Thursday, June 21, 2007


I have been getting increasingly excited the last few weeks as tomorrow night, I am booked on an intercity sleeper train to the Scottish Highlands. The train leaves London at 21.15 arriving in Fort William 12 and a half hours later. I booked this trip several months ago as I thought that my increasingly anxious older son needed to overcome his fear of new experiences. I planned the journey down to the last detail and apart from the weather, I felt that I had everything covered. However, I had not bargained on the ineptitude of FirstScot Rail, who don't believe that buying a ticket two months in advance should guarantee you a seat on a train.

I discovered this detail today after phoning to enquire why my tickets said No Seat. After being kept on hold for 40 minutes I was given another phone number, which kept me on hold for another 20 minutes. I always thought that anecdotes like these were apocryphal, as I've always had good experiences with internet booking. However, FirstScot Rail are the exception. I should have taken the hint two months ago, when my call was rerouted to someone in India who thought that I lived in Lewisham.

My son hasn't stopped talking about this trip. He's told his friends about it and has been preparing his backpack, so when I discovered that there was no room on the train for us I was dreading his reaction. Would it be the sort of disappointment that he would remember for the rest of his life? I racked my brains to think of an alternative. Paris! We could go on the Channel Tunnel and be there within three hours. But there was a small matter of finding a passport.

I couldn't just tell him that the trip was off, so I decided to book a ticket in Legoland with a night at a posh hotel in Windsor.

He was remarkably stoic about the whole thing and I think that the Legoland plan was a masterstroke - rugged Scottish glens and mountains are no match for a crass, commercialised theme park in the mind of a small boy.

In the meantime we are stranded in Sussex, which isn't the worst fate in the world.


bye bye bellulah said...

I love living in the West Highlands, but why am I not at all surprised by your story?
Glad Legoland came up trumps for your son, though.

Nowhere Girl said...

How disappointing that your trip to Scotland fell through. I LOVE Scotland, have friends there and have had the pleasure of visiting three times. Hopefully you will take your son there another time. But perhaps Legoland would be more exciting to him at his age!

Steerforth said...

You've probably spent more time in Scotland than me. It's disgraceful - I didn't go to Scotland until I was 35. I'd travelled to South America, Africa, Europe and the USA, but didn't bother visiting somewhere that was on my own island!

I thought that was bad, but the other evening I went for a drink with some colleagues and a well-travelled man of 55 confessed that he had never been to Scotland.

Bellulah/Misty - I envy you, far from the madding crowd. I just hope you're not dependent on FirstScot Rail.

Nowhere Girl said...

There are parts of the US I've never been to. I've never been to California or the West Coast. In fact, I've never really been off the Eastern Seaboard of the US except for one weekend trip to Chicago. I guess people always take for granted what's in their own backyard.