Here we go with another series of blogs with titles punning on the word 'snow'. Actually, I hope we aren't going to have that; not because of the writing you understand, but because I don't want all the misery of all that white stuff again.
I had to go up to London yesterday. We have had a house guest for the last 2 weeks and I offered to travel with her up to London and get her and her suitcase onto a taxi. One of the sad features of travel in this country is that there is hardly any provision on trains or in stations for travellers with suitcases. If you arrive at a mainline station in London and want to pop into the toilet, how do you get your suitcase down all the stairs that lead to the inevitably subterranean, and misnamed, conveniences? And what do you do with your suitcase while you use the facilities? And, even before that, where do you put your suitcase on the train? If you are going to an airport, you inevitably have to travel on the train when it is packed to the gunnels with commuters. I once went to Heathrow on the train. Lovely to have an underground train that speeds you to the airport, but by the time I had stood on trains and lugged my suitcase around for a couple of hours, I had had enough. Next time taxi! I promised myself.
Anyway, yesterday, first thing in the morning, it decided to snow. Fearing problems on the road, we arranged for a taxi to collect us and take us to the station. Fearing problems on the railways, we set off at 10.15, instead of 12.15.
The roads were fine. Actually the journey to London was OK; we caught the 10.15 train from Haslemere which arrived at the station at 10.45 and reached London before 12.00. Not too late, although perhaps I should have been suspicious at that stage that things would only get worse. But it had actually stopped snowing by 09.30 and it hadn't laid anyway, the roads were clear and dry. Unfortunately, it had obviously been the wrong sort of snow.
We had a coffee at Waterloo to warm ourselves up and I put my friend onto a taxi, with suitcase, at about 12.30. I then took advantage of being in the Big City by going to Oxford Street and doing some Christmas shopping. I wanted to find something appropriate for She Who Enjoys Aerobics. Eventually, in Lillywhites, I found just the thing - they were selling off sports socks at half price.
Anyway, that's a digression. Having finished all my Christmas shopping for this year, I got back to Waterloo at 1.30 to take the train back home, only to discover that there were no trains on the indicator board stopping at Haslemere. There was no explanation for this. There were two of my usual trains departing within the next hour, but both missed out my station. I went to the information desk and asked their advice. They rather helpfully suggested I didn't go to Haslemere. There are trains to Woking and Guildford, I pointed out. 'Might I be able to board a train from there to Haslemere?' 'No idea', was the sympathetic response.
I know we ask this every year, but how does this happen? And given that the smallest and shortest-lived dusting of snow imaginable can totally knock out the entire rail network of Britain (well, Haslemere anyway), why can they not be prepared and able to rectify the problem? And maybe more to the point - why doesn't the information desk know anything or have any advice?
I bought myself a sandwich and stood there for half an hour watching trains going everywhere but Haslemere. Eventually, I decided to take the train to Guildford. At the worst, She Who Will Receive a Rather Fetching Pair of Socks for Christmas could come and pick me up. Then, just as I was entering the platform, Haslemere appeared on the list of stations at which the Guildford train intended to stop. I jumped on exultantly. But an hour later, at Guildford, the conductor (or driver, not the lady who speaks the names of the stations anyway - she was still saying 'the next station is Haslemere') announced that the train wouldn't after all stop at Haslemere. Again, no idea why not.
As I got off the train, a station employee (guard?) was waving everyone onto the train on the next platform - 'all stations to Portsmouth. Hurry!' So I boarded that. 'This train stops at Southsea', assured the lady over the tannoy. 'Actually it goes to Portsmouth Harbour,' contradicted the conductor (or driver). I quite thought the female announcer was going to start arguing a la Airplane! 'Oh no it's not; it's going to Southsea!'.
But it did stop at Haslemere. So it took an hour to go to London, but it took 3 hours to return home. And still I don't really know why.
Ah well, in 2 weeks time the days will start to get longer and it'll be spring soon after.