Five o’clock in the morning. In winter there is nothing good that one can say about five o’clock in the morning. Its dark for a start. Usually damp and there is little incentive to leave the warmth of my bed and Mrs BW. But today I actually beat the alarm to it by a few seconds, and get out of bed straight away. No turning over for a few more minutes. I have a train to catch and some serious thinking to do. Its Monday morning and I am off to Fort William by train, to spend a few days on my own. the plan is to try and sort a few things out. I have some decisions to make about how to, or where to take my career. I am going with Mrs BW’s blessing and encouragement. I shower and go downstairs to make some porridge. I always do this in the microwave now. Its easier, and creates less mess in the sink and consequently the drains. It takes two minutes thirty seconds to make. I use the same measurements as always. The Microwave pings. I open the door. there is molten porridge everywhere. Why? Why today? I clean it out and make some toast. My train or rather bus leaves at 6.19am from Buxton Station. Bus because this is the first day of major rail works between Buxton and New Mills, so its the bus. Mrs BW takes me down to the station. I check and recheck that I have everything. I feel nervous. I have not been away on my own, apart from trips on business for fifteen years. We arrive at the station. It is 6.12am. There is a bus there waiting. I relax and start to get my case and rucksack out. The bus sets off. I shout at it, wave my arms at it. The driver ignores me. I run across the station forecourt and manage to catch his attention. He stops. Winds down the window. He explains that this is not the bus I want. He goes on his way. I go back to the car and an amused Mrs BW. I feel an idiot. This is not an great start.
The train is lurching and rattling its way through Greater Manchester. A thin, pale, pasty light is trying to force its way through the thick cloud cover and the retreating night. I am struggling with the train timetables. When I planned this trip, well okay planned might be a little bit ambitious, drifted into it might be a better description, the idea was to catch the
9.19 Virgin train to Glasgow from Preston. That meant that if everything went according to plan I could pick up the 12.38 from Glasgow Queen Street to Fort William, a trip I was looking forward to. All that scenery from the comfort of a train, relaxing, stress free, a chance to chill out and to start thinking. I had checked the Internet just before I left this morning and it threw a spanner in the works. There was an 8.48 from Preston to Glasgow, and that was fine as we go into Preston at 8.28. The problem was I could not find it on the Virgin Timetable that Mrs BW had given me. I am not a seasoned traveller. I need things to worry about, so as we rushed through the outer suburbs of Manchester, I worried about connections to Glasgow from Preston. Mrs BW had told me not to worry. “Stick to your plan” she said. “You have booked your seat on the 9.18, you have plenty of time.”
Its not a great view from the dust and rain streaked window. The derelict remnants of the industrial revolution and the great age of British manufacturing vie with waste ground and the visionary architecture of disillusioned sixties architects, convinced that they knew how people wanted to live best. The people getting on and off look tired, worn out, but I guess that would be true of anyone getting on or off a commuter train. Its not particularly busy. Before I know it we are pulling into Preston, and I have some decisions to make. In the end I decide to take the 9.18. It appears that there are at least eight different timetables for Virgin Trains Services. Mrs BW had given me the VT1 from the South West to Scotland. Very confusing! I need a coffee to recover.