Britain is reeling under the onslaught of very little snow. It’s mayhem; end of days stuff.
There’s been horror stories of people stuck on trains overnight with no food, light or heating and farmers in tractors helping stranded motorists with flasks of hot drinks.
It wasn’t looking like a good day to go to Paris. Then I printed off our Eurostar tickets. For reasons known only to some non existent entity, I’d booked Mirinda’s ticket under the wrong surname. I suddenly went into full ninja mode. Then, realising that this wouldn’t serve any purpose whatsoever, I contacted Eurostar to ask them to change the name.
Of course they won’t change the name on any ticket no matter what. (Though they do say if there’s a typo don’t worry about it.) I tried all manner of ways to cajole and coax but there was nothing for it. The only solution was to make sure we took our marriage certificate with us. This would have been fine if our marriage certificate was where it’s supposed to be…but, of course, it wasn’t.
I was up at 6am packing and printing and generally waking up. I was taking the girls to Sue at 11:15 and my taxi was coming at 12:30. This gave me a fair few hours to find the marriage certificate. I found it at 10:40. I was about ready to give up then, in a moment of unusual clarity I remembered the last time we needed it.
It’s a strange tale of even stranger people. It was back when Mirinda wanted to take out British citizenship but Sarah didn’t want people to know her true age and the whole process stalled because she’d filled out the document first. Anyway, I’m still waiting for the signed document to make its tortuous way home and have a folder ready to receive it. One of the things Mirinda needs for the citizenship is our marriage certificate. And, yes, you guessed it, the certificate was in the folder waiting for citizenshiping. As is always the way, this was the last place I looked.
I was so relieved I did a little jig. Having picked myself up from the floor afterwards, I texted Mirinda to assure her we were still going to Paris and then took the dogs to Sue.
All morning my searching had been accompanied by squeals and screeches as kids turned the parks light snow covering into mud. As I walked by (on the way to Sue) I was amazed there was still any left.
Okay, I admit the photo above makes it look like there’s a lot of snow but, seriously, there was no more overnight so it couldn’t be more than 4cm. And in the Dell (to the right and out of shot) it was mostly mud.
So, I dropped the girls off (dismayed that Emma seems to love Sue more than any other living being) and went back home to finish packing, have a final coffee, put the kefir culture into temporary hibernation and generally sit and wait. (I should really have put some stuff away that had been strewn in my frantic search but I figured it could wait.)
I was momentarily concerned that the taxi driver wouldn’t be able to turn around in the street but, silly me, he did a perfect job and had me at the station in no time. We discussed the general absence of gritters. He said he saw one earlier but it didn’t appear to be actually spraying anything on the road. I suggested the driver might charge by the mile rather than grit tonnage. The driver agreed.
I’d been somewhat concerned that the trains wouldn’t be running very well given all the problems on the line yesterday and the fact that the railway company declared that it was shutting down all services from 8pm because of weather to come. I sat and waited for the announced train to actually arrive.
However, all was well and the trip into town was excellently devoid of any nonsense. As was the Tube ride to St Pancras. But that’s when the joy went out and darkness descended on the world of international train travel.
Eurostar had cancelled a lot of their trains (because of the weather) and so now the few that were still running were full. The queue went a very long way. All around St Pancras, weaving in and out of banks of seats and circling columns. I’ve never seen so long a queue. I thought I’d better join it and text Mirinda letting her know the worst.
She then texted back to say she couldn’t find me. That wasn’t particularly surprising given there were about 4 million people queuing for the trains (the one before ours as well as ours). Then I saw her. She was not happy. She was sure the big long queue meant there was a problem with the train and we’d be left stranded thirteen feet inside the Chunnel or kidnapped by pirates or blown away to Oz by some freak blizzard. I assured her all was well.
I’d overheard a Eurostar rep saying that the trains were full and that’s why everyone was queuing at once rather than the usual sedate form of boarding.
The tannoy also assured us that the train wouldn’t leave until everyone was on the train. We have no idea how they would know when that had happened though, being a simple chap, it did reassure me a bit.
The queue kept moving inexorably towards the check-in. I handed Mirinda her ticket and she scanned it at the turnstile and swanned through towards security. I scanned my ticket and…nothing. The bastard wouldn’t scan. No matter how many times I kicked the stupid machine.
I had to then join the queue for the Unscannables. This queue wasn’t very big but stalled by a family of three who had somehow destroyed the entire computer system to the point where it needed four Eurostar clerks to sort out the reason why the family were unscannable. It was growing increasingly frustrating, particularly given that Mirinda had already vanished from view.
Eventually I managed to reach security and stripped everything metal from my person as well as divesting myself of the essential 38 layers of snowproofing. I didn’t set off any alarms and was soon ready to redress.
Mirinda was waiting for me on the other side where we queued once more, this time for the border people. I handed her our marriage certificate and told her what to say. She seemed okay with it. The guy looked at her passport, looked at her and waved her through. The French border guy did the same thing. No one needed our marriage certificate. I looked around for someone to kill.
I eventually calmed down and we stood and waited for our train to be ready for us. We had no choice but to stand because the entire waiting area was chockas. Why is that? It seems like whenever we go anywhere, there’s always people filling the waiting area. Are there people who live there? It’s quite odd. Anyway, I didn’t mind standing given we’d be sitting down on the train for at least two hours.
Then came what may have been the worst part of the day.
Because of the problems with the trains, Eurostar decided to play fast and loose with everyone’s tickets. Rather than our original coach 2, we were reassigned another coach (I should stress that it was everyone and not just us). This was fine except for one small fact. We’d been given separate coaches. I had 11 and Mirinda had 7.
The train manager had no idea how bad his night was going to get when Mirinda strode up to him and demanded he do something about it. He shook his head and swore he couldn’t do anything. Mirinda made it clear to him that he could. He saw the fire in her eyes and realised he could do something. And he did.
Shortly after our little chat with the train manager we were both sitting in coach 7, happy and comfortable.
And so things remained until we reached Paris, Gare du Nord and we joined the taxi queue. An entire train full of people in a taxi queue has to be seen to be believed. Poor Mirinda was about to explode. She asked how far the hotel was. I told her it was a 26 minute walk. She worked out that it would take me 54 minutes and that was too far. We waited in the queue as it made its very slow way around itself a few times before reaching the place where we’d started.
I don’t know for how long we were in the taxi queue (possibly 54 minutes). I spent most of the time making inane conversation in order to distract Mirinda. It felt like ages but, eventually, we were in a cab and heading for our hotel.
Happily Mirinda was pleased with the hotel so we didn’t have to suddenly go and find alternative accommodation. This felt like the first thing that had worked out for the entire day.
We settled in for the night (we’d eaten on the train) and sighed with the kind of relief reserved for weary, travel worn souls. We crashed out onto the bed.
What a day.