Stranded…

October 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm Leave a comment

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Imagine the scene….

One hundred and eighty five tired and weary souls stranded without power. Unsure of where they are. And, uncertain when it will be safe to move again.

It is dark.

Too dark to move safely from their present location. LED light sticks are issued and haggard, uncertain faces are illuminated by their weak green glow. Shadows are cast by the short but bright white light of mobile phone torches. Batteries are beginning to fade now. But, as long as they last, macabre shadows will continue to be cast upon these stranded waifs.

It is cold.

So cold that emergency hand-warmers and foil blankets have been issued to those who had not dressed for these circumstances. Circumstances unforeseen. The shimmer and rustle of the blankets add further to the strangeness of the atmosphere.

The air is dank. The air is fast turning rancid.

The few toilets that had been available to this ragged band of travellers have long since been filled. And, now they overflow. Piss and ordure and other filth spills from their bowls and stomachs are turned, and retching can be heard. Emergency personal toilets – bags – have been issued to those who are desperate enough and can find a private corner away from the already averted eyes of those who are trying not to think of their own bodily functions. They do not want to have to take their own walk of shame to the darkest corners.

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The hot food and drink has long since been consumed. Some in the group had unfortunately refused it when it had been available, believing they would be in a different, more comfortable place, enjoying more homely refreshments by now. It was this group that was suffering the most right now.

I was a member of that group. I was hungry.

The group is desperate for news. Brief conversations, some hushed and others loud – people trying to hide their anxiety through bravado or anger – could be overheard as people who still had charge on their phones tried to connect to the outside world or to loved ones. Snippets and fragments of news snatched from social media were passed down the line. But, the picture remained vague – someone had been hurt, and the police were chasing down a group that were still at large…..

This could have been a scene from a Halloween movie. But it was not. Even though the night for remembering the dead lurks ominously close and is just three nights hence.

This could have been a group of Syrian or Iraqi migrants fleeing war and terror, lost in the dark in a strange and unwelcoming corner of Europe. But it was not.

This was the 17.07 Virgin Train from London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street on Wednesday night. Stranded for over three hours just one frustrating mile outside of Crewe Station.

There had been reports of an attempted suicide and someone hit by a train, which had diverted Manchester bound trains through Crewe. And, then trespassers on the line in the vicinity of Crewe had resulted in the emergency services taking down the overhead power lines and stopping all trains while they dealt with the incident. All trains were stopped. All but emergency power was shut down. Until even the emergency batteries were drained….

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The power was off for over three hours and the national rail network was in gridlock. Trains from all destinations passing through Crewe or Manchester were cancelled or delayed significantly. Connections and flights were missed. Meals were missed. Bedtime stories and bath times were missed. Dates and interviews were missed. A rare goal and victory at Anfield, a romp at the Etihad, and humiliation at Old Trafford all missed.

But, the Virgin staff were excellent. They took care of those that needed care. They kept the mood and humour as light as it could be in the circumstances. And much banter was shared.

While there was much sympathy towards the suicide and more towards the poor driver of that train, there was little for the trespassers who had reaped such chaos.

I for one was tired and hungry and missing all-too rare time at home sharing a meal and a glass of wine and the Apprentice with C. But I got home eventually, having stopped for a Big Mac and fries on the way…..

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