and DVDs- we would really like our new sofa. So we can retire to our parlour…like large spiders.

Imagine my delight, then, when last week I got a phone call from the shop we ordered from advising that the sofa was in their warehouse and asking me to call to arrange delivery. Well actually they wanted my husband to call to arrange delivery as for some strange reason when we ordered in the shop his name went on the documentation. Some lingering sexist misogyny on the part of the sales person, no doubt.

Anyway they had my phone number and my e mail address because clearly it was I who was going to have to wait in for one of the 7 hour time slots on offer- being as husband works outside the home. So the lady had called my phone number.

I was away at the time but called her back as I had another delivery due from the same store and wanted to try to amalgamate them. Of course this was not possible. The van was already full. So I arranged a different day whilst trying to recall the contents of my diary – which is in calendar form on my kitchen wall and so not accessible from my hotel room in Bristol.

Of course I got back home and realised the date I had booked was not going to work.

So I called back today to move the date.

I spoke to a nice lady. But she was insistent that my husband needed to ring as his name was on the order. Quite often in these situations I give up. And wait five days for my husband to have enough time to call. And then hope he gets the day right.  By which point the delivery date I wanted has filled up with speedier customers.

But today I wasn’t going to stand for it. I have reached the end of my ‘pointless security measures’ tether.

I asked her why she needed to speak to my husband as I was present at the ordering of the sofa. She just re-iterated that as his name was on the order she could only speak to him.

I asked her if the van men would refuse to deliver the sofa to me if my husband was not actually present because he was unable to wait in for the required 7 hours. No they would deliver to me, even though I was ‘not on the order’.

I asked her what possible risk she could possibly be taking in changing a delivery date on a sofa. She wasn’t sure. I assured her that had we wanted to change the delivery address then I would have asked my husband to call (or a man who sounded like, well a man, as she has no idea what my husband sounds like) to confirm as clearly I could see an actual risk in this.

She went away. To presumably take advice from someone higher up.

Whilst waiting I tried to imagine the risks myself. I guess she might be subject to an irate phone call from my husband who was mightily upset that his wife had unilaterally decided to wait in for a sofa for 7 hours on a different date convenient to her.

Or maybe they have experienced pure malice from wives who have deliberately changed delivery dates to scupper World Cup football parties/ Eurovision parties and the like.

Or maybe there really are gangs of badduns out there who steal sofa order details from innocent members of the public, call up pretending to be their wives. And change the date. For kicks? Maybe I am being harsh. Let me think again. I guess a real criminal mastermind could stake out the house, find a seven hour time slot when no householders are ever present, change the delivery time to that slot, pretend to have locked themselves out and persuade the delivery men to put the sofa in a white van. And make off with it. I am sure there are better ways to make a criminal name for yourself.

But really I failed to see any actual concrete risk.

When she came back (you may have gathered it took a while) she too had failed to find a risk, certainly not one worth the bother of turning down Ms Stroppy Cow Customer. She asked me to confirm what the order was for and when I could provide this information in detail (as I WAS THERE WHEN WE ORDERDED) she agreed to change the date.

Sense prevailed.

But I had to get arsey. Which really isn’t me. Well not in person. That’s what this blog is for…

Flights of Fancy — July 28, 2015

Flights of Fancy

airplane

So our holiday is over. Well and truly. Although we are still in Greece, sitting in the airport waiting out a two hour and rising delay. Of course we had to be here two hours before the scheduled time to clear the security checks etc. which took about 5 minutes. And so we are here for at least 4 hours. Plenty of time to write a little rant.

Apparently we are flying back with a carrier called Titan Air. I have never heard of them. According to the British Airways hastily printed hand out at check in they are renowned for their quality of service. Hmmm we shall see. The hand out also suggested that if they hadn’t leased this Titan aircraft the whole flight would have been cancelled. So I guess the lesser of two evils. Although another night in my luxury hotel wouldn’t have been the end of the world. If they weren’t fully booked.

Infuriatingly the Easy Jet flight we eschewed for the better service of BA left on time. Although I still wouldn’t have wanted that sprint up the Tarmac…

Flying really is the most unreliable form of transport. I find it infuriating. There seems to be so much that can go wrong. This is by no way our worst delay. And by no way the worst incident I have heard of.

Last October when we flew to the States we were taxi-ing down the runway. I was gripping tightly to the armrests mentally preparing for the hell that is take off when we stopped. Apparently a warning light had come on. I guess it isn’t a good idea to ignore them, like I do with my car, before a 9 hour flight across the Atlantic. So of course it had to be investigated.

It took three hours for that light to be extinguished. A part had to be shuttled in from Vrigin’s parts store to be replaced. By which time my offspring had exhausted their film and video game capacity. The next nine hours of actual flying were tortuous rounds of rummy and toilet trips. Although that was preferable to having to stay behind for a day and miss my first breakfast with Donald Duck.

On the way back from Kos we got stuck on the runway. Again. With no electrics. This time they had a broken seat and a full plane. And were therefore one seat short. Increasingly desperate tannoy announcements asked for flight trained individuals who could sit in the spare cabin crew seat (presumably they would not have been expected to serve nuts or explain life vests) and finally for people willing to stay behind. I am not sure of the outcome but we eventually left. And the air conditioning started up again and saved us from the heat that had built up in the large tin can sitting on a runway in 40 degree heat.

I have more but would hate to bore you. I think my worst delay was 8 hours. At least this was in an airport. Nearly all my delays have been on the return leg (except for that Virgin Atlantic experience) of our holidays. It is safe to say that British airports are considerably more fun to spend time in than some overseas. The one I spent eight hours in was literally a hut. I think it was a Canary or a Balearic. I can’t remember. Luckily it was BC. Spending time being delayed alone or with one’s spouse is bearable, doing it with three fractious kids is a million times worse.

Anyway we are down to 2 hours to wait. I have written this entry over a 2 hour period which has also included loo trips, knock out whist and refreshment foraging outings.

I am now being pressed to play Strip Jack Naked, perhaps the most infuriating card game of all time, so I will end. Apparently the kids ‘have nothing to do’ Despite the free wifi. And kindles. And each other. I am evidently a necessary distraction. So off I go to fulfil my primary role.

Pray we all get home. Thanks.

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