Tuesday, June 30, 2009

London to Kent

DSC03625 DSC03617 Our trip from London to Kent (a county in southeast England) was relatively uneventful except for the highly disappointing fact that there was no trolley on the train. “Will there be a food trolley on the train?” was the question of choice for Zoe who asked it about 34 times as we got ready to take the train. Who uses the word ‘trolley’ anyway other than Mr. Rogers. When we showed up at Charing Cross Station, the schedule board showed no less than 5 trains to our destination all leaving within an hour. How convenient! How absolutely SMASHING! The next one was leaving in exactly 3 minutes so we dragged our leaden luggage to the platform where the train was conveniently waiting, loaded everything on and settled ourselves around a table. We were virtually the only people on the train and the rest of the journey passed without incident except that the trolley never did make an appearance to Zoe’s dismay so we had to settle for the remains of a bag of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers that I found in my purse (how did they get there???) and whatever my mum had in a mysterious plastic bag of food that she saw fit to bring with us from the London apartment. I only opened it once and then quickly closed it after briefly glimpsing what looked like broccoli and a container of cherry tomatoes. A nice piece of broccoli is really indispensable on a train journey after all.

Trolley operator: “Would you care for anything from the trolley, miss:

Me: “Yes, please, I’ll have a cup of tea and a couple of broccoli florets please…

Trolley Operator: “I can do the tea miss but I’m afraid we don’t have much call for broccoli”

Me: “Oh it’s all right my mum has some right here.”

Trolley Operator: “Very good, Miss.”


Trolley Operator: “Cadbury’s chocolate fingers, Otter’s noses, lemon biscuits, Fondant Fancies, Hot Tea, Broccoli Florets, Badger’s Spleens, …”

Me: “I’ll have a bag of Broccoli Florets, please”

Further inspection proved there was also a bag of suspect lettuce, and some pistachios shells. I started to ask why and then left it because really what is there to know?

Upon arrival at Ashford International station, so named because it is one of the starting off point for the Eurostar trains, I called the rental car place and they dispatched someone to pick us up in the aptly named Nissan Micra. The plan was to take us back to the station, do the paperwork and then we would be on our way but there was clearly no way at all we would all fit in this tiny little vehicle. So I left the entourage on the sidewalk amid promises that it was only a 5-minute drive and I would be right back. Of course it was more like 15 minutes there and then the larger car that we were promised was at the back of the car lot behind 15 other cars. So it was more like 45 minutes before I finally got behind the wheel of my Vauxhall Meriva and started the trek back to the station with the world’s most useless map ever in my possession and the most useless driving directions ever (just go left out the gate, down a little hill, under a little bridge, straight along for a mile until you come to a pub and then take your third exit off the next roundabout but you’ll want to take a sharp right then a sharp left and then under another bridge and then get in the middle lane so that you can take the second left exit on your right past the village of Spiffing-Blean and there it is you can’t miss it it’s dead easy). All it really takes here is one wrong exit of a roundabout and you have been hurled off into the complete wrong direction.

You will be surprised to hear that this happened to me! So it was probably 60 minutes later that I approached the station, and then took the wrong turn into a parking lot, and ended up in a dead end, which wouldn’t usually be a problem as one would just reverse out of said dead end and leave the parking lot, except that I could not get the car into reverse no matter how hard I tried. The ‘r’ was located on the top left of the little diagram on the gear shift knob and so I tried a million times to get it into reverse, each time putting it into 1st instead and so nosing closer and closer to the wall in front of me. At this point a man approached me to, I assumed, offer assistance to this twit who was apparently trying to drive her car into a wall one inch at a time. I rolled down my window and put on an apologetic face. “Do you have the time?” he said. “Uh...Oh…..Ummmmmm…yes it’s 1:58pm” I stuttered. “Thanks. The clock in my car has never worked” he said with a smile and walked off. “Yes, I know what you mean – the reverse in my car has never worked either” I wanted to say.

Sensing the complete ridiculousness of the situation, I stopped trying to drive in to the wall, turned off the car, and looked around for someone who might help. At this point, a police van drove into the lot so I flagged them down and apologetically explained my situation. A very nice constable came back to the wall with me and explained kindly that if I would just look at the base of the gear shift knob I might see that there is a ring that wants lifting up, see, as you switch into reverse. Oh. Of course. Right! RATHER! I thanked him profusely, answered a few questions about where I was from (not Ashford) and where I was going (not sure) and no it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to pop over to the pub with him and his partner for lunch as my family was waiting for me on the other side of the parking lot and thanks very much anyway.

I backed away from the wall and zipped over to the station to pick everyone up. We set off toward Maidstone in what I thought was the correct direction. Well whatever it wasn’t and so after an extended tour of Ashford including a nice look round the pedestrian only areas, we eventually found the right road and eventually, the entrance to Leeds Castle, our cottage, and here I am. I am not leaving the house today!

Managed to speak to Kent last night and he sounded completely stoned (good for him) declaring that there was no need for hysterics. I got the feeling that he was quite enjoying the chance to sit in a wheelchair, read the paper, have people bring him food and drugs regularly. I miss him a lot though and feel bad that I can’t be closer. He did say that he didn’t even want our friend Sandy to contact me at all but she recognized that that was a bit ridiculous and so I’m glad she did. How SPIFFING of her! I SAY!

More tomorrow…

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