Friday, December 5, 2008

Wrong Platform

This is the picture looking across the train tracks in the Oxford station. I'm supposed to be sitting on the other side, but when I took this photo, I didn't know that.

From the moment I looked at the train board, I didn't feel quite right about my 9:55 train. I'm a nervous Nellie whenever I travel, which is well established at 35,000 feet. Mr. Ativan and Mrs. Stoli generally fly with me, but I don't usually take them with me on trains. My fears amass slowly, organizing into a storm of low level panic (all in my head, you'd never know I'm the crazy lady on the platform) around where the wrong train or plane or bus might go with me on it as prisoner. I might end up in a remote part of England and there would be no stops ever and I'll never see my family again and I'll run out of money and live on the streets. I call it negative magical thinking. I'm very full of it when I travel. I don't imagine the average worst. I invent outrageous new worst.

My issue this morning: I didn't know there were two 9:55am trains. I see one listed to arrive at platform 2. I go to platform 2 but I know that's wrong for Didcot Parkway. All the trains on platform 2 go the opposite way from Didcot. The announcement for the train on platform 1, which includes a stop at Didcot, repeats several times as if it's trying to snap me out of my conviction about platform 2. It does a little, as I think to myself maybe I should just go take that train. Still I sit at platform 2 until a train arrives. I say to the conductor, "Does this stop at Didcot?", knowing full well it can't possibly unless somebody's going to manually carry the engine around to drive the train back the way it came. And yet I ask. He's confused by the question. "We just left Didcot," he says. I sprint up the steps, across the footbridge, down the other steps and leap onto the other train at platform 1, the train I should have been on all along. I think to myself, "Did everyone on this train just see me sitting across the tracks a minute ago?" I make no eye contact with anyone.

I was, in the end, safely delivered to Bath Spa for its annual Christmas Market, one of the best in England they claim. Sadly, though, the combination of suitcase restrictions and preparation for leaving in six weeks stymied my usual buying patterns.

Daft singer but oh so jolly

Lots of people, needed a break. Took a walk out of the tourist area and up the hill. If you're familiar with Jane Austen, you know several of her books are set in Bath. So, having seen Persuasion just this week on the Beeb, I headed for the familiar circus where Ann frantically runs in search of hottie Captain Wentworth to accept his proposal. Made me swoon just taking the picture.

I climb higher...Bath from the top of the hill, or nearly. In the old days, the higher up the hill you lived, the richer you were. I KNOW they took carriages because there is no way a woman in a corset would have the wind to climb this hill.

From Above

On the way down

An hour walk around the town then back to the market to buy the few things I'll carry home. A choir singing Christmas carols in the market.

It's a good time to call it a day. Starting to sprinkle a little bit. A rainbow says "take the 2:43 and change in Didcot".

On the train home, I pass green countryside. You wouldn't know it's winter except the sun is setting at 3:30pm.

Home to the cozy, Christmasy house and a nice martini. When Ally saw my decorative efforts, she said, "Mom, get a friend."


  1. I miss you and all, but can I nevertheless pay you to stay in England and post? I'll contribute $2 per day. (Times are tough.) I'm sure there are others...

    I totally enjoyed your account of this day. So often, SO OFTEN I think I get it all right and then it turns out that I have missed a crucial detail -- like, this is a bank holiday (whatever the hell that is) and so the schedule does not apply.

    Do relax. Your family will find you. You'll never starve. (Just don't forget the pin number on your ATM card.)

    Great Christmas decos! You pack in a lot!

  2. Hi Chip and Julie...
    Julie, I have to tell you that I really enjoy reading your blog!! You are a great writer and your family has had amazing adventures and travel while you are there! You guys are certainly taking advantage of all the amazing places to go and things to see! I always laugh at the stories about your girls...they are such teenagers! :0) Have a wonderful Christmas!! Judy Pilcher