Sunday, 28 June 2009

Book early, Travel first

I always try and book my trips nice and early so that I can get the best deals on train fares.

When you book as early I as occasionally do the difference between standard class and first class can be only a couple of pounds (Coming back from Barnstaple today the standard fare I was quoted was £26.50, First was £31.00, that’s one visit to the buffet and you have saved money, and believe me I can visit the buffet a lot!)

The other advantage, when you merrily book and have no concept that it is actually the Glastonbury Weekend you are booking for, is that nobody else looks to book first (lets face it the festival is so expensive already saving a bit of money on the travel is one way of making it just about affordable)

Which would explain why, when the train pulled into Castle Carey station, most of the people on the platform (who didn’t look as muddy as the newspapers and TV had lead everyone to believe) were down by the standard carriages, which, from the plaintive messages over the PA system about not blocking aisles, I think have just become very, very busy

Meanwhile, up here in first, I still have a table to myself (and I probably paid less than some of the people in Standard who booked last minute)

First Great Western has a heart

I’m sitting typing this on the train as it wends its merry way between Taunton and Castle Cary.

Technically I shouldn’t be, as I’m not supposed to be on this train.

I should still be standing on Exeter station awaiting my (heavily) delayed service to London which was going to take over three hours and get me into London at just after Monday.

But the train from Penzance had been delayed by 15 minutes, and it arrived only a few minutes after I got off the train from Barnstaple.

With some trepidation, waiting for the negative response, I approached the train manager and asked, as my train was over 30 minutes late, wouldn’t be here for nearly another hour and wouldn’t now get me into London until nearly 1am, Could I jump on his train.

Without even batting an eyelid he, very kindly, agreed.

Not only does it get me out of Exeter earlier, my train was scheduled to run via Bristol, Bath and I think with the timings Inverness as well, the train I’m on was running direct.

Only one possible problem.

It’s next stop is Castle Cary. The nearest station to Glastonbury. The (very muddy, and swine flu infected) festival finished not that long ago. This could be interesting...

They grow them big in Exeter

In, what turned out to be a much shorter stop than I was expecting, see next post for more, I quickly popped to the Gents on Exeter St David’s station.

On thing struck me quite quickly. All the men of Exeter must be giants.

I’ve been to countries where the population are generally taller (Norway, Sweden etc), but I’ve never had to stand on tip-toes to be able to use the facilities.

However, Exeter, I had to virtually perform acrobatic manoeuvres to be able to relieve myself.

Of course, it could just have been an incompetent plumber...

Saturday, 27 June 2009

The perils of small islands

I’ve learnt a valuable lesson today, one which I will probably have forgotten in a few weeks time, but one that is now etched into my arms and the end of my legs.

When you are on a small island in the Atlantic, where the seas are crystal clear and the grey white rock on the island glimmers in the beating sun, reapplying sun tan cream every 90 minutes is not frequent enough!

I kept slapping it on, and I though it was working, I couldn’t feel anything burning, but no, by the time I got off the boat back in Biddeford, Lundy had left a mark on my skin which will take at least a couple of days to (hopefully) fade to a well deserved tan.

I’m not even quite certain why I burnt. As I said I was reapplying the sun tan cream liberally every 90 minutes, or even more frequent at some points, It was a highish strength cream.

I don’t think it can be anything to do with walking around an island for seven hours during the main part of the day, as the Met office officially warn of the start of a heatwave, that would have nothing to do with it...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Getting things into perspective

To say I nearly missed my train because of it would be a massive and unfair overstatement (I had the best part of 25 minutes wait in the end anyway), but I would have been in Paignton quite a bit earlier if the “discussion” with the driver had taken less time.

As I boarded the bus to go onto Paignton to get the fast train up to Exeter I was immediately behind a lady with a dog.

The lady produced her free bus pass (entitling the holder to unlimited free travel on any bus, in any town in England after the rush hour, not a bad deal when you think about it, and when you see what the standard single fares are), and went to get her ticket when the driver pointed out that there is a small charge for the dog.

The massive, outrageous, unbelievable and utterly unacceptable charge of 50p for the dog for the whole day, unlimited, anywhere on a Stagecoach bus in South West England.

The lady had a lengthy debate about how she thought this was unacceptable and wasn’t going to pay it, until the bus driver pointed out that she would have to get off the bus if she didn’t.

She grudgingly, and very childishly, slammed down a £2 coin (note here not fishing around scrabbling for small change) ripped the ticket out of the machine and stormed off down the bus.

Now to put this in a little perspective. The cost of a day ticket for the whole of Devon, on Stagecoach only, cost me £6.50, and I consider that to be pretty good value considering a single from Paignton back to Torre on Tuesday evening was £2.80

I don’t begrudge the free bus travel afforded to anyone over the age of 60, however, kicking up a fuss for a 50p dog ticket does appear a little churlish when you get so much free travel!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Not wound spotting

Continuing my (unpleasant) habit of spotting what the wound of the location is. This time, it’s not a wound, more a condition.

Torbay has a, perhaps unfair, image of an area of more interest to a mature population.

The locals, appear to be fighting back.

Rather than an injury, the most common condition was the sheer number of women who were clearly in the final stages of pregnancy.

The question has to be, are Torbay council taking any account of this. There is already little for the younger citizens of the area to do, other than hang around the arcades and car parks (which I witnessed this evening), bored out of their skulls, not that the kids were anything other than just bored, no violence, no real swearing, just boredom. In less than 16 years time this could be a whole load worse.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Introducing SpideeLodge

After my experiences in the London Liverpool Street Traveldoge, I’ve become a little cautious about the chain.

Since then I have stayed in a couple of other Travelodges (both on Holiday and for work), and haven’t had anything to complain about.

This morning, after having my shower I stepped out of the shower area and went to grab the towel.

On picking it up my first reaction was, urghhh, that’s a bit dirty, it looks as though its still got some hair on it from the last time it was used.

I was about to go and brush the “hair” off when I noticed it move slightly, up over the fold of the towel to reveal a large spindley legged spider.

It’s not what you want to see at 8 in the morning when you are dripping wet. I suppressed the urge to let out a scream (I’m not a fan of spiders, I’m not scared of them, it’s just I don’t like coming across them unexpectedly), and very carefully took the towel out into the room and let the spider down onto the carpet, where it immediately headed for the skirting board in the corner.

You can’t really hold Travelodge liable for the spider, but I do wonder, as I have several more bookings with the chain, what other wildlife I will experience in their rooms in the future. Look out perhaps for ParrotLodge in Newcastle, or maybe ScorpionLodge in Hollyhead?


“And what did you expect to see out of a Torquay hotel bedroom window? Sydney Opera House perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically over the plains ...?"

It’s a classic line, and I did resolve myself not to mention it when I checked into the hotel (either the member of staff wouldn’t get the reference, or they would have heard it so many times that they had ceased to find it funny.)

What I wasn’t expecting was to be woken at 7:30 by the sound of a herd of Wildebeest sweeping majestically down the Newton Road in the direction of Torre station.

As it transpired they weren’t wildebeest, just school kids with far too much energy for that early in the morning.

I'll just have to see if I can locate the Hanging Gardens as there is quite a bit of greenery when I look out of my rooms window...

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Grumpy Status, an Update

I was starting to weaken, my inbuilt rage was starting to overcome my inbuilt Britishness, I had given him another two minutes to stop opening and closing the door before I would have to say something.

Thankfully, before I did the un-British think and complained the man wandered into the toilet to continue his conversation.

Obviously this leads to the one statement – Urghhh

Application for Grumpy Status

I don’t know at which point you officially become a “Grumpy Old Man”, I doubt very much it’s in your early thirties, but I could be wrong.

Unfortunately, I’ve just realised that is exactly what I have become.

I’m currently sitting on the train heading towards Exeter. The next carriage is the Quiet car, and quite correctly a man has wandered out of that carriage to take his phone call in the vestibule.

This is good; this is the correct thing to do.

However, he keeps wandering around the vestibule making the door between my carriage and the vestibule open and closes all the time, bringing the noise and wind into the carriage.

I’m finding myself slowly getting more and more annoyed by this, but because of my inbuilt “Britishness setting” I’m not going to complain or tell him off.

I’m just going to carry on sitting here getting more wound up, and grumpy.