Monday, June 25, 2007

Flooding up north

Sodden fields south of York

After the Belfast floods from a couple of weeks ago, it’s with a feeling of déjà vu that I find myself travelling north from London on a packed GNER train surrounded by people affected by the heavy rainfall and flash floods that are affecting England.

Coming out of the Tube at Kings Cross, the signs said that all GNER trains were cancelled. The truth wasn’t quite so stark. Venturing further into the train station brought signs of hope as the overhead departure boards showed some services running, including my 16:00 train heading to Aberdeen, via Ant and Dec’s home city of Newcastle.

There was a general feeling of camaraderie amongst the four of us sitting around our table in carriage D. Each glad (smug, even) that we’d started our treks north earlier than planned, in order to beat the ailing rail system and the possibility of rush hour chaos.

The solidarity took a knock when Clara, sitting next to me, got a call from her husband. Her end of the conversation sank our hearts.

“Oh ... sh*t ... (silence) ... Well all the best. (hung up)”

She sat with her head in her hands for a minute. The woman in pink sitting opposite offered sympathy “I’m so sorry, it’s awful. Happened to me once.”

My mind went into overdrive. My utter feeling of sympathy was tempered with a teeny weeny worry about how Clara would process the bad news. How would she deal with being trapped on a train, unable to bail out her home? Would there be tears? On-board flooding? Would she spend the journey blubbering over the phone to her soggy husband? Was there any way we could console her?

Clara rescued the situation, when she raised her head, brushed her hands through her hair and gave a laugh.

“At least we can get new carpets and a bit of decorating. The house needed it.”

And the mood lightened. As the next couple of hours ticked away, it turned out that the flooding was limited to the kitchen and garage. There was nearly a tinge of disappointment in her voice as she realised that the hall, stairs and landing carpet wouldn’t be refreshed this time.

Low-lying fields turned into lakes south of York

Update: Got as far as Durham, about twenty minutes shy of Newcastle. The train’s now running exactly one hour late, so it’s a good job I got the 16:00 rather than cutting in fine and waiting for the 17:00 as I first planned last night.

The worst flooding could be seen out the window south of York.

Further update: The train pulled into Newcastle an hour late at 8pm. Turns out that the noon departure from Kings Cross had finally stumbled into Newcastle only an hour earlier at 7pm, taking a mammoth seven hours to make it up from London.

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