I am just back from a weekend in Durham, that lovely old city in the North East that presents such an appealing view of its Cathedral as your train rolls in over the viaduct.
Readers may recall in my account of our trip to Paris that on the Eurostar on the way out I discovered the Mystery of the Missing Seats, a mystery moreover, that I have never solved. Curiously, a similar adventure befell me on this trip as well.
I was fortunate enough to travel First Class among the nobs, thanks to the generosity of a certain person who provided the train tickets. On the way out, all went well. I found my reserved seat, duly ticketed with my departure and arrival points. Going aboard the train for the return journey, I expected the same level of service. My ticket indicated that my seat was number 35 in carriage ‘L’. I found seat 33, seat 29 and a clutch of seats with numbers in the 40s but I could not find a seat numbered 35. With everyone else settling into their seats I felt a little out of things, as you may imagine. As far as the eye could see, all seats were reserved but none, alas, was mine.
Feeling forlorn and abandoned, I was happy to see an approaching ticket inspector. Surely he will sort out the problem, methought, and show me where the mischievous seat 35 is hiding. Perchance it is a specially privileged seat beside the driver. It turned out that the inspector had no better intelligence than I as to the whereabouts of the phantom fauteuil. Suppressing a mirthful expression he told me there were seats a-plenty in the next carriage, ‘K’, which, he assured me, was also First Class. He was right on both counts. My journey thereafter proceeded normally with free coffee, free copy of The Times (I took it for the sudoku) and biscuits, had I wanted these. Nevertheless, there remains a niggling annoyance in my mind and, indeed, questions:
Item How does it happen that ticket clerks issue tickets for non-existent seats?
Item Was this an accident or was someone deliberately targetting me (perhaps recognizing that I was not First Class material)?
Item Is there a seat-thief about who removes armchairs from trains and if so, does he keep them in a shed in his garden or sell them on eBay?
I suspect we shall never know the answer to these contentious conundrums. As I did not pay for the tickets, I am not sure I have the right to confront GNER with the complaint. So I shall simmer in silence and meditate at leisure on the Mystery.