Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: trains, planes, buses...

Monday, July 23, 2007

trains, planes, buses...

If Granny has not been much in evidence lately, it's because she's spent much of the past few days on various forms of public transport. Though often enough not transported; more often that not, simply standing still....

Monsoon rains/floods had something to do with it. And no, relatively speaking, she didn't suffer much, wasn't flooded out, let alone drowned, lost no possessions, didn't have to take to the boats, nothing like that, nor did any of her family. She was sorry about the people who weren't so lucky and who had a good deal more to complain about than she and they did. But she was affected, somewhat. On Friday afternoon, after a drizzly morning in Bristol, she got into a bus there. The driver - a woman - apologised for its likelihood of arriving in London a little late; this was Friday afternoon and, besides, the weather wasn't good. Beloved Daughter and eldest granddaughter were to follow in the train a little later.

An hour into the journey - by this time Granny's bus was sitting in a long traffic jam, west of Swindon - her mobile rang - trains all cancelled Beloved Daughter told her; four inches of rain in Swindon; floods on the line; no buses either. She and Eldest Granddaughter were stuck in Bristol. Granny had been lucky, on the other hand. Her bus was the last one out.

Flood wasn't the only problem; fire happened too. Not much later it became clear that this particular traffic jam was caused by a blazing van that sat by the side of the motorway, reducing it to one lane for a while. Further jams ensued; road works etc, weight of traffic, finally more floods on the M4 diverted them off it onto another almost static line of traffic on the A4. Everyone on the bus started talking to everyone else the way people do in these circumstances, passing on information gleaned from others' conversation on their phones, or from the text messages sent them. The little beep beep of texts, the many and varied call tones hardly stopped sounding for a minute. Those who didn't have phones borrowed them - Granny lent hers to someone just across the aisle. At least everyone knew knew what was going on: in pre-mobile days she, they, those meeting them, would have been left in the dark. Telecommunications 1: Global Warming 1: pick whichever side you like. Or stay neutral.

A journey which usually takes just over two hours took five. Granny doesn't know what this did for most of the passengers' plans. She does know that she missed a dinner with all three of her grandchildren, and that the young woman in the seat next to her missed the ballet at Sadler's Wells. Beloved eldest granddaughter still trapped in Bristol next day, she missed the Blue Peter prom with Granny; and London next day being gridlocked for one reason and another, Granny also missed an afternoon with all three grandchildren, having lunch and then going with them and their mothers to the Hayward to see Anthony Gormley's metal men - and the one cut out of, falling through, slices of Mother's Pride bread. Oh and going into the fountain, the one in which if you're careful you don't get wet. But she did spend over an hour in a queue in the rain outside the restaurant where they'd all planned to meet up, underneath the Festival Hall, At least the train Granny took home after that failed meeting worked, though she did have to get out of it at one point and find another. And no, she will repeat, she didn't get flooded out, she barely even got wet. She ought to have been grateful really, despite the disappointments. But she wasn't.

All very disappointing. And now, after another five hours sitting in a plane which missed its departure slot and remained on the tarmac for an hour, she is back on Lanzarote, looking out on grey skies and burnt land, listening to the wind, and aching, if not for the rain, for the astonishing, lively, brilliant greens of her other island; and missing her grandchildren. She's happy to be back with Beloved of course. But not too happy to discover that the new-hatched chick which she hoped would cheer her up turned out to be one-eyed and one-legged and has had to be put down. Will nature ever stop bashing everyone; with a little help from its friends of course - us - if not from God? Good afternoon.

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