Its been a few days since I have been able to update this blog and so much has happened! As I don't have the time to go into great detail this evening I shall just bring you up to speed with my trip to London.
What an amazing place, full of such friendly, warm and welcoming people who always give you the time of day, a cheery smile, a nod of encouragement, hold open doors for you or most surprisingly of all make room for you as you try to get on the train. The streets are totally devoid of rubbish, in fact they were so clean you could see clearly that they were in fact paved with gold, of such shiny quality that you hardly had to look skyward to see the squadrons of flying pigs returning from their bombing of a parallel universe as their reflection was so clear. The skies were so blue and the larks sang sonnets from the well tended trees and shrubs that lined the streets of the Nations Capitol.
OK, I lie.
Its a hole. The people there were so set on whatever their day held for them that they panicked when you smiled at them. They all looked so miserable, most had headphones so as to avoid any possibility of socially interacting with fellow commuters. Those that were talking invariably were yelling into mobile phones, other appeared to be talking to themselves as they were hands free. There was a time you locked up for wandering around waving your arms and shouting to yourself. Rubbish covered the pavements, traffic moved either at snails pace or at lethal speeds millimetres from pedestrians who seemed intent at times on pushing this hick from the sticks into the path of taxis or buses moving at light speed. The only greenery I saw was the moss on the roof of the train station at the back of the hotel and a twisted weedy Elderflower bush gripping tenaciously to life by a fire escape of a nightclub.
I couldn't wait to leave. No amount of money could persuade me to live there.
That was thanks to my travelling companion.
There is a oft used phrase, you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family, or similar. This should be extended to include you can't choose your work colleagues who travel with you.
Had I been able to I might have chosen a travelling companion who would think to bring some cash on a three day sojourn to the bright lights of the city rather than rely on me for taxi's, breakfast, luch and dinner.
Or one who didn't cause a fifteen minute delay on the train just outside Oxford on the way down as they tried to find out who it was that had been smoking on the train.
Similarly I might have chosen someone who didn't set the alarm off in the hotel smoking in his room.
I would definitely have chosen someone with more sense of direction than a box of pissed frogs, who after three days in the same hotel still set off down the corridor in the opposite direction of the lifts.
And I certainly wouldn't have chosen a travelling companion who made me miss my train home because he had forgotten his suitcase causing us to make a u turn in a very expensive taxi to return to the hotel to fetch it.
Likewise I would have thought twice about taking someone along who, after making us miss the first train with his suitcase antics, made us miss the second train by disputing with the train operator which platform the second train departed from.
I had asked directions from the officious guard, "Platform 11 mate, you got 2 minutes!"
I looked up, I was at platform 1, platform 11 lay some considerable distance away.
I set off at a fast pace, I had my going home head on which was driving my tired legs, I was confident I would get there.
What I hadn't counted on was the antics of my travelling companion, who I had lost after getting out of the taxi. As I made for the train I heard "TONY!!" Head down I continued, trying to block out the distraction. I was going to make the train.
"Tony where you going man!!" He appeared from no where and intercepted my route to the train. "Platform 11, we got a minute lets go" I yelled.
"Its platform 4"
"I swear man its 4, there look" he pointed at a huge train.
I began to doubt myself. I should have held the line but a fresh assault caused me to veer to a guard at platform 4. "Thats our train man lets get on it"
"Is this ticket for that train?" I urgently enquired.
The huge guard looked down at me."No mate, you want platform 11, over there"
I turned to my companion, "Lets go"
He started to argue with the guard so I swiftly manoeuvred him away before he is banned from train travel and I now run towards platform 11 with him following shouting "I'm sure its 4 mate"
The trains still there.
I can see it.
The doors close as I get within 20 feet of it.
I stand next to the train and press the door button.
I press again, harder.
Nothing except the panting of my travelling companion coughing up his last lung from exertion and lack of nicotine, it being at least five minutes since he had a roll up.
I press again whilst looking longingly at the empty seats. The clean empty seats pass by, getting faster as the train pulls away.
I turn to my erstwhile colleague, me fighting for self control as he continues to fight for air, hes slightly doubled over clutching his chest.
Eventually I say "You see where ten extra seconds would have got me", he looks up and waves apologetically.
"I would have been on that train, for just ten seconds. Where did they go I wonder?"
He struggles upright using his suitcase for support. I momentarily consider kicking it from under him. Violence wont solve anything but it might make me feel better.
"Don't go on man, I'm sorry, it looked like our train." He starts to roll another fag.
I looked at the trains arranged around us, all GW, all the same livery.
"I think its best we don't sit together" I said quietly and left him sat on his bag.
Somehow I managed to lose him again. This time I didn't try and find him.
Eventually I got home to the sanctuary of the Rock. For all I know or care hes still sat there on platform 11.