A flower stand at Liverpool Street,
A Crossrail driver who told people where to get on the Heathrow Express at Paddington if they had a lot of money to waste,
Two people with suitcases messily clustered around a Boots self-checkout machine feeding it coins like kibble to a cat,
An American family on the train realising that the red light meant the seat was reserved.
Someone who’d reserved seats from London to Slough (of all places… why?)
A bridge over the river just before Oxford,
A single-track section of the Cotswold line,
and Worcestershire Parkway.
(Oh, Worcestershire Parkway. A massive car park? An interchange? GWR haven’t got round to hiring a voiceover artist to record the station name for the automatic announcement. A very quiet man’s voice fills in for now. Not to worry, the station’s only been open for two and a half years.)
A pretty market in Worcester,
an Italian café,
an upside-down road marking,
and a stunning chandelier.
A delightful-smelling stall with soaps and candles
some gothic-looking prints
an impressively vaulted ceiling
and a refreshingly cool cathedral colonnade.
Then there were the swans
which someone saw fit to warn us about.
That weird purple light they have in the rooms at a Premier Inn,
a view out the cricket ground with hills in the distance,
those little signs on country roads (BIG pork rolls on Wednesdays, apparently)
and a bin obstructing a bike lane. Literal rubbish.
The sun going down, the sun already up,
and a notification saying there were problems on our connecting route home.
Then came the one saying our first train was cancelled.
A bunch of folks sat in the subway at Worcester Foregate Street,
at the nearest coffee shop, a Perspex partition between seating booths (which I’ll be glad for later),
a passable iced coffee and fries (although the joint loses marks for playing Blurred Lines on the stereo),
our next available train.
A shiny new in-carriage display that wasn’t working,
and a back garden filled with RMT memorabilia. (Banners, posters, picket signs—the lot. I somehow doubt this was all accrued in the last few weeks since Mick Lynch’s media rounds. This person’s dedicated to the cause. Good for them.)
Something approaching an acceptable cycle path,
a couple with an alarming amount of luggage,
and signage in Rail Alphabet 2. (They don’t seem to have quite got the point of using big arrows for small groups of destinations, though.)
A bevy of chain eateries,
the system ticket office clerks use to let people travel on the next train (spoiler: involves taking down the ticket number, printing two travel authority chits, and then writing down the two numbers in a table in a lever-arch file that probably never gets looked at),
our flimsily-printed authorisations to travel,
and the Bullring Shopping Centre, source of the most amazing TV advert of all time.
The odd multi-zone layout at New Street,
with a passageway through to the concourse almost taking on a sci-fi feel,
and screens turning red or green or blue depending on where you’re supposed to board,
and yet more Rail Alphabet 2. (It looks classy. I’m a fan. I never liked Network Rail’s corporate typeface.)
A taste of the usual “Virgin Pendolino window seat conundrum,”
a mostly quiet onboard shop,
a bunch of people heading for a music festival,
and the Train Manager’s office. The hub of gossip between the onboard crew, which included:
- How first class was being declassified, because the previous London train was cancelled, and;
- air conditioning in 4 of the 11 cars was broken due to the heat—not as bad, though, as a newly-refurbished Pendolino which had apparently left the depot with 5 cars with broken aircon
- how the steward thought Manchester Piccadilly car park was murder-y, and wanted to avoid using it to get home tonight (planning her journey around the music festival and maybe having to get a taxi—which, knowing railway taxi policies, won’t be fun)
- and how the TM didn’t use the (apparently terrible) operator-provided app on his phone, because it hadn’t been agreed with his union
A person two rows in front trying (and failing) to use three fingers to lower the window blind, as recommended by the TM, to reduce heat and give the air-con in this coach a fighting chance,
A couple in front who stubbornly refused to lower the window blind,
The patterns of the sun through the window blind once they’d left and I’d closed it,
and clear blue sky through the opposite window, but none of the ground, because we were tilting round a corner. (Always catches me by surprise when that happens.)
The people who were standing outside the toilet in the next car,
the cursed ex-Virgin Trains toilet decor,
the bin with a Pac-Man style illustration above the words “FEED ME SANITARY TOWELS, NAPPIES…”
and the Mario-themed suitcase in the overhead rack with little Toad-themed charms on the zipper pull tabs.
A busy day at Euston,
signage for the “health walk” to King’s Cross,
a badly-parked minicab on Eversholt Street,
and a dodgy traffic light.
A woman pushing a cart full of bottles of olive oil striking up conversation with diners at a bar (if I had to guess—not her own—but who knows?)
a quiet-looking beer garden
a shortcut through a residential estate that feels like it shouldn’t be allowed
and an entrance to the public exhibition at the Francis Crick institute. (Closed, because it was Sunday.)
That dodgy wide zebra crossing where they had to put paint down because drivers don’t pay attention to light grey paving blocks against dark grey paving blocks,
the grim-looking entrance to St. Pancras Thameslink,
the departures board,
and the set of seats outside Starbucks.
An ice lolly from M&S,
a man who didn’t understand how the ticket gates worked,
two coupled Javelin units,
and a busy train with almost no-one wearing a mask… no worse than the previous one, but…
The sun setting through the cutting at Stratford International,
a sweet dog on the train.
My flat, where the flowers have wilted a little in the heat.
A dropper, a swab, a lateral flow test cassette.
Two red lines. (Oh bugger.)