I awoke after having only two hours’ sleep. I had been desperately sorting out things I needed and trying to clean the flat so I would be able to return from my trip with nothing to do but a few loads of washing. Alas, it wasn’t to be. I just wasn’t prepared at all.
There were several items I had not acquired, one of which was socks, so I went to the nearest shopping centre. Alas, Marks & Spencer didn’t have socks thick enough, so I had to purchase some rather expensive pairs from Cotswolds. I returned home and packed these in my suitcase along with my walking boots, which practically took up all the space. I was wearing shoes more suitable to getting myself across London, i.e. comfortable flats.
I glanced at the time and realised I needed to leave immediately. As it happens I had forgotten to book a taxi, so I checked in with my landlady and I was in luck: her son was about to do the banking so he dropped me off at the station and I wished him a happy belated birthday as I had not seen him on the day. I scrambled up to the station and looked at the boards, desparate to find an express train into Victoria. There was one and I though my luck would hold. It wasn’t to be. The train was full and I was required to stand all the way into Victoria with my suitcase, my day pack and my camera backpack. I alighted at Victoria and had a hard time fumbling to find my ticket to exit the barriers. I decided not to venture onto the tube, even though my ticket covered the journey to Euston as it was hot and I was already feeling unwell with a headache that would not stop.
There seemed an awful lot of traffic on the London roads and my driver valiently tried to go around it with little success. The temperature seemed to rise and as the taxi had no air-conditioning, my headache worsened. I did manage to leave a message on Facebook of my whereabouts and I had ambitions to continue to update Facebook throughout the trip.
Finally, arriving in Euston I noticed my train to Preston had no platform allocated, so I nipped into Marks & Spencer to get some lunch for the journey and a bottle of water as I hadn’t had breakfast and was, by this time, hungry. As I came back out into the main arena, I noticed a platform had been allocated so I made my way down to my train. Of course, my carriage was the furthest from the barriers. As I finally found my carriage, I lifted up my bags and proceeded to locate my reserved seat. When I did, I found someone sitting in it despite the sign indicating it was reserved.
I politely excused myself (only the gods know why) and explained I had reserved that particular window seat with a table. The lady removed herself, shuffled down the aisle and promptly sat in another reserved seat. Honestly, do people not have nouse anymore? I had just got myself settled into my seat when a gentleman came along and said he had reserved the seat next to me but wondered if the seat diagonally opposite was empty. I responded I had not seen anyone yet and the sign was unhelpful, so he sat down opposite.
I must admit I was pleased as he seemed friendly and was not unattractive. No-one else appeared and the handsome devil opened up his laptop and proceeded to work. I asked about the WiFi service on the train as I really have no clue as to how these things work – yet – and he explained it to me, but that was to be the extent of our conversation until he alighted at Wigan and we murmured goodbye to each other.
After spending a few hours on the train, attempting to read but being thwarted by my aching head, I arrived in Preston. I made my way up the ramp and to a taxi completely unaware that: two of my fellow tour passengers had been on the same train; Neil, our tour guide, was standing at the top of the ramp in Preston station; and the tour bus marked very clearly “Megalithic Tours” was right outside the doors. The taxi driver took me to the Marriott through was I can only describe as horrendous traffic.
I had booked at the Marriott, rather than the Ibis from where the tour departed, because I was able to pay for the room using Airmiles, thus it was free saving me £40, as taxi fare and dinner came to £17. I arrived in my room and attempted to contact Neil to let him know I had switched hotels. I left him a message, but I was later to learn he opted for an early night. So, I resigned myself to ordering a taxi the next morning and settled into my room.
The room was lovely and the grounds were fantastic. Everything seemed wonderful and it was to be. I was curious, though, as to why such a highly rated, luxury hotel didn’t have all the Sky channels available on its televisions. In fact, some of the channels I receive on Freeview were noticeable by their absence.
I took myself down to the bar restaurant and ordered sausage and mash. I know it wasn’t very imaginative, but it was a huge portion. I still marvel at the fact that as you move further north on this island, food portions grow ever larger until the plates can barely contain the meals. I think it must be a hospitality thing, as the people in the north are a lot friendlier and helpful than their southern cousins.
I made my way back to my room and, finding no response from Neil, I watched a bit of television, set my camera and iPhone on their chargers and then fell asleep around 11 p.m. Well, it wasn’t going to be early given I work evenings usually and I had not been able to make adjustments before my departure.
And, so ended Day 0 of my tour of the North-West of Scotland.