I was in Bristol last Saturday, to attend an event organised by my publisher, Silverwood Books. A great event as it turned out, with the opportunity to meet up for real with people I had so far only met via Facebook or internet in general. (Want to know more about the event and my author friends, pop over to Alison Morton’s blog – or Helen Hollick’s)
I had never been to Bristol before, and I must say I can’t quite understand why not, as this is a city that ticks quite a few of my boxes, starting with a long and interesting history. Embraced by the river Avon, Bristol combines medieval areas with modern high-rises, all of it resulting in a rather pleasant whole. Of course, me being a history nerd, I’d prefer it if none of the old Bristol had been torn down – starting w Bristol Castle, which sadly no longer exists – but without change, no progress, and I am all in favour of progress, especially when it comes to showers, central heating and toilets, amenities sadly absent in medieval homes.
I had left a wintry Sweden (minus degrees, biting winds) and ended up strolling round in spring sunshine and admiring the flowering cherry trees in Bristol’s Castle Park. Somewhat less admiring, I took in the young men in shorts and t-shirts who seemed to consider plus five degrees the equivalent of a summer day. On a side note, what is it with you British people, that you walk around in so little clothes when the weather calls for jackets and long trousers? I recall one visit to Edinburgh some years ago, with me bundled up to my eyeballs in warm things while lads and lasses strolled down the Royal Mile in nothing but skirts, t-shirts and bare legs….
Come evening, it was definitely colder – and dark. I was hurrying towards the station, not entirely comfortable with my timing, and being in an unfamiliar city didn’t help. Still, being born with the tracking skills of a wolf, I was soon within sight of the train station. I blame what happened next on the clock.
A big white clock announced it was only ten minutes before my train was to leave. I found it a bit strange, as I had timed my departure to allow myself plenty of time to find my platform, but the clock said ten minutes and counting, so I increased my pace, rushing through a much needed pit-stop at the Ladies before galloping towards my platform. Well, maybe not galloping, but definitely not gliding either. An undignified trot, perhaps.
Up the stairs (one way stairs, yelling NO ENTRY at you if you attempted to do the right-hand traffic thing) and onto the platform and there was a purple train. I knew the train should be purple, so I leapt aboard, calculating I had at most a minute to spare. Phew! I sank down on my seat. Some quick breaths, the train pulls out and I pull out my phone. It says 20:18 on the display. My train was scheduled for departure at 20:33. Panic!
“Umm, excuse me, is this the London train?”
The girl behind me looked at me as if I was from Mars.
“No. This train goes to Taunton.”
Well bully me! Taunton is west of Bristol, and I needed to go east. I must have looked quite faint, because the girl did some quick googling and told me things would turn out alright, all I had to do was get off at the next station and take a train going the other way and I would make the…. Long pause as she studied her screen… the 21:47 train to London. Problem was, I needed to make another train connection in London, and now I would effectively be stuck at Paddington.
This, dear people, is when one really, really wants to time travel. Not a century, not even a year, but fifteen minutes backwards, to that train platform at which the train is waiting. I did my “close my eyes and pray” thing. Didn’t help. I cursed creatively in Spanish (a very good language to curse in when you’re really upset). Didn’t help. All I could do was sit down and count minutes until the first station, W-something.
W-something may be a very picturesque place. I have no idea as it was pitch black and cold, plus I was mostly concerned with getting back to Bristol. I approached a guard and allowed my accent to slip into “Wery Sweedeesh” as I played out the stupid tourist card. Normally, my English accent is Mid-Atlantic. For those of you that don’t know, Mid-Atlantic English is what you get when you’ve been raised in alternating English and American schools and combine this with a fondness for the Irish. (Blame it on Johnny Logan, further reinforced by my wonderful Irish ex-colleagues in Wexford) Anyway; neither here nor there. The stupid tourist card always works, especially if you’re female and blonde. The big guard promised me all would be well, called over his guard colleague who assured me all would be well, called over the third guard who assured me all would be well. Like a nice communal group hug, me and the guards. (Virtual hug, okay? I do NOT hug unknown men. Well, unless it were Brad Pitt. Or Russel Crowe. Or Clark Gable, but he is dead, so getting a hug from him would be decidedly creepy)
Forty minutes later I was back in Bristol. Around midnight, I arrived in London. No train to Heathrow. No cabs to Heathrow – they were all too busy ferrying people around to night clubs and stuff. Fortunately, there are some very nice hotel people in this world, and exactly four hours after my train adventures began I fell into bed, realising I had exactly four hours to sleep before the next leg of my journey began. All in all, an excessively exciting train trip. But what is it they say? “Those that travel have a story to tell” – as proven by this long and rather rambling post.