A trip to London and back

It’s Saturday and today I’ve actually got up early and I’m on a very quick Virgin train down to London for the MoDaCo event. It’s already been a hectic morning. I had everything planned with almost military precision. I’d get up, be out the house for about 8.45 and that’d give me more than enough time to get to the station for the train to leave at 9.20. I was doing so well for time that I even decided to get a parcel that had been waiting for me at the local sorting office.

Once I’d done that little job I turned up at Lichfield Trent Valley and parked the car. It was about then that I spotted some new signs..

“Pay and Display – Clamping in effect. 75 release charge.”

Ahhh… Now this station has always had free parking for as long as I remember. Although trains go from here direct to London it’s always had the feel of a local station with it’s little ticket shed and slightly-out-of-town location. Anyhow, they’ve obviously changed things so I hurriedly reached into my pocket to find 2 pound coins, a couple of peso’s and some American quarters. DOAH! I was shafted, so I raced off in search of a cash machine or – better still – a cash machine next to a shop so I could get the 3 quid needed for the money-grabbing parking mafia.

I drove and drove – I knew of one local supermarket but there were roadworks everywhere so I drove the opposite way for what seemed like miles. I got stuck behind some old dear in a metro who was busy bouncing off the kerb. In my frustration I shook my head but in doing so I caught a “Co-Op” sign in the corner of my eye. I immediately turned off into a posh Lichfield estate and, after a couple of wrong turns and worried-looking pedestrians I found the shop. I ran in and immediately the lady at the counter said, “Err, can I help you?”. She must’ve been slightly worried about me sliding to a halt outside and dashing into her little store – I was now a good mile or two from the station and it was 9.15, there weren’t any more trains that would get me to London at the right time and I’d already paid for the ticket.

“Do you do cash-back?”, I asked – for those outside the UK this is where you pay for something with your Debit Card and then ask for money back – say you buy some shopping for 40 you can then ask for 10 cash-back and you’ll get billed 50 on your card.

“Yes”, she said, “we do”.

Sometimes there’s a minimum purchase limit on this cash-back stuff though because it costs the shop a bit of money to do the transaction.

“Is there a minimum purchase on that?”, I asked as I ran towards the lager (usually the minimum is 5 so I naturally get a 4 or 6-pack of lager as it…err… always comes in useful..)

“No, not at all”, she replied. I grabbed a chocolate bar and stuffed my PIN number into the machine. She gave me the cash I needed in pound coins and I immediately sped off toward the train station again. When I got there the train was already waiting – the doors were shut so I quickly fed the parking meter and stuck the ticket on the window. Thank frig it wasn’t one of those new ones that need your number plate entering or I wouldv’e gone nuts. I ran onto the platform to find people waving – oh crap. Luckily some Virgin lady still had her door open so I ran towards that. “Are you getting on?”, she asked. “Yes”, I replied and she opened the door a bit more – the second it closed we were off… Talk about timing…

As I walked own the train I spotted two people typing away on T-Mobile Vario devices and one prson taking pictures on his Orange SPV M600 – it’s great to see so many people using them..perhaps they’re coming to the event?

To be honest with you I haven’t travelled by train for a while. When I do it’s usually to go to London however I must say I’m quite impressed. I’ve got a very comfortable seat, there’s onboard audio if you’ve got some headphones and we’re rocketting along – flying through stations and rushing around slight bends because it’s apparently a “pendolino” train.

It’s not all about the train though. To be honest I’m always driving so it’s rare for me to look out of a window for as long as I am doing today. The sun is out, it’s the height of summer and England is looking absolutely fantastic. The green and yellow rolling fields, farms, trees and flowers are looking spectacular at this time of year. Yes I know, it’s a tad slushy but here are some pictures to prove it.

On the way back from the MoDaCo event I had even more train trouble. The tube wasn’t helpful with the, “Due to engineering work this train will terminate here” messages shortly before you’re dumped on some platform.

This bit of the blog post is being typed on my M5000 as I travel toward Glasgow. Sure it’s a slight detour, but one of the stops is Stafford, which is close enough for me. I was about 20 minutes late for the original train and had a distinct communication issue with the staff at the customer information desks. Why is it that London doesn’t seem to have Londoners any more?