Sunday, 9 December 2007

Landslides on Railway Tracks: Only in Wales.

I'd planned to go back to Aberystwyth for the weekend - Friday night and Saturday, specifically - because it's Sue's birthday and we decided that the best way to celebrate it was to go out and have a damned good time.

Left work at four - thankfully I was allowed to leave a little early as we'd had the trip planned for a while - to take a train to Birmingham New Street, from Euston, and then I'd travel on from there to Aberystwyth.

Got to Euston and couldn't see 'Aberystwyth' on any of the departure boards. I queued up at the Information Desk - that was heaving with people - and asked one of the attendants. 'It's only going to Shrewsbury', she said. I asked her if she knew why it was only going to Shrewsbury. A grunted 'I don't know' was the answer. I then asked what could people do if they had to get to Aberystwyth. I was given a cursory glance and the same answer again. So much for helpful customer service.

I began to panic and phoned Chris, telling him that I'd been screwed over by the railways. He was still travelling through Wales and said he could come back to Shrewsbury to pick me up - but that would have taken too long, and I wasn't going to potentially ruin someone's night. He advised me to ring Kayleigh, he was still in Shrewsbury and - in typical womanly fashion - having her hair done before setting off for Aber. The Shrewsbury train was scheduled to take 50 minutes and arrive at Shrewsbury at 7:40 - so she'd be happy to wait for me and take me back to the ol' place with her.

The train was, according to the monitors on the platform, going to stop at three other places before reaching Shrewsbury. Got on the train - it was late - and left at 7, with the signs on the train telling me it was stopping at every conceivable place on the route, taking 10 stops to get to Shrewsbury instead of three. I phoned up Kayleigh and, in a show of heroism not seen since Captain Scott told his mean he was just 'going outside for a moment', urged her to go on without me as it wasn't fair to make her wait around. We were assured that a coach would be waiting at Shrewsbury to take us the rest of the way.

Eventually got there - was talking to a mother and two daughters - the youngest daughter was 43 (!) - who were amused by me phoning up many people and ranting about the trains. The coach took twenty minutes to arrive, so I phoned up some more people and ranted a bit more. Got on the coach which was, thankfully, comfortable - leather seats, hell yeah - and was talking to a guy who graduated in Interpol the same time as me, and who'd come from Ramsgate. The delayed train at Birmingham had meant he was 2 hours ahead of his schedule and, annoyingly, was in time-profit. The coach driver had to stop at every train route on the way, which meant quite a convoluted route - and brilliantly, he was using sat-nav. It's not hugely reassuring when a coach driver has been entrusted with the journeys of 50 people and all you can hear is 'take the next exit left' in a disembodied voice every thirty seconds.

After a couple of instances of getting lost in Caersws, we arrived at Machynlleth, where the train service would resume - we found out that it'd be seen stopped due to flooding and landslides on the line. Rolling in at 10:25, the twenty-or-so people left wearily and dejectedly stepped off the coach in the knowledge that they should have been in Aberystwyth at 8:38. The station master announced that the train to Aberystwyth would be leaving at 11:05. Riot ensued. We could see the train, idling beside the platform, through the waiting room windows.

Twenty people instantaneously asked the man why we just couldn't leave now. He replied that it'd been the same for all the trains during the day, that had been delayed because of the same reasons - they'd all had to wait 40 minutes. I lost my cool a little and asked the man that why, if they've all been delayed like this, that it occur ed to no-one to prepare the train to leave 40 minutes earlier to save the unnecessary wait. He said that, allegedly, his hands were tied - but I can't see how, as the only other train on that line would be nearing Birmingham had it been running. Which it wasn't. At this point, a legendary, god-like figure of a train driver strode through the crowd and agreed to take us regardless. Brilliant. In Aber by 11pm.

Met Chris and Dan at the station and was told by the wonderful Sue that since my journey had been so shocking, I was to have use of the bed in her room - she was staying with Pete. Got to the house, plenty of hugs, Sue liked her present - Star Wars Lego (who says us ex-students aren't classy!) - and we hurried out the door to The Castle, our local.

Used to be our local, anyway.

Met the legend that is Feathers in there and had a couple of drinks and a nice chat. Everyone v. impressed with my new job and the magazine - lovely ego boost!

Headed to The Pier for the night - me, Chris, Dan, Kayleigh and Sue - and went inside. Commence much drinking, shot-taking, woman-ogling, laughter, chat and happy, manic, drunken dancing to fantastic, cheesy music. Can't remember precisely how much I drunk, but there was plenty of mixing going on. Had brilliant catch-up conversations with everyone, and me and Sue had a long hug where we told each other how proud we were of each other. We were both drunk, but it had a really profound effect on me. She's an absolute star.

Saw Aberystwyth legends - hip-hop man, Rugby, and some old friends too. Went to Spar afterwards - we had to - and munched down a drunkenly-purchased cheese and onion baguette before heading back, all wobbly and stumbling. Stayed up chatting and drunkenly laughing til about 6, before falling asleep.

Next thing I know, Dan's saying sleepily that it's already 7 o' clock. I've got just enough time to think 'that was the quickest and best night's sleep I've had for absolutely ages' before I realise that we went to bed an hour ago, and my head hurts. I quickly rifled off texts to about sixteen people telling them that I was hung over - an update to my text of three hours ago that assured people that I was, and I quote, 'drunc'. None of us could really get back to sleep, so we bummed around and chatted til about 11.

In retrospect, I think I wasn't sober until about midday.

Went to the snooker hall with Chris and Dan to get some food - almost sick thanks to Dan driving actually quite conservatively - but couldn't face eating anything, even though I should have forced myself to. They played snooker, I sipped at water and read the papers, looking and feeling like some sort of stodgy vegetable. I eventually ate some potato wedges and played some pool, and felt better.

Train out of Aber at 3:27, got home as scheduled a little before 9. I dozed most of the way to Birmingham, with the train seeming to take twice as long as usual and unable to concentrate on PSP or music. Had some food at Birmingham, and something occur ed to me - New Street station is broken. There's a giant corridor full of food shops, and yet no benches or bins. Most people end up sitting on the floor, against the walls, to eat - I just wandered around aimlessly and had to wait to get on the train before I could dispose of my wrapper. Doesn't make any sense.

Got home and went to bed quite soon after. Super tired. Amazing weekend though. Parents and grandparents have asked me if it really was worth it, all that travelling for a night and a morning, and I've told them that it absolutely was. I saw some of my best friends in the world and went out for a brilliant night with them and now, even though I miss them and Aberystwyth more than ever, I'm so, so glad I went.

Love that town.

1 comment:

Sue said...

Had brilliant catch-up conversations with everyone, and me and Sue had a long hug where we told each other how proud we were of each other. We were both drunk, but it had a really profound effect on me. She's an absolute star.

Awr, HUN! *hugsies*