Thursday, January 18, 2007

Terrible Thursday

Warning: Weary and Resigned Rant Up Ahead!

Well, this sucks. Big time. How do I even begin to describe the day I’ve just had? At this moment, I shouldn’t even be here in the hall, writing this. I should have landed long ago, after a successful flight. I should have checked into my hotel, savouring the soft bed linen. I should then have gone pounding the pavements, drawn by the strong aroma of freshly brewing coffee. I should have been breathing in the crisp winter air, and marvelling at the strange new sights and wondrous new colours around.

Instead, here I am, still in London, having survived more than 10 hours of absolute commuting hell. I’ve lost hundreds of pounds, wasted an entire day, been totally drained and deflated, with my patience sorely tested. And yes – my weekend break is no more. Where was I headed to? Well, it doesn’t really matter now, does it?

The entire country has been hit by gale force winds this past week, and conditions today were especially awful, leading to madness and mayhem in the transportation sector. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, and large sections of the rail network were shut down totally. And I, of course, had the imaginative foresight to plan a get-away this particular day.

I don’t even know if my flight had been cancelled, or if took off as scheduled. I finally got to Stansted Airport three hours after its original departure time. I was on a Stansted Express train service from London’s Liverpool Street station, but barely a half hour after it pulled away, the train came to a halt, apparently because it had run over a “wooden pellet.”

And when that was finally sorted out, we learnt that a tree had fallen across the track some miles ahead. And when that was finally sorted out, we learnt that another tree had fallen across the track some miles ahead. Déjà vu happens often. But surely not in such quick succession? Our train soon creaked up to Broxbourne – wherever that might be – and all passengers were unceremoniously dumped onto the platform. The entire service was halted.

A relief bus soon appeared, but not too long after boarding, it managed to embroil itself in an almighty traffic jam. And as the sun began setting, frustrated after a day being hidden behind the clouds, I finally made it to Stansted Airport, whereupon I turned around right away and began a two hour wait in the open – accompanied by thousands of cheerful passengers, and entertained by strong winds and plunging temperatures – for a bus ride back into London.

So, that’s life in the UK for you. My journey last December to Munich was similarly tortuous, but at least I did get into the city by the end of the day. The original flight had been delayed severely because of fog. This time round, the culprit, it seems, is wind.

What should we make of it? Not just that the British Isles is subject to crappy weather, but also that transportation here is frequently a nightmare. This is a small, crowded and over-populated island, and when you think about London, with its narrow streets and ancient infrastructure, magnify the problems posed by several magnitudes. All it takes, thus, is for a catalyst such as bad weather to occur, or any other disruption, and the transportation network descended into gridlock.

I was well aware of the reality of life here. I had travelled to London and to the UK before. In my old job back home, we commissioned a docudrama series that sought to flesh out various emergency scenarios in Singapore. And one of our guiding inspirations was a BBC mock documentary, The Day Britain Stopped, which depicted how the entire country came to a virtual standstill one day. It was a nightmare scenario, variants of which have since been playing out in real life.

I was to have returned from the weekend refreshed and recharged, ready to regale everyone with tales from a distant land. It’s not to be, alas. Instead, here I am, hungry, crabby and distinctly unhappy. It’s easy, almost trite, to put this down as the inherent condition of life in London. I know that, too. But it doesn’t make living through it any easier. Wah sibeh dulan liao.

- End of rant -


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must rem to try to get refund / claim if possible. DH

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Elijah said...

Weather crazy nowsaday. Recently heavy rain here. Even Amoy kena flooding!

4:57 AM  

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