Wednesday, 17 June 2015
Bristol diary - part 1. It could be sweet
So I'm heading for Bristol!
I know that little of what I'm going to do over the next few days is out of the ordinary to most people. But, right now, it is to me! (I'm out of practice.)
I have a piece of paper with an online booking reference on it but there's no office at my local railway station. The guard says I can get my physical ticket issued at the connecting one and she reckons the four minutes I have between arrival and departure should be enough. Should be.
...Two stops later I run up what feels like a hundred deep concrete steps to cross the bridge over the tracks, down the other side, more steps up to the ticket office, wait to be served. Hand my paper to a surly-looking girl behind a greasy glass window.
“I've only got four minutes...” I say (not demandingly... more sort of desperately) and by now I've probably already lost three of them.
"It will take as much time as the machine takes to issue it and no faster,” she replies in monotone without smile or understanding and I have to press my face up to the pane to hear, making me feel disadvantaged, like a small child.
“I know...I just meant...”
She says nothing. Maybe she's just having a shit day.
At the same time, the rumble... the elongated squeal of metal brakes... look over my shoulder... aargh, no minutes now, no time to wait for a machine.
“Oh! My train's here!"
Surly girl shrugs, hands me back my papers; I race back down jarring steps and make it into the carriage a split second before the doors close, without a ticket.
I'll spare you more detail but of course it's not straightforward. After much hassle I have to buy a whole new ticket when I get to London, even though I've paid for one online already and have all the proof. Fuck it. Because of this delay I only just catch my Bristol train and I'm flustered as well as out of pocket, so it kind of gets me off to a bad start.
But for now, never mind! My frustrations drop away as we accelerate out of Paddington. I'm on my way now, on my way West, where there are hills! And warm accents where they pronounce all the 'r's! Through Didcot Parkway and Reading stations where huge red kites (the bird, I mean!) circle above the tracks. Onward through Chippenham and then Bath Spa, where the memory of once sleeping in a condemned squat by the railway line resurfaces vividly as we pass boarded up cottages behind overgrown buddleia (I'm sure it's the very same terrace). I disembark at Temple Meads late afternoon. Excited!