TWELVE DAYS LATER........................
Tuesday, March 23 2010. Those of you familiar with the tale of woe that was part 1 will be alarmed to know that it takes less than two weeks for more train tomfoolery to take place.
Again it is those serial offenders at Lime Street Station who must be held responsible for this latest farce. Again it is assistance on the 5.01pm to Thatto Heath which proves beyond their capabilities. Only this is a different type of farce. A whole new angle on balls-ups. On reflection, I can only admire their versatility in this field. It must take a great deal of effort.
4.45pm. Just as out of breath as I was previously, I arrive at the station in good time. I pass through the platform gate and notice the same burly woman at the gate from the original, sorry tale. Again I ask for assistance. Again she nods and begins whispering into her walkie-talkie. 'Charlie Tango, Tea-kettle Barbecue.' Or something. I take it that means I should go through and wait by the platform.
There is a digital clock on the platform. A few minutes pass. 4.55pm. No panic. After all, notwithstanding the obsessive security surrounding ramps at Lime Street, it shouldn't take that long to board the train. I go back to my mp3 player and my muddled, post-work thoughts. A passing rail-worker suddenly attracts my attention. I'm about to ask for help, but he's on to me in a flash;
"It's not us mate." he offers, pointing to the company logo on his uniform.
"It's Network Rail." I think he says, though I'm so stupefied by the idea that privatisation has come to this that I can't be sure. If I'm right, what he is telling me is that he cannot assist me onto the train because he does not work for the company providing the train. And he's not alone. No fewer than three men tell me the same thing. It's like being left to die on the side of the pavement by the Good Samaritan because he has just got a job with BUPA.
I look up at the clock once more. 4.59 and 35......36..........37........38 seconds. At the other end of the platform, near the front of the train, I can make out the rotund figure of the guard. I wave at him. Casually at first, upping the ante with each movement until by 5.00 and around 28 seconds I am wildly jesticulating like a soon-to-be ex-extra in a Jaws movie. He's no Roy Scheider, and consequently decides that he hasn't seen me. I wasn't expecting him to start ringing bells and telling everyone to get off the beach, but I can't help but feel a little let down as he noncholantly steps back aboard the train.
I glance once more to the gate area and see nobody, turning my gaze again to see the 5.01 to Thatto Heath pulling away from the platform. There is a quite ludicrous moment when I think about pushing after it. Chasing the very last train when it's too late, as James Morrison might say. I am reminded of Gene Wilder doing something similar in a film called the Silver Streak and realise it's futility. If an able-bodied actor in an action comedy can't keep up, what chance an overweight raspberry who really needs a tyre change in any case? I don't move, but can still hear the voice of my late Grandmother shouting at Gene to 'hurry up, you fool.' as he begins his pointless pursuit. She was an optimist.
At this point I do something I am not normally given to doing. I complain. It's probably not her fault, but I tell the burly woman at the gate with the walkie-talkie that she and her colleagues are 'a disgrace'. She seems unmoved by this, or by the fact that they have actually managed to let me miss my train home. Still, she mumbles into the walkie-talkie once more, waving a hand at me as if to suggest I should be a little more patient and all will be fine.
Moments later a man I presume to be her senior comes through the gate and questions me over the incident. He's extroardinarily bald. He puts me in mind of the little man in the Benny Hill Show who spent entire episodes being slapped on his bald pate and running away from scantily clad women. I can hear the famous, accompanying music in my head as he apologises profusely, and can't help but think that the image suits this ridiculous situation.
There are no scantily-clad women by way of any consolation, but the man does at least help me onto the next train, due to depart around 20 minutes later. He makes it clear to all staff on board what will happen to their nether regions should they fail to help me disembark at Thatto Heath. I can't resist pointing out to him that his staff had already demonstrated this part of their repertoire less than two weeks earlier. I'm in full complaint mode now, but a sense of relief stops me giving it the full Victor Meldrew.
I go back to the music and my own thoughts, and try not to think too much about where I will end up this time.................