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.