I am back! After two weeks of vacation with no broadband and no laptop, I feel like I have time travelled and returned, back to the future.
Travelling up to North Wales is never fun, but with a tiny baby is quite painful. To be honest, we were lucky, as the baby did not cry or have one of her shit disasters. But, with having to stop and feed every three hours, we took over eight hours to get to my in-laws.
So, being clever, you see...I decided that, actually, it would be faster and easier to go back on the train. You take back the car, I told Husband, and all the heavy stuff; and I will go back on the train, with my mother and the kids. Brave? Or stupid, I hear you think?
Well, why not, I thought. I had my mother with me, I was not alone. Also, I have lived in this country for 11 years! I commuted to and from work; I travelled by trains lots of times. No problemo!
We got to the station in Bangor and the fun started. Our coach was coach K. With nobody on the platform to ask, we had to listen to the announcements and plan to position ourselves close enough to the right coach so we would have the time to board with: a pushchair, an older child, a small but inexplicably heavy suitcase, and two bags full of treats, colouring pens, a Nintendo DS (+ 5 games) wipes and cardigans. The trains in the UK do not mess about. You might get two minutes to board, not much longer. You take the bags I said to my mother, I get on and you pass me the pushchair....we planned everything in advance and finally found where to stand for the coach K, which, just for fun, was at the very front of the train and not at the back as any logic would suggest.
Once on the train, I hesitated. I did see the letter K from outside, but for some reason, once I was inside the train, I was confused which way to turn. So I went to the right. Walking through the connecting...whatever those are called?- bits in between the coaches, I realized my mother was taking an awfully long time to catch up with us. She finally made it through, looking completely stressed out and sweaty. 'I think!', she shouted, 'the coach K is on the other side'
Okay, I said and we turned around, pushing through with the heavy pushchair with the sleeping baby, the bags and the older child....This time my mother was in front of me and to my horror, I noticed that, instead of pushing the button to release the automatic door, my mother was trying to prise the doors open with her hands. Mama! -I exclaimed- Push the button!
The buttons were not hidden. In fact, they had bright yellow light shining invitingly through them. But to my mum, using brutal force made more sense. No wonder she was looking exhausted, and took so long to catch up with us.
After 2,5 hrs of relatively peaceful journey, we needed to change to another train. I already had a bad feeling about this part as, according to my itinerary, we only had 12 minutes to change the trains. I was, however, assured by family members that the connecting train was on the same platform. Just cross it and it will be on the other side, they said.
I decided to use the toilet in advance. Just in case. Walking through from one carriage to another, I knew there were there somewhere. But I simply could not see them. I made my way through a few carriages and back, until I finally realized that the toilets were carefully designed into a curved wall that looked like... well, just a curved wall. There were no handles or obvious signs. Just a small drawing of a lady changing a baby and another button to push. Inside, it was all about buttons. A button to close the curved door, a button to lock it...
'Don’t even try,' I told my mother who was planning to visit the loos after me. 'Honestly. Someone will catch you with your pants down as you will probably not find the way to look the door. That is if you are lucky enough to even find the toilets to start with!'
Mother decided she did not need to go after all.
But the worst part was still to come. The first train, despite all the clever buttons, was of course, running late. You have to remember we are still in the UK, after all. I stood at the door counting minutes. Please! I thought, hurry! And then- of course!-the connecting train was not leaving from the opposite platform. I did not know where the hell it was leaving from. All I knew was that I had no time left. Neither did I know the final destination of the train, which made the electronic boards with train times and platforms pointless. I had my suspicion, based on the departure time alone, that the train we needed was leaving from a platform far, far away. But it might not have been the right train. One thing that would be worse than missing our train was getting on the wrong train.
The rest was all a blur. I saw the information button. I pressed it. it took a while for a man with a heavy Indian accent to answer. Please I begged trying not to sound hysterical. What platform do I need for the 17:13 train to Watford Junction? He only confirmed my suspicions. I had to run up the endless stairs across the bridge and down to another platform. All in less than 3 minutes. And so we ran. My mother, terrified at the sight of me running with the pushchair, kept up behind me with the bags and the suitcase, shouting at me to slow down and be careful, until I lost it and shouted back. And before you ask, yes I know they had lifts. But I had no time to find them.
We made it just seconds before the train took off. Our hair messed up, faces sweaty, and, as we say, hearts beating in our throats, we collapsed on seats. Considering that we did manage to get back, the baby never cried even once, the older child did not get lost on the way, and the pushchair arrived in one piece....I felt that the journey went pretty well. But let me tell you.