Category Archives: Railway

The nightmare effect of travelling on too many Thameslink trains – beetroot

I very rarely remember my dreams but I woke up during one this morning.

I was working, freelance, for a TV company and, during the lunch hour, I had to go to hospital where one of the treatments was to put beetroot on my stomach.

Next, I was scheduled to see the oncologist, but I could not remember the name of the person I was working for to phone and tell them I would not be back after lunch and someone had, as a joke, tattooed the bottom half of both my legs while I was asleep during the beetroot treatment.

This is what happens when you have to travel four times on a Sunday during a Bank Holiday weekend on the anarchic rail service Govia Thameslink – as I did yesterday – it turns your head into a gooey mess.

The beetroot was not even edible.

It was a nightmare.

The journeys not the dream.


‪Happy Thameslink passengers enjoying the relaxed holiday atmosphere on one of the tranquil platforms at St Pancras station in London, untroubled by trains.‬


Filed under Dreams, Railway, Trains, Travel

I fleetingly half-understand how to use Twitter, but East Coast Trains in the UK are still a technological disaster area

Random visual plug for my Fringe show

Random visual plug for my chat show at Bob’s Bookshop

I have just about got the hang of using Facebook, but I have not yet got the hang of using Twitter. It seems to work on the basis of short, inconsequential conversations with people who wander into the Twittersphere.

But yesterday, for a very brief time, I think I half understood it.

I made a day trip from London to Edinburgh and back, to see what will become Bob’s Bookshop – the venue my Edinburgh Fringe chat show is being held in.

I think intimate is the word.

Rather than drive up, taking about 16 hours (return) when I would be able to do nothing else, I got a train up, taking around 10 hours at around half the cost of the petrol. This meant (I thought) I could use my computer.

But the techno-anarchy on the currently government-run East Coast Trains became distracting. These are some of a series of Tweets:

– I am currently travelling in an East Coast train from London to Edinburgh which has two carriages where the heating can’t be turned off…
…‘Luckily’ I am in a carriage where the only problem is the power sockets don’t work and the internet connection is as fast as…
…three dead dodos floating in syrup. Welcome to 21st century rail travel on Britain’s East Coast…

This elicited a reply from Aaron Weight of Xtreme Productions:

– Wow, as fast as that? You obviously don’t frequent train services by Greater Anglia!

To which, as someone who has lived and worked in Norwich, I had to reply:

– They have trains in East Anglia now???

and Aaron replied:

–  Apparently, though I’m still waiting for them to turn up

Comedian Del Strain then cheered me up with:

– Oh dont worry you will be freezing in a few hours.

which developed into this exchange:

JF – I feel I have stumbled into a below-par episode of Doctor Who

DEL – Tom Baker not in it, I’d say – More McCoy then  🙂

JF – Dr McCoy from Star Trek, yes… It’s life, but not as we know it…

There was then a loudspeaker announcement telling us that our carriage had no power in the electricity sockets. Then there was another loudspeaker announcement and I Tweeted …

– They appear to be now evacuating one of the coaches

After a minute or so, something else happened and I Tweeted:

– A loudspeaker announcement throughout the train has now said: “Is it just me, or is it odd?” That was whole announcement.

After a minute or so and another burst of sound from the loudspeaker, I then Tweeted:

– We have now had 20 second burst of loud disco music and a voice in panic saying: “Carriage C is not working!”

The wheels turn but the electricity and WiFi stall

Wheels turn on the East Coast but the electricity & WiFi stall

At this point, Bex Lindsay Tweeted:

– I use East Coast all the time, so your tweets are sadly ringing many bells. Hope you get to Ed soon!

I replied:

– 3rd time I’ve travelled on @eastcoastuk in last 3 months and 3rd time power sockets don’t work
… Two young Japanese opposite me can’t understand concept of sockets with no power and look as if they think it’s a joke by Brits

Bex responded:

– Ah, the British. Well known for the royal family, red buses, and pointless electricity sockets.

I Tweeted:

– I feel a blog coming on. I just need a naked man to run through the carriage with balloons…
… I fear East Coast are developing a sitcom pitch for Sky and are trialing it on us…
… Still needs a naked man with balloons to run through carriage, but we’re only at Durham, so…

In lieu of any streakers, I gave up Tweeting at this point but, about 15 minutes later, five slightly drunk women with spray-on tans and Liverpudlian accents, dressed as if for a hen party (and one wearing a short bridal veil), glided into our carriage – refugees from one of the over-heated carriages. Each of them had a glass of champagne in her hand.

“Sorry, luv,” one said, sitting down opposite me, ”it’s hotter than a fire fight in Syria in the next carriage.”

By now I had reverted to one-to-one text messaging, which I understand more than Tweeting.

MacBook near dead, I texted ahead to Edinburgh. iPhone 35%. iPad OK. Train sockets all dead. Woe is me.

Later, I discovered I had a new Twitter follower, one Caroline Hicks.

Who is she? I thought.

I looked her up and she is a “Wireless Networks & VSAT Researcher” – I found these Tweets from her yesterday…

– On train to Newcastle in carriage with broken air con. @eastcoastuk Giving away tiny bottles of free H2O does not make this okay, FYI…
… Am also trying to buy WiFi from @eastcoastuk. 25 mins later, still can’t pay as only country option avail for my address is Afghanistan.
@eastcoastuk Given that I could fly to Spain return 4 the £ you charge to get to Newcastle, unimpressed.
… Have paid £9.95 for a service that doesn’t work.

It sounds like I was comparatively lucky on my trip yesterday.

When I arrived in Edinburgh, I had a drink with comedian Juliette Burton. Her first question was: “Were there any hen or stag parties on the train?”

She often travels on the route and tells me hen and stag groups often join the train at Peterborough, getting off at Newcastle, presumably to go wild. Then other hen and stag parties get on at Newcastle to go to Edinburgh. She gave me the impression she thought the hen and stag parties heading from Newcastle to Edinburgh are slightly classier.

As we crossed the Royal Mile, I saw the group of Liverpudlian women from the train buying what appeared to be sausages from a stall. One was still wearing her short bridal veil. I was mystified by the fact sausages were being sold in the Royal Mile from a stall.

“Princess Anne is visiting Edinburgh today,” Juliette told me.

“If you spot her,” I said, “ask her if she’ll do a chat for my blog.”

I have heard nothing back yet.

Miraculously, both the power sockets and the very slow WiFi worked on the return trip to London. It must have been an error.

I have a feeling the two young Japanese men who had sat opposite me on the journey up to Edinburgh probably still think it was a joke on them by the wacky Brits.

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Filed under Railway, Twitter, UK