In 2017 – about nine months in advance of the infamous new timetable unravelling of 2018 the life challenged people of Govia Thameslink picked up and walked off with their ticket machines in one swift and orchestrated manoeuvre. In their place they deposited a range of newer far more shinny machines whose function was to provide a small square illumination from their display screens. Sometime partly dimmed by the words out of service but equally frequently completely unhindered by any such purposeful demands being placed upon them. They were poor torches, the illuminated screens were too high to shed light upon the floor and had no where near the power necessary for the light to beam out through the darkness. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions the revealed their true purpose, offering the names of station and purporting to sell tickets – such outlandish claims could be swiftly dealt with simply by selecting one of these stations.. At which point the ineffective torch would quickly revert back to its true form, the not entirely glorious beam of the blank screen.
Travel then was ticket free into London – which isnt the bonus it might seem to be, given a ticket would still be needed for the London to Gatwick bit.. In London there would be barriers to contend with. The ticket machines at St.Pancras had not gone with the blank screen, they were among those upgraded few that actually mustered an out of service message.
In one little corner of St Pancras a surviving cluster of the big old square ticket machines of before had survived. They were in many ways less fetching than their replacement, big, imposing, brightest blue with an air of the rescued east German functional but with the layers of domestically formed grime that came with their years of service. They did however have one thing over their replacements and it was a fairly key thing … So with tickets now in hand baggage could flow with us through the barriers and onto the platform.
With the excess time available at Gatwick i happened to do some research on our airline – Air Transat – which turned out to be fortunate. What i learned was that their flights from London to Toronto dont come with entertainment systems on each seat. Instead they have an on board entertainment system which can be accessed via apps on the passengers own devices. A prerequisites for this being that you have an appropriate device to hand and have taken it upon yourself to take the somewhat unusual step of downloading this app. Hasty efforts to get this in place were worth while, the connection on the flight didnt allow for adding the app, only for using it.. So i was fortunate and pleased to have taken these steps. It wasn’t a vast array of movie options but it was something, there were municipal screens on board but sight of them was something that was limited to around 2 seats in every 9.. I was not to find myself the occupant of one of those 2.
The route to the hire car was a more complicated one than envisaged. There was the terminal train, the car hire telephone to arrange collection and then the waiting for the collection in a the thin but marijuana soaked air.
This though was not to be the challenge, that came at the point of collection. It was our second road trip of the year having migrated our way along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts in the early spring. It was now November but the knowledge of that past trip was not entirely lost. The car had been hired with unlimited mileage and with no warning about limitations on crossing boarders.
An array of additional charges that resided in the small print but that had no part of the booking process. It was looking like it was going to be a battle over charges until we clarified the nature of the mileage of the trip (some rough estimates using google maps). The “unlimited mileage” couldn’t even be extended to cover those kilometres, were we so willing, by the purchasing of those add-ons.. This while generating some immediate stresses in the form of last minute re-planning, did mean that the debating and haggling aspect was not going to be a thing.
A bus was leaving for Buffalo from Toronto later that evening, once in Buffalo a car could be collected.. that was an option.. what would we have done were there no internet? .. The guy behind the counter advised us that he thought AVIS would provide cars with cross border coverage along with unlimited mileage.. For budgetary reasons it would mean downsizing the vehicle, no plush north american comfort and still spending more.. but compared to being stranded at point 1 of our trip, this seemed like the best option.
A compact vehicle of some description would be waiting for us – back into the transfer mini-bus, through the scented marijuana cloud onto the terminal train … hunt down AVIS counter.. it was there somewhere, there were signs. Signs that were there until they weren’t.. we walked back, yep the signs were there and … no .. then no .. the signs were gone and no sign of a counter. Starbucks people, would have to be approached for some local knowledge..
It was a VW Golf estate – AVIS and the other car hire companies were not in the terminal, which explained our not having found them in there. It was all secreted on the ground floor of the multistory that stood opposite the terminal.
After some mis-steps leaving the airport, some stopping, a discussion with pointing, some more stopping and a then rotating of the navigational duties, directionally we’d found our way onto the route. With things now going reasonably smoothly, hunger and lethargy sneaking in, we stopped off at some bright lights. An assortment of signs that spelt out a small range of unfamiliar establishments. Boston Pizza has the brightest lights what more it had bright TV lights shining out on the inside, it won this display of the Bowerbirds.
A rational of selection that won out through knowing nothing about any of the options that were around us. The weakness of this selection criteria revealed itself in that which emerged from the kitchen. The Pizza that i had wasn’t too bad, it was the sort of standard that you could expect from a superior standard home bake oven pizza, the pasta ought to see the Italians take action for abuse against of their nations proudest offerings. If we can protect our cheeses and pies and the french can protect the name of their particular form of fizzy white wine then the Italians ought to be able to do something to prevent that which was getting banded about here inheriting the good name of pasta dishes. There was an oddly fatty white sauce involved, something akin to mayonnaise or salad cream, only not … so heavy .. and not warm, even a standard house bulb can summon up more heat than had been absorbed by this offering, a cold, stodgy, bland gluepe of a thing .. so if your going to Boston pizza, be sure to order no pasta there, yes if your going to Boston pizza – dont be Italian, it will hurt you in your heart places (beyond the fatty deposits those odd choices of sauce will be offering up)
Having been up for quite some time fatigue had me, i was glad to not be driving and without such duties i was free to have a pint, a nice cold pint as the shroud of post tired tiredness sunk over me,
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