Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Twice Near Tears

I almost cried twice today.  The first time was this afternoon at Stonehenge.  
Or more acurately, NOT at Stonehenge.  We did see it.  For about 12 seconds as we zipped by on the freeway.  And we saw the visitor center, somewhat.  That's where I almost lost it.

Wait.  Let me back up.

We had today all planned out.  We packed last night and were up at 7am sharp, had breakfast and were out in the car ready to roll right at 8am for our journey to mystical Stonehenge.  Google told us it would be about 2 hours, so I gave us 3.  I bought advanced tickets for 11am.

As soon as I started the car our day changed a bit.  There was a warning light about tire pressure.  I got out and looked and sure enough, the front right tire was flat.  Not only flat, there was a chunk out of the sideway (probably from when I hit the curb on one of those lovely Cotswold country roads - in fact India and I both knew exactly when it happened, I swerved a bit when an oncoming van seemed about to collide with us.  I guess it was a good decision to swerve, but here we were).

Now this is where I made my big mistake.  Seeing that chunk out of the sidewall I felt defeated and went in to call the rental car service.  Wrong.  What I should have done was try and pump the damn thing up, which is what I did two hours later. We could have been on our merry way and merely had to stop once in a while to pump it back up - the car came with a nice pump (though no spare).

Instead we waited for two and a half hours for the repair guy (who was quite nice) and then another half hour for the repair.  So when we were once again ready to hit the road it was exactly 11am.

I think I left out the part about needing to return the car in Bath at 3pm and our train at 3:43. What to do?  

Here I made the second big mistake.  I said hey, lets see if we can get halfway in one hour.  If not, we'll turn west for Bath.  But if we can we can still have a few minutes at Stonehenge anyway (I was probably thinking about the 29 pounds I'd spent on the damn tickets - and buying them was another mistake.  We could have bought them there for only a slight extra charge).

Well, we made it halfway to Swinton in under an hour and I was much encouraged.  We were actually on something of a freeway at that stage going 80 miles an hour!  Wow!  So we carried on and it took a full hour and an 15 minutes to reach Stonehenge (which included getting lost twice and my having to go into a pub and ask directions).  And pounding the steering wheel.  Google sent us off on a crazy goose chase.

So there it was on the right as we tore down the highway at 70 miles an hour.  It was late but at least we could stop and take a quick look.  Frustrating, but oh well.  At least we could take a photo or two (or 25).  

But it was not to be.  Turns out the visitor center is a LONG way away and you have to take a bus from the center out to the site.  By the time we parked it was 1:30pm and we really needed to be on the way to Bath.  This is where the tears came.  Tears of pure frustration.  We couldn't even SEE Stonehenge from the goddam visitor center.  And our onward route wouldn't take us past it again ont e road.  India hadn't even taken any photos as we went past.

But at least we saw it with our own eyes.  Not for long, but the image is engraved on my memory.

The trip to Bath went really well.  We tore along the highways and there were actually highway signs directing us (for once) so we got there with time to spare.  But that's where we hit another wall.  Turns out Bath is famous for bad traffic and traffic jams.  And the streets are crazy and suddenly our map was worthless and we were lost.  By the time I stopped and went into a little store to ask directions, we were far far away from the rental car place.

We got there right at the edge of our 'grace period' but that was half an hour later than I planned and we ended up missing our train (which was prepaid with tickets good for only that time).  Our taxi driver, when I told him the 3:43pm time said "Well, that's a challenge, isn't it? - but you never know".  

A little later he did know.  He turned to me and said "you're screwed".  His advice was to just get on the next train and hope they didn't check our tickets.  Or if they did, pretend we'd made a mistake and hope they didn't nail us for the 85 quid (each) penalty.  Or hide in the bathroom the whole way.

He was a nice taxi driver, but we didn't take his advice.  There were three ticket agents at the turnstiles where you insert your ticket.  The first of them saw me scanning the digital board of train times and asked if everything was okay.  I told him we'd had a puncture and just missed our train - was there anything for it.  I expected we'd just have to buy new tickets, at the 'day of' price which could be very expensive.  

He consulted the second ticket agent, a younger guy with a big mop of dark hair who looked like a cross between a young Paul McCartney and Harry Potter.  He made a lot of very cute faces, trying to see if there was any way to cheat us through and finally called on the third, older, ticket agent - explaining our situation and was there any way he could give us a pass.  After a few moments he nodded and pulled out an official looking book and began writing.  Paul McCartney gave us a big smile and this is where I almost started to cry again - just from their kindness.  Something about officials using their discretion to be decent human beings.  

So the next train was only half an hour later - and only 15 minutes from when we were handed our passes, and now we're roaring along toward London.  Glad to be alive and glad that someone else is doing the driving.  

love and hugs,

PS. Stonehenge looked beautiful.  There was a big wide mown grass path in a great circle around it and people were walking it.  The grassy path was set into the greater grassy plain.  It was lovely and clearly much better that folks can't go in among the stones.  I imagine it would be much easier to take nice photos.  They've done a good job there.

No comments: