Planes, Trains, And Automobiles Part 6

May 28, 2007 at 2:38 pm 4 comments


A Grumpy Old Man’s Trip To London

Well, it has not been a good start to the day. I am currently sat on the 07.13 Virgin Pendolino inter-city train from Crewe en route to London Euston. It is 07.35 and we have just left the station. This means that we will be behind all of the still-on-time trains with the likelihood that we will be further delayed. They seem to work on the principle that it is better to have one very delayed train than lots of slightly delayed trains. But, that seems like a very strange principle upon which to run a train company. Whatever happened to punctuality?

As ever, they haven’t thought up a decent enough reason for the delay with which to share with the paying customer. And I have paid. Through the nose. £275 for a First Class return! Extortionate. It is cheaper to fly to London from Manchester but, unfortunately for me, it is still less convenient.Crewe station is just ten minutes from home, and, after a couple of hours in which you can stretch your legs, read a paper, hopefully complete the Times 2 Crossword (although I am struggling with 5 down at the moment) and the Killer Su Doku, and maybe do some work, you are delivered to Euston station. Then it is just 15 minutes by Tube, unfortunately, before I am delivered straight to the office, which is alongside Waterloo station. Door to door in two hours forty five minutes if I am lucky. But, as with today it would seem, I am rarely that. Lucky.

Manchester Airport, however, is a good (or bad) 45 minutes drive away itself. With the heightened security you definitely now need to be there at least one hour before the flight is delayed. And you have all that hassle with your luggage and your clear plastic bag for your toothpaste and eau de cologne (Euphoria for Men by Calvin Klein). And, Heathrow is just not as convenient for central London, although the Heathrow Express is much better than the old crawl in on the Underground.

At least when travelling care of Sir Richard Branson, the food is generally OK, and the tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages (not at breakfast of course, unfortunately) flow much more abundantly than they do in the air these days. I am currently sipping tea, having already partaken of a grapefruit juice and a passable sausage sandwich with brown sauce. The bread was a little dry though. And, there is generally more to see out of the windows.

And, every so often, you get to meet a celebrity. Those of you who have read my earlier postings (Celebrity Spotting) will know that I had a very enjoyable chat with Pete Waterman once and nearly had sex with Sarah Lancashire. The more I think about it the more I realise that she wanted me. And, these new toilets in the Pendolinos are so much more accommodating than in the old days. Another opportunity missed.sian

I have also seen Patrick Moore, the male chauvinistic stargazer who recently complained about there being too many senior placed women running the BBC, and, the diminutive and foxy news reader Sian Williams recently. Which reminds me, I literally bumped into Susanna Reid, the other foxy if midget morning newscaster with the BBC, when buying my lunchtime M&S sandwich at Waterloo Station last time I was in the Smoke. She was quite startled and seemed a little spooked when she realised that I had recognised who she was. She was dressed all in white with a very long flowing coat. She had very white face make-up and very red rouged lips and cheeks, which made her seem even more alarmed. It was probably my fault. Living in the countryside and frequenting only small towns such as Sandbach and Holmes Chapel these days I get quite alarmed by the crowds in the big cities. I seem to have lost that knack of walking through a crowd without bumping into people. It can feel quite claustrophobic at times.

reidWell listen to me extolling the virtues of Virgin Trains. Mr Branson are there any jobs going in your marketing department?
On the downside, things can get a bit tense on board train. Especially in the Quiet Zone. Of course, the Quiet Zone is hardly that. Quiet. You still get the normal train announcements, and that strange beep beep noise as the Pendolino seems to tilt precariously when taking a bend at speed. You still get passengers chatting, passengers snoring and the like. No, things get tense when some jumped up self-opinionated, self-important oik decides that the “No Mobile Phones” sign does not apply to him (it is invariably a him) and proceeds to have a loud if disjointed conversation. Conversations are disjointed because the signal quality is so poor. Conversations require a lot of redialling after thirty seconds of “hello, hello, can you hear me?” or, “I’m in a tunnel”). These noise abusers can often be found wandering up and down the carriage to annoy as many people as he (it is invariably a he) possibly can. Or they stand at the end of the carriage, in the vestibule as Mr Virgin calls it, next to the loos. They seem to think that they are less annoying there. They are not, it is even worse listening to the self-important oik on his phone with the carriage doors sliding open and then shut again, and again, and again, as he triggers them with his proximity.

Things can also get tense when the staff forget to reserve pre-booked seats or all reservations are cancelled because of a train cancellation requiring two or three trains to be merged into one. Pandemonium. Even on “normal” days, people ignore the seat reservations and assume that just because they are a party of eight they have the right to sit next to each other. I can feel myself getting tense. I shall move on.

Unusually, the train staff this morning are not Eastern European. They seem to be Scousers. So, they are as good as Eastern Europeans. Home-grown Eastern Europeans if you like. But it is unusual. Have you not noticed how, in the last couple of years or so, the service industries of our great nation have been overwhelmed by Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Albanians and the like?

I learnt at the weekend of a very successful restauranteur and property developer who only employs Bratislavans. He does this because they are reliable, polite, and punctual and have excellent language skills. So, nothing like Scousers then. He pays them the going rate so they are not cheap.

Every London bar, every hotel reception, every waiter and waitress, every shelf-filler in Waitrose, every bricky, carpenter and electrician. They are all Eastern European. Crewe has shops selling “Polish Food” now, and in parts of the country road signs are now displayed in both English and Polish. The influx of devote Poles has now resulted in the Catholic Church becoming the biggest religion in the country again.. Henry the Eighth must be turning in his grave.

No, it is the Australians I feel sorry for. And the New Zealanders. They used to have the monopoly on the London bars. I can only assume that all the Kiwis and Australians are now serving drinks in Warsaw, Prague, and wherever the capital of Bratislava may be. Although at least a couple of our Antipodean cousins could be found at this weekend’s Home & Garden Design Show in Tatton Park, selling Magic Shammy Leathers. How the Empire has fallen.

The train now seems to be crawling along. I don’t think we’ve even reached Nuneaton yet. Now, where’s that girl with the tea………. 


Entry filed under: Celebrities, poor service, rant, travel. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Planes, Trains, And Automobiles Part 5 My Family And Other Animals Part 5

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alex  |  May 30, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Hands off Suzannah, I saw her first, she’s mine, mine I tell you! 😛


  • 2. Middle Man  |  May 31, 2007 at 9:00 am

    All’s fair… they say. I’ll swap you for Kylie.


  • 3. Pete  |  August 14, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    “and wherever the capital of Bratislava may be.”


    (Bratislava being the capital of Slovakia)


  • 4. smythville  |  December 9, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Hey Middleman. It good to see that inconsderate people are scattered all over the globe, even if we sometimes believe that we have the monopoly on them in our own country. Thanks for sharing the experience, most enjoyable.



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