Never a Dull Trip to London


I can only do travel as adventure.

Today, intending to catch a train from St Andrews to Edinburgh at 1:46, I arrived at Leuchars in the Bobby Mobile and unloaded my overpacking for the weekend. I needed my phone right away because picking up your train ticket requires a confirmation code but of course, I couldn’t find it. I was sure I’d brought it with me and I was ten minutes early, so I dropped everything in the parking lot and searched all the various pockets frantically. Then I stopped a passing car and asked the driver to call my phone and I sat on the ground clutching my bags and hoping to feel a vibration, but alas, everything was still.

At this point, I considered crying, but it really seemed like a useless proposition and so I ran across the tracks (up the stairs, bags bouncing, down the stairs, rail in hand) and continued to be generally frantic. I explained the situation to the ticket man, who was nice enough to inform me that I could catch the next train at 2:29, but I would get into Edinburgh at 3:27, which is notable because my train to London would be leaving that station three minutes later, at 3:30. I was already disheartened and so when he explained that I could get the train to London at 4:30, if I paid him forty pounds, I decided to do that. He also explained that if I happened to catch the 3:30, I might get a refund. So I thought to myself, I’m going to do that, and I smiled a lot before running out of the ticket office, back over the tracks (you guessed it, bags bouncing) and up to three cab drivers who were standing together leisurely.

Me: Excuse me, would one of you do me a really strange favor.

Scottish taxi driver: Go on then.

Me: I think I’ve dropped my phone somewhere in my car and if I’m wrong I have to drive back to St Andrews. But would you call me so that I can go listen for it in my car?

Scottish taxi driver: Alright then.

Me: Thank you do much. (gushing)

Scottish taxi driver: What’s your number then?

I give him my number and ask him to give me just a minute. He looks skeptical but willing and I sprint across the parking lot, drop my things in the car and wave at him to start calling. He does, and I hear a faint vibrating, which nearly inspires me to tears of joy. After that he had to call me six more times before I discovered my phone sitting happily under the passenger seat, as pleased as could be with this little trick it had pulled.

I gathered my things and went back again, chatting with the man who sells food on the platform. He to,d me I was beautiful, which was weird, but it’s possible he just wanted me to buy coffee with my egg and cheese sandwich.

Having determined quickly that I was not the only one making the London connection, I managed to find a seat in the first car next to a man with slightly yellowed eyes, dyed black hair and really awful breath. Surprisingly, I didn’t notice the breath until after I’d offered him a piece of gum and I’m glad because I probably would’ve been too embarrassed to offer had I noticed and e offering prompted a deeply hilarious conversation that I enjoyed thoroughly despite having some difficulty following it precisely.

He began by telling me that he used to work at Canary Wharf in London, which he explained was wonderful because just outside there was a Mark’s & Spencer. Full stop. He also said he worked in a skyscraper and that he could see Buckingham Palace and it was all really incredible.

About New York he said: it’s not London, but it’s a grand city. Just grand. I visited some museums, you know. Museums aren’t really my thing, and I don’t care much for modern art but the MOMA, wow, the MOMA is really an awesome museum.

When he used the word awesome, it was like you could hear the root. He was actually meaning awe inspiring.

About DC he said: I was there because my eldest daughter was presenting a paper and I did t expect to like it much, but up close it’s just incredible. The buildings – the space – everything is so big. And you see it on the tele, but it’s not the same until you’re there.

About a place called Durham in Edinburgh he said: I used to walk from up by the Durham castle and cathedral and you can look down on your left there and see these hills. They’re called the red hills because when the English and Scottish armies fought there, the English were up here (he gestured with his hand) and the Scottish army was fighting uphill and so they’re called the red hills for all the blood.

About the Grace Kelly museum he visited he said: It’s not really my thing, you know, ladies’ dresses and shoes and all that, but I was absolutely amazed. I really yank Grace Kelly is your version of Princess Di. Just in terms of size and hair and all that. And for seven quid – couldn’t pass it up! I almost went again, would you believe?

About his daughter who may be the youngest person ever to graduate with a law degree from Cambridge he said: Cost me 20,000 pounds, but it was worth it. Oh yeah, she’s worked for three of the five biggest firms in London. And she doesn’t tell me much – you know lawyers don’t talk much about cases – but I know she met that woman off The Apprentice because she told me once that this woman is actually really attractive in person. (chuckles). My daughter said she was ‘poorly advised.’

Later, he pointed out the road bridge to Edinburgh and an oil tanker on the water. He said he works in Aberdeen now, but that trying to make the London connection never worked for him – he said they wouldn’t open the doors even if you made it. This made me nervous, but I tried not to become excessively concerned.

He got off the stop before mine, gathered his things and wished me well. What a man.

Then I joined what appeared to be a rugby team standing at the front door of the train and challenged them to a race to platform 2, which had just been announced as the platform for the train to London. As soon as the door opened, we were off to the races. Literally. We sprinted to the automatic ticket gates, exited and rounded a corner to the left only to discover that platform 2 was, in fact, empty. Someone checked a tv monitor and it turned out we were meant to go to platform 8, which required a number of up and down flights of stairs and a lot more running.

So that was fun.

But then I made it, and that was really fun.

And now I am sitting in my assigned seat in the quiet coach, writing this account for you mostly because the man on the first train needed to be quoted.

I am a happy Lime!


10 responses »

    • I think I would have stuck my head under my wing if it were a longer train ride, but as it was, I immediately realized what incredibly bizarre and interesting material he was giving me and decided I just needed to take what the universe had brought along. Fantastic 🙂

  1. Well that all sort of worked out in the end didn’t it? Bit of an adventure. Probably much more fun than the rest of the train journey to London, although better you are doing the trip south on a friday rather than the reverse trip north.

    • I’ve decided I really love the train to London. I think I actually like it better than flying because the baggage thing isn’t so complicated and I can work the whole way there and back AND they give me fifteen minutes of free wifi, which just makes my life so much better. Also, you can always walk around on a train and you usually don’t feel like you’re going to die because turbulence is significantly less common. Haha… well anyway. It was indeed an adventure!

    • I completely agree — although I’ll be honest: I’m not usually patient enough for things like this. Still, it was just too precious a conversation to pass up.

  2. Great story…my heart was beating wildly as I read (with a mixture of maternal worry and out-of breathness generated by your sprinting here, there, and up the stairs). Very vivid…made me feel like I was there with you…now I must take a nap from the sheer exhaustion of your trip! Watch out for those Scottish men, btw….you never know what they have under those kilts…(I’m married to one..). And I’ve heard stories about rugby players, lots of beer, and missing kilts after a long train ride back from a match…

    • Oh dear! It’s amazing how familiar travel stories are, too — because most of us have had that racing experience and it’s awful, but when it’s over, it never seems like it should have been such a big deal.

      Good advice on the Scots, too. I’m definitely on the lookout for missing kilts… or… no… that’s not what I mean. Haha, I’m on the lookout for the, uh, clothed Scots. Hmmm. Anyway.

      By the way, thank you so much for the donation! It was very generous of you and I’m totally grateful 🙂

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