2nd May 2015 – Home to Stranraer: 259 mls, 8 hrs
There are some advantages to travelling First Class and I was hoping to be able to use a FC lounge in Piccadilly station. Unfortunately, it was only available to Virgin Train passengers, so my First Trans Pennine ticket was useless. I sat rather forlornly on one of the chairs overlooking the concourse and whiled away some of the time before my train was due. I’d learned on a previous visit to Piccadilly that buying anything in the station itself was equivalent to being mugged by a particularly brutal assailant, so I kept my money in my pocket and watched the people go by.
My train was leaving from Platform 14, which is a day walk in its own right, from the main concourse, so I left my eyrie in plenty of time and walked slowly through the masses. The station was absolutely heaving, filled with all sorts of people.
One guy with a large dog was shouting at the top of his voice, at everyone that came within his personal space. An uncontested circle of free space followed him around the concourse as he wandered here and there shouting about the people who had stolen his computer. I saw him again a few minutes later, in handcuffs, being escorted from the station by three police constables. One of them leading his obviously embarrassed dog on a lead.
The Carlisle train was on time, the platform was jammed but the First Class coach was mercifully empty, a small oasis of calm amongst the throng of people standing in the other carriages. My advance ticket had paid for itself immediately, despite the initial disappointment of the FC lounge. We select few were provided with hot drinks and snacks and I watched the scenery scroll by the window.
At Preston the peace of the carriage was shattered by two very drunken blokes. I half expected them to be chancing their arm in First Class and anticipated their ejection as soon as the conductor arrived. Unfortunately, a First Class ticket may buy you extra legroom and give you access to the drinks trolley, but it doesn’t guarantee considerate company. The two guys had tickets to be here and they lived it up. Several cans of lager were produced, a full litre bottle of vodka and a radio. The radio played solidly from Preston to Carlisle and the guys got drunker and drunker. They were on their way to Glasgow apparently and I thanked my stars that I wasn’t going to have to share a replacement bus with them for the next 3 hours.
At Carlisle they poured out of the carriage and I headed into town for a look around. I had an hour to kill before the train to Dumfries. Carlisle United were obviously hosting a home game today as the town was thick with police and large groups of men being escorted by them.
The train to Dumfries was also very busy, full of families with small children, normally a potential for lots of screaming and bad behaviour but it was actually better than the previous journey with the obnoxious Glaswegians. Each progressive station had become more rural, with fewer facilities and fewer people each time and Dumfries also had a man being violently and incredibly sick in the toilets, which I had to use in advance of the two and a half hour bus journey that was to follow. I’ve never heard anyone sounds as sick as this guy, he was chucking up a lung by the sound of it. I scarpered as quickly as nature allowed.
It was a case of Swings and Roundabouts on the long bus journey to Stranraer. I got a seat on the back row, the ones with extra legroom but the ones that sit over the noisy diesel engine and tend to swing more as the bus makes it turns. It brought back memories of coach trips from school. It was always the naughty kids who sat at the back and even if you got there before them they’d just kick you out once they arrived. I wasn’t a naughty kid at school, so it made a nice change. The coach was empty as it left Dumfries station, apart from me and two other passengers, but at the stop in the town centre it filled rapidly and I was joined on the back seat by a lad with a well behaved but brutal looking dog. I bet he always travelled on the back row on his school trips.
The bus journey was a pretty bleak experience. A rattling emergency door by my right shoulder, a gap in the door that let the cold air in and a generally slow and tedious drive meant it dragged and dragged. It stopped 30 times at least often leaving the main road to divert to little villages. We eventually pulled into Stranraer though and I found my B&B easily enough. This was my third B&B the first one I’d booked had moved me to a second after the opportunity to attend a party had arisen and the second had moved me, only yesterday, to a third. It’s actually OK though.
The rain had arrived and the wind was cold and miserable as I walked back into town for a chippy tea and a quick shop for tomorrow’s lunch in the Tesco Express. I hope it doesn’t get any worse tomorrow.