When I travel, I tend to keep a diary. Occasionally, I try to draw cartoons based on an entry – it’s good practice and provides some inspiration. This is a reflection on my recent flight from Calgary to London. I failed to draw the man reading a ‘Guns and Ammo’ magazine who was on the verge of using the baby as target practice. I did feel sorry for the baby as it obviously wasn’t well. Its parents tried incredibly hard to pacify it, but the combined experience of being shoehorned into a seat, subjected to the tinny sound of ineffectual headphones from the man sitting next to me AND a crying baby, made for a horrific journey.
7.30: We set off to watch Japan play The Republic of Korea for the Olympic bronze medal in the women’s volleyball. Destination: London.
7.50: L notices that our train is not displayed on the information board. Manic ticket checking and re-checking ensues.
8.00: Eight minutes before expected departure, harried discussions between ticket operator and other half reveals our train is due to leave from Nottingham, not Sheffield i.e. the city where we used to live, not the city we currently live in. Remain calm, all is not lost, let’s consider our options:
A) don’t go
B) pay for new tickets
8.27: We board the train with newly purchased tickets. Still time to make the match but it will be a squeeze.
8.35: The realisation that we’ve made a fatal error when choosing where to sit for the journey. We are now opposite a family of 5, including three children under 5yrs, but we can’t find new seats because the train is packed! The smallest of the three children starts to cry. The middle child takes umbridge at the fact that she is being ignored by her mother whose focused on the baby and starts to nag in a whiney voice.
9.50: All attempts at catching up on sleep are thwarted by screaming children. One child has excitedly dismembered a bread roll and scattered the crumbs along the corridor – presumably in a vain attempt to feed the ducks. Other passengers exchange looks of dissapproval.
9.55: The train has come to an unexpected standstill, no one is quite sure why.
9.57: A train operator announces over the tannoy:
‘We have come to a stop’. This is obvious. She adds,
‘The emergency alarm has been activated,’ this is also apparent as her voice is barely audible over the high pitched, siren wailing in the background.
‘The driver is investigating the problem, sorry for any inconvenience’.
The screeching children next to us are momentarily drowned out by the collective groan of the passengers.
10.20: Another tannoy announcement informs us that ‘train…forward…patience…fixed’, the information is incomprehensible due to the fizzing and crackling of the speakers, however the alarm is still audible. Our hopes of watching the Olympic game are ebbing away…
10.40. The train creeps forward to a round of applause and cheers from the passengers.
10.41: An announcement: ‘ladies and gentlemen, we have been unable to fix the problem and you will be required to disembark at the next station’. This time the groan from the passengers is of Olympic proportions.
10.45: All passengers disembark and wonder around the platform looking dazed and confused with no instruction from the train operators. It’s a bit like a scene from Zombies without the blood and guts.
10.56: Like sheep we follow a group of people who seem to know something. In turn, other people follow us and before you know it, we have all started to board another train with no evidence that it will take us to our destination.
The passengers who were already on the alternative train look aghast as 200+ disgruntled travellers squeeze in and jostle for space.
Now we stand like sardines, nose to nose, kept upright by the sheer number of people in the corridors and vestibules. We still have had no formal confirmation that the train is going to London. Thankfully, moments later we hear someone with a cockney accent utter the words St Pancras followed by ‘…in 40 minutes!’ which means we will certainly miss the start of the game.
11.45. We arrive in London and make haste to the underground.
12.30: Having reached our final station, we find that the venue is still a 15 minute walk away. By now tempers are frayed. The game, according to our iPhone app, is already nearly over.
We debate whether it’s worth it, having paid a considerable sum of money for the tickets and the train fare, and the other train fare…
12.45: We enter the venue after being searched and scanned by a number of bored looking soldiers.
12.50 with a sigh, we sit in our allocated seats amid chants of Nipon, Nipon, NIPON. The scoreboard shows Japan are in the lead.
13.00: No sooner had I unpacked my camera, taken the obligatory photo, updated my Facebook status and clapped at a point, the game ended. Probably the most expensive ten minutes of any sport I have ever had the privilege of watching.