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Time at home never lasts long. After 48 hours I’m on the road again, this time bound for Berlin. The timing could have been better as I’ve been torn away from a very pleasant afternoon with friends. We’ve been celebrating Tony Allan (of Phoenix brewery fame) 50th anniversary in brewing with a barbecue at his home in Halifax. Tony has set up a cellar bar with two of his beers on – plus plenty of other refreshments.

Now I’ve had to begin the schlep to Stansted airport for a silly ‘o clock Sunday morning flight to Berlin in readiness for the Innotrans rail trade fair. Dawn was kind enough to drive me to Huddersfield to catch a TPE service direct to Manchester Piccadilly so I’ve dodged a bullet in the shape of another futile Northern Rail strike.

Touch wood, things are going well. We left early as Huddersfield Town were playing at home today, so traffic can always be hit and miss. Add to the fact TPE are often late which means it always pays to give yourself a one train cushion. I’d planned to catch the 18:29 but found I was in time for a late running 18:08 which gives me plenty of time to get my London connection.

The trip across the Pennies was, fine. I missed the footy crowds and secured a tip up seat outside the disabled toilet where I heard a fascinating conversation between two TPE chaps with their refreshment trolleys who were on their way home. One was from Greece and the other Georgia. They were talking about their native foods and comparing recipes. It was delightful to overhear but it also made me angry. Not at them, but the whole Brexit shambles and the fact it’s causing such uncertainty for people like this pair.

19:31.

Oh joy. This is going to be a long trip…I’m now on Virgin’s 19:35 to Euston. Not only is this 11 car rammed, it has that delightful combination of football fans, inconsiderate people – and drunks. On the bright side, the football fans are Man City supporters. If they were United fans I’m sure there would be far more of them heading back to London!

The downside? As I was (foolishly) intending to try and do some work I’d reserved a table seat with a power socket. When I arrived I found that a young woman travelling alone had spread her unruly brood (and the contents of of their McDonald’s meal) all over the table & didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned other people had reserved seats as she was too busy talking on her phone (on speakerphone). We had ‘words’ when she expected me to accommodate her noisy ‘bin lids’ and their mess whilst she ignored them as she was far more interested in her phone. One chap behind her’s already told her to take the damned thing off speaker mode, so I know I’m not the only one hacked off.

Meanwhile, drunk woman and her boyfriend 3 groups of seats ahead have broken volume controls….

20:14

Mercifully, phone woman and her brood have left the train at Stoke. In fact, many people have in this coach (B) whilst a handful have joined us. Next stop is Milton Keynes…

20:37

The evening’s not completely wasted. I might not be able to write, but I can edit pictures. The slightly frustrating thing is the chap who’s sat next to me (And who does a very good job of filling his seat) has made no effort to move and spread out into the empty ones around us, but then they’re all backwards facing seats, which I know some people are funny about. Oh well, if he won’t…

21:22

After Milton Keynes this train’s less than 50% full. I can stretch out and work on photos whilst listening to music. The old iPod’s been dug out and I’m taking a bittersweet trip down memory lane, listening to The Waterboys and Fisherman’s Blues…

22:27

Not a vintage journey with VWC: we were right time to Berkhampstead, then ended up crawling the rest of the way on the slow lines into Euston where we arrived around 15m late. The frustrating thing was the complete lack of any real information, just generic announcements. There was no ticket check nor any apology (or explanation) for the delay – which in this day and age really isn’t good enough.

To add insult to injury I’m now on the 205 bus from Euston to Liverpool St as the tube is shut for engineering work! Good job I’m in no hurry…

23:11

When I said I was in no hurry, that wasn’t entirely true. I’m currently sat on the last Stansted Express of the night, the 23:25. If I’d missed this it would have meant spending a night on Liverpool St station until 04:30 tomorrow! I’d like to think my days of kipping on railway stations are long gone.

The bus journey across London brought back many memories. So much of it was familiar yet so much has changed. I passed through places I remember from my days with the National Federation of Housing Co-ops back in the late 1980s, plus areas Lynn and I would regularly cycle through on her way to/from work when we lived in the East End.

Liverpool St itself holds lots of memories, as does the areas of London we’re about to pass through now. Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

Compared the old 317s they replaced on the Stansteds the 379s are a great bit of kit. They fast, comfortable and roomy. The wifi’s pretty good too – which is why you’re reading this now! Here’s a view of the interior of set 026.

Odd to think these EMUs will be surplus to requirements in 2020 isn’t it?

00:23

I’m now ‘settled’ at Stansted airport. It’s times like this you realise how passenger unfriendly these places are. There’s literally hundreds of people here who are on ridiculously early flights who’ve decided it’s not worth shelling out for a hotel room so have decided to stay at the airport and maybe get a couple of hours shut eye. But Stansted (the bastards) – unlike any other UK or international airport I’ve ever used has got a nasty surprise in store. Take a look at this!

To say that I’m not happy is a f*****g understatement!

In all my 40 plus years travelling around the world I’ve never known an airport that holds its passengers in such contempt. I’ve just been told off for reclining on my suitcase as it’s a breach of the rules. Stansted makes its money out of cheap flights at silly hours of the day, but (cynically) it won’t provide the facilities to cater for then and even forbids them from trying to sleep. This is what happened to a young girl who tried to lie down outside an area of closed desks, so wasn’t blocking anything.

Well congratulations Stansted, not only is this the last time I use you. I’ll be publicising your contemptuous attitude to your passengers far and wide.

It’s 03:00 now and the rest of the airport building’s been opened. Until 02:30 it was blocked off, hence us being corralled in a tiny space. The only reason I can see why they’ve opened it is that flights have started arriving, so we’re in the way. I can’t see any logical reason why the rest of the airport was closed other than a desire to save money. I can’t understand any rational security excuse as Heathrow can keep vast spaces open overnight without a problem. So why can’t Stansted – which is far smaller?

04:52.

I’m now airside. Once the rest of the airport opened I managed to find a space to pay my head for nearly an hour before it was time to check-in. To be fair to Ryanair that was pretty quick even though the airport’s buzzing now. Security was pretty good to although my lack of sleep was starting to tell.

Once I got through I realised where all the space I used to remember from the past has gone. After security you’re led along the yellow brick road and a meander through shops. Lots of shops. When you get through you’re deposited in a packed seating area that’s surrounded with-more shops!

Essentially, Stansted treats you as an economic battery hen. Facilities are minimal, this is about squeezing as much cash out of you as possible before you catch your plane. Of course, this time of the morning airports exist in their own time zone. I walked through the huge Wetherspoons at 05:20 and it looked like this.

06:13

We’ve just boarded! Now for some sleep….

I’ll start blogging again from a civilised country later.

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