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Saturday, 3 April 2010

The GBC Returns!

Cor blimey, as they say, that was some trip from Leeds. Left home late Monday morning, Mrs BC dropped me at the train station, got down to Leeds some time around 9pm. Rather than give me directions and send me off into the night on my ownsome, a nice guy at the station information desk walked me to my hotel.

The meeting on Tuesday started at 12pm, and if it had finished at the scheduled time I would have had to stay another night in Leeds, but we were all so well behaved that it finished early. So I sprinted to the station and managed to get on the 3 o'something train, straight through to Aberdeen without having to change. Nice one, or so I thought...

We got as far as somewhere between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Dunbar, and then the train stopped. The guy came on the talkytalky thing and apologised for the delay and informed us that there were two landslides and a flood up ahead, and we had to wait for the engineers to come and assess the situation, or if the southbound train came through then we would get an update from the driver and see if it was safe to proceed.

To cut a long wait short (if only) we sat there for about 2.5hrs, no food as the hot buffet that was supposed to be on this service, wasn't, and a free plastic cup of orange juice each, to placate us.

The next announcement was that we would return to Berwick where another train would take us to Glasgow and then across to Edinburgh. Then another announcement followed, saying that we might travel by coach to Edinburgh instead. So we chuffed back to Berwick and all stood around waiting on the windswept platform. Shortly after, a train pulled in to the other platform and just sat there. The doors didn't open and no announcements were made, until suddenly two paramedics arrived and boarded. Then they came back to the platform with a lady who looked rather pale and wobbly. Seems this was the Glasgow train, but they weren't letting us on. Still no announcements and still no food other than overpriced chocolate bars and crisps from a vending machine. After about half an hour, and still no railway staff to be seen, some of us wandered through to the waiting room in case there was a human being there to speak to, and luckily, a coach had just arrived. But the driver wasn't able to let us on the coach, until he had the go-ahead from a member of railway staff, and so it went on. In the end we just followed him back to the coach and boarded.

As the coach meandered through the flooded Berwick streets, with the gale force winds rocking and tugging at it, we could see the muddy brown waves parting at either side, and washing up over the parked cars at the sides of the roads. This wasn't Berwick-upon-Tweed, this was Berwick-IN-THE-Tweed. There was no point worrying about it, so I stretched out on the back seat and slept. It was gone midnight by the time we got to Edinburgh. And thank goodness we made it safely. One guy who was sitting in the front seat said he didn't know how the driver could see where he was going or how he managed to avoid hitting the flooded bits of road. Guess this was the mighty A1 route.

Once in Edinburgh train station, there was at least a Man with an orange vesty thing on, who seemed aware of the situation. Once he had established who was trying to go where, I kept an eye on the Aberdeen group and nipped into Burger King just a second before they shut the doors. I managed to get the last chicken burger which was cold and chewy but better than nothing, seeing as I hadn't eaten since lunch at about 1pm the day before. By the time I got back to where the Man was, everyone had gone. Fantastic. Great. Don't panic. Fortunately, a by-stander had heard them say that anyone going to Aberdeen should board the Dundee train. So I did. Once on board I attached myself to a trio of oil workers from Newcastle, as they seemed rather adamant that they weren't getting left behind or fobbed off.

Pulling out of Edinburgh we got our first glimpse of the weather that was causing all the problems - white stuff everywhere and water laying between the tracks. The train was rocking a little too. The ticket inspector seemed to think we were going to be happy to be dumped on the deserted platform in Dundee. No way. The oil guys gave her a polite talking to, and she scuttled off saying she would phone Control. Apparently, the problem was that we had all travelled north on Virgin or Cross-Country, and we were now on a Scot Rail train, so as far as they were concerned, it wasn't up to them to honour our tickets. I dozed off after a while, it would be close to 2am Wednesday, by the time we got to Dundee and I wanted to at least have my wits about me. Ticket lady finally come on the talkytalky thing and said she was still waiting for Control to get back to her. So as we pulled into Dundee, we still had no idea of where we were going or what would happen. It was only once we were on the platform that a guy came up to us and asked where we were going, and then said there were 4 taxis outside waiting for us.

Great idea, if you think about it. All other forms of transport were being cancelled or held up and it was 2am and they were expecting us to undertake a good hours ride in a taxi. Well I wasn't going to get left behind, so we hopped in, me and three different oil workers this time. It seemed that two taxis were going north, and I've no idea where the others went. We sped off, trying to keep up with chummy in the first taxi. Through Dundee and onto the A90. Some stretches of road were clear with just high winds and sideways rain, and then we hit the blizzards. Passing lorries wasn't fun either as I couldn't see where we going and I'm mighty sure the driver couldn't either. We even passed a gritter, and then the taxi driver had the nerve to complain that there weren't any snow ploughs or gritters out on the roads....

About 10 miles south of Aberdeen we ground to a halt. The snow was about 5inches deep I would say, and the dual carriageway was down to a single lane, and we were following (rather too closely for my liking) a Royal Mail lorry. The traffic stopped, and the lorry began to slide sideways and backwards as the wind got hold of it. The reason for the stop was a jack-knifed caravan up ahead, followed by a jack-knifed Tesco lorry. We nipped up the inside along the hard shoulder and were soon on our merry way again. Until all of a sudden, we were parked in the central reservation, facing the way we had just come from. Luckily, the gravel trap did what it's there to do and stopped the car from smashing into the barrier. Our driver tried to pull away, but no go. The wheels were buried deep in gravel and snow and even with the oil guys pushing the car, and ripping up trees with their bare hands to put under the wheels, that car wasn't shifting. The police were called and the 'incident' reported, and then a few minutes later another taxi stopped, and we all abandoned ship and got a lift into Aberdeen with him.

We got to Aberdeen, this driver being far more cautious and sensible than the last one, but it turned out he, and the oil guys, didn't know how to get to the city centre. Good job GBC was awake and on the ball! One of the oilys had phoned ahead to the hotel where he was staying and asked if they had a spare room for me, which they did, so we got dropped off there and the others were left to find their own way. I checked in, for the princely sum of £50 for half a night, had to climb four flights of stairs as the lift was broken and the lift fixing man came from Dundee and had only just gone back there that evening after proclaiming the lift fixed. Got to my room, swiped the door card, blinking thing wouldn't open. Tried every conceivable way to get it to work, but it refused. So on with the two rucksacks and back down the four flights of stairs, the guy at the desk swiped the card in his reader and then it was back up the four flights of stairs....this time it worked and I stumbled on to, rather than into, bed around 4am. I then proceeded to have weird dreams about my room being flooded as I'd noticed the radiator was leaking and there was a soggy patch on the carpet. Ho hum. Missed breakfast that morning, but who can blame me, and after getting the relevant updates from Mrs BC and the trains etc, decided to book in again for Weds night, as it looked like I wouldn't be going anywhere for another day. So I spent most of the day in the new shopping centre, located right opposite the hotel. Starbucks do a grand hot chocolate and the roast chicken sarnies with herb mayo are yummy, if a little pricey. But this was a special occasion, I was feeling a little unwell from not having eaten enough and it was all I fancied. The day passed remarkable quickly, I had a little poddle around up on Union Street where I purchased a new mobile tellingphone. For some reason, my old one won't text Mrs BC's phone, although when we switched sim cards, they both were found to be working faultlessly, so I thought a new phone would cure the problem, but it hasn't.

Several phone calls from my Boss throughout the day resulted in a plan being formulated. I would get the bus from Aberdeen to Fyvie on Thurs morning and then a lift home from there.

By the evening, I was flagging. I ordered room service in the hotel (let me point you to the picture my previous post) and watched the football before retiring for the night. Thursday morning, overslept, missed breakfast again, made it across to the shopping centre to pick up a hot choc and a roast chicken sarnie before joining the queue for the 305 bus. And what a queue! It seemed to stretch half way round Aberdeen. The reason being, it turned out, was that there were no trains running due to frozen points last night and a derailment somewhere near Inverness. A very kind gentleman, to whom I got chatting in the queue, heard my tale of woe and let me ahead of him in case there weren't enough seats. Bless his kind soul. We both got a seat but were the last two who did.

The bus ride was uneventful, and I had the pleasure of listening to the man sitting behind me, as he related his story to the local paper. It wasn't anywhere near as good as mine, as he had only visited Aberdeen for the day from Elgin, where he was on holiday with his family. He was complaining that he and his son were on the train the previous night that was cancelled due to frozen points, and had to stay in an hotel. Well anyone who sets off in the middle of a blizzard (which going by what he was saying and his timings, he must have done) to go to a museum for a day out, has to be nuts. Me, I just wanted to come home from a briefing.

While I was away, Hilda the Herdwick sheep had made some progress on her road to recovery, having been poorly for a number of days. Mrs BC reported that there were no more lambs in the snow and we were able to get the trusty truck up the snow-bound drive where we wouldn't even have dared try the van for another few days. After the night of blizzards, the snow was up to the top of the trucks wheel arches.

So I was finally home on a sunny Thursday afternoon, feeling a little tired but not too bad. Friday morning I woke up feeling awful; temperature, aches and pains, not eating and generally unable to get out of bed. That's the first time I've been confined to bed due to illness for several years. Today though I seem a little better, providing I pop paracetamol regularly to keep my head from exploding. Just as well, as Hilda's daughter, Henryetta was ill this morning and had to be brought in and medicated, and then this afternoon, Ditzy was the next to decide she was ill, but only after we'd got back from getting the hay and some feed troughs. So it was back in the truck and off to the vet to collect some jabs for her, then put her in the building with the rest of the sickly crew.

Hungry now. Hope y'all have a happy Easter weekend and don't eat too much chocolate.


sfb said...

That all sounds very traumatic. I hope you are feeling better now. Could you possibly clarify just how much chocolate is Too Much Chocolate?

kawa said...

That was some journey..... certainly can't say you lead a boring life, what with land slides, floods, snow and car crashes all with in 24hrs, good yer back in wan piece....

Happy Easter all, we can say that can't we?


Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Hmm, thats a tough one SFB. Can I think about it over a dish of chocolate ice cream and get back to you?

Happy Easter Kwak.

The Chief Bodger said...

Blizzards, floods, ice, kamakazi taxi mannys, leaky radiators, missing breakfast're one tough girlie. Glad to see you made it back finally and safely.

And a Happy Easte to all. Oh, and there is never too much chocolate!!

Anonymous said...

My goodness. You certainly do have Real Weather up there don't you. Hope the too fast taxi driver learnt from that - sounds like it was a lucky escape.

Here's hoping you get a break from winter soon ... and that you don't run out of chocolate :o)

Graham B

Gorgeous Biker Chick said...

Thank you boys. SFB, I've been thinking, too much choc is the bit you ate, but knew you shouldn't have, cos afterwards you feel sick!

sfb said...

Of course, I remember that feeling!


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