Today I am mostly in Bristol, sitting at someone else's desk, trying to get on with stuff while everyone around me wonders who I am.
Just like my own office, really.
I came in on the train, which was uneventful and pleasant. I hope that's a foretaste of my soon-to-be commute to London.
Mr WithaY is still seething after his trip to London last Friday. He went up to the Mexican Embassy (sadly not made of adobe, and no burros tethered outside) to sort out his visa for the forthcoming Shark Tagging Trip.
He ordered his train tickets on line, in advance, at a cost of (I think) about £9 each way, with reserved seats. Bargain. Because Tisbury station lacks an automated ticket machine, he had to go to Warminster to pick up his actual tickets. But no....both ticket machines at Warminster were out of order. He asked the nice man in the ticket office if he could get his tickets from there instead.
The man in the ticket office, it transpires, can only hand over tickets in exchange for actual money. The bit of paper with evidence of the purchase transaction is not enough. And, just carrying that bit of paper on the train instead of a ticket will get you into enormous trouble, apparently. Fines, police, dragged off to jail, you name it.
Mr WithaY, being a man who lives life on the edge, decided to take that risk.
He travelled successfuly to Waterloo. The guard on the train stamped his bit of paper and said "When you get to London, pick up a ticket for the return trip. Just to be on the safe side."
The Mexican Embassy staff were helpful and courteous, but I was dismayed to learn that the Ambassador failed to bring out the Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Mr WithaY made his way back to Waterloo with a song in his heart and a receipt for his ticket in his pocket, with a good hour to spare before his train was due. Plenty of time to pick up a ticket from the ticket office.
A ticket he had already paid for, mark you.
20 minutes in the queue for the ticket office did not bode well. The ticket office people eventually told him "No, we can't give you a ticket, you have to go to the Travel Office, next door."
He went to the Travel Office next door and explained the situation to them. They sucked their teeth and made sad faces, and told him he had to go to the Information Desk, just over there.
He went to the Information Desk, just over there. The Information Desk people looked at each other in dismay told him to go to the Ticket Office.
Mr WithaY asked to speak to a manager.
The manager came out, listened to the story and said "Oh, you need to go to the Travel Office, come with me." As they walked back into the Travel Office, the staff exclaimed "We've already told him we can't give him a ticket!"
Mr WithaY, possibly channelling Mexicans, was pretty laid back, even though he now only had 20 minutes till his train was due, and still had no ticket.
Finally, the combined brains of the Waterloo station team suggested he go across London to Euston and pick up his ticket, yes, the one he's already paid for, from the automatic machine there.
It takes 20 minutes to get to Euston from Waterloo. And then 20 minutes to get back. So, at least 40 minutes, to get a ticket for a train that is due in 15. Not a great plan.
Mr WithaY said he was not going to take their advice, and would travel back with his bit of paper, which, if you recall, had already been stamped once by the train ticket collector on the way up there.
The Waterloo team flapped, telling him he would be in biiiig trouble, police, fines, prison, flogging, transported to Australia, etc etc etc.
Mr WithaY decided to ignore them and go and wait for his train.
However, being a law-abiding citizen, his conscience smote him and eventually went and bought a single ticket back, at a cost of £31. In addition to the £9 advance ticket he had already paid for, with a reserved seat and all.
He found his seat, and took up position, a ticket in one hand and his reserved receipt in the other. By now his Mexican laid-back-ness had worn away and he was just waiting to be challenged. I beleive he adopted a "Come on then, you fuckers" stance.
The ticket collector came, and Mr WithaY presented his receipt. "Will you accept this as my ticket?" he asked. The ticket collector looked at it, nodded and said "Yes, no problem sir." Mr WithaY then presented the additional £31 ticket and explained the situation.
The rest of the carriageful listened attentively, some of them joining in with cries of "Ooh, that's not right at all!" and "How outrageous!"
The ticket collector's advice: Send the extra ticket to South West Trains with a letter of explanation and demand a refund.
I'll let you know if we get one.