So anyone who follows my Twitter feed will know our journey down to Devon was not the best advertisement for British Rail.
Tom and I use our local intercity rail service frequently, Tom gets the stop from our house to his work (a five minute journey) everyday and I use it to get about Bristol with Wilf without having to navigate buses as most stops are 15 mins from wherever you want to be.
The morning of our journey we rushed around finishing packing, leaving instructions for our neighbours in regards to our cats eating habits and sorting the recycling in time for Tom's sister Ruth (who was travelling with us) to arrive and set off to our local station to start our journey.
As it usually goes we were feeling a little stressed, checking I had the tickets ten million times, my wallet, my phone, the camera..etc. I remember clearly Ruth saying 'as soon as we're on the next train from Temple Meads we can relax' famous last words!
When we got to Temple Meads we realised our train was running 15 minutes late, which wasn't too much of an issue, the journey was only supposed to be an hour and a half with no changes so although we probably said things like 'typical' and 'this always happens' it left me time to get myself a large latte and us to share a packet of crisps. Our train arrived eventually and we set off down the platform to find our carriage, we had reserved a table and all four seats so we could sit together and have a pleasant journey down (we even had a picnic)..finding our carriage Tom got on with our suitcase as Ruth helped me on with the pushchair to dismantle as we got on. I waited in the corridor as Ruth went to find the seats and Tom return to help me dismantle the pushchair and get out…
They both returned to help with the chair but saying we couldn't sit down as people were in our seats and refusing to move. I said something like 'what? But we have booked those seats did you show them that?' it was a genuine shock that anyone would act that way. As I said it a random man came up to me and said 'you can wait until Taunton its only ten minutes' I repeated to him (with Wilf in my arms) 'but we've book those seats' to which he replied 'yer but they're disabled, just wait here (in the corridor) until they get off in Taunton'.
I cant really remember what happened exactly after this, knowing two of the people were disabled clearly made it not as clear cut but they were still our seats. It turned out two of the people were disabled and two were their 'helpers' (two grumpy looking girls in their early twenties). There are disabled seats on the carriage (their disabilities were mental and not physical) and also extra single seats dotted about the carriage. Despite this no one seemed to either offer up two seats together or the disabled seats for them. Eventually, as Tom was dismantling the pushchair in the cramped corridor a man walked up to me and said 'I'm sitting by myself please take my seat'. I thanked him but was still really upset, that wasn't the point. We had pre-booked and reserved as we had a small baby and luggage and wanted a stress free journey. I needed to be able to feed my baby and ensure he was happy, we even booked him a seat of his own so we could have a whole table seat together.
As I entered the carriage I saw a few single seats dotted around the place and a lots of passengers eager to look the other way and not offer any help. I didn't want Wilf to sense I was upset so I just decided to head back to the corridor with him and wait in there. It may sound like a over reaction but I felt really hurt, I guess its because I had Wilf with me and I needed him to be ok. Usually this situation would be annoying but this felt different, I guess that instinct that you have to look after your baby made me feel so overprotective and upset that anyone could deny a family with a small baby their seats.
About five minutes after this Tom came back to say they had moved, the two helpers had decided to sit with each other further back in the train (!) and the two disabled passengers in the table seat opposite. I wasn't sure if the carriage thought we were in the wrong for asking for our seats when passengers with specials need were in them but one, there are disabled seats on the carriage, two the 'carers' should have booked a table seat if they wanted to all sit together and three, if it was so important that they be together why did they them go sit with each other and not one with each disabled passenger??
Wilf of course was oblivious to all of this stress and sit there babbling away and smiling at everyone, an old couple in the seats opposite gave us both cheery smiles which I was appreciative of. That whole experience put a massive dampener on the journey and when the 'carers' got off (and hour later not ten minutes BTW, this is partly because it should have been 40 mins and the train made a detour around Weston..I know trains don't usually make detours..but it still it wouldn't never have been ten minutes) they gave me a lovely scowl.
So thinking that was the only thing that could go wrong we started to de-stress, only the train by then was getting progressively later and later (for whatever reason) and we were now an hour behind schedule. So as we approached Exeter (a stop two stops away from ours) they announced quickly everyone travelling to Totnes would have to get off now and get another train as they were not going to stop there anymore, we had about two minutes to grab the suitcase, pushchair (one part) and back pack, I was left on the train with Wilf in his other half on the chair whist Tom got back on to help me (in the meantime the train started filling up again and I wondered if we would ever got off in time..)
And then after THAT the train we had to get was also late..well it was a stressful journey.
I think when you have a baby you have to not let on to them if you are sad/scared/upset and I was keeping it together for so long, thinking calming thoughts, singing to Wilf as we stood on the platform watching the arrival time of our next train getting later and later..that when we did finally get to our holiday cottage..well I very nearly burst into tears there and then. As it was I waited until bedtime and then in the dark I did shed a few tears, more as a release than anything.
When I was a small child (maybe 6?) I was on a train journey with my parents, elder brother and baby sister, we had also booked seats all together on our train. With a full carriage our seats had been taken up by a group of men who were drinking. They refused to give up our seats and even when my dad and the ticket inspector told them to move they pretty much said 'what are you going to do about it??' a few passengers offered their seats here and there, not many, I think the British public are good at ignoring a situation. I remember feeling very scared and its a memory thats really stuck with all my life. That anyone could talk to my dad, my lovely dad like that and even when the ticket man, the man in his official suit that keeps everything in order cant stop them, well its scary for a child. I remember not wanting to sit away from my parents, and neither did my brother, so my mum had a seat with my baby sister (who was under one as I remember) and we stood in the aisle together. I hate that those men who will probably never remember doing that made me so scared and upset my parents. I guess this experience also brought that back for me, Wilf will never know this event happened (unless one day he reads about it on my blog) but if he was a little older perhaps, I never want him to see people making his parents upset or scaring him.
Really people are awful sometimes.