This is basically how I headed off for a long weekend in Devon, and ended up in a stranger's bed in Winchester

21 Jun 2016

Travel gone wrong

My first post after I got back from a long weekend in Dartmouth, Devon (check out my Instagram for a sneak preview) was supposed to be something Dartmouth-related.  I’ve been so many times now that I thought, after this visit, I could probably offer you my expert opinion on things to do/eat if you fancied moseying on down to that sexy little town on the Devonshire coast. Which you totally should cos it’s such a little gem. Whilst that post is definitely still coming your way, there’s another issue I need to tackle first.

The journey. 

Which, as the title of this post suggests, could not have gone more wrong if I’d tried. So strap in and get yourself a drink. This will be, I’m sure, a lengthy blog post but I am getting this sorry tale out of my system.

I was feeling pretty on it. Like, damn girl you got this life thing sussed on it. My achievements of the day included overcoming the dodgy tummy that I'd woken up with, going to my first trustee meeting (yes I'm a trustee, let's deal with that one on another day), successfully parallel parking for the first time since I passed my driving test (a skill I did need after all), packing and getting to the station for my long weekend on time. I even had enough spare minutes to buy myself a cheeky slice of pecan pie from The Pudding Stop mobile to accompany my already packed pasta pesto for the evening's train journey.

Aw yeah.

Train into London, tube to Paddington and bam, arrived with 20 minutes until my train. Perfect amount of time for grabbing a banana milkshake from maccy D's and finding my seat on the train. I had plans of catching up on The Graham Norton Show and doing a spot of studying during the 3 hour journey.

Tube doors open, pop up the escalator, through the ticket barrier and...

Um why is half of London standing in my way?

Oh that would be because a train has derailed just outside of Paddington and brought the overhead wires, a few clouds and my hopes&dreams down with it.

All trains in and out of Paddington station are cancelled, there are three fire engines and passengers are losing their shit.


I battle my way to the front of the Glastonbury-style crowd and try and communicate with the guy stood at the barriers they've put in place to stop people heading into the main part of the station. He refuses to make eye contact and continuously shouts that we should all head to Ealing Broadway. Like, everyone. All of us. Just pop on a train to Ealing Broadway guys; that'll make all your troubles fly away.

I whip out my phone (lol, try fumbling around and dropping my bags everywhere) to try and look up whether I should actually wander on down to Ealing Broadway whilst wondering where the F Ealing Broadway actually is. Only the Internet ain't playing ball.

FFS 3G, now is not the time for one of your spoiled tantrums.

I ring G, who is already on a train to Devon. After some back and forth, G finds out that you can get trains to Reading from Ealing Broadway, and I can change at Reading to get on a train to Devon. Fine.

So me and the gang (aka the majority of the London population) head to Ealing Broadway.

Hashtag adventure.

It all gets kinda exciting; I read a tube map for the first time in my life (ya see TFL, I don't need your journey planner) and I make friends with a weary middle-aged couple on the platform. I say make friends; I end up standing behind them and the woman suddenly decides that I, apparently, am more trustworthy than her husband which, let’s face it, is kinda awks. She doesn't seem to believe that the best route to Ealing Broadway is to change at Notting Hill until I have repeated it.

Really, this should have been my first alarm bell that things we're not going to work out okay. The barriers had broken down; Londoners were talking to one another. Very bad sign. 

The journey to the promised land of Ealing Broadway was kinda sweaty so we'll move on from that one quickly.

Once I arrived, there were two signs that this was not going to be the place that would allow us to escape from what was rapidly becoming the journey from hell.

Sign number 1: There were dangerous amounts of people on the platform and they didn't seem to be going anywhere. Certainly not to Reading.

Sign number 2: There was a guy threatening to bite another guys nose off. For real.

But the main indication came from a woman pushing her way through the crowds, in the opposite direction back towards the tube, shouting 'if you're looking for a train to Reading, I wouldn't fucking bother.'

Oh lovely.

Rumours began circulating amongst the crowd as we all stood on a platform unmoving, wondering if this was our life now.

Apparently there are no trains to Reading from here. 

The station staff don't understand why we've all been sent here. 

I heard that Richmond is the place to go. 

Richmond it is then.

Based on a conversation I overheard in the crowd, and no actual genuine advice from rail staff, I decide I'm off to Richmond. I no longer trust rail staff; they were the ones that told us all to go to Ealing Broadway... Where there were approximately 0 trains. It's every gal for herself now.

I consult with G, and then squeeze on to another tube to Richmond during which I spend 24 minutes making friends with a Welsh family trying to get back to Cardiff. One assumes they never made it.

I also spend those 24 minutes contemplating three thoughts:

1) G is half way to Devon.
2) I have the key to the flat we're staying in.
3) There is a very real possibility that I am now going to miss the last train from Reading.

It was a cheery, Welsh accent-filled journey.

The Richmond rumours were true cos the other half of London's population have decided to join us there. Cor this is turning into one hell of a party.

You know, if parties involved rumours that the tube is now also down so you can't even try and turn round and go home, and physical and verbal fights breaking out between passengers and station staff, and the sheer panic on staff member's faces when they realise that they cannot control the amount of people on the platform.

Oh they were also telling us that trains to Reading were too packed and there wasn't a hope in hell we'd get on them.

Sorry, did I say party?

I meant the apocalypse. This is turning into the apocalypse.

So I do the two things we should all do in a crisis. I call my mum and I make some friends. Although not with the guy who awkwardly asked me if I wanted to share a cab to Reading, but not any of the other people we were stood in a crowd with.

Um, I'm alright thanks matey.

I call my mum first, mainly just to ask if there is a spare key to the flat with a neighbour or something, for G (there isn't), but naturally she becomes embroiled in my current crisis and, two seconds later, so does my step-dad.

What the hell are you doing in bloody Richmond?!

Good question folks.

Luckily for me, my step-dad is one of the most think-on-your-feet people I know and within seconds he is throwing options at me like no body's business. As I seem to have lost the inability to make a decision, I follow his instructions to get to the opposite platform and get to Waterloo - where I may be able to get on one of the Reading-bound trains before they fill up. It is here, after pushing my way through approximately 8 million people and getting to the empty platform opposite, that I make my new friend. He’s rail staff, has a south London accent and immediately starts calling me 'babes'. I could tell that we were gonna bond.

'Babes,' he says 'don't go to Reading. They're now saying that ALL trains out of Reading are cancelled.'

This just gets better and better.

He also starts telling his colleague my sorry story... My girl here is trying to get to Devon!

I am not entirely sure how I've become 'his' girl in the space of two minutes but I decide to roll with it.

It is around this point that I remember that my sister lives half an hour from Reading, so maybe if I can just get that far, I can continue the rest of my journey in the morning. My pal thinks I should just go home (how, exactly?) but it is now nearly 3 and a half hours since I left the house; I am fucking getting somewhere.

So I get on that train to Waterloo and tell my step-dad my new plan. He takes it in his stride.

Get off at Clapham Junction; you can get a direct train to Winchester from there.

So I do. I stand at Clapham Junction for half an hour during which my rents find and book G a last minute hotel, I direct G to said hotel (you had to check in by half 10, he got there at 27 minutes past) and I call my sister to inform her that I am going to show up at her house at 11 at night.

Then I sit on a train heading towards Southampton, eating my pasta pesto and wondering what the fuck happened.

Until the ticket guy shows up.

Bugger. In all the madness, I hadn't even considered I’d need a ticket to Winchester. 

Do I go for a conveniently-timed loo trip or try and explain the past few hours to him, possibly with a few tears?

I opt for the loo. We can save weepy girl as a back-up if he comes back for round two.

It is as I sit on my suitcase, staring down the toilet, swaying back and forth and breathing in the smell of piss that I seriously re-consider my life choices.

I am 24 years old and hiding in a fucking train toilet. I can't believe I thought I had life sussed just a few short hours ago.


Anyway, I made it to Winchester without receiving a fine or having some kind of breakdown.

My phone dies just as I arrive so I am forced to wander the dark streets of Winchester and try and remember where my sister's house is but, quite frankly, I am totally un-phased by this point. I'll just start screaming her name if I have to (note; I didn't actually sink this low).

I eventually see her standing on her doorstep looking out for me. She takes me up to her housemate’s room (who is away) to put my stuff in and then takes me to the bathroom cos she needs to show me the 'Danger' sign. This was a shit load of tape on the floor marking the area you shouldn't step on cos the wood is rotten and you'll probs fall through the floor and meet a tragic end. Obvs; dunno what else you thought it would be.

She then tucks me into her housemate's bed and gives me the wifi password like the little babe she is. Just before she leaves the room she says;

'Oh, if you hear something on the roof; don't worry, it's just the cat. He might come in through the window.'

'Didn't know you had a cat?'

'We don't'.