Sometimes you have a great day, one full of excitement and productivity, meeting awesome people and coming up with awesome ideas.
Then something happens that sets off a string of events that whilst mostly unconnected just seem to compound from one to the other.
Yesterday was just such a day for me.
It all started out as a trip to Brighton with my friend and founder of the Wyntercon Comic Con, Andy Kybett. We were off to meet up with one of our art exhibitors, Victoria Gugenheim, a world renowned body artist to discuss her appearance at Wyntercon this year.
This meeting was extremely productive, spawning a few great ideas between the three of us.
The time came for our second meeting, this time with comic book legend Dez Skinn. Dez has become a very good friend of late so up to The Hop & Vine, a pub near his home, we travel to enjoy a evenings conversation about Wyntercon and all manner of topics.
The time comes when it’s time to part ways for home, and after a very productive day for Wyntercon, we order a taxi to whisk us back to Brighton Train Station — This is where the evening started to go wrong.
I call for a taxi to pick us up by the taxi rank by The Hop & Vine. “No problem” I’m told by the friendly operator, “That’ll be five minutes”. Great, we will make our train and be home soon.
Dez, Andy and I wrap up our conversation while sitting outside The Hop & Vine. A taxi turns up, Andy and I give Dez a hug to say bye, turn around to head to the taxi, and…
In the fifteen seconds we said goodbye to Dez, it had driven off. Too impatient to wait that moment when friends depart, the driver decided they had better things to do than wait fifteen seconds.
I call the taxi company to ‘enquire’ as to where our taxi is. I spoke to a different yet equally friendly operator. This is how the conversation went.
“Where did you order it from?”
“The taxi rank by The Hop & Vine.”
“Ahhh, we don’t send taxis to taxi ranks, you can only catch a taxi from there.”
“I was using it as an indicator of location, there have been no taxis there for ages.”
“We don’t send taxis to taxi ranks sir, you can only catch taxis that are waiting there.”
“But I was only using it as an indicator of our location.”
“Well a taxi wouldn’t have been sent out to a taxi rank for you.”
Now at this point dear reader you and I know full well a taxi turned up, but they went on their merry way — Grrrrrrrrrrrr…
“Ok, please can you send a taxi out to us?”
“Sure where are you?”
I breathe a silent sigh of exasperation…
“We are outside The Hop & Vine.”
“Next to the taxi rank?
I KID YOU NOT, THIS WAS THE EXACT QUESTION I WAS ASKED.
“Ok, it’ll be about five minutes.”
Finally the taxi arrives, Andy and I leap in like ninja gazelles to ensure it leaves with us inside.
The Train — Act 1
We arrive at Brighton station, leap out of the taxi and see our train the 20:30 to Eastbourne, pulling away from the platform.
A quick check of times lets us know that there is another train home at 21:04. A change of trains at Lewes for 21:23 is the only caveat to that journey but that’s not so bad — we’ll be back at Hampden Park by 21:43.
Hunger starts to creep in and Andy suggests a Spanish Omelette from a cafe VERY local to Brighton train station.
Two omelettes are ordered, Andy chooses to have black pudding in his. I immediately copy his style — Black pudding at this time of the evening sound just right.
Our take away food arrives and we make our way back to the station to board our train. The portion of chips are consumed first while we are sat on the train, next we move to the omelette only to find they have omitted the black pudding.
This is a BIG DEAL! Black pudding was ordered and expected but it’s not too late to go back and get some as it’s approaching 21:04.
The Train — Act 2
Finally, we are on our way home, the train has left Brighton, bang on time; thank you Southern Rail (you will rarely hear that). Our first stop is London Road, only two minutes from Brighton. Soon we will be in Lewes, awaiting our final train home.
But the train doesn’t pull away after the doors have closed. Andy and I don’t really notice this as we have our omelettes (sans black pudding) to eat.
A disembodied voice makes itself known, it’s our train driver.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We apologise for the short delay, we currently have a problem with the doors not shutting correctly. We are working to fix this and will update you as soon as we know more. Thank you.”
It’s now 21:10. Best case scenario, train leaves now and we have thirteen minutes to get to Lewes, this is possible.
The Driver is walking up and down the train, examining doors. I’m thinking the same as every other passenger, “Just drive and tell people to stay away from the doors”.
21:13 — Still at London Road.
21:16 — Omelettes are finished — Still at London Road.
21:20 — Now two staff are trying to work out what’s happened — Still at London Road.
21:22 — We are probably not going to make the change.
21:23 — We are not going to make the change.
21:28 — THE TRAIN MOVES OFF.
Finally, we are moving again, however we have missed out connection and the was NO explanation as was promised as to what happened — Grrrrrr.
We arrive at Lewes and are told by staff that there is a train arriving for Eastbourne in nine minutes, platform 1.
I look up at the information board and see that there is no train arriving on platform 1 in nine minutes.
“Are you sure?” I ask. “Yes, absolutely.”
Over to Platform 1 we trot, Andy, myself a very drunk group of people who had been to the Goodwood races, and other assorted folk who have been let down by Southern.
After seven minutes the staff member comes over to platform 1 to let us know that there is going to be no train coming.
“I’m sorry sir, the train due to arrive was a phantom train.”
“What the heck is a phantom train?”
“It’s when our computer system thinks there is a train on the tracks but there isn’t.”
Now that sounds REALLY dangerous to me, but could explain all the cancelled Southern trains, phantom trains on the track preventing real trains actually carrying people. Or phantom trains are how they keep their cancellation rate artificially only bad instead of disastrous.
Finally a train arrives on platform 1 — and it’s a real train, with real doors and real passengers. This train has to travel into Eastbourne before travelling back out and stopping at Hampden Park, but it’s a train taking us home.
As we pull into Eastbourne station, platform 1, there is another train sat at platform 2 ready to depart to London Victoria. The LED signs on the train are telling us all the stops the train will be making. It’s first stop, Hampden Park — exactly where we need to go, but of course, our train will be pulling out shortly to take us there first.
Two minutes later, the London Victoria Train pull out of Eastbourne station leaving us sat on our train, all alone. In three minutes that train will be at Hampden Park.
Another fifteen minutes pass with us just sat on the train, waiting, wondering when we would move. That fifteen minutes felt like weeks. We just wanted to get home.
Why did no one say, “Hey dudes, you’ve had a shitty journey so far, just hop on over to that train and you’ll be home in a jiffy.”
FINALLY we are off. Three minutes later we arrive in Hampden Park, we get off the train, I walk Andy to his house (my motorbike is there waiting to be ridden home). I pop in briefly to say hi to Andy’s wife and new puppy. Finally I fire up my Honda Shadow (It’s gorgeous) and make my way home.
Until I run out of fuel around a mile from Andy’s house, and a mile form my house.
The Motorbike. (This one is my fault)
The time — 22:55.
I call the local Sainsbury’s it’s only half a mile away and flat ground, but their fuel station shuts at 23:00 and they have no Pay at Pump.
NO PAY AT PUMP — THIS IS 2016 FFS, NOT THE STONE AGE WHY DON’T YOU HAVE PAY AT PUMP — ANIMALS.
I call Andy to ask if he knows if Morrisons (only half a mile away and again, flat ground) pay at pump facility is available even if the main fuel station is shut. Sadly, he knows that all the pumps are turned off at 22:00
FFS MORRISONS, ITS 2016 AND YOU HAVE PAY AT PUMP, WHY CAN’T THOSE BE OPEN 24/7. ASDA CAN MANAGE IT, AND ASDA IS SHIT — ANIMALS.
The only choice left to me is to push my motorbike to the next closest fuel station Esso, opposite our main hospital, one and a half miles away, uphill. with a broken toe.
I hadn’t mentioned that before as it wasn’t really important. Right at this moment it was freaking important though.
I start to push, once the bike is rolling it’s not too bad, but it’s a low motorbike.
Cars pass me numerous times, even though it’s late, it seems so busy, not one stops. In all honesty, I wouldn’t stop for me either.
My left arm cramps up after a while, my calves start to cramp up too — but I’m halfway there, I’m tired, it’s late, I’m wearing a kilt and pushing a kick ass cruiser along the road.
Nothing is going to stop me.
Until I get to here.
There is one of those sets of railings designed to stop motorbikes from taking a shortcut.
But I’m not adding another mile onto my journey, no freaking way. I take a deep breath and enter the maelstrom.
It takes all my strength and two minutes of heaving the back of the bike about, but I freaking did it.
That alone, on that evening was my crowning glory — and there was no one to see it.
Only half a mile to go. It’s so warm, even in my kilt. I’m sweating, I’m in pain, I’m tired, but I’m so so close.
I’m half a minute away from the fuel station, its neon light feel line nirvana, calling to me. My salvation is so close.
Just as I cross a car stops and enquires as to what wrong, I explain I have run out of fuel and bless him, he offers me some from his jerry can. It’s all in the timing.
Finally I reach the fuel pump, and fill the bike with fuel.
The sound is so sweet, soon my ride shall fly once again.
I enter the fuel station to pay for the fuel, the cashier asks me why look worn out, I explain I have just had to push the bike a mile and a half uphill to the forecourt to which he replies, and I shit you not,
“Why didn’t you leave the bike where is was and walk here on your own, would have been easier.”
“Do you sell jerry cans here?” I ask.
“No, we don’t”.
“That’s why I had to push the bike!”
I don’t think he understood.
Finally, I fire up the bike and ride triumphantly home where there is the most delicious cup of tea waiting for me.
All this, because taxi’s don’t get sent to taxi ranks!
Sleep well. I did!