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Monday, 19 September 2016

The Cornish Coast Murder

It's my  own fault : trying to save money. It almost always ends in disappointment: trainwise at least. Although I have to admit the trip to Edinburgh in June with Virgin Trains was pretty impressive ( see June post for details). Actually it's Great Western Railways (GWR) that's my bete noir. I've travelled on them three times this year and each time I went First Class. Honestly none of the trips could be called top notch. This journey to Cornwall, to our friends at Poundstock, was the worst.

As I said it was partly my fault, I booked early and chose the cheapest not realising that the return journey was not direct and I'd have to change at Plymouth and Newton Abbot before catching the fast train to Paddington.

The journey down to Cornwall wasn't without it's distractions. Because of torrential rain overnight much of GWR's line to the Cornish Riviera was underwater: especially at Newbury. The train left Paddington about three quarters of an hour late because they had brush the newts off the track there. We went along at a reasonable pace until we arrived at Castle Cary where we were stalled by trespassers on the line. We didn't find out what sort they were but my knowledgeable travelling companion - a railway worker - informed me they were usually drunks or out of their head on acid. Apparently that part of Somerset is notorious for old new agers: they'd headed for Glastonbury in the early '70's and got stuck.

My travelling companion - on his way to visit his aged parents somewhere in the South West - had this indispensable app. Unfortunately it wasn't available to the general public as it showed where all the trains were on our line - whether they were on time, if they were delayed why etc. He was able to tell me to the minute when we were to be overtaken by a faster train to Cornwell or why  we were further delayed by a crippled train ahead. While all this excitement was going on I was texting my hosts with regular situation reports. As the anticipated time of arrival at Bodmin Parkway slipped further and further into the weekend my friends said they cut the Gordian Knot and meet me at Exeter. That seemed someway short of my intended destination but they assured me that it would take only a little while longer than picking me up at Bodmin Parkway. My knowledgeable travel companion confirmed that.

The weekend was a delight. Lots of good food, quite a lot of wine and a trip to Boscastle and a country house somewhere in the county of Devon. To prepare me for the journey home, this morning saw us at a local eatery noshing on a full English, although I had a mini one having seen how huge was the full monty.

We said our farewells at Bodmin Parkway and I caught the stopping train to Plymouth, but not before I saw an old steam locomotive hauling 12 dilapidated carriages carrying rail enthusiasts up and down a branch line. At Plymouth we caught a one carriage service which was totally inadequate. One man with his wife and dog was totally freaked out by the situation and for the whole of the 40 minute journey berated the conductress and anyone else that would listen. In his view this was the worse train he'd ever been on - quite possibly true - the country had gone to the dogs, he'd served in the Army, it was all the Tories fault and  his cousin worked at the Daily Mirror in London and he'd sort out the railway company. On top of which it was all the townies buying up country cottages and all the bloody foreigners.  He'd be leaving the country for New Zealand and the whole carriage thought as one "Now please!" He was terribly upset and all because of a rather uncomfortable 40 minute journey. Heaven help him if the had to commute  to London from High Barnet on the Northern Line.

I am now in the First Class carriage arriving at Castle Cary and not a trespasser in sight. We also have wi-fi.


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