Saturday, 20 January 2007

Last Train to Knitville

This week I had to go to Paris for a meeting. The meeting was on Friday, and as it was an all day meeting I took a train the day before so as to be there on Friday morning. It said on the weather forecast that it might be quite windy, and on the way down to Ashford in the car I noticed a few gusts of wind that made me slow down and drive carefully.

The train was about forty minutes late arriving from Waterloo because of the strong winds, but I had my knitting so I wasn't bothered. Eventually the train showed up and we got in and made ourselves comfortable. It takes about 30 minutes from Ashford to get to the Tunnel and out the other side, and then a bit longer to get to the first stop at Calais. Usually the Calais stop is about two minutes, so when we hadn't moved after twenty minutes we knew something was up. After a while the train did move, but backwards, into a siding, and then Eurostar announced that we could not continue the journey because of the weather and that they were trying to organise an alternative route.

To be honest, we could not see much evidence of wind from the sheltered position we were in, apart from a few bushes blowing about. When I saw the news the next day I could see that huge trees had been blown down across the railway lines, and the storm, which extended across the whole of Northern Europe, was really very dangerous. There were people on the train who had contacts via phone with people who had access to the internet, and from this we learned that we were on the last Eurostar to leave Waterloo, the train after us had been cancelled and the whole Eurostar network had been stopped. We didn't know what would happen next, but I had lots of work to do, and it was nice and peaceful on the train, so I got on with that.

After about another half hour there was an announcement that we would be waiting in the siding for at least three more hours, at the end of which there would be a decision about whether we would go on to Paris or back to London. A lady next to me emitted what I can only describe as a wail as she heard this. When I heard her story I understood why. She had been trying to get to Paris to meet a client for a meeting in a fabulous restaurant. First she went to Heathrow and found her flight was cancelled. Then she drove like a bat out of hell to Ashford to get the Eurostar. She had just heard that her client was on the Eurostar following ours, which had been held in London, and then she found out we were stuck in a railway siding for three hours!

I finished my work, and then got out my knitting. I had my trusty iPod with me and a number of knitting podcasts to listen to, the Eurostar staff were bringing tea, coffee and water around, so I had plenty of time to knit without interruption.

After less than three hours there was another announcement, to say that they had found us another route and we were going to be setting off for Paris in a few minutes. Sure enough, the train glided away about five minutes later, and after another hour and a half we finally reached Paris, about four hours later than the schedule. I felt sorry for many of the travellers, clearly not knitters, who had nothing to do to pass the time. Some people had Sudoku, which kept them happy, although unless you staple the pages together afterwards, they do not make much of a wearable garment. The rest spent the time either on the phone to their friends complaining, or calling other transport providers, futilely trying to organise an alternative means of getting to Paris.

As an aside, I had to do that once when there was a Eurostar problem getting home, a few years ago. A few intrepid Brits and I set off from Calais to get home when Eurostar wanted to take us back to Paris until the morning. It was Friday night and we just wanted to get home. We used local trains and then took a Seacat, using the mobile phones of a few kind passengers to make Seacat bookings with our credit cards as the local train trundled for hours though the French countryside. There was a great sense of cameraderie, just like during the Blitz, I fondly imagine, although less dangerous obviously. I got home at two in the morning, and I don't regret it for a moment, but I learned from this that the Eurostar is REALLY FAST and that other forms of transport are not good substitutes.

Anyway, I got to my hotel in time to have a light meal and a reasonable night's sleep, I attended my meeting the next day, and on the way back home I bought perfume, and I did some more knitting. My Ivy is making excellent progress! Plus I got lots of work done.

I've learned one thing though. Next time I travel I'm going to carry a few spare needles and some acrylic DK. I'm going to offer to teach people, who have nothing with them to pass the time, to knit or crochet. Perhaps they'll call me the mad knitting woman of the Channel Tunnel. That would be nice.


Seahorse said...

Firstly, I'm relieved to hear that all was well in the end, even if things were somewhat delayed (although I now suspect you're something very high powered and scary - meetings in Paris :0 lol!). Secondly, what a WONDERFUL idea about the acrylic and budget needles - love it!

Kiwi Knitting in the UK said...

"the mad knitting woman of the Channel Tunnel"

Love it!

Queen Frogger said...

Your Ivy is looking lovely. I wish I had got a closer look on Saturday! Those poor people on the train with no knitting....!

Auntie Noo said...

Can you imagine what it would have been like for those people without knitting - OMG, you'd just die of boredom wouldn't you!! Think the idea of some acrylic and needles is great! - We may even hear about you on the news!!!

Christina said...

OMG you sound like you had a worse journey than us!! Glad you got back safely in the end. Ivy is looking fab, I love the colour.

Glenna C said...

I'm just in love with that colour you've got for your Ivy! Beautiful shade. And I can only imagine how aggravating that journey would have been, sans knitting. I am always so thankful to have mine with me when I am on the go.