Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29 & 30, 2010

British Customs and Immigation's Finest!

What a day it has been! A officious customs officer and a body on the tracks! Where's Miss Marple when you need her?

The day started out well.  We got into Manchester at 6 a.m., an hour ahead of schedule.  Who ever heard of that?  I was feeling more than a little brain dead from jet lag, when the customs officer called me up to the counter.  I said, "Good morning!" and the grilling commenced.  "Why are you here?  Why have you come two years in a row?  Do you know anyone here?"  He asked that one twice. "Are you single?  Do you have family at home?  What family do you have in Texas?  Where do you work?  What grade do you teach?" And then he consulted with his supervisor?  I ask you, do I look like a high risk security problem?!?  I was just starting to wonder what I was going to do if he didn't let me into the country, when he finally relented and let me in.  I have a strong suspicion that he did so against his better judgement!

A Virgin Pendalino High Speed Train

After a latte to settle my nerves, I made my way to the train station and succeeded in getting on the right train. It was pretty packed, so I asked a lady eating a chocolate croissant if I could sit next to her. She said yes and we started talking. The friendly lady was named Jan. Jan and her husband have traveled all over the world, especially in the Asian countries.  Maybe that was why she was so easy to talk to. She's met all kinds of people from all over the world. She's either naturally curious or has learned to enjoy how different other people's life experiences are.

We were having such a great time talking, that I forgot to look at the beautiful countryside. But when I did, it reminded me of how the Hill Country would look if it got about three times as much rain as it does. Rolling hills, pretty little streams, hundreds of oak trees, and of course, cows. 
Ahhh!!!  Beautiful, green England.  If only the Hill Country got this much rain.

We'd been on the train about an hour when it stopped. Dum..dum...dum! Finally the train manager came on the P.A. and said, "Well as if this day couldn't get any worse, they've found a body on the tracks up ahead."  I said to Jan, "He's kidding, right?". She said with that British deadpan expression, "It happens." He told us that we were going to backtrack to some town we had already gone through, switch tracks, and then continue on. He assured us that the delay would only add about thirty minutes to our two and a half hour journey.

I instantly heard phones all over the train click on as all the business people started rearranging meetings. We proceeded backwards on the track very slowly. There were cows in the fields running along faster than our train! We were almost back to Birmingham when the train stopped dead. Mr. Train Manager, whose voice I was learning to dread, came on, apologized, and said the train was broken, there were two or three more trains stacked up behind us, and our train was canceled. Huh!?! We limped into the station and people got off the train so fast you would have thought there was Saran gas in the air.

See the bridge?  We had to cross over and back several times
to get to the other tracks.  No one knew which
would be the next train to actually leave for London.
Bless her heart, Jan stuck with me. Otherwise I would probably still be in Birmingham trying to figure out what to do. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. One official would say there were three more trains coming to pick up our overflow. But the next one would say all the trains were canceled.  Passengers ran over the stairs back and forth over the tracks franticly trying to predict which of the platforms would be the first to get a London bound train. 

Jan played her instincts and said we aught to get on this one particular train. I pointed out that the trains were packed. She said we should go into one of the first class carriages and pitch a fit if they tried to kick us off. Well I knew at this point if anyone could successfully pitch a fit, it was Jan. So that's what we did! Once on the train she skillfully guilted two nice men into giving us their seats. She was so good at it that I don't think they even realized they were being worked! Finally, finally, we got into Euston Station. A trip that was suppose to take two and a half hours, took five and a half hours. It took longer to get from Manchester to London than it took to fly from JFK to Manchester! Oh well, travel is ALWAYS an adventure, and I bonded with a new friend.

I guess you can bet that I was pretty tired. But Rick Steves says that the worst thing you can do is give in to the urge to go to sleep.  So, I walked around in the bright London afternoon sun.  It was surprisingly warm.  The city throbbed with buses and black taxis and scurrying office workers trying to beat the rush hour(s) madness.  I made myself stay up until eight o'clock, then I hit the sheets and slept the sleep of the innocent...until one A.M. An ambulance screamed me awake, wide awake for over an hour. But sweet Orpheus and another sleeping pill took me back to the land of the ZZZ's.

What a day!


This is Russell Square, a public garden close to my bed and breakfast.  Completely jet lagged, I grabbed a sandwich, some water, an American style biscuit, and a British style tabloid and watched the free entertainment.  Notice the huge plane trees. 

I LOVE the name of this pub!  The Jack Horner.  Do you remember the nursury rhyme, "Little Jack Horner,...sat in a corner."
This picture also shows that all cities are just the same -- always doing construction!

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