Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Kings Cross St Wankcras


It’s official. The staff at St Pancras and King’s Cross stations are horrible. I also think it’s now time for us to start viewing the two stations as entirely different entities; particularly if the ticket offices are no longer linked in any way. Which - I learned today - they're not. Thetrainline.co.uk informs us all that trains to Brighton go from King’s Cross. They don’t. Trains to Brighton go from St Pancras International. It oughtn’t to be a big deal, but if you queue for ten minutes at King’s Cross to buy tickets to Brighton, you don’t neccessarily expect to be sent to Victoria Station (5 miles away) because the chap behind the counter doesn’t know that you can also get a train to Brighton from over the road.

I would hate to have been the bloke in the queue in front of me. Then man serving him was so profoundly rude, it almost took my breath away. The customer’s only mistake was assuming that the £109 he was being charged for a ticket was for two people rather than one, and who can blame him; that there’s anywhere in this country that costs £109 to travel to is outrageous enough. Train travel should, in my view, be much cheaper than petrol. At least two people should need to be sharing a car journey before it becomes a cheaper option than the train. If governments are serious about the environment and the economy, they should be subsidising train travel. It’s safer, greener and much more pleasant.

It felt like we queued forever at St Pancras International. Many of the people standing with us were from mainland Europe, and the standard of service actually made me feel ashamed to be British. One of the counters was specifically for European travel. It had its own fancy sign, but there was no one sitting behind the desk. A man stood waiting for a while, before calling over to the staff member sitting behind the next desk; “Am I standing in the right place?” he asked. The man behind the next door counter nodded. The customer spoke again “well do you know when the person who sits here is coming back?” “Perhaps he’s on lunch. I don't know” “Well, if he were on lunch, how long would he be on lunch for?” The man behind the next door counter shrugged. “Twenty minutes? To be honest, I’ve no idea, really...” The customer stood for a while, blinking in disbelief.

The name of this station is King’s Cross International, not Backwater McFloppy. We’re not in some little village in the Sierra Nevada where even the trains take a siesta.

Still, at least I’m now on my way to Worthing. In the end I had to pay £50 at York Station to get an earlier train to London, which probably wasn’t quite as expensive as it might have been. I told the ticket man that my partner was ill, which wasn’t tempting fate because he’d have assumed that my partner was a woman, and therefore imagined a fictitious person. It’s a warped reasoning for lying, but it works for me.

The dog sitting opposite me on the train is wearing a pink bow in its hair, a little pink heart around its neck, and is sitting on its own special dog blanket with little black paws all over it. “Mummy” has just brushed its hair with a human hair brush. It’s one of those dogs which can’t stop shaking and it was taken out of a special bag in order to be placed, like a tiny shaking queen, on its own seat. Its owners plainly think it’s sweet. It’s not. It’s weird. I’d love to see what would happen if it were left to its own devices in the wild.

A family of Scandinavians are sitting behind me on the train. I know this because they keep saying “et, vor, tre”, which is how an ABBA song begins. They also have white hair. I’d quite like to know how they’d survive in the wild as well. If they keep shouting “et, vor, tre” they’re not going to survive very long in this train carriage!

Here’s a question; why are Nordic people blond and hairless, when Mediterraneans are dark and hairy?  Surely, to survive in arctic conditions, it’s better to be hairy, and vice versa?  Also, doesn’t the sun lighten your hair?

June 12th was considered to be the longest day of the year in Pepys’ time – in fact all the way through 'til 1752 when the matter was re-appraised. Pepys spent the day in the office, by all accounts witnessing a series of increasingly bitter rows between various senior figures in the Navy team. He ate his evening meal at the Dolphin, and was thrilled to have abstained from all alcohol throughout the experience. He returned home and sent his staff to bed whilst it was still light outside, but they were awoken by a note coming from Pepys’ brother, Thomas, bringing the news that their cousin Joyce’s second husband was in town, and intended to come and see them in the morning.

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