This morning I took a train up to Waterloo to visit Norman then Carol. Because Jackie’s car was being repaired I needed a cab to Southampton Parkway. Lindsey from Point to Point arrived bang on time. He explained he was taking the safe route through London Minstead because crossing the A31 was too dangerous. I agreed. As we travelled through the village he pointed out houses that had been used for other purposes when he was a child growing up there. Examples were the old post office and a second village shop. On a corner in London Minstead he pointed out where the Knight family had lived. He has been a patient at the Lyndhurst surgery all his life, and spoke very highly of it. He offered himself as a fount of local stories.
The station was packed when I arrived. The man selling tickets informed me that there was a two hour delay in getting to London. The platform announcer told us that the train, normally consisting of eight coaches, contained four. On entering a carriage I was one of the few people who managed to secure a seat. Actually it was only half a seat with room for just one buttock. Checking out the time delay with other passengers, I was relieved to learn that this only applied in the other direction. I would be able to keep my appointments but not get home on time, for the problem would not be rectified before midnight. The concourse at Waterloo was filled with serried ranks of hopeful travellers, eyes fixed on the departure boards. This did not augur well for the return journey, and, indeed, by 6.45 p.m. the sight was the same.
From Waterloo I walked to Green Park by the route described on 22nd November. From The Embankment to Green Park crowds of people photographed each other against their chosen backdrop. Geese, having abandoned the lake in St. James’s Park in search of tourists’ proffered titbits, drank from puddles on the paths.
I took the Jubilee Line to Neasden and walked to Norman’s where he fed us on roast duck followed by Christmas pudding, accompanied by a fine chianti. After going on by tube to visit Carol, and spending a couple of hours with her, I boarded a 507 bus to Waterloo. There was no let-up in the morning’s disruption, although the train I did catch was only about 40 minutes late in arriving at Southampton.
It was, however, standing room only on the ten carriage train. I could get no further than the second coach. Even in the first, first class, carriage there were no seats available. A certain amount of hilarity was engendered by the guard’s announcement that there was a buffet car at the front of the train, which it would have been impossible to reach. I was able to give Jackie an accurate estimate of the arrival time and she was there to meet me as I came out of the station.
Today’s problem, across the region, had been cause by ice on the tracks at Woking. In December 1987 I had set out optimistically from Kings Cross on the very first evening of my commuting back home to Newark. This journey, normally lasting 80 minutes, took four hours. The train came to a standstill when a swan became stuck in the braking system. It could not be freed, so a replacement locomotive had to be sent down from somewhere in the far North. As I arrived home some time after midnight I wondered: ‘What have I done?’. Fortunately it was never as bad again.