Weblog entries for August 2003


A relatively uneventful journey

As I passed through the barriers to leave the Jubilee Line at about 6:20 last night, I noticed that the mainline area of Waterloo station looked remarkably dark. Suddenly an automated voice came over the public address system, “Due to a reported emergency, would all passengers please leave the station.”

I walked out of the Underground station and saw that, not only were no lights on in the part of Waterloo I could see, but none of the escalators were moving either. They were all full of people trudging upwards.

I went out onto the street, and walked around the outside of the station, and upon entering it again via the entrance at the western end of the concourse, I noticed that none of the lights were on there either. All the departure monitors were blank, none of the ticket machines were working and all the shops were shut.

Fortunately, I knew which platform to head for, because my train always departs from the same one: lucky 13. Still none of the monitors were working, and the vast majority of passengers were standing around looking very confused.

There was a train waiting at platform 13, so I boarded it, got a seat and carried on trying to do the Times crossword. Yes, the cryptic one. The train seemed to have power: its lights were on and the air-conditioning was operating, which was fortunate because it was fairly warm inside.

The guard's voice came over the intercom to inform us that there had been a power cut "in the London area," which didn't tell me anything I couldn't have deduced for myself, and that all trains were at a standstill.

The lights came back on at about 7:00, and a few minutes later trains began to move again. We eventually left the station at 7:25 and I had an otherwise uneventful journey home.

It seems I was lucky: I arrived at work this morning to stories of people being trapped underground and having to walk along the tracks to get out. Other people were above ground at the time and just went to a candle-lit pub to pass the time.

As an aside, I have devised a fantastic wheeze. I sit on the train with the Times crossword in front of me, and try to solve it. (During my long wait last night, I got 12, but my average is two.) The trick is that I don't have a pen, so nobody watching me can tell how many clues I've solved. I've been doing it all week and so far have received nothing but impressed looks.


Lost in a forest

On Saturday night I got lost in a forest. My mobile phone's battery had run out, and I had no map, no food and not even anything to drink.

I was on my way to Bournemouth, and I decided to go through the New Forest, rather than skirting around it. Depending on traffic, it's usually a bit faster to go through the forest. On this occasion, however, I was stuck in a queue of traffic following someone driving at about 45mph instead of the more acceptable 60.

Near Hinton Admiral we all slowed suddenly to a halt. I was about ten cars away from the front but I could see that traffic had stopped in the other direction. It looked as though there was a person lying on the road.

About two minutes later, police cars and ambulances started arriving, so whatever it was must have just happened. My immediate thought was that if we'd been driving at 60 then we'd have passed this point before the road was closed.

I opted to wait it out rather than turn around and try to find an alternative route, but after 15 minutes a policeman came across to tell us that the road would be closed for at least three hours. Luckily I was behind a taxi, so I was able to follow it back and through the forest another way to Christchurch and arrived there in about 15 minutes with no further problems.

Travelling delays aren't unusual. Most mornings, the guard on my train can be heard apologising for the delay and my fellow passengers can be heard cursing South West Trains under their breath. But if there's been a fatality then all bets are off really — it's not really proper to get mad at someone who has died.

Of course, I don't know for sure that anyone died on that road on Saturday. But they wouldn't keep the road closed for three hours if they were rushing someone off to hospital, would they?

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