The everyday blog of Richard Bartle.

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3:06pm on Tuesday, 28th June, 2011:



My flight today is at 4:45pm. You're supposed to be at the airport two hours before take-off, so that means I have to be at Heathrow terminal 3 by 2:45. It takes about an hour to get to Heathrow from Liverpool Street, so I need to get to Liverpool Street at about 1:45. Colchester to Liverpool Street is also an hour, so that means I need to leave Colchester at 12:45. The bus from my house to the station takes 15 minutes to get there, so I need to be at the bus stop (about 30 seconds from my house) at 12:30.

That's if everything works without fail and in perfect synchronisation. However, the bus leaves every quarter-to and quarter-past the hour, and the trains leave just about the time the bus arrives so you have to wait for the next one. Also, the trains don't always run like clockwork (last night my wife's train that was due in at 7pm didn't get in until more like 8:10pm, meaning I had to miss a conference call to go and get her). Also, there are those new roadworks at the roundabout outside the station which will affect traffic. So, I figured that if I left my house for the 10:45 bus, I'd get to the station for maybe 11:05, giving me enough time to buy a ticket for the 11:20 which would probably get into London something like 12:30 to account for slack power lines that haven't been upgraded since the 1940s. I'd arrive at Heathrow at about 1:30 and have lunch there. This would give me over an hour's leeway for if there were any delays. Air travel has taught me that planning to arrive stupidly early can pay off.

So, last night the French attacked me in Victoria 2, just as I was about to stop playing for the night. I realised that if I stopped as planned then when I next got to play the game on Saturday I wouldn't remember what I was in the middle of doing, so I decided to beat the French and then go to bed. It took me two hours to persuade them that attacking me was a bad idea, so I went to bed around 1:15am.

This morning, I got up, packed, moved all my stuff from my denim jacket to a nice one back from the dry cleaners, and found myself with half an hour spare before I had to catch the bus. I used that half an hour to put all my troops back where they should go following the war with France. I looked at my watch: I had five minutes before the bus was due to depart, so I switched off the computer and ...

... and then remembered that I hadn't actually copied my talk onto my laptop. I didn't have the latest QBlog, either. I don't hold with any of this cloud computing nonsense, so I had to reboot my PC and copy the files onto my memory stick. This took five minutes. When I got to the bus stop, the bus had gone.

With half an hour to wait for the next bus, I called for a taxi. They could get one to me in half an hour. I might as well have taken the bus, so I turned them down and decided to walk the length of the village to the main Colchester-to-Sudbury road, where another bus company also operates and I could make up some time if I struck lucky.

Walking for 15 minutes in baking sun while dragging a wheelie suitcase isn't hard, but it makes you sweat. I had to take off my jacket and carry it (there goes the slick creasing). When I arrived at the main road, I saw two people waiting at the bus stop about a hundred metres away. I also saw the bus go past me and stop to pick them up. I had to grab my suitcase by the handle and run for the bus. I managed to make it, but by now my shirt was starting to stick to me.

I arrived at North Station at about 11:15 and queued for a ticket. I reached inside my jacket for my wallet, only to find that it wasn't there. Either it had fallen out while I was running for the bus or it hadn't made the transfer from my denim jacket earlier that morning. I had euros with me, but no pounds. I decided I'd better go home and pick up my wallet or, if it wasn't in my jacket, call the credit card people to stop my charge card from being emptied. I successfully persuaded a taxi-driver to take me home and wait for me while I got him the money to pay him.

Fortunately, my wallet was indeed in my denim jacket. I also took the opportunity while I was home to change my shirt to one that wouldn't cause anyone sitting next to me on the flight to ask to be moved. The taxi-driver took me back to the station (££11.50 plus tip) and I bought a ticket. I got a Heathrow Express one, rather than use the underground, becuase it's quicker. I finally managed to catch the 11:40 to London, which is a slow train that stops pretty well everywhere. Lunch was an emergency bar of Galaxy chocolate I had packed, which the heat had given had the consistency of plasticine (which I actually prefer to regular unmelty chocolate, it's just a bit messy...).

The train got into Liverpool Street at 12:45. I took the Circle Line to Paddington and arrived at 1:10. I'd noticed on the way when we stopped at Edgeware Road that it was raining heavily. This turned out to be significant.

I got to the Heathrow Express and was surprised to see just one of them there. Normally, there are two and there's a sign saying which leaves first. There was only one, though, so I got on it. After a few miunutes, the driver said there might be a slight delay because the ongoing electrical storm had issued a lightning strike on the overhead power lines and brought them down. He didn't seem to think it would take long to fix, which I viewed as optimistic but I waited anyway. He made two more announcements to similar effect, then told us that power was going to take quite a while to restore so we should take alternative transport.

I took the 1:30 District Line tube to Earl's Court, and from there the 1:40 Picadilly Line to Heathrow. While the doors were open at Baron's Court there was a crash of thunder so loud it sounded like a huge sheet of metal being dropped onto another huge sheet of metal. The underground train nevertheless continued, and I got off it at Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at 2:20. A long walk and a relatively painless passage through the security check meant I went through (unmanned) Passport Control at 2:40pm.

So, still early, but not stupidly early.

Damn those French and their anti-colonial jealousies!

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).