And so we set off from home....
Confident that everything was in hand.
ED, left to her own devices for a night, would definitely be locking up the house. The train ticket, for her to join us the following day, had been bought. We had a "talking book" playing for the journey. There was no arguing.
It was.......... bliss.
ED was going to her own New Year's Eve party, but was then to be joining us the next day, on New Year's Day, when we would be paying a trip to see a lady with an umbrella in the West End by the name of Mary. It was our Christmas present from my parents to us all, and ED was happy to forfeit all sleep after her New Year jollies rather than risk missing out on Miss Poppins.
I was confident that nothing would or could go wrong.
Then the phone rang.
"You know the ticket that we bought for the train?"
"We bought it on your card."
I thought back. Yes, it was true. We had bought it on my card, as ED's bank card wasn't suitable it seems for an online transaction. They needed a card that took money out of a bank, as opposed to a card that took money out of a bank.
"We did." I said, wondering why there seemed to be an urgency in her voice.....
"You've got the card."
I was beginning to wonder by now if I was going mad. I mean OF COURSE I had my own bank card. There may never be any money to spend, but I guard my bank cards like the crown jewels. After all, you never know who might want to spend your overdraft for you, and you wouldn't want them getting up to the limit before you do would you?
"The thing is Mum, I need your card to validate the ticket tomorrow morning, at the station."
Think quickly Sally. Think very quickly.
"O.K." I said. This is what we'll do. We are twenty minutes from Swindon. We'll call in at Swindon station. I'll explain the problem, and I'll sort something out."
I tried to sound like the confident maternal type.
I was bluffing....of course.....
I had no absolutely no reason to believe that I would be able to come out of this sensibly, without turning round the car, driving back home, taking ED to Gloucester station, validating the ticket, and then setting off once more.
Still, in the light of what could or might happen, what was a forty minute detour to go via Swindon and buy some time?
We got to the station, and within seconds of explaining the problem, the woman behind the desk triumphantly printed off the tickets for ED.
"No" I said. Quite quietly.
"That's no good. My daughter is in the Forest of Dean. I am in Swindon. We are on our way to Kent for a New Year's Eve party in a few hours, and my daughter is an hour a way from me in the wrong direction..... I have the tickets. I can't get to her. She can't now collect these tickets. I came in to ask your advice as to who we could deal with this "problem." "
"Oh" said the cashier. "Well I'm very sorry, but there's nothing I can do."
"But this isn't my fault." I said. "What are we going to do?"
"Well I have apologised Madam."
It was one of those wonderfully superior moments, when you know that despite having started off completely in the wrong, by a trick of fate, all of a sudden you are completely in the right. In those rare moments in life you do of course rise to the occasion and take on a serene and calm approach to the problem.
As such I calmly asked to speak to the supervisor.....
"Surely there is something you can do?" I said. "A few minutes a go, these tickets were not printed off. They have been paid for. My daughter needs these tickets tomorrow morning in Gloucester......"
There were of course a number of things that they could have done.....
They could have for instance have stuck the tickets into an envelope and taken them via a guard and one of their "trains" to Gloucester..... by hand. Now there's novel. Direct human communication.......
No.... the answer was instead for them to suggest that the tickets were faxed over to Gloucester and that ED would be given a "permission to travel docket" there. She would then travel from Gloucester to Swindon with the docket, get off the train at Swindon, run down to the ticket office, collect her "proper" ticket, and then run back up to the train, and travel to London.
Now ED has many qualities. Many qualities.
She dances beautifully.
She is irritatingly clever.
She speaks excellent German and French - as well as English of course.
She can act.
She can sing.
She can cook.
There is however one thing that she doesn't do well.....
And that is "direction" as in "sense of".
If you asked her to get a train from Land's End* to London, and told her that she will need to change trains at John O'Groats**, she'd believe you. To put it into perspective, Hubby thought that my sense of direction was seriously bad, until ED grew into the fine young woman that she is today. Of course, Hubby didn't know me when I was ED's age..... It is a genetic problem that one learns to deal with a little better with age, and I do actually fully sympathise and understand why North, South, East and West merge into one. After all, a weathercock spins round happily enough.
I was, shall we say, "doubtful" as to whether or not getting on and off trains at a particular station and running back to the right platform, without time to think about where she would be going, was a good idea. Especially given that she would have had very little sleep to add to the problem....
"How long has she got at Swindon?" I asked.
They looked at the timetable.
"Not very long. She would have to be quick."
I was still calm.
I looked at the woman..... and in the words of another well known West End musical, I said.......
"I think we need to think this out again......."
Well... o.k. maybe not... but it was along those lines.
At that moment, I looked down at the printed tickets, and to my absolute horror realised just quite how embarrassing teenagers can be.
"Lady ED Lomax" it read.
In her wisdom. In her teenagery prank mode. In her infinite stupidity.....
When asked for her "title" she had put in "Lady".....
She often drops hints about the fact that she would quite like to go to Finishing School, but sadly, the parents that she chose are short of a few bob, and a few titles for that one....
How could you do this to me? To your poor poor mother who's trying to sort out this little problemette, just for you???!!!
I smiled sweetly at the cashier, praying to God that she may not have noticed that my Eldest Daughter had been playing at "Lords and Ladies" when she booked the tickets, and still thinking frantically about how we could sort this all out.
"Hold on a moment, said the cashier. We'll talk to Gloucester and see what we can do."
A long time passed. Hubby came up to the kiosk to see how I was getting on.......
Then eventually, they came back, cashier and supervisor.
"What we'll do" she said "is this. "
I waited, with baited breath.
"At Gloucester, they'll give her a permission to travel docket for the whole journey from Gloucester to London."
"So, she doesn't have to get off the train at Swindon?"
And she can use the docket for the whole journey?
It was amazing. They were going to give her, what we would have called in the "olden days" a ticket. Not a computerised one. But a paper one.
Technology is a wonderful thing.
"She will have to get off the train at Reading though. Said the cashier. "It's a New Year's Day Service, so there will be a bus from Reading to London. it will take an extra hour all together."
And so I rang "Lady" Lomax, and told her the good and the bad news.......
And errmm, despite the "royal" service eventually given.....she'll probably put "Miss" next time.....
*Farthest South Western point of England.
**Most Northerly part of Scotland.
(London is in the South East of England...)
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