Tuesday 5 November 2019

An Unexpected Adventure!

LNER Azuma train in the evening mist at Peterborough
I was a guest at a little art exhibition in a suburban chip shop in Peterborough on Sunday afternoon (it is a long story: perhaps I shall tell it one day, but that day is not now), when I received a plaintive WhatsApp message from my daughter in Orpington: she and her little boy both had stomach upsets and she would struggle to look after him when her husband went to work on Monday - could I possibly come and help?

I went home and packed and my wife drove me to Peterborough station on her way to collect another grandchild who was already due to come and stay at our home. The drive to Peterborough went very well and I was expecting to catch a LNER Azuma and be well on my way in a short time. It was tight and I had a ticket to buy, but just enough time, until we joined the queue of cars for the drop-off area at the station! I had no choice, really, but to grab my luggage from the boot and walk to the station; no time to be driven the last few metres! To my great relief the travel centre was still open and I was able to ask for the ticket I needed from a real human being; I find LNER's machines long-winded to use and was afraid of missing the train. I bought a Standard Class off-peak single for Kings Cross with the intention of buying a Weekend First upgrade on board which ever train I caught. Mercifully the one I had intended to catch was just a couple of minutes late, so I did not have to run to catch it. I found a single seat at one end and settled down, on edge, hoping I had packed all that I needed and could do all that would be asked of me in Orpington. I was expecting to stay just the one night but could just manage a second day if necessary. Those who follow this blog may remember that there is no guest accommodation at my daughter's home, but the usual fix of staying at the Premier Inn would not really work for this visit as I needed to be on site, so I had an inflatable mattress among my luggage, a brilliant pice of kit in its own backpack and with its own pump for inflating and deflating it. So easy to carry but one more thing to keep track of.

Weekend evening snack
As the train left Peterborough the First Class hosts came round offering the food and drink: I had a bacon, lettuce and tomato roll, which I do not recall having before on a LNER train, and apple juice, there being no included beer at weekends. Soon the ticket examination began and I paid £25 for the upgrade - an expensive BLT sandwich but a very smooth and comfortable ride with space to unwind, just what I needed to help me calm down after the hectic preparation and departure. Well worth it.

And so in London to the Northern Line Underground to London Bridge (yes, I remembered to bring my Oyster Card with me!) and then the next train to Orpington, a fast one in just a few minutes. I splashed out on a taxi to complete the journey as buses are thin on a Sunday evening and I wanted to get there as quickly as possible. This was probably the fastest door-to-door trip I have ever done between the two houses, and also probably the most expensive, being at short notice.

Wine already served, work on blog continues
When I came to book the return trip, once I was sure the emergency was over and it was safe to come home, by choosing a late train back and booking in advance, even on the day, I was able to secure a First Class ticket for only £15.50, much less than the cheapest possible fare on the way out  even without the upgrade! The downside was that I had to take a specific train and as it happened I could have gone half-an-hour earlier if I had known how easily I could get away and how smoothly my journey into London would go. (So much time did I have in hand that I wrote most this blog post as I awaited the train back to Peterborough.) I took a bus from my daughter's him to Orpington station where a fast train left for London Bridge just a few moments later. From there a Thameslink train took me quickly to St Pancras whence I waited in the First Class Lounge at Kings Cross until my train was ready to board. There I typed most of this blog post: much of the rest was done on the train until my meal arrived.

Monday evening's meal, with wine
I decided to try out the new electronic ticketing system and did not have to pick up a paper ticket at the station: it is held in the Apple Wallet on my iPhone. I also downloaded the optional PDF file as well so that I could show it on my iPad in case I had a problem with the phone. I still needed the Standard Class single between Peterborough and Stamford and bought this using the Cross Country Train Tickets app, again placing the ticket in my Apple Wallet. I still needed to keep my Senior Railcard to hand as I do not (yet?) have a digital version of that, although I gather they are now available.

The LNER ticket worked fine when inspected and although the Cross Country one was safely own the Apple Wallet that ticket was never inspected so it was not put to the test, although I have no reason to think it would have been otherwise. What I have not yet done is use one at a ticket barrier, and I can see that being a particular problem when travelling together with both tickets on one iPhone: there would be a delay while swapping tickets.

The Azuma arrived in Peterborough on time, allowing me plenty of time to cross to platform 7 for the connection home, also on time. Two perfect journeys giving me the opportunity to relax after my unexpected trip and to prepare for a good night's sleep before what were already expected to be a couple of busy days.

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