Reasons why Fran should learn to check timetables

Saturday's results: Public transport - 49. Fran Hill - 0

None of it was Chiltern Railways' fault, to be fair. They did their best in the circumstances ...

I'd set my alarm for 6.30. I needed an early bus to the station, then a train to Birmingham for a day of writers' workshops. I'd been looking forward to it.

I hadn't checked the internet to make sure there were no hiccups in terms of engineering works.

Everything went well and I had a lovely day. 

First, I forgot to turn the sound up on my phone, so at 6.30 the alarm went 'Ungh, ungh, ungh' making little effort noises to wake me. I slumbered on. Poor wee alarm, so keen to help.

At 7.32, I woke.

It's funny how quickly sweat can appear on one's forehead. Pff pff pff.  Little prickles of moisture, and then a sick feeling in my stomach, the same as you'd get if you'd just arrived for your package holiday in Spain and remembered that you'd ironed some clothes for your holiday and - had you switched the iron off? Or not?

I re-checked bus and train timetables to work out a new journey. Could I make it to Birmingham in time? Maybe ...

I leapt in the shower like a mud wrestler who's just remembered she booked a date with George Clooney for five minutes' time.

I dressed as hurriedly as a catwalk model with 20 seconds to change costumes, except, in so many other ways, not like a catwalk model at all. In fact, let's leave it at the hurrying.

I threw two sips of hot tea and one Weetabix down my throat and as it went down the Weetabix yelled, 'WHERE'S MY BROTHER?' but that was all I had time for.

I grabbed the bag I had packed the night before with notebook, pens and copies of my book in case anyone said, 'You wrote a BOOK? Here's a fifty pound note. Let me buy one. No, don't worry about the change.'

I caught a bus.

I got off the bus, caught the train in time, and had a lovely day. 

I had five minutes to walk the ten minutes to the train station. At the train station, I said to the man at the counter. 'Puff, pant, puff, pant, puff, pant, puff, pant, I think I'm dying.'

'Come again?' he said.

'Is the 8.34 to Birmingham Moor Street running?' I said, drawing on everything I was told during three birthing experiences so that I had oxygen.

'There aren't any trains,' he said. 'The line's up because of engineering works. There are only replacement buses.'

I said, 'Oh, never mind. C'est la vie. Que sera sera. The Lord moveth in mysterious ways.'

I said, 'Kill me now.'

His face said, 'You seem as though you're doing a pretty good job of that yourself.'

I made it all a lot worse by asking, so desperate for good news that all logic had flown, 'Do the buses take longer?'

He couldn't have gazed at me with more pity.

I boarded a bus which would take me to Solihull Station. It would take forty minutes.

It took forty minutes and I got there in time and had a lovely day. 

Forty minutes into the journey, we were at a country station stop called Dorridge, reached via some narrow lanes more suitable for pedestrians, bicycles and very thin cows.

'I thought I was meant to stop here on the way to Solihull,' our bus driver said to an orange-jacketed Chiltern Railways female employee with a clipboard and an anxious forehead.

'Not according to our timetable.'

'Oh, bugger,' said our driver.

We set off again, via South Wales, Cumbria and parts of Northern Scotland, before arriving at Solihull Station.

There was a train waiting on the platform. No tannoy announcements were being made, no information boards gave any clues, and I could see no staff to help me. I leapt onto the train and said, 'Is this the train for Birmingham Moor Street?' to everyone else in the carriage settling into seats and putting bags on racks.

'We think so,' they said. 'It's pointing the right way.' 'It's going at the right time.'

So, the carriage was filled with people like me, travelling by guesswork, with that faint hope stirring in our optimistic hearts that all would be well.

I sat down. By then, who cared? If it went to Bournemouth for the day, I could have fish and chips by the sea and a triple rum and raisin icecream. If it went the other way, to Glasgow or Edinburgh, I've always wanted to try a deep-fried Mars Bar, and if I died eating it, a railway station ticket man in Leamington Spa could confirm to police, 'Oh yes, she looked a bit peaky when I saw her. I'm not at all surprised.' And maybe Chiltern Railways would have sent flowers.

It went to Birmingham, though, and I sneaked into the workshop only twenty minutes late.

'This is the writers' workshop, isn't it?' I said.

'No, no,' someone said. 'This is advanced Russian grammar. You must be in the wrong building.'

'Yes, do sit down, and welcome,' the tutor said.

I had a lovely day.

BACON-wrapped? A step too far, surely, even when you've been lost on public transport for weeks and weeks. 


  1. Anonymous31/7/16 10:56

    Well, that was easy, wasn't it?

    1. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey. I manage to have these disasters so much more easily than others.

  2. Hahaha! I never know whether to believe your hyperbole usually because it's only ever ME that these things happen to. Brilliant post. Made me chortle convulsively. In French.

    1. Are you accusing me of exaggeration. Never!!

  3. At moments like these I always reckon I'll be fine if I run , having forgotten that I haven't run anywhere for at least twenty years .

    1. Ha ha! Everything in one's body goes 'Er, hang on. How do we do this?'

  4. All that and still only 20 minutes late? Amazing!

    1. I know. Ten minutes more and I'd have wondered whether I was brave enough to go into the workshop so late. I hate being late.

  5. Replies
    1. When my heart rate has slowed, I will. Another day and I'll be fine.

  6. After all that, I hope you took some nuggets away from the workshops? And I don't mean chicken nuggets.

    1. I'm pleased to say I did, especially as chicken nuggets are ugh. Not much chicken in them, I suspect.

  7. Oh, you must exaggerate. No one would put bacon around a deep-fried Mars bar. My son's phone died last night and thus failed to make any noise that might awake him. He came to life five minutes before his bus left. He put on clothes (so much easier for men), grabbed a banana or two, went out the door, and managed to catch the bus. He was not late to work. Such a thing would never happen to me. I would be too busy bemoaning my fate to get out the door. I couldn't even get socks and shoes on in five minutes, no less think to get bananas. I also walk every so slowly. It's not even a walk. I do the old lady shuffle.


    1. No, I think that is actually a real thing, the bacon around the Mars Bar. If Google is to be trusted, anyway.

  8. .. Fran, I think you are wonderful. If that was me I would have been having a panic attack and palpitations. ... Glad the workshop went well.. xxxxx Hugs... Barb xxx

    1. I kept saying to myself 'This is an adventure ...think of it as an adventure ... honestly, it's just an adventure.' So, self-calming mantras won the day.

    2. .. I must try this next time I get a bit stressed.. life is an adventure rally.. xxx

  9. Ah, the joys of public transport! Pleased you weren't too late for the workshop but did you really need to go? I bet you could have taught them a thing or two. Sell any books?

    1. I could have taught them how to make the ticket man at the station despise you!!! And, no, no book sales. I didn't even mention the book. It didn't seem appropriate having launched myself into the room while the speaker was mid-sentence.

  10. Only 20 minutes late?!

    Almost, I don't believe you.
    But it makes a great story :~)) from a great story teller, of course

    1. Yup, only 20 minutes. But, as you can tell, as the journey progressed, I was convinced it would be much more than that ... Thanks for reading!


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