Four years after my visit as an undergrad, I returned to Burnham Ovary Staithe last weekend to demonstrate on the Norfolk field trip. I think I learned possibly more this time, especially having to teach as we went round. Due to the vast quantities of mud involved, I took my first digital camera with me, the venerable Fuji Finepix A340. It is still rubbish, the zoom is still broken and it’s restricted to only one setting, but it forced me to try and be creative with it. Looking back I’m not sure which set are better, though last time I did have the advantage that it wasn’t freezing cold and raining lots of the time – turns out cold, wet fingers are less keen to take pictures than warm muddy ones.
Here is how we spent yesterday evening, attempting the 1.5 hour journey from Bristol to Oxford:
- 21.30, Bristol, 60 miles from Oxford.
Arrive at Temple Meads station after a really nice dinner with Sonya’s family for Asher’s 21st birthday
- 21.35, Bristol, 60 miles from Oxford.
Realise that the train to London (first leg of the journey) has been cancelled. Frantically call Sonya’s parents and Fiona, hoping to get an alternative route. Discover that we have to wait for the 22.33 instead, and should change at Didcot. Turns out the 20.15 was cancelled too, so there are lots of people kicking around at the station.
- 22.33, Bristol, 60 miles from Oxford. rain arrives, world and his wife get on but we get seats at least
- 23.00, Chippenham, 41 miles from Oxford.
Train running a few minutes late, waits a long time at the station, no reason given.
- 23.30, Swindon, 25 miles from Oxford.
“We apologise for the delay, there has been a fight on the train and we need to wait for the police to arrive, they have been called”. We didn’t see any of the fight, but security did turf someone off the train for not having a ticket. There was a long wait until we got going again.
- 23.55, Didcot, 11 miles from Oxford.
“We apologise for the delays, passengers for Oxford should remain on the train until Reading where there will be a connection to Oxford”
- 00.25, Reading, 24 miles from Oxford(!).
“Passengers for Oxford, please disembark here”. Off we get, and walk to platform 4 as directed. Whereupon we look at the board and see that the train coming in to platform 4 is going to … Bristol via Didcot. Great. We make our presence known to the station manager, and explain that we just came from Didcot, were sent on to Reading, and don’t particularly want to go back again. He promises a taxi ride instead and disappears into his office. We wait on the platform.
- 00.39, Reading, 24 miles from Oxford.
The last train to Bristol leaves the station, we wait on the platform with four Oxford-bound compatriots, a large bunch heading to Gatwick and twenty-or-so hoping to get to a variety of nearby stations. Our conversations are accompanied by the announcement “Would the gentleman urinating on platform 9 please leave the station immediately”.
- 01.00, Reading, 24 miles from Oxford.
“All passengers for Oxford!” We walk outside, only to find ourselves at the back of a large queue waiting for the station-ordered minicabs. Pretty much everyone else gets a cab before us.
- 01.20, Reading, 24 miles from Oxford.
The station staff are having problems getting enough taxis, but have good news for us, they have persuaded a passing bus driver to extend his route for us. We can get a lift as far as Oxford, as long as we go via the original destination, Didcot.
- 02.00, Didcot, 11 miles from Oxford.
Pulling into a deserted, dark, soaking wet, freezing cold station, the driver delivers his original load of passengers, then goes outside for an extended fag break. To rub things in he leaves the door open.
- 02.25, Oxford!!
Finally we’ve made it, only 3 hours after our original scheduled arrival!
After all that, we waited in the cold and the rain for another 20 minutes until a mincab arrived and took us to Fiona’s house, collapsing through the door at 3.00. We are eternally grateful to her for staying up for us, supplying a bed, sleeping bag, tea, bacon sandwiches and sympathy.