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That said, ours began with a hiccup! We were planning to leave Halifax on the 08:23 train to Leeds, then catch a London train, but Northern cancelled it! We’re now on the 08:43 to Leeds which means our plans to get to Farnham for lunchtime have gone out of the window. Mind you, it’s a strike day on Southwestern Railway, so nothing is certain at that end either. Today is a day to travel with hope rather than expectation!

Hopefully this stuttering start to our odyssey means we’ve exhausted the bad luck at the beginning and can look forward to plain sailing in New Zealand…

09:32.

Our interchange at Leeds was pretty painless as LNER’s 09:45 was waiting for us in the platform. Today it’s being worked by a Class 90 hired-in from DB.

Getting a table seat to work at wasn’t too much of a problem either as this isn’t the busiest of trains. I must say, I like the new electronic reservation system LNER have installed as it’s much easier to read.

10:52

We’re currently speeding down the East Coast Main Line in the same murky weather that’s dogged us for days despite a brief flirtation with blue skies and sunshine South of Doncaster which lifted the spirits as well as the visibility!

11:25.

After a stop at Peterborough our unreserved coach is now almost full with people returning to London after the holiday. Looking around, I notice that out of the eight people I can see, 7 of us are using smartphones, whilst the young Asian lad sat across from me is reading a weighty JG Ballard compilation. Sadly, one young girl is using her smartphone to engage in a mind-numbingly phone call which is mostly a recitation of everything she’s eaten and everyone she’s met over Christmas.

12:50.

After a hop across London on the tube we’re pulling out of Waterloo on the 12:50 to Salisbury as far as Woking. As it’s a strike day there’s no direct service to Farnham.

These diesel units are showing their age now despite their refurbishment. They also seem remarkably noisy, more so than their Northern cousins. That we still have DMUs operating out of Waterloo in this day and age is sad. OK, the line’s not electrified all the way to Salisbury, but how about replacing them with 3rd rail bi-modes for now until a business case can be made for stringing wires up West of Basingstoke?

The weather’s thrown another curve ball. London’s sunshine’s given way to fog to the West, with visibility down to a couple of hundred metres.

13:31

Everything’s gone to plan. Our connection at Woking was fine. We even had chance to grab an (expensive) sandwich from the station cafe that’s been taken over by Starbucks. Now we’re aboard a Siemens Desiro that’s been fitted with the new SWR seat moquette, replacing the attractive SWT red with a patterned dark blue. The carpets received similar treatment. It’s not bad but it does show up the dirt!

Tilford. 15:50.

We’ve kept ourselves occupied since arriving in Tilford. ‘Tilly’, the Platt family dog needed walking, so we volunteered as we were happy to get some exercise after sitting on trains all day. Mist still hung around the river, making it a really atmospheric amble.

Now we’re relaxing at the wood cabin Dawn’s parents have rented before the family all head out for an Italian meal. I wonder if it’s Norwegian wood?