Commuting With Southeast And Southwest Trains

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 9th November 2009

Nearly went mad trying to decide how best I could sort out the regular commute to London.  I haven't had to commute since I was in my late teens and working as a Secretary at BBC Broadcasting House in London.  And then in the 80's I gave up using trains and tubes because of 'recognition' - I enjoy talking to people but not endlessly answering questions from total strangers on a train.

I'm mildly claustrophobic so I never did like taking the Tube, and apart from the newer Jubilee Line, nothing much has improved.  They are overcrowded and overheated .  No wonder people get so many colds etc.  I reckon the temperature varies by about 15 degrees as you enter and leave the Tube Station.  And I'm afraid the Tube bombing in 2005 hasn't left me feeling any more willing to travel underground.

I looked at making the journey by car but it really would have been prohibitively expensive with the cost of petrol, parking and the congestion charge - all in all amounting to a cool £70-ish per day and putting thousands of miles on the clock over the ten week run.

The Train!  I looked at every route around where I live but nothing I could catch, after the show,  came out as far as my station - so it's going to be a drive, park, and train.

Because it was the first week of the show and I knew there would be note sessions etc.  I stayed in my friend Doreen's flat.  Buying tickets and finding out about the permutations of travel is a nightmare.  The first day, the ticket office was shut, and I loathe using machines and ended up getting it wrong.  The next day the office was open and when I politely asked at what times they shut, I was rudely told they didn't - oh yes they do and did again the next day by which time I'd got the hang of the darned machine.  

As it was necessary to go up a flight of steps and then down to the ticket office and then up and down again to the appropriate station for Waterloo, on Saturday,  I decided to give the ticket office a miss and opt for the machine - both were out of order (surprise, surprise) and it necessitated another clamber back up the steps, down to the ticket office with a large queue, of course,  and then back up the steps etc. and so forth - you get the picture!

I really do not like travelling by public transport and the attitude of staff ranges from ' Couldn't be more helpful - to downright rude and abrasive'.  Perhaps they should realize that not everyone is a commuter with intimate knowledge of the complexities of Over-ground, Underground, Oyster cards and the infernal machines.  (Isn't it amazing that we have so many people unemployed, yet the inexorable march of the machines continues in every walk of life. Orwell's 1984 isn't so far removed from reality, is it?)

On my own South Eastern line, the trains don't exactly run for the convenience of the customer and the timetable will get worse with the advent of the High Speed Train - which, of course, doesn't come past Dover.  But the staff have been lovely.  The guards and the 'Trolley' people have been extremely friendly and helpful though I'm  still not looking forward to traveling late at night but  have no option.

I remember the good old days when I had to commute up to Manchester (to read the news for Granada Television) on a Monday and came back home on a Friday on the Pullman.  For those of you too young to remember - they were trains with lovely little Restaurant Cars containing tables for four and lit by romantic little lamps with shades.  The food was not exactly haute cuisine but the journey became an adventure.  You'd never know who might be sitting at the table with you - sometimes you'd encounter fascinating folk and you'd natter away and be in London before you knew it.  In those days, I regarded traveling by train as a pleasure.  

Those were the days of Corridor Trains and individual carriages with comfortable seats and a very ample luggage rack. Last week, I took a small case up to London and there was absolutely nowhere to store it - then a woman got on with a pushchair and again there was nowhere to put it.  Travellers, by virtual of their name - travellers - very often do carry luggage so why is this not taken into account when designing the damn trains.

AND the fare was the fare.  You travelled First or Second Class and you knew the price of a ticket for prime time and Off peak.  Now, you almost need a degree in Maths and IT to work out the 'Best Deal'. ( It's a bit like buying an Airline ticket.  I've yet to sit on a plane without finding out that the person next to me paid a lot less!!!! )  In this past week I discovered that I could go 'overground' to my destination for one price but it I used the Train and the Tube, the price was considerably more and even more if one didn't possess an Oyster Card.  A single trip from Charing Cross to Leicester Square would have been £4 - a return with an Oyster £5.60.  I decided to walk.

Enough - Grumpy Old Woman has 'grumped' enough for now.  I'll close and turn to the much more pleasant subject of Calendar Girls.

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