Yesterday, Saturday, we paid our postponed Christmas visit to Tigger’s father. We used to bus or walk to King’s Cross Thameslink Station, buy our tickets there, and take the tube to Victoria where we could get a direct train to Margate. No longer.
King’s Cross Thameslink, the strange little station crammed between a cafe and a night club, has been closed and its railway operations transferred to the refurbished St Pancras Station. That was two weeks ago but as we breakfasted in the cafe opposite, we could still people arriving and rattling the locked doors.
Despite the years of planning, the service is still not complete at St Pancras. The ticket clerks were unable to sell us tickets. We wanted cheap day returns with “Plus Bus” and a reduction for a South East Network card. The computer does not admit to this possibility. Nor could we get on a train at St Pancras that would take us to Margate. We had first to travel by some other means to London Bridge and take the train there.
Is this the typical British incompetence (not to mention corruption) that causes every project to cost far more than the original estimate and to be completed long after the agreed date? Or is it a failure to achieve “joined up thinking”, the ability to link all parts of a project so that they come together harmoniously and seamlessly at the end?
On the train, we chatted to a fellow passenger, a rather curious cove. He was travelling alone with a small dog which, as the female ticket inspector – evidently a dog fan – pointed out, resembled a fox. The man – we never exchanged names – had a great curiosity about practically everything. You might call him a natural savant, I suppose. No matter what subject we touched on, he had read about it. He had taken a maths degree at the Open University. He was amiable enough and the time passed quickly in his company but when it was time to go our separate ways, I admit I felt a certain relief.
When we arrived at the nursing home, we found that Sidney had suffered a fall and chipped an elbow. It hasn’t been the poor man’s year. We found him in bed, compos mentis, but looking frail and wan. It was sad to see him whom Tigger described in his hey day as “a barrel of a man”, reduced to childlike frailty.
We stayed and chatted for a couple of hours and then set out on the journey home. Margate is not far from London and the rail connections are frequent but on a cold dark December evening, it can seem a long way, especially if, as sometimes happens, the carriage is shared with drunk or noisy passengers. All was calm yesterday, and I dozed off which made the journey seem quite short.
We cheered ourselves up with a supper at Pane Vino and a slice of panettone milanese with cream at home afterwards. There is great pleasure to be had from the small blessings of life!