We had an unexpected meal in the Baltic restaurant tonight. Mirinda has been to the Baltic before and suggested we eat there after South West Trains declared their inability to get us home.
I had left my Northern Line train, as usual on a Friday and climbed the stairs to the mainline platforms via, what is called, the Peak Hour Subway. Called that because it’s only open in the morning and evening to allow passengers to pass from Tube to train without having to go through Waterloo concourse.
I was brought to an abrupt halt as I stared at the indicator board. Normally it lists two pages of train information (there are 19 platforms at Waterloo) but today it had two trains, both of which were delayed.
“This is an interesting development,” I thought as I stood, staring helplessly.
Mirinda was in Stafford today, meeting agricultural people and was trying to get to the same train as me for the trip home. I texted her, telling her what I knew – there were only two trains on the indicator board and they were both delayed and not going to Alton.
Then there was an announcement. There had been a massive signal failure in the Clapham Junction area and the only trains going anywhere were the ones on the indicator boards. Trains would be delayed or cancelled without warning. The world of transport via South West Trains had turned apocalyptic.
There was a combined choral groan from the rapidly increasing crowd around me in the subway. I received a text from Mirinda asking me what the Peak Hour Subway was. She didn’t understand where I was. I tried to explain, thinking that bit of information was hardly necessary. Eventually she rang me.
She was on the concourse, amid the mayhem. She suggested we go to have dinner while South West Trains sorted out their signals. And so we wound up at the Baltic.
As the name suggests, the Baltic serves food from around the Baltic region (from Russia to Poland, basically) and a lot of vodka. They actually have a vodka menu. They even make their own vodka. Behind the bar there are huge bottles of different coloured vodka. The place is entirely staffed by Schumanians…as you’d expect.
The food was nice, though I found it difficult to enjoy it given I was incredibly tired and just wanted to be on my way home. We drank, we ate, we paid and, eventually, we walked back to Waterloo via South Bank.
Not a lot had changed, except there were a lot more trains on the board. However, they all had either delayed or cancelled next to them. The concourse was also still packed with frustrated commuters.
There was an Alton train on the board without a platform. It was going to stop at a lot more stations than it normally would. This is never good. I suggested that Mirinda stay at the flat and I’d take my chances with the train. We were still discussing it when the platform was announced.
Mirinda pushed me towards the gate and I went for it, joining the seething mob of other people desperate to get home to their poodles. It was like joining the main stream of a raging river. Entering the middle, I was swept along with the other flotsam and jetsam of Friday night desperation.
I went for the first door I could find and, almost miraculously, fell into the only seat available. Behind me, more and more people pushed into the carriage until it was full to overflowing. When the doors finally closed, people were still left stranded on the platform. I considered myself very lucky.
Because of all the cancellations, the train then proceeded to stop at all manner of unusual stations and the passengers gradually dwindled. Eventually I staggered off, half asleep and half an hour longer, at Farnham.
What a horror trip home.