Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How much stress

is it possible to experience before 8.05 in the morning?

Quite a lot in the case of our journey from New Cross to St Pancras.

This is a journey that from Reidski's door takes in the region of 40 minutes on a slow day. As we had a train to Brussels to catch which departed at the aforementioned 8.05 we were up and out the house by 6.40 and even drove my car to near the station rather than walk to save a bit of time. That decision in now officially known as Mistake No 1. I noticed as we drove that my right side indicator light was showing on the dashboard as being on - permanently. 'Strange' I think. We park up and I realise the lights are flashing merrily away. I attempt to retrieve the situation - that is to say, I attempted to switch them off, but they declined to be switched off. 'Sod it!'Looking at the time - and we were supposed to check in half an hour before departure - there was no option but to leave the car as it was in the sure and certain knowledge we would be returning to a flat battery (which we did).

We got the train to London Bridge where we went down to the tube station for the Northern Line train to St Pancras. That was when we heard the announcement that no trains were stopping at St Pancras apart from Metropolitan and Circle Line trains and that therefore we needed to change at Moorgate. This change turned out to involve something like a ten minute sprint - Moorgate Station is massive and the lines were miles apart from each other. Blood pressure was rising and time was getting shorter.

It was a relief to get to St Pancras and the Eurostar automatic ticket machines. I followed the instructions on screen to get my tickets and entered the reference number I had on my confirmation letter. I received the following message - 'Number not recognised. Please try again.' So I did.... And then I tried again.... And then I tried another machine.... And then I asked an assistant. 'Are there are letters in your reference number?' she asked me. 'No' I replied. 'Oh, there have to be letters in your reference number' she told me. She suggested we go - post haste as it is now gone 7.30 - to the ticket office, and so we went there to find a queue that is practically out the door. 'Holy Shit.'

We joined the queue and I decided that as I had an emergency phone number for out of hours emergencies - this did qualify as an emergency and I was going to ring it. The guy I rang was clearly delighted to be woken up. He said he would have to log into his computer and said he would call me back in five minutes and fifteen minutes later when he still had not returned my call I rang him back to be told he couldn't log on to his computer and was therefore unable to give me my correct booking reference number (with letters).

Thanks be to whoever at Eurostar was responsible for putting sufficient ticket office staff on that early morning shift we reached the front of the queue and obtained our tickets with precisely seven minutes to spare. Imagine then our joy when the woman in front of us at the ticket barrier somehow managed to break the thing, and further imagine our good humour when Mr Jobsworth wouldn't let us through an open barrier because 'Your tickets have to go through the ticket barrier.'

For the first time in my life (I am British through and through) we queue jumped security, legged it through passport control, and somehow, even with me dropping half the contents of my bag in my panic to find the ticket to show the attendant, although said ticket was in my hand all the time, we made the train with 90 whole seconds to spare.

Here is a picture of what awaited us when we finally made it to Bruges, just to remind myself that all that stress was worthwhile.


marc said...

Welcome back, y'all. I'm out of breath just reading your account!!!Looks beautiful -- did ya see Colin Farrell loitering around?

Jay said...

Wow .. I"m impressed that you didn't kill someone! LOL! Seriously, that is one huge amount of stress that you didn't need, wasn't it? I'm glad you caught your train OK, and Bruges does indeed look worth it!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

If I had been there on that platform I would have led a round of applause and as your Eurostar glided gracefully out of St Pancras I would have led your fellow bloggers in a rousing chorus of "Morning Town" by The Seekers of long ago.
Video of Belgian toilets seems to confirm the widespread belief that Belgium is not the most interesting of European countries but you may wish to defend it.

J.J said...

Hi Marc - it was somewhat frantic. No Colin Farrell I am afraid although we did see someone with a height disadvantage :-)

Jay - I have had more relaxing starts to a day I must admit. But yes, Bruges was well worth it.

YP - I appreciate the thought which is a very funny one.

And don't underestimate the importance to the female traveller of good clean loos!