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09:10.

Time to enjoy a coffee as I pack the final items I’ll be needing these next few months, enjoy a last breakfast and quality time with Dawn, then head off. Fingers crosses that there’s no problems on the trains. The good news is that I’ve looked up real-time information on my train and the empty stock to form Grand Central’s 10:40 from Halifax to London has left the depot which is always a good start! I’ll be posting throughout the day so feel free to pop back and see how my journey goes…

10:50.

I’m on my way! The weather here in West Yorkshire’s bloody awful – it’s been raining all morning leaving many roads flooded or resembling waterfalls. Dawn drove me to the station for a tearful farewell on the platform as she waved me bon voyage. It’s a shame Dee couldn’t have come with me – even if it was for part of the trip – but there’s where freelance life has its advantages. I’ll miss her wide-eyed enthusiasm and exclamations ‘oh, wow’ when it comes to seeing new sights.

Right now I’m on Grand Central’s 10:40 to London Kings Cross. It’s bizarre, but this is the first train I’ve been on in 2023! The only time that normally happens is if I’m already abroad for New Year, this time it’s been down to the strikes and preparations for this trip. My train’s busy, but I have a seat in 1st Class and (for now) a table bay to myself which has allowed me to set up the mobile office and get some work done.

On my way…

12:00.

After the usual stagger around the West Yorkshire backwaters and exotic places like ‘Pontycarlo’ (aka Pontefract) we’ve finally reached the East Coast Main Line and Doncaster, where dozens of people are joining what’s already a busy train. Standard class is rammed and First Class loadings are now healthy too.

12:30.

We suffered a minor delay at Doncaster but now we’re speeding South at line speed with the expectation of making up time. The weather’s a little better now as the rain’s stopped and the sun is making a valiant effort to break through the clouds but the amount of standing water in the fields, overflowing streams and swollen rivers betray the fact it’s been a very wet year so far. Cloud level remains very low but there’s now a multitude of shades and shapes of grey as differing formations have taken over from the thick ceiling of dullness we had earlier.

13:00.

We’re now the right side of Peterborough and cruising rather than speeding South, just 5 minutes behind time. I’m assuming we’re stuck behind slower services like Thameslink. I’m not too bothered as I’ve time in the bank – my flight doesn’t leave Heathrow’s terminal 4 until 18:15 which gives me plenty of time to get there on the tube rather than the much more expensive Heathrow Express. Plus, I’ve credit on Oystercards, so that leg of the trip won’t cost me anything. You can tell I’ve been living in Yorkshire for a while, can’t you!

14:10.

Part 1 of the trip’s complete and it was the one I was most edgy about as rail reliability hasn’t exactly been at its best recently. I was lucky with my GC service. The unit sprung a leak through one of its windscreens. Fortunately, it was in the trailling cab, not the leading cab, otherwiseit might have been a much more stressful story!

Made it to Kings Cross…

I didn’t hang around at Kings Cross. Instead I made a beeline for the Piccadilly line and stepped straight onto a train heading for Heathrow Terminal 4. Now I can start to relax a bit! The tube is quiet so there’s no problem with getting a seat.

Next stop – Heathrow…

16:10.

And – relax! The trip to Heathrow was hassle-free. Terminal 4 is pretty quiet so checking-in was a doddle with no queues. Even security was a breeze and for once my camera bag didn’t attract any attention at all. Now I’m airside. Having wandered up and down the terminal I’ve managed to notch up a few steps and explore. There’s not really much here at all apart from the usual posh but empty shops selling designer gear which are staffed by bored looking young women, the obligatory WH Smiths (closed, of course) and a trio of expensive cafe/bars. The plus side is there’s plenty of seating available and even a viewing gallery, although that’s of limited use as it’s dusk – and it’s raining. I’m sat outside the best of the three cafes, nursing an expensive pint and catching up on some emails whilst I’m still in the same time zone.

Heathrow T4. Not exactly buzzing…

17:00.

My gate’s been announced so now it’s time to hunker down, top up my phone at the handy free charging station and wait. My plane’s a Boeing 777-300 and I’ve a window seat for the 7 hour flight to Doha so I might get some rest. My fellow passengers are a rainbow of ethnic groups and nationalities with (thankfully) few young children in sight!

17:40.

All aboard! Well, not all – that may take a while yet but I’m ensconced in seat 37K and settling in out of the way of the chaos. See you tomorrow…

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