The 9.14 (actually it was the 9.25 as it was running late ) Virgin Pendolino service from Euston glided into Preston Station. I boarded and found my seat. I had reserved one and found myself sitting next to another passenger. Around me were empty seats. Empty and unreserved seats. At times like these, there is a distinct disadvantage to being English. The logical thing to do, the European thing to do would have been to get up from my cramped reserved seat and to have gone to the wide open spaces of the table seat opposite. Everyone would have been a winner. My fellow passenger could relax and enjoy the extra space in his reserved seat and I would have had a nice big table seat to sit and read and write at. But of course being English it is not as simple as that. I do not want to cause my fellow passenger any embarrassment, by switching seats. (Of course deep down I know that he would be delighted!) So I sit there, occasionally casting a wistful eye at the empty table seat. It was hard to read. Hard to concentrate on anything.
Outside the stale and tired industrial landscape gives way to gentle countryside. We leave Lancaster behind. I pluck up courage and muttering something about the chance to spread out go and sit at the empty table. I stretch out my legs in the acres of space and start to relax. The man in the seat across the way buys himself a drink from the steward and drops his change and tries to retrieve it. He fails to find it all and for the next twenty minutes casts occasional glances at the floor. The drink that caused him to almost choke at the price of £2.50 has become alot more expensive. We fringe the Lake District. The countryside changes from pastoral and gentle rolling hills to more mountainous, wilder landscapes. I think about the next few days and look forward to doing some walking tomorrow. Its starting to feel like I am getting away. I wonder what the hotel will be like?
The hotel in Fort William, that I booked last Friday. A sudden cold sensation creeps down my back. I have forgotten the name of the hotel or how to get to it. I search through my notebook, nothing there, no clues. We are coming into the outskirts of Glasgow. I will have to phone Mrs BW. There is no signal. I stare at the phone. A signal briefly flits across the screen but by the time I have dialed the number it has gone. “Emergencies only” it says on the screen. Well this is fast becoming an emergency. Even though I have another five hours of railway journey to go most of it is on the West Highland line and I have no idea whether there will be a signal available . I try again and get through. Do I detect a certain frostiness? “You can’t remember the name of the hotel that you booked? So you want me to find it for you?” I agree that that is the jist of it. When I suggest that she puts accommodation in Fort William in the search engine there is along pause. A very long pause. The bloody signal has gone again. We are pulling into Glasgow Central when eventually Mrs BW comes up with the goods, and finds the name and number of the hotel for me. Apparently I had saved it in favourites. For once my hording instincts have been worth it.
Glasgow looks like any other city seen from its main railway station. In the greyness of this wet winters day, I am glad that I abandoned an earlier plan to stay overnight here. I now have thirty minutes to get to Glasgow Queen Street. You can walk it in ten, but its raining and I have some heavy luggage. I decide to take a taxi. I go to the nearest one and ask to be taken to Glasgow Queen Street. The driver is not happy about it. He would prefer a trip to the airport, much more lucrative. He says something to me. I cannot understand a word he says. I get in anyway and sulkily he takes me to the station. I am in plenty of time to catch the 12.38 to Fort William. But is it on the lower or higher platform? And why is it not showing on the screens? In fact nothing is showing on the screens. There are a lot of people milling about and quite a few trains waiting but not many clues as to where they are going. I ask someone. “Platform four, but you can’t board yet.” So I wait.