• Author:Ben Jones
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Planes, trains and automobiles; well, almost

Team Jones went on tour today. Off to London for a mini-break. There’s an expression I haven’t heard since my dear nan died. A busy two days of time with family, friends and some sight-seeing ahead. Revisiting some old haunts – posts charting this to follow. We are staying with our dearest, most wonderful friends in their lovely house in South London. As Aileen’s late Granny would have said; “God is good to us” or “good for some”.

I write this sat in the low, glorious evening sun, cooling myself with a bottle or two of Peroni – reunited with this gorgeous garden and these precious people. The day is ending in style but it has been something of a rollercoaster.

All was going so well. Arrived at Runcorn in great time for our train to the metropolis – this was Aoife’s first time on a big train – a big red train. Entered the first class lounge – we treated ourselves to some comfort on this big trip. Tea made. Bottles of water acquired. Packets of crisps in hand. All good. Twenty minutes until we are due to leave. Perfect timing. Then the dreaded bing bong. Delayed. Then the sting in the tail; “We advise all passengers to London to take the London Midland service to Birmingham New Street, make the connection at Birmingham Snow Hill and take the train to London Marylebone”. That doesn’t sound good. And knowing those stations and that route, doesn’t feel like the right answer. Mmmmmmn.

Much debate followed. Consulting of iPhones. Obviously, no signal at the worse moment, as we moved through leafy Cheshire. And yet the mood on the train was great – typical British spirit; let’s make the best of this. Blitz spirit. After much discussion, we all decided – safety in numbers – to change at Crewe and take our chances. It worked out. Partly because – clearly the Scouser in me – I ignored the authority figures and messages warding us off platform 1. We knew better and beat the system to board the first train out to London. The problem was signalling issues near Rugby meaning dozens of trains going north and south were stuck, cancelled or confused on their way up and down the west coast mainline but we escaped and got on our way.

This was Crewe but it had the feel of a train making its wonderful way through the rural depths of India; people hanging off every angle; standing room only. We even meet a wee dog; Dougal. A beauty. Miss J had a stroke and Dr J’s heart sank as we get closer to getting a dog. That will be a big day for Ireland. We sat – sorry, Dr J and Miss J sat at a table with three business men. Cold fish to begin with but by the end our new three best friends, following gins, brandies and beers. We got to London in one piece and only 30 minutes late after all the drama – including the long and sweaty walk though the length of the train carrying the bags whilst evading the feet, luggage and carrier bags of our fellow passengers.

Two tubes and a taxi later we land in Tooting. It’s good to be back here. It’s wonderful to see our friends and the the heart is warmed by the arrival of Aunty Kate – Dr J’s sister. A day of ups and downs; of near misses and near disasters but in the end a day that ends well. As I write this I reflect on the Ben of old – the Ben who would have faced this sort of travel tribulation before. There is no doubt he would have been less calm; less even headed; more stressed.

Maybe the gin helped or more likely the traveling companion; the smile, the giggles and the chats of our darling daughter. Our Aoife. Our gorgeous girl.



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