Thursday, October 28, 2004
The train home from work normally takes between 12 and 22 minutes, depending on whether I catch the 1722 (straight to Dawlish) or the 1727 (stops everywhere). Last night I left work just after quarter past five and ran to the train station, afraid I was going to miss the 1722 and end up having to wait for the 1756. I did have to wait, but not until 1756.
The 1722 arrived at 1741 or thereabouts, just after the 1727 had arrived on the other platform. They let us through first (they always do, because it’s a faster train – it’s often a gamble deciding which train to get, the safely arrived 1727 or the delayed 1722, which they often allow to pass the other train just before Dawlish) even if it’s departed Exeter 10 or more minutes after the 1727), and we trundled to Dawlish Warren. I knew the weather was bad because on the way to work a load of seawater had been dumped on my bag through the vent in ceiling of the train when a wave hit us., and I suspected the train might take it’s time traversing the sea wall. High tide was due at about 1840, so it was bound to be touch-and-go. If they just stopped at Dawlish Warren I could phone my dad or girlfriend and get them to come and fetch me, drive me the two miles or so from the Warren to home rather than having to endure a cramped train carriage being battered and buffeted by the engorged, enraged sea. But the train pulled some 50 yards past Dawlish Warren platform, and stopped. And remained stopped. For half an hour or more. So we sat there, being told nothing more than that the line down the sea wall being checked for safety and we were awaiting permission to use it. A guy I know phoned his brother and got him to go to Dawlish station and find out what was going on. I gather he couldn’t actually get to Dawlish station, because the whole of the sea front was flooded.
Finally, at half past six they announced they were going to take us back to Exeter and arrange coaches. I hoped and prayed they’d stop at Dawlish Warren, even Starcross, to allow people who had been travelling to Dawlish and Teignmouth to get off and seek alternative transport, lifts, local buses, taxis even. People (myself included) were standing this note in italics goes out to anyone who takes up two seats on a train to themselves because they are a sleeping student or a pig-headed businessman or an ignorant fuck of any other creed or vocation [little old ladies excepted] and leaves other people standing because your bag or feet or laptop is more important than another human being – YOU ARE SCUM, YOU ARE THE EXCREMENT ON THE SHOES OF HUMANITY, I HOPE YOU DIE IN YOUR SLEEP YOU SELFISH, INSENSITIVE, BAD-MANNERED FUCKS – end italics and the train was hot, cramped, and tense. A claustrophobic old lady said she felt faint. I opened the window nearest to me and got a couple of other people to open windows near them too.
They didn’t stop at Dawlish Warren, only fifty yards away, or Starcross, another mile or two up the line. They trundled us all the way back to Exeter. I phoned my dad and got him to drive to the station, knowing there’d be hundreds of people and not enough buses and not wanting to suffer the stress. It took him twice as long as it would normally take, because of flooding in Starcross and Dawlish. I went to the pub across the road from Exeter St Davids and necked two pints of Guinness.
I finally got home after 8pm.
10/28/2004 08:37:00 am