Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Op de trein

RoutesI was tootling around the countryside all day today, hopping from one outpost to the next on the East Coast line.  I needed to get from Cambridge up to Sheffield for meetings, 60 GBP round trip, 3 hours each way.

In general, I prefer the train over the car for cross-country trips – I can work, eat, daydream without having to worry about routing, traffic, stressful drivers, and bad weather.

It’s the daydreaming bit that gets me into trouble, though.

The trip was planned from Cambridge to Peterborough to Retford to Sheffield, about an hour each leg.  On the Tube, I count stations and generally have a good sense of when I’m coming up on a change.  But I don’t know the stops up north and so I managed to have everything spread across my worktable when the Retford station signs appeared outside the window.  Damn.  The train was moving on before I could pick up.  Fortunately, Doncaster was next, essentially doing two legs of a triangle instead of cutting across, but it only added 20 minutes.

I resolved to be more vigilant.  So, when the loudspeaker crackled “Sheffield”, I was ready.  Bags under my arm, coat over my shoulder, I bounded off the train and up the construction entry, passing the “Book your booze cruise with us” announcement alongside a forlorn barge on a rubbish-strewn canal.  At the road I looked for the tram up to the University – nothing in sight, but the construction probably put me out the other side.  No matter, I hailed a cab and swung inside.

“To the University, please!”  The driver looked baffled.  Which one?  “Sheffield”  Still no recognition.  “Straight up the hill; follow the tram line?”  You’re sure?    Natuurlijk.

Off we go, around the station, over the hill, onto the highway, headed west.

“Ummm – where’s Sheffield?”  About seven miles up the road.  “I got off at the wrong station.”  You want to go back? 

My hosts were very nice about my late arrival.   They told me about a foreign student that they once had who assumed that the trains ran on time.  He knew that he was due into Sheffield at 2:10 pm so, when his watch said 2:10 and the train was stopped in a station, he got off.  Apparently miles away from Sheffield; we was similarly lost trying to get to the labs.

I think I don’t feel so bad…?

3 comments:

Cloggie In Training said...

Oh my, what a culture shock it must have been for that student! I don't think I could ever trust NS enough to go by my watch and their project timetable.

Textual Healer said...

NS - I trust (more or less). British trains are just a complete shambles - and a rip-off to boot. Better to travel by coach

Dave Hampton said...

I don't know if I'm ready to board National Express as an alternative, Nick. The four-hour rides from Gatwick to Cambridge were a real endurance test. Maybe it's time to rely on Skype more exclusively (or arrange for everyone to travel to a neutral location rather than running up an down the country myself).