I now have a new travel worry.
I have often feared that my very ordinary black suitcase – even with its red ribbon – might be taken by mistake, leaving me as once did happen with someone else’s entirely unsuitable clothes.
Now Matthew Parris has provided me with another anxiety. He wrote recently in an article in the Times that his suitcase – apparently bright yellow to avoid such situations – was not actually stolen as such. It was however opened by some children on the Matlock to Derby train. Woefully unsupervised by their over-relaxed parents they had opened his case and gleefully rifled through his clothes tossing everything out into the carriage.
He discovered his underpants festooned on the luggage racks. Matthew makes light of it but to my mind that could be the ultimate humiliation.
Our latest railway drama was nothing like that, fortunately.
Derby Station is being entirely revamped, with new platforms, new tracks, and new signalling. Progress comes at a price, and East Midland Trains have been meticulous in warning everyone about all the inconveniences such as lines being closed, bus replacements etc.
But however efficient, they couldn’t warn us about the latest blip we experienced one very sunny day recently. John and I were going down to London to see our growing family down there.
Within ten or so minutes of boarding our lovely Matlock-Derby train, we stopped at Ambergate for an unnaturally long time. Peering out of the window we saw our driver standing by a little cupboard type box on the platform, talking animatedly on his mobile phone.
Eventually the conductress came round to explain that there had been an incident on the line out of Derby, where an engine had caught fire. Emergency services were helping passengers to disembark onto the tracks and as a result no trains were running for the foreseeable future.
What to do? Passengers in a hurry rushed off to try to find a bus (unlikely) or hitch a lift (possibly even less likely) and soon there was only John and me left. We sat on the platform in the sun and waited. And waited…Fortunately we didn’t have any deadlines so were quite relaxed.
The lovely train crew rallied round in a most heartwarming fashion. The driver found us a bottle of water from his cab, and the conductress offered to share her lunch. Eventually John overheard her pleading with the powers that be that they had an ‘extremely elderly couple’ who were in urgent need of a taxi to Derby.
A taxi did eventually arrive and we were very efficiently transported to Derby where we were hustled into the 1st Class waiting room and when trains started running we were escorted onto a 1st Class carriage. The rest of the journey passed without hitch, and in some comfort.
And I end with an amusing but absolutely true incident. A couple of weeks ago we had been down to Kent. As we boarded the train taking us to London Victoria John spotted a notice warning that there were no accessible toilets on the train. I reassured him that that must mean no ‘accessible’ loos. The train was crowded, it couldn’t possibly mean simply no loos.
Not so. We soon were informed by public announcement that indeed there were no lavatories at all on the train. If anybody was in serious need, the train would stop at the next station, and would wait while an attendant on the station was found to accompany this poor passenger to the station facilities. We did stop, and we did wait a while but as far as we could tell, no one had had the courage to take up the suggestion.
So, three bits of advice I have taken on board: keep an eye on your luggage at all times, pack with care assuming your case contents might be exposed to one and all, go to the loo before boarding a train…
Never mind worrying that the train might not move at all.