The wedding was amazing – I was very happy to have made it on time (barely – after 17 hours of traveling through a snow blizzard) see the couple get married. It was most certainly worth the risk to my health and sanity to arrive there.
I imagine that Surrey is leafy and verdant – it has that vibe off it. Not that I witnessed any of that greenery. Everywhere was distinctly white and snow covered. And the bitter cold meant that venturing outside was not high on my list of priorities. After the 3am wait outside, to get through Customs at Holyhead the night before, I was in no mood to experience the great outdoors.
When I had planned this trip, I knew that I would be leaving Surrey on Friday. It seemed like such a waste of a weekend in England, just to return to Dublin. I needed to seize the moment; and go to the seaside. It would be springtime. What could possibly go wrong?
Little did I know that the weather had been planning a test. A test of my courage and fortitude.
However with the cunning of a fox, and the persistence of a goat, I had made it to the wedding.
Would I be able for another venture into the breach? Would I make it to Brighton in one piece? I didn’t dwell on it. If it was meant to happen then it would.
The moustached landlord in my grubby boarding house looked concerned as I ate my slice of toast, and drank my cup of instant coffee over breakfast.
‘The weather has worsened, there is a massive snowstorm predicted for this afternoon. The trains are running on emergency services only’.
‘La-la-la-la-la’ I inwardly muttered. I wasn’t going to listen to any of that sleazy talk about not being able to make my destination. I have persistence.
I put on a third pair of socks, and bid him farewell.
As I headed – face first – into the icy blast of wind, I was feeling confident. It was only a fifteen minute walk to the train station.
At the best of times my sense of direction is dodgy. In these conditions it is even less impressive. After an hour wandering the deserted streets of Shepperton I finally saw the British Rail sign. I raced towards it. In slow motion – the wind was against me.
‘Good morning, my good woman’ I greeted the ticket seller. ‘I will have your finest, one way ticket to Brighton, please’.
‘That’s via Clapham Junction right?’
‘I believe so.’
‘Have you checked online whether the trains from Clapham are running? There’s a red weather alert affecting the entire rail network today.’
‘I have indeed.’
I was lying.
She looked suspiciously at me, but sold me the ticket.
At Clapham, the information screen told its own tale of doom. In bright red letters it roared ‘DO NOT TRAVEL TODAY. IF YOU HAVE ALREADY TRAVELED THEN RETURN HOME IMMEDIATELY. TRAIN TIMETABLES ARE DISRUPTED. WE WILL BE FULLY CLOSED FROM 6PM’.
Not a single train to Brighton was visible.
This concerned me slightly. From the corner of my beady, little eye I saw that the 13.22 to Bognor Regis (possibly the least glamourous town name ever) was running on schedule. And it stopped at Gatwick Airport. From my previous adventures, I knew that Gatwick was located half way between London and Brighton.
I boarded the train; gave an inward ‘Tally-ho’. Off we went.
As it turns out it was a wise decision. I secretly knew that airport train services are probably more reliable than most – simply for the fact, that airport train stations can’t accommodate the thousands of passengers flying in on an hourly basis.
At the airport, I scanned the screens. There was a premium priced Gatwick Express to Brighton departing in four minutes. I had not paid for this train – they apply a surcharge on top of the regular price. I deduced however that in these weather conditions, the ticket inspection would be slack. I was correct.
So I enjoyed an extra luxurious train journey to the faded grandeur of Brighton Town. I was entertained en route by a guy in his mid-twenties, traveling with who I presumed to be his father. He spent the journey applying, and then re-applying his lipstick and mascara, all the while complaining about how people don’t understand him; telling his father to shut up. What about HIM, and his struggles. One struggle was the fact that Britney Spears was playing Brighton Pride this coming summer, but that she will probably cancel. In any case, he thought Pride was shit now – it is way too commercial. It was an awful lot better when it was free.
I took the executive decision not to point out to him that when Pride was free and non-commercial, it was at a time when somebody dressed as he was, would probably have been beaten up by some marauding heterosexuals – some of whom might just have happened to be the police.
It didn’t seem appropriate for me to mention this to him.
Upon arrival at the seaside town the snow was falling heavily. I staggered to the coast. My phone was dead again, and I had no idea where I was staying. I shuffled – head down – to St. James’s Street where I found a cosy coffeeshop called ‘My coffee story’.
I picked it because I spotted a vacant plug. As my phone charged I consumed a salmon and cream cheese toasted, spelt bread sandwich and coffee. I then went online and discovered that my apartment was about twenty metres away.
I braved the elements once more. I am now sitting enjoying another cup of instant, hoping my friend has the courage of my convictions and will make it here this evening. I trust him. He too will beat this weather.