Saturday, September 03, 2016

all that you can't leave behind

hello there

and, here we go. i've just had a look and it seems that i have somewhere around a thousand pictures to go through from our travels. quite a lot, look you see, so do bear with me as i select the best of the best.

to start off with, however, let's get the worst of our trip out of the way. that would be the miserable experiences we had with the trains on Monday and Tuesday, with Tuesday being particularly awful. if i get this rant and complaint out of the way now, then i guess the rest of my holiday posts will be all good.

an integral part of planning our holiday, or if you like adventures, was working out how best to travel. we considered driving, but that would have left us tired and carried the risk of us getting all miserable, being cooped up together for hours on end. bus travel got some consideration as it's fantastically cheap cross country, but also fantastically long and again you have the boredom factor being a risk.

the train system, then, is what we selected. if you shopped around you could get some good deals. very good, as it happens. we worked out that going to York and paying for a night in a hotel, then going to London from York was about £100 cheaper than simply going to London directly. this we thought would be a nice, relaxed way to do it, and give us some time to enjoy York. the latter you shall see came true, the former not so much.

the first of our problems was, in the end, the most minor. when we arrived at Middlesbrough train station, courtesy of Trevor taxis, i found that, for the second time in a row for me, our train to York was cancelled. when i asked what exactly had happened, i was informed that it, the train, had experienced some sort of breakdown in York.

other than hoping someone had given the train a nice cup of tea and telling it that things would be all right in the end, i asked what we were to do, then. the nice lady at the ticket office said we were welcome to catch the next one, which would be along in an hour.

and so, after a stroll around the town, and some splendid messing about with payphones, we got onto the train to York an hour later than anticipated.

this wasn't quite the first train trip for all, as we'd taken to the rails to go to Whitby in recent times, and of course we had ridden along the Gautrain. it was, however, the first time that we'd gone away on holiday reliant on the train people to get us there and back in a good, this is what we have paid you for fashion. as you shall read, it may well be the last, too.

the journey, despite being an hour later than anticipated, went really rather well. the boys as you can see above enjoyed playing some of that Top Trumps business, whilst my (considerably) better half and i conversed whilst watching the world go by. it was all as a train journey should be.

yes, that there is the boys on the platform at York, taken by my (considerably) better half. you have, however, probably worked out that yourself, as that is indeed me you can see to the side, taking a similar image with my lesser quality blackberry device.

after this we took a pleasant stroll to our hotel, checked in and thoroughly enjoyed an evening and a day in York. more of that in another post, possibly quite the next one.

speaking of which, the next day, then. it was a Tuesday, no less. the 30th August i believe. a day that, it would seem, would be the day for very bad things to happen to all those wanting to use trains.

this is a Virgin train. it runs from Scotland to London on a regular basis. we were not due to get on this one, but as it turns out, get on it we did, in the end.

more of that as we go, but let's try and get everything in order.

we, due to the careful, considered selection by them off of the Train Line, were to ride on the trains of someone called Grand Central to London. after something of a dash from one end of the train to another after a misunderstanding about where our carriage would  be, we found our seats. and we sat in them.

and, well, we sat for quite some time.

Grand Central don't do PR or customer communications well. after being sat motionless for some ten minutes after the scheduled departure time, a lady spoke over the very bad intercom system. she advised us that control had advised them that a train was on fire somewhere near Doncaster. all lines had been suspended as a result, and we could not go until the control people gave the all clear.

the lady took to the air sporadically to tell us that there was no further news or word from control, but that she would return to the airwaves to bless our ears with news from control as and when she had it. not surprisingly when we did finally get going it was done so in a way that featured not one word of update from the lady announcer; presumably she was waiting for control to say that it was ok.

and so the train eventually got rolling, heading in the direction of London.

for precisely 49 minutes, give or take.

despite assurances that our service was one which went directly from York to King's Cross with no stop, albeit in a delayed way, much to the surprise of all on the train we came to a stop at a station in a place called Newark Northgate.

the lady announcer, flaunting her good relationship with control, advised us (eventually) that control had told her that there was some problems with the overhead lines, and that we were to stay where we were.

it was also the case that the lady announcer told us that Newark Northgate was not a place where Grand Central would normally stop, and so as a consequence none of us were allowed to get off of the train. which would not be so bad if it was a short delay.

the below was taken after an hour of the above being in force, with the lady announcer eventually deciding that it would perhaps be best to let people off the train, rather than have them locked in with the hot sun blazing down on the windows that do not open with no air conditioning on.

whilst as far as i am aware neither incident causing (at this stage) delays were the fault of Grand Central, what cannot be avoided is what an utter f*****g disgrace Grand Central were in the way we were treated. other than the hopeless announcements, it was barbaric to keep us all locked in the train with unbearable, muggy heat. there were families with children younger than ours sat with us.

oh, sure, at one point - forty minutes in to our stay in Newark - they offered a free bottle of water to everyone. if you walked down to the buffet carriage and fetched it yourself. this was not an easy thing for those of us with family and luggage to do.

what made this "we are burning you and giving you sunstroke but come and fetch water" approach all the more galling is the fact that the staff of Grand Central were only too happy to walk up and down the train, handing out the details of how you may claim compensation for the delays. would it have killed them to hand out water too?

interestingly as the staff handed out the contact information for compensation they suggested to us patrons that we "only" claim for an hour, as that was really all the delay was. oh, really? we'll get to the final figure in a bit, but by that stage it was, considering the initial 40 minute delay, already closer to two.

by the grace of the lady announcer, presumably acting as some sort of conduit for this mystery control body, we were allowed to wander outside the train for some fifteen or twenty minutes. then, we were all ordered back on board. the fact that the signal light remained red before us did not bode at all well.

nope, we were not going anywhere any time soon. a decision had been made to terminate the service, with us all being told to get off the train once more as it was returning to from whence it came, which presumably was York. 

what of our journey? we were to wait for twenty or so minutes to get onto the Virgin train that would be along. yes, the one i showed a picture of above, and one that presumably would not be impeded or otherwise stopped by the problem with the overhead cables.

as it turns out, the Virgin train had stopped along the way to pick up at least one other train load of people from another service what had been stopped by this overhead cable problem. as a result, the train was really "completely ram-packed", as in there was no need for a would-be bourgeois leader of a ruling politburo to fake the event for publicity.

it was one hell of an uncomfortable train ride. my (considerably) better half and i accepted that circumstances dictated that we were to stand, but i fashioned some seating apparatus from our cases for the boys, as you can see above.

was i angry about this? hell, no, not with Virgin trains. if it were not for them, as in if we were left to the mercy of Grand Central, we would have simply been abandoned in Newark, wherever or whatever the hell that actually is. i am all the more angry, however, with that spiteful, selfish sh!tbag Jeremy Corbyn. here was an actual, very real problem with a train, and here was Virgin trains very much to the rescue.

i know not if Virgin trains were legally obliged or compelled to pick up extra passengers as a consequence of the issue, but i am exceedingly grateful that they did no matter. i shall be writing to tell them this, and oh hell yes Grand Central shall also be hearing from me. Grand Central will not appreciate their letter as much as i hope Virgin do the one they will get.

and so, over three hours later (not the "just the one" Grand Central staff suggested we claim), we made it to King's Cross, London. and this was the very first time the 75% of my family who you all like a good deal more than you like me had been in this fine city, so a picture was in order.

and, after a cigarette and taking in some fresh air, it was time to ride the trains once more. yes, indeed, the kindness of Spiros meant that we were to stay with him, and so we needed to go on the underground to reach him.

there shall be plenty of the underground (all good) in the posts that follow, but for now here's the boys on their first ever tube ride (unless you count the Gautrain), enjoy a train ride as it should be.

and that's really all the unpleasant stuff from our holiday done and dusted, then. the journey home was much, much better as in it went exactly as it should have done - smoothly and all on time. which was greatly appreciated more than it just being as it should be, for the boys were left quite upset and worried, as you can imagine, by the combination of events above.

the next post, then, should be all about York. unless something really interesting and somewhat distracting comes up before then.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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