An eventful journey

nativity wreathHaving a high old time in London this week, Little Owl and I managed to be completely oblivious to reports of the impending storm that hit Scotland on Wednesday night. Oblivious that was, until we tried to go home on Thursday morning by train. We arrived at King’s Cross to the news that there were no trains entering or leaving Scotland (no jokes about Alex Salmond please – we’ve heard them all!). Our Edinburgh train was now only scheduled to go to Newcastle and even that wasn’t a sure bet.

After a hurried phone conversation with Big Dreamer we decided to chance it. All the train reservations had been removed but we managed to get a seat and so began our long journey home, the train trundling along at a much slower speed than usual to allow for the weather. Eventually we arrived at Doncaster where we halted to allow overhead lines, taken down by a falling branch, to be repaired. A possible change of plan, where Big Dreamer’s mum picked us up from Doncaster and we stayed the night with her, was put paid to by an announcement from the driver that we were allowed to get off the train to stretch our legs but no one could leave the station at Doncaster due to flying debris from the station entrance roof. The empty platform and wild winds buffeting our carriage gave Doncaster a strangely dystopian look, especially when a man leapt onto the train as we were finally pulling off saying, “If I’ve got to be stuck anywhere it’s not going to be Doncaster.”

Another phone conversation with Big Dreamer and we began to make plans to get off the train at York and stay with his sister. According to Big Dreamer’s car radio the line was closed between York and Newcastle. He also told us how one of his colleagues had decided not to come to work that day when she’d seen a wheelie bin flying through the air at the height of her bedroom window. A fellow passenger had heard from a friend that it was now snowing in Scotland. Another passenger, who was trying to get to Dundee, looked decidedly nervous.

York had the look of a place trying to sort itself out after the worst had passed. There were crowds of crumpled looking passengers on the platforms and people in high vis jackets muttering into walkie-talkies. We craned our necks to see the departure boards and grilled boarding passengers to see if they knew any more than we did. Then we were off. A spirit of optimism filled the carriage. Someone had heard that the train was now going to go all the way to Edinburgh. Our Dundee-bound friend sank back into his seat in relief.

Our high hopes were only to be dashed at Darlington. No, this train was not going any further than Newcastle. Big Dreamer would meet us there and we’d travel the rest of the way home by car. It was getting dark now and the evening seemed still and peaceful. Durham’s cathedral and twinkling lights belied the storm’s ferocity. Newcastle was a weary station full of weary souls who, after a long day of travelling, were still all too far from their desired destinations and their beds.

The roads home were clear but the verges were strewn with debris. For a while we followed a lorry with an Austrian number plate, whose driver must have been wishing himself back on the continent. On entering the valley things seemed oddly dark. “Is it me or are there not any lights?” asked Big Dreamer. And indeed, the whole valley was out – phone lines, mobiles, electricity, the lot. We stumbled around the house with the torch we keep by the front door, finding candles. The forecast was for minus five over night so we put on several layers and tucked Little Owl up in between us in bed. We were soon all fast asleep.

Little Owl was a super star the whole way, helped by a few craft activities provided by the lovely friends we were staying with in London. One of these included the nativity-themed wreath pictured above. Didn’t she do well? And when I spoke to my mum this afternoon, who lives down in Devon, she said “Storm, what storm? I thought it was funny you didn’t answer the phone.” It’s good to know she was on high alert for her off-spring’s safety!

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