Sunday, 26 December 2010

Euro Efficiency

What a difference a few days make. That's not a very catchy way to start a song so I guess that's why it hasn't been used. Only six days ago the queues were forming around St Pancras International.

I went along this afternoon and got my tickets for the next couple of trips. No worries said the lady for Tuesday. But today is Sunday and anything could happen in the next 48 hours.

That's an adulterated line from Stingray and I am in a state of supermarionation after being given the DVD collection of Thunderbirds. It was always a superior product in my view.

The boy wrecked my video cassette recorder a while back and I haven't replaced it so I have not seen things like the Monty Python episodes I recorded. Nor the host of Thunderbirds I recorded long ago in the distant mists of my youth.

Now I have them all nearby. I shall put them near the Rockford Files.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve

Mein Gott. Christmas Eve 2010. The year has whizzed by and I find myself in Caffe Nero in north London preparing for a bit of work at the radio station via the telephone.

Fortunately enough has been happening in London to justify my English dateline so in a way I should thanks Eurostar for having stranded me here. Why do in Paris what you can do in London when it can save money and save mental anguish.

Eurostar sent me a text message saying that it was planning to run a quasi normal service. Just turn up and hour before your departure, the email suggested.

That's not normal. I'm usually 35 minutes before the event.

But these are not normal times. I am in a cafe in north London working for an English language radio station based in Paris.

As strange as the queues at St Pancras International.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Staying at Home II

Years ago I used to go to Tooting Bec Lido. I went throughout the year. It was the healthiest time of my life. I went for a splash in all weathers.

Obviously at this time of the year, all I did was a width of about 30 yards.

It was the whole preparation for the 30 yards that was interesting and then the adrenal high of having completed such a thing.

That usually fired my cycle ride onto the Guardian via the cafe.

I was at the indoor pool in Tooting this morning. Thinking about how I used to go there when I was trying to get my head togther following the break up of a then very important relationship.

Not much has changed at the pool save the rise in prices and the installation of a sauna.

As I was cycling to my mum's flat, I passed the road where my house is and I saw this elderly figure going round the corner.

I recognised it as a man who about 17 years ago stopped me in the street and was really aggressive because - as he claimed -my mum owed him some cash.

I told my dad about it and a few weeks later my dad mentioned that the bloke wouldn't be bothering me any more.

It's the second christmas when we won't be having my dad's idiosyncratically seasoned chicken. I can understand why people want to go away at Christmas.

Heathrow and Eurostar just make it very difficult.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Stay At Home

Did not go back to Paris on Tuesday. I was told by a Eurostar chap on Monday night that I would have to go up to St Pancras at 5am on Tuesday morning and start waiting for the train formerly known as the 0653 because the schedule no longer existed.

I didn't fancy that. Especially since people had been waited five hours or more on Monday. I contacted my boss in Paris who kindly allowed me to stay in London and work. I was more concerned by the problems the trains might have on Christmas Eve.

They might not get through on the 24th and I didn't fancy being in Paris over Christmas. I am sure I could have watched TV and done lots of administration. But that's not the point. My mother is over from America.

I ought to be in the same country and even in the same house since she is in the same continent.

Quite how Eurostar promote themselves as a go-ahead company when they force people to queue in sub-zero temperatures is beyond me.

They have at least refunded my tickets for Tuesday 21 and Friday 24 and there should be more than that. But since this is an outfit that can leave passengers to camp overnight in the terminal, I just ought to say OK.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The Snow

At the moment there is a queue outside St Pancras. People are waiting to take the train to Paris and there have been a couple of cancellations.

I like this bit when the company says if you don't have to travel then please don't. But how many people don't have to travel?

I know that when I head off for St Pancras on Tuesday morning, it is because I have to do so - a few work commitments in Paris. I would love to say no, don't have to do it.

Perhaps it will be fine on Tuesday morning. I am more concerned about Christmas Eve. Am due to be on the last train out of Paris on that day. Wow. Adventure. Don't have to go to a war zone for edge and and uncertainty. Just try travelling between Paris and London.

Sunday, 19 December 2010


I think there is a moment when it is important to realise that winter brings circumstances that are seasonal. It is cold. It is snowy and it is often quite horrible. But it's neat to celebrate that.

But if you have to travel ... it's right to prepare for a nightmare. 2013, the train should have left Paris. 213, it should have been in London.

But time becomes fluid in winter and so we left at nearly 9pm and arrived in London and 1130pm local time. So that was half past midnight European time - because of course Britain doesn't hang with Europe on this temporal thang.

Shame that.

I am wondering whether Eurostar will be dishing out any refunds or any sweeteners. I will ask. Maybe they will say you are lucky it only took four and a bit hours.

And you know what they're probably right. It is winter time.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Cancellations

It's only the beginning of December and Eurostar is having trouble with the weather. I thought I was really smart on Saturday because I phoned up to see if the 0913 was running. Yes, the Frequent Traveller woman told me. You can check it on the website, she added. And I was guided to a page where everything was shown.

When I got to the Gare Du Nord I realise my mistake was not to check on Sunday morning because the train had been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions. Just before I had boiled into indignation, a couple entered the lounge complaining that they had been told just an hour before that the train was running.

So off we went at 1013, quite how the weather had improved between 0913 and 1013 was not obvious as I looked out of the window. Perhaps earlier there had been a deluge to go with the snowy blasts.

Well at least we were only seven minutes late into St Pancras which is good - if you were scheduled on the 1013. One hour seven minutes if like me one had been due to travel at 0913.

At least the staff in the lounge were pleasant. Coming round asking me if I needed any more chocolates. Shame it wasn't a lunch time train as I might have gone to town on the white wine.

Friday, 3 December 2010

World Cup Joys

I am not upset that England lost the world cup charge. Russia and Qatar have never hosted the extravaganza.

Jolly good luck to them. They have deep pockets and that is necessary to lay on a lavish show.

Russia doesn't have a brilliant record on race relations and will need to redouble their efforts to make the country alluring.

Qatar isn't exactly a haven for workers' rights and so that might change.

Sepp Blatter, the president of world football's governing body, has been a recalcitrant bureaucrat on a plethora of issues but sending the tournament into new territories has been his grand flourish.

Earlier this year it was South Africa. In 2018 Russia will have the fun and in 2022 everyone will roast in the Middle East.

A new meaning to the phrase hot tickets.

Gut Feeling

There I was feeling like it was sour grapes. I had been saying in a few blogs that the Eurostar trips were not as punctual as usual. Only once in five trips had the train been on time. Well on Thursday I received an email telling me that Eurostar was tackling this by cutting the service to 50 per cent.

However everything they say will be back to normal on Sunday. This is good as I am supposed to be travelling to London to do some work.

The Eurostar bosses have asked for all non essential travel to be delayed. This always strikes me as bizarre. How many people travel between the cities for non-essential purposes? That would be a fascinating survey.

Obviously somewhere there are lots of non-essential voyages taking place. I would love to get to that position in my life where I could take a non-essential trip.

It is not here yet.

Saturday morning's football match has been deemed non-essential. The opponents phoned our captain this afternoon to tell him that only five of them would be available. Since they are a good team they still might have won.

Since the pitch is booked for 11-1pm we could have a kick around. But the captain has suggested that exertion is a non-essential and has urged his troops to gird their loins for further exploits next week.

As the match was called off at the last minute, we will probably be given a 3-0 forfeit win.

It is quite a handy outcome. I have been invited out to a party tonight and I was going to leave early so that I could get enough sleep to run around in the morning.

I still might leave early to get some sleep.

At my stage of life it is essential.