helen-louise (baratron) wrote,
helen-louise
baratron

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Bicon #1 - rant about the trains.

Well, I suppose I should finally get round to writing up my BiCon. Except I can't really be arsed. Oh well.

First follows a rant about the trains, especially for londonstatto. Feel free to ignore this if you're not a regular user of British public transport (or read it to find out what to expect when you next visit here).


To get to BiCon in time for the opening ceremonies on the Saturday, I had to leave the house at 6.30am. According to signs posted at Kingston station, the ticket office was supposed to have opened at 6.40am. But it didn't. I waited, and waited, and it patently failed to open. In the end, I had to go and get the 6.58 train without a ticket. Now, it was one thing to travel to London without a ticket, but there was no way I'd be able to get all the way to Coventry without being stopped anywhere, and anyway I'm fundamentally honest. The route I'd been planning to take was to change at Vauxhall, get the Victoria line up to Euston and then get the Virgin fast line to Rugby. But if the ticket office at Kingston hadn't managed to open, there was no guarantee the one at Vauxhall would be open either. So I was forced to go to Waterloo and wait in a long queue there. Which meant that I'd miss the train at Euston. And my bags were very heavy.

So I ended up getting a taxi to St Pancras and sod the cost. It was a nice journey - one I've never made by road before - up Southampton Row and round Russell Square. I love London in the early morning. That almost calmed me down again, but then I got to the station, which was full of people smoking. Ugh. I ordered a hot chocolate from a stall, specifically requesting that they didn't make the milk too hot, as I wanted to drink it before getting on the train. As expected, the milk was almost boiling, and I had to try to juggle a hot chocolate, three bags and a walking stick and get on the train. Not a particularly good start. Oh, and then the carriage I'd chosen turned out to be mostly occupied by a Sunday school taking a large group of noisy children to Alton Towers. Just what I needed - loud children - one of whom was insistent on drumming on the back of my headrest for the entire time that I sat in that seat. I eventually staggered along the train and found a quieter carriage, where I collapsed for a bit out of sheer frustration. Then I found that despite packing up a selection of favourite CDs to bring with me, I'd managed to leave my CD player at home. By this point, I was feeling violently sick and almost in tears.

Eventually we got into Leicester. Now, because I'd missed the fast train, I had three changes instead of two. And stupidly, I only had 5 minutes between trains at Leicester. Oh, and guess what? The train I was on was five minutes late. I'd assumed that if the Railtrack computer had come up with a 5 minute change that it would be a cross-platform interchange. But it wasn't. I had to try to juggle my three bags up stairs and across to the other bloody side of the station. Joy. Luckily, the train I was trying to catch was also running late, so by some miracle I caught it, and we eventually got to sunny Nuneaton. Where we changed onto a railway replacement bus.

Now, I don't know if rail replacement buses are endemic to public transport everywhere, or if they're a purely British phenomena, but they are fucking awful! Because our rail network has been so poorly funded for decades, large areas of the track need to be replaced. As this is a major job, the work has to be done in evenings and weekends, and so sections of railway get closed every weekend. This particular weekend, there were no trains going to Coventry. So to get there, we had to travel to a vaguely nearby station and get the rail replacement bus. The problem with these buses is that they don't simply take the fastest route from town A to town B. No, they have to attempt to follow the rail track as closely as possible. Which means going from town A to town B via shitty little towns C, D and E, in case anyone wants to get on or off there. (The point where this becomes ludicrous, by the way, is when there's engineering work at Kingston and the trains run into Surbiton. Now, the last stop on the Kingston line before Surbiton is New Malden, so we stop there, then miss out Norbiton because it's on the wrong line. So the railway replacement bus leaves Surbiton and goes to Kingston via Norbiton. Except there is no way to get to Norbiton from Surbiton without going through Kingston! So the bus has to double back on itself, because it has to take the stations in the right order. Argh!).

Anyway, so I got on a railway replacement bus at Nuneaton. And it wasn't a bus - it was a coach. Oh great. Coaches give me travel sickness. I don't know why - I think it must be the smelly Christmas trees that they insist on decorating them with. And I was too tired to walk to the back of the coach, and besides, the back seemed to be filled with noisy small children and their parents, who were even more annoying ("Stop doing that, Darren." "Don't put that in your mouth, Tracey.") So I sat next to a man who was wearing really disgusting aftershave. At the time, I knew exactly what it was, but I've forgotten now. Some nasty cheap crap. I'm sorry, but if the choice is between chronic B.O. or over-the-top fragrancing, I'd take the B.O. anytime. By the time I got to Coventry, I already felt that I'd had quite enough day, thank you.

Wonderfully, djm4 was waiting at the station to rescue me from public transport hell. I remain eternally grateful for the use of his car. Thank you, David! He drove me to the main bit of BiCon to register, and then to the accommodation to dump my bags.
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