Probably because it is slightly less cold today, snow began to fall as Jackie drove me to Ashurst for my trip to London. I was then presented with the problem of buying a ticket. We should perhaps be grateful that there is a railway station at this village. Unfortunately there is no person employed to dispense tickets or to help in any way. This task is performed by a machine. As usual when I fail to obtain what I need from one of these, I didn’t know whether the problem was the device or me. I could not find a way of getting it to allow me to apply my Senior Railcard which gives me a thirty percent discount. Fortunately we had anticipated this eventuality and Jackie had waited in the car, ready to drive me to Southampton Parkway if necessary. This she did. On the way there I speculated that the time of purchase might have been the problem. It had been 9.25. The train was due at 9.40. Railcards operate from 9.30. Maybe the robot was set not to issue my kind of ticket until after 9.30, despite the fact that the train would not come along for another ten minutes.
As it turned out, I caught the same train anyway, and the guard on it confirmed my supposition. He said the thing to do was to board the train without a ticket and find his counterpart who would issue a suitably discounted ticket. Of course, the machine would presumably have provided such a service at 9.31, or even a few seconds before that. The only person inconvenienced this morning was Jackie, who, in attempting to deliver me to a nearer station, found herself having to drive round to Southampton after all.
It was a splendid day in London; clear and bright with no snow. I walked my usual route from Waterloo to Green Park where I boarded a Jubilee Line tube train to visit Norman for lunch. Reflected in a three-dimensional four-sided sculptural construction alongside Sutton Walk opposite the main entrance to Waterloo, a young couple photographed themselves. As they inspected the result, one of them seemed to have disappeared. The low winter sun shone through the parapets of Westminster Bridge.
Norman fed us on roast chicken followed by trifle. We shared a bottle of Chateau David Bordeaux superieur 2010. I then travelled by underground to Clapham Common to visit Wolf and Luci bearing gifts bought yesterday in Shaftesbury. Luci produced welcome slices of her tasty pumpkin pie.
My return journey to Southampton was uneventful, except for a memory it prompted. A man struggling down the carriage seeking a seat on the crowded train enquired after the occupancy of a berth which contained two bags. He was told the position was taken, and moved on. It was ten minutes before the female occupant returned to take up her place. Some twenty years ago, when commuting between Newark and Kings Cross, I had been without a seat of my own. As I stood in the aisle studying the other passengers, it dawned on me that every time one of them visited the buffet car their perch remained vacant for some fifteen to twenty minutes. I therefore spent upwards of an hour hopping from one temporarily unoccupied location to another. When other adjacent travellers pointed out, some rather indignantly, that the seats were occupied, I suggested that they were not at that moment, and ‘I’m only borrowing it. I’ll give it up when your friend returns’. This I did and found another vacancy. It seemed a better option than standing the whole way.
When Jackie collected me this evening, the morning’s flurry of snow had given way to the more familiar rain.