In the past my strategy for dealing with a low was quite simple. Take the drugs, take to bed and take comfort in the fantasy world of the morbid Harry Potter and his long-suffering pals.
By the time I noticed the low I was usually so far gone that I didn’t have the energy to fight it by any other means than sheer escapism. I think that even if I had had the energy to fight I had no idea of how.
Although my most recent depression rendered me a mere ghost of myself for seven weeks, it was only for seven weeks. In the past I have lost months of my life to this damned illness and to think that maybe this time it was what I did that helped the medication along gives me great hope because it means that maybe I can manage it.
Maybe it means that I won’t always succumb to the dark clouds and maybe I do now understand what my dad was talking about all those years and all those lows ago when he said, “Darling you have to fight it. You have to because every day that you don’t is a day that you’ve lost.”
I don’t want to lose any more days.
After yesterday’s mini breakdown I went to bed wondering whether I’d ever be able to get up again. When I woke up this morning therefore with no need for an alarm and feeling fairly fine I was a little surprised but pleasantly so. Today you see is my Grandmother’s birthday and though crying on one’s own birthday is fairly acceptable I would be a bit of a spoilsport if I was to cry on hers.
Had I been in more of a rush, her and I would have been born on the same day, I was delivered at 1am on May 13. There are rumours my father passed my mother a message from my grandma, at home looking after my two sisters, to try to hurry up but they are unconfirmed as yet.
One of my earliest memories of my grandma is baking cakes with her in the kitchen. She won prizes for her baking when she was a member of the Women’s Institute and still today she makes wonderful cakes and puddings much to the sweet toothed giants delight. I had always been allowed to lick the spoon but on this particular day there had been a health warning issued about the dangers of salmonella and my grandma was not taking any risks. She put the spoon on the side ready to be washed but as she turned around to put the cakes in the oven I reached up and snatching the spoon from the side ran upstairs to hide behind the wardrobe where I triumphantly licked off the remains of the mixture.
During the war my grandma lived in Coventry where she worked in a factory. She had three children, Margaret, Gilbert and Ian. When my father met my mother he told her his name was Paul. He was rumbled however when my mother rang his house to speak with him and was told by my grandma that there was a Gil but no Paul living there.
Until a few years ago she was still driving and did not only cut her own lawn but her neighbours lawn too. Though she struggles with arthritis she continues to knit blankets for anyone we know who is expecting a baby and crochets the sweetest little mats and crosses which are perfect for bookmarks even though she tells my mum they are to be distributed at her funeral.
We have taken her away to ski in the past and though she was not on the slopes she feels the cold as badly as me and bought herself an all in one red ski suit which clashed brilliantly with her white hair and meant we could always see her from the top of the lift. She is as big a cheat when it comes to board games as I am and while playing Scrabble on the skiing holiday she attempted to cheat a number of times including one occasion when she insisted gitesex was a word. She had put down git herself which had left us all in hysterics.
On her 80 birthday we brought her to The Grand in Brighton and though my parents had been planning to take her away for her 90 in the end she preferred to go out for lunch with us all. We took her out to The Three Swans in Harborough today and she wore a beautiful blue pussy bow blouse. As well as following the football I can still speak politics with her and she is great company. The other day I had to turn down a 90-year-old man who wanted me to do a write up about his wife’s birthday. I felt dreadful because we do not cover 90 birthdays any more. I think my grandma would enjoy seeing her name in print so the next time I see her I am going to give her a mini interview so I can tell her story through her own eyes rather than mine.
I know her as my grandma. As the woman who rocked me back and forth in a washing basket, who made us all jumpers with our initials on and who would bake us jam tarts and a chocolate coated cake with buttons. I know her as the woman who once chased off some bullies on bikes who were being mean to me and the one who basted butter on my forehead when I bumped it whilst running around with my sisters. She would give us toffees and cakes while my parents were looking the other way and still repairs cardigans and sows on buttons for all of us. I do not want her story to be of only these things, I also want to know her and write her as a worker, a mother and a woman.
- Today’s dress is from the mysterious dress donor, they arrived last week with a new cryptic message included addressed to an even stranger name. The donor asked whether I would mind putting on a bit more weight as it is difficult to find dresses in my size. This one is originally from Next and feels lovely. I felt it was dressy enough for The Three Swans but was annoyed because my epilator is yet to arrive still and so I had to wear horrid tights.
The house has been taken over by women and it is fabulous. There is make up piled upon the sides, glitter lines all of our carefully faded terracotta floor tiles and there are shoes, handbags and even a bra strewn everywhere. The place smells of a dozen perfumes and best of all it is warm, oh so warm.
The giant and my mother have gone away to the poet’s country for the Easter holidays and have left me alone with an empty house crying out for company. My little brother tried to return yesterday for a snack but was shooed away for fear he would ruin my table setting or worse still try to steal one of the carefully baked fish cakes. I passed him over a strawberry yoghurt and encouraged him to go out for the night and treat himself to a take away.
The girls have come over to stay for the weekend and it has been lovely having our home female again. Long ago, when girls dominated the house with a majority of two to one, the leaving up of a toilet seat was an unforgivable offence. Bathroom time back then had to be limited between the four of us, with staggered shower times to accommodate the appalling length of time we would each spend caring for our long brown locks with lovely lotions and potions. There would be constant crowing about who had used whose best shampoo or “where the hell is my hairbrush gone”.
There was also always a stand-off at the hall mirror where most of the morning battles were fought between the sexes. It was a perfect place as it fell between all five bedrooms and was directly outside the bathroom. It was at this spot that we would stand to shout from about “how long can it take to brush your teeth” and “what the hell do you think you’re doing, its my time now.” My sister Catherine actually used a timer to brush her perfect pegs and it was at least five minutes of careful circular brushing before she even got round to gurgling the mouthwash.
The mirror was also the place where we jostled for position. The giant used to have a beard when we were teens and most days it needed trimming. Unfortunately he always seemed to time this at the exact same point at which we all needed the mirror to preen, tame our locks and pose. In all fairness to our father he did try to resolve the problem by installing another mirror in the hallway but there were no plug sockets, perfect lighting or even a nice little shelf there for us to put our make up on so we quickly gravitated back to the main mirror. Though the new mirror did have its problems I think the real reason we never stuck to the new seeing glass was we actually rather enjoyed the teasing and the tussles of the morning.
I remember the giant yelling up to us from where he stood downstairs by the door insisting that unless we were all in the car in five minutes he would be driving down to the bus stop without us. My mother made the mistake of pointing out on one occasion how pointless this would be but the threat continued nevertheless. We were all so dreadful at getting ready in the mornings that on account of one bathroom battle or another we missed the school bus pick up from the town at least once a week. On these occasions, the giant who is a very safe but very fast driver would chase down the bus, taking it over on close corners to get in front to the following bus stop so we could get to school. It was hysterical and one of the best bits was watching as all the other school children gazed out at us hurtling past hoping we would once again beat the bus and make it to school in time.
Having the girls here for the weekend reminds me of how brilliant it is to live in a female focused house. It smells lovely, there is always chocolate and wine hidden somewhere and there is always someone to gossip about the day with and best of all the heating never gets turned off, but don’t let the giant in on that one.
- Today’s dress is a donation from Hannah Cantrell. It is from Miss Selfridge and though I think it looks very smart it is a little short for the workplace. The rabbit and the strange flowers, which I am slightly afraid might well open up and eat me were Easter presents from the boy. I would like to think I have the will power to make the bunny last as long as the flowers but as its ears have already been lopped off the odds are not looking good on the time it has left in this world.
I am a sleepy social media madam today. I had an ingenious idea last night that if I went into work a little earlier than expected I would get more done. It was a good idea and maybe I did get more done but now at ten or maybe even eleven at night my brain is buzzing but my body is begging me for sleep. One of the most exciting and addictive things about journalism is the thrill of being ever slave to a deadline. It can be stressful, of that there is no doubt but the pressure of knowing the clock is ticking often forces us hacks to hammer out some of the most inspirational, witty and really just rather wonderful pieces which would never have been as good if they had been given too much time to brew and mellow.
Today has been hectic. For some ridiculous reason our phones went down. This would have been okay by itself but for some reason this also meant our email, internet access and really just about everything went down at the same time. You would be amazed at how adaptable one must be in times of technological meltdown.
Today I have used the yellow pages, not the yell version, but the kind which short men would use in the past to kiss girls which were just that little bit too tall for them to reach up to. I also became acquainted with an interesting tool known as an A-Z. As a girl who is unable to find her way to her fella’s home without guidance from Shawn, my friendly Irish friend of Tom-Tom fame, I was amazed to find I can still read a map. Admittedly I lost at least half an hour on my way home after forgetting to turn the map the right way up but nevertheless I must admit I am feeling fabulously independent.
I was hoping today would be the last time I had to stumble about the town in heels as I was due to have another chat with the giant this evening about the car situation. Unfortunately my mother, the peace maker intervened early on. She apparently sensed that one was too stressed and the other was too tired and so because of her uncanny powers of perception the talk will have to wait till tomorrow.
Though I am feeling rather romantic today about old-fashioned methods of communication and information acquirement there are a number of benefits and charms of the internet and IT which must be mentioned. Copy and paste is one of the most brilliant inventions of our time; one realises this after claw hand sets in after copying endless quotes from paper, actual paper! I was also informed the other day by a friend that Microsoft Office actually gives one the opportunity to recall an email. Just think of all the relationship breakdowns and diplomatic fall outs which could have been avoided had this trick been more widely publicised. Rather than trying to get people to ping, poke or bing, or whatever the new sappy sounding buzz word of the moment is, Mr Gates should be sending out emails across the globe telling people about this, the holy grail of idiots who email.
I had better get my blogging bottom off to bed for tomorrow is my actual first deadline day as a trainee reporter. I am paranoid about getting my patch page just right and have spent the past couple of hours craning over my copy to make sure everything is just so; however my eyes are starting to stream and my head is beginning to lull and if I do not go to bed soon I risk boring the tweeting world with my angst. I think I need to get back in touch with my counsellor.
- Today’s dress is from the lovely Lara who has donated a whole heap of dresses to the project. This dress is originally from Tu which I think roughly translates as Sainsburys. I must admit I am rather impressed with the supermarket frocks at the moment, yesterdays dress was also from a supermarket and I had quite a few compliments on it. I am totally in love with the floral print on this dress and even though I found it a bit too low on the bust the cut is quite clever and it tucks you in at the waist with a tie which runs round the back. I think it was originally designed to be a knee-length frock but Lara is a creative lady who is a little shorter than me and I think she has taken the hem up herself. Mummy took the photos, don’t ask.
Che ricordarsi del tempo felice
There is no greater sorrow than to recall a time of happiness in misery.
Ib. v. 121 Dante Alighieri 1265 – 1321
Today has been a bad day, the worst I’ve had for several months in fact. The misery has consumed me, totally and completely. I feel gripped by sadness. The boy tries to pull me out of it; he suggests an outing to the park or a drink at our local but I am unmoving in my melancholy. I submerge myself in sadness, powerless to halt the tide of tears streaming river like from my deadened eyes.
Years ago during an episode of depression which had lasted for weeks, my father sat beside me on the bed where I was curled up like a child sobbing and stroking my tear sodden hair, he did his best to comfort me in the only way he knew how. ”You have to fight it darling, you can’t let it get the better of you because every day you lose to it is another day of your life.” Depression is like cancer; it creeps up on us when we least expect it. It strikes without warning, crawling quietly in to your mind to poison each and every thought. It feeds off your bodies resources and before you know it, it matters not that you are top of your class, dating the hottest guy in halls or doing your dream job all you can feel is sadness.
As I am reluctant to depress you all too much with more musings on misery and also in a desperate attempt to remind myself that I have been happy over the course of the last ten years, I decided to take a look through previous diaries and letters of the past for inspiration. I was rather pleased then to come across this surprisingly succinct passage. I actually remembered the feeling of that moment all those years ago and it gave me a little lift, just enough to lull me to sleep while the boy held me tight, soothing me to sleep by stroking my tear sodden hair.
19.1.2000 – 5.00 – Today I have felt truly happy; no false smiles that shelter uncried tears. Just me happy and laughing. Natural and unconscious. No simply going out of my way to impress and make things happen or going out of my way to frown at people and criticise. Note from Editor – this is obviously not something I would usually do, ha hem.
I looked out the window and the sky had turned the most perfect colour a gorgeous reddy, pink and the town had seemed to merge into a beach scene and a presence sort of passed over me and then I felt that everything was perfect.
Elinor O’Neill, 15-years-old
- Today’s dress is another from Hannah Cantrell. I feel bad that I have failed to give it the airing it deserved but the boy was very entertained by it – lots of legs plus magic mushrooms make boy happy.
I wanted to go anyway as I love the idea that one day we will have a Brady Bunch style holiday where the most exciting thing that happens is my mother burning the toast. Because of this tragic dream I assured the boy things would be different and I actually believed it, there would only ever be four family members together at any one time and there was going to be partners and friends to force us all to be on our best behaviour.
For the first four days everything went well; there were no sulks, no snarls and even sarcasm was kept to a minimum. I started to feel smug at how dull we had become and even considered making cookies for us all. I should have known it would not last. The giant enjoys his space as do we all and in the absence of yoga, Facebook and Sky television the tensions began to mount and all it would take for things to explode was a happy hour combined with an empty tummy too many.
As I am not really meant to be drinking I usually try to back away from situations where I feel obliged to drink. Après ski however is a traditional part of mountain culture and is one of the nicest parts of the skiing day. After the lifts have stopped the skis come off and people gather together with their friends, family and travelling companions upon the terraces which look up to the slopes and swap anecdotes of a day spent with their heads above the clouds. When everyone suggested an après ski drink I could not resist and over a cold beer we had a great time dissecting our day and congratulating ourselves for surviving a blizzard to come unharmed through the other side of the mountains mist.
The problem with drinking after a hard day on the slopes is how quickly the alcohol goes to your head. I have fallen foul of the beer fairy before and in doing so have ruined myself for the slopes the next day; with this thought in mind and an overwhelming desire to finally get up to date with my blog I headed home leaving the others at The Rhododendron; the cheapest and most cheerful pub in the whole of Le Praz. I was feeling quite proud of myself for recognising the limits of my liver and treated myself to a strong coffee and hot shower to ease the aches of the slope.
I do not know why everything went wrong but I do know when it started to slide downhill. I had curled myself upon the couch after returning to the apartment alone and was looking forward to spending some time alone. I had just finished coming up with a concept for the day’s blog when my thought structure was interrupted by my sister’s partner crashing through the door upon the arm of my father’s godson. Admittedly he had been moaning while we were in the pub and had asked for a cold pack but we had all assumed he wasn’t too injured as he had skied down the mountain on it just fine only an hour before. One look at his face convinced me he was not faking, he was pale and acting as though he was in total agony. Though I do not have the most maternal of bones I felt I should at least attempt to care for him. His knee was the size of a tennis ball after all and with my sister absent and my mother back in the UK I applied the medicine of every good Irish woman, a cup of tea and a sandwich.
After adding to my cure a couple of painkillers and some snow packs, (my father’s godson’s innovative invention) ,it was clear he might need more medical attention than I could provide. Although I did a first aid course when I was twelve all I could remember was something about a triangular bandage and I didn’t really see how that could help us now. It was about this point that I started to panic.
My sister and the giant were over at the bar with no idea about the deteriorating knee situation. Though my sister had said she would return home after one more drink I had little faith in her keeping this promise. I have echoed the same spiel myself when the boy has rang to see when he could expect me home. Though one likes to believe one will be home in a jiffy the craic of the bar will always outweigh any call to come home, especially as the caller will usually be a cross patch by the time you get back and be none too amused when you tell them you wuv them very smuch indeed.
As I feared she may not be in the mood for problem solving when she returned I had sent a messenger to find out whether there was any hope of getting help on a Sunday and found out that the nearest hospital was forty minutes away. When I heard this I had another unpleasant realisation; I was the only one capable of driving and I haven’t been in a car since December. I was beginning to feel rather overwhelmed by responsibility and upon hearing another groan from my sister’s partner I realised I had no choice but to get the doctor involved. When she arrived she seemed quite concerned and advised a hospital visit for X-rays and painkillers. After deciding it would be best to wait till the morning to take him I began to feel relieved that something had been done.
My sister had returned just before the Doctor got there which left me free to return to my writing whilst she played at being nurse. Just as I had settled into the couch however and opened up a monthly magazine, the giant returned. If it wasn’t for his rosy cheeks I probably would have jumped out the ground floor window upon seeing the look on his face. The giant had been unaware of the developments in the knee situation and as far as he was aware I had called out a seventy-five euro doctor for no reason and was a bit of a fool for doing so.
There is little point in going into detail about who slung the mud and how deep was the colour but what got said tonight has destroyed the delicate peace of the last few days. I feel foolish for coming away and annoyed because come the morning I will be the only one who will remember the harsh words spoken. The boy is perhaps right, maybe the time has come to call a day on the annual family hell-a-day.
- Today’s dress is another loan from my sister who also took the photos from today. It is from Hennes and though it looked great with a beret all of us were feeling a bit too bitter about the rugby to promote French culture any more than we had to. The mountains in the background by the way are Swiss.
- FYI – The reason I am smiling in the pictures is they were taken before everything kicked off when we were still on speaking terms. I do hope our family will be at peace again., I just find it hard right now to imagine how.
Though the giant and I have a terse relationship when we are skiing we somehow manage to put our differences aside and enjoy each others company. When I was nine-years-old my father decided it was time to take me along on the O’Neill family annual skiing holiday. My mother has never been a big fan of the sport so she tended to stay at home with whichever tot was too young to come along. Although I was a daddy’s girl when I was younger by the time my first skiing trip came round my feet were planted firmly at my mother’s side and the idea of leaving her to go away with the giant seemed to me like an act of treason. In the end our darling Catherine managed to convince me that skiing was “really good fun” and I conceded to join her and the giant in a trip to Austria. I must admit I did not immediately take to the activity, it was freezing cold and no matter how many times I sucked on my gloves my fingers felt like icicles. By the end of the holiday however I was hooked; I loved the way the wind whipped through my hair as I hurtled down the slopes, I loved how fast me and my sister could fly down the flat runs, pausing only to size up the best path for show jumps and I loved how well we all got along without the pressures of two other siblings, housework and homework. My sister, my father and I would get up and out by half seven and stay out on the slopes till the last lift of the day. The flights back then used to cost a fortune so we would save our money by bringing Mars bars from home and the occasional slab of Milka to keep our energy levels up throughout the day. My father would share it out between us on the chair lift and we would chomp it down before embarking upon another run.
The best holidays were always those where we split into ski school groups during the morning then met up at lunchtime to swap stories. I do not know why it is we get along OK when we are skiing, perhaps like our shared love of football, having an activity which we both enjoy means we have something in common other than blood. Whatever it is we always seem to have a good time up on the mountains and we have spent whole afternoons together tearing down The Alps, racing and seeking out new challenges, chasing the sun and attempting to escape the cloud and the mist.
I feel privileged that I have been able to go skiing from a young age, although me and my sister were taken out of school I do not think we missed out on any where near as much as we gained from going. Some of my favourite and most traumatic childhood memories are from these holidays, such as all the times my sister and I used our sunglasses to check out hot men on the slopes or the time my father fell over the side of a cliff and we had to beg passing skiers to stop and help us drag him up. For some time my father and I were at a level with our ability but sadly he has now overtaken me and it makes me a little sad that we no longer ski in union. We had a race today and for the first time in years he beat me leaving me with a burning desire to get my fitness back on track as soon as we get back to the UK to make sure this travesty never happens again, I mean for goodness sake he’s practically retired!
- My sister kindly took the photos for today and we tried to get a backdrop of The Alps but the railway crossing got in the way a little as well as some rude drivers who seemed to think they had the rights over the road . Today was supposed to be Little Black Dress Friday as started by The Uniform Project a couple of weeks ago to promote creativity and sustainability. Unfortunately it has been postponed till next week but as dress supplies out here are as scarce as the snow in the valley I decided to wear my long black dinner dance dress regardless. My mother bought it for my dinner dance when I was 16 and since then I have worn it on only five other occasions; four of these were to dinners and evening dos with different boyfriends, the last was for a visit to the opera in Verona with my father, my brother and my mother. I love it to bits and even though I look rather different in it now to when I was a slender sixteen-year-old, I still think it is one of the most beautiful dresses I own.
When I crashed my car back in early December whilst driving along a country lane I remember quite clearly what went through my head when I stepped out of the only door which still opened to survey the wreckage and wonder at the miracle of German engineering; “Oh God I am going to have to start getting the train again.” Since passing my test on my fourth attempt I have done everything within my power to never have to darken the door of public transport again. Rather than getting on the last bus home or taking the train down to London or up North to Manchester I chose the comfort, safety and reliability of my car every time. Whether I had to put up with roadworks, boy racers who lack the skill to keep up with a lady racer or BMW drivers who insist on riding up your behind no matter what, I always took comfort in the fact that at least I was not having to ride the trains.
There was once a time when I enjoyed boarding the train. It was about eight years ago when midland mainline in their wisdom put on a service which rode its passengers directly from Leicester straight through to Manchester. As I was due to start at the University of Manchester come September I was delighted and even made use of it a few times to check out my new city-to-be. At the time they still offered free cups of tea and coffee and even the odd entertaining magazine all for a fairly reasonable price of £18 so long as you remembered your railcard. Unfortunately the tea and coffee was cut, some wise guy accountant decided this was actually the cause of a 0.001% reduction in profits and knowing that the poor commuters would have little choice other than to pay the price or get up earlier in order to make up a flask of the good stuff they pushed through the skinflint measure knowing they could charge us with little fear of a French style rebellion. Midland Mainline kept the service going until about two months after I began my course when they decided there just wasn’t the demand. It was just enough time for me to get used to the joy of being only two hours from my home town of Market Harborough and for the rest of my time there I was forced to crowd on to the train services to Sheffield like a low breed cattle into carriages so over-packed I came close to fainting for want of air on more than one occasion.
I have been in long distance relationships for most of my adult years and ever since this service came to an end in 2003 I have loathed getting the train. If it wasn’t problems with overcrowding or overcharging there would be an issue with engineering works which were always conducted during the weekend when they would put on buses but never think to lower the fares to compensate those of us crushed into coaches which should have been decommissioned back when the railways were built.
It was because of these horrendous experiences with the rail network that I spent thousands of pounds on driving lessons and tests. As the daughter of a man who owned a car dealership it was a bit of a joke that I reached the age of 24 before I was able to get behind the wheel, but once I was there I never wanted to leave.
When my father told me it would be possibly weeks if not months before I would get my car back or even before he would let me drive it I cried, a lot. In spite of my crocodile tears and diva like protests that trains are more dangerous than cars due to the quantity of drunks and suicide bombers even he would not budge. He thinks I crashed because I was going too fast and has decided ice was not at issue. Apparently it has something to do with physics and the speed one has to be going at to roll a car three times and spin it, but its all Greek to me and as far as I knew I took the corner at a cruise worthy speed and if it hadn’t been for the frost this article would not be being written. But it is and I am sitting here on a train to Manchester having spent nearly five hundred pounds on train travel in the last two months and seeing as I have had to board nearly every rail service provider in Britain I feel I am well equipped to report on my findings of the state of the rail network as it stands today.
When I started getting the train again I decided I was in a unique position to really take a good look at how rail has changed in the 18 months since I was last a regular weekend commuter. The first journey admittedly was delightful. For the first time in months I had three lovely hours all to myself. I kept coming across magazines and newspapers and for once I was able to read more than just the headlines and the starting paragraph; fine if it’s The Express not fine if it’s The Guardian or The Independent, they usually spend the first paragraph telling you about the atmospheric weather and scenery surrounding stories of supposedly hard news and it is not usually till you reach the fourth paragraph that you find out you are reading about an especially intelligent canine who is the first ever recorded smiling dog. I was even able to indulge myself on the Virgin trains in a very small bottle of red wine which was delightful and I got squiffy enough to strike up a conversation with some poor soul from The Times who let slip about a certain head of states lawyer giving him a tinkle to tell him he’d better not publish or damned indeed he would be.
The problem came when I wanted to return home on a Sunday, it was complete and utter pandemonium. Every time I have tried to travel back on a Sunday I have been faced with late trains, cancelled services, crotchety train staff and a constant stream of misinformation. One particularly memorable journey occurred on January 14th. I had an appointment with a consultant in Leicester the next day which I had been waiting for since September so I had no choice but to navigate my way through the tussle of trains and buses to get back in time. I had been avoiding Sunday services because I couldn’t bear to get on the coaches or que outside Piccadilly Station for a place on a bus that may not ever come free. As it was I had somehow managed to find a service which would get me home for a fairly reasonable time and after playing a particularly ferocious game of scrabble; where thimbles of Krupnik had rendered the normal rules of play redundant; I set off to the station with my partner to get a train which required as far as we knew no buses.
After waiting at Mauldeth Road to the point where it became clear the train was not coming; not you understand because there was an announcement, but because everyone there concluded that fifteen minutes after it was due to depart there really was little chance it was going to get there in time for us to make our connections; we all ran from the platform in search of a taxi to hot-foot us to Piccadilly. Unfortunately the roads were packed and though the people I managed to herd into my taxi made their connection I was left stranded at Piccadilly with no way of getting home. When I got to Manchester station I was all in a flutter and on the verge of tears but hopeful I would find some explanation for my abandonment in the cold. I spoke with the man at the information desk only to be treated like a partially sighted toddler who informed me in the most patronising tone imaginable that there had been signs up in Piccadilly for months about service changes, “but I wasn’t at Piccadilly I was at Mauldeth Road.” I spurted agitatedly. He rolled his eyes and suggested I find another means of transport.
Northern Rail finally found a way for me to get home but it was all very touch and go and was dependent on those at Derby station taking me into their care and paying for a taxi to get me home. They did, but only as far as Leicester station in a taxi with the most racist person I have ever encountered. An Asian girl who had been smoking with her boyfriend at the station who felt the need to lecture me about the dreadful Polish people who are apparently stealing all our jobs. “And where in England were you born?” I politely enquire of her. “China,” she answered; but I live here now, I work for gas company”. I turn my head to look out the window and chew my lip to stop myself replying thinking of my car and the joy of driving with only myself for company and whichever DJ I choose to accompany me on the miles.
Other than delays over these two months I have encountered rude staff, cutbacks on the use of debit cards to pay for snacks on Virgin and Midland Mainline and constant overcrowding. If there is ever a rude passenger who is causing discomfort he or she will generally be ignored by the train managers who somehow lack the courage to confront drunken louts and noise polluting pubescent teens. I come across staff at a Midland Mainline buffet car who are happy to tell me that they get paid handsomely helped in part by the cut backs of the free coffee and tea which I once loved so much.
There has to be something done about the state of the rail-network. Until the government intervenes to stop these constant hikes in prices without improvements to delays, overcrowding and general service there is no way anyone would ever choose to board a train when they can drive to the majority of destinations for a third of the price charged by the service providers. It is unclear what we as a collective can do but as individuals the time has come for us to bombard our MP with complaints and whatever you do if you find yourselves left waiting without explanation in the cold or abandoned at the platform when you get to your destination make sure that the first thing you do is ask for a complaints form, fill it in and send it off.