Posted in Railways on Saturday 1st May 2004 at 9:49pm
Awoke to moody skies. Decided against an early start, but still aimed for a hastily planned trip to Maidstone. Telephoned for news from Taunton. Today even the medics were a little bit positive - the first time they have really been anything but concerned and rather grave in their view. The last few days seem to have seen a series of tiny improvements, with equally tiny setbacks. Today they seem to be balancing more on the favourable side. Took heart and set out for my trip a feeling a little better.
From Reading, rebooked via London but took the scenic route across country. On a Gatwick bound service as far as Redhill, then on to Tonbridge. Here, it was a couple of short hops - one to Paddock Wood, then another to Maidstone West. However, it began to fall apart! The Tonbridge-Ashford service was delayed nearly 10 minutes, and according to the on-train announcements this was due to a derailment. I've not found any mention of this anywhere else since. We finally set off, and ran very slowly - arriving at Paddock Wood two minutes after the Maidstone service left!
Stranded! An hour until the next service, so I set out to explore a bit. Paddock Wood is a strange little place - one street, with a bunch of charity shops, bakeries and newsagents. Not much else. Lots of people seemed to be around but not really going anywhere. Turned a corner and found the one single pub I spotted in the whole place. It wasn't clear if it was open so I stayed away. Popped into the rather overscale Waitrose supermarket - a huge and rather pricy store for a small and not apparently very affluent 'village' - suppose this is the commuter belt after all. Bought materials for improvised sandwiches. I'm sure I spotted a relative in the shop too - an auntie. Perhaps I stared a little too hard, and the woman looked quizically back at me - further convincing me I knew her. I have no idea why this particular branch of the family would be anywhere near Kent, let alone sauntering around the local supermarket browsing for cooked meats!
On the rails once more, and a pitifully dilapidated 508 to Maidstone West. Slow going. Arrived, and set off immediately for Maidstone East on foot. What can I say about the town? It's a strange, rather confusing place. The pedestrianized zone was thronged with shoppers, the usual chain stores, endless 'alternative' kids spitting obscenities at passers by, and too many shops selling cheap tat. As I ascended towards the top of Week Street the character changed, and the shops became all manner of restaurants and dodgy looking pubs and clubs. Suddenly, down a side street, the station appeared, looking very welcome - in fact both stations had been quite pleasant little places. I was only sorry I had trusted my map, because it seems that a few more moments on the train to Maidstone Barracks would have made for an easy transfer via a footbridge over the River Medway, avoiding the entire town. I was not sorry to leave Maidstone.
Slammer as far as Bromley South, where I changed for a Blackfriars bound service via Catford, just for some new track. Got a really filthy and rather odourous 465, but enjoyed the new scenery. Realised at Bromley there were a couple of other new routes to try. On arriving at Blackfriars remembered the Circle Line was out of use. Set off on foot on a mapless, straight line wander north through the city. Felt very good indeed to be back on familiar ground. I'm never happier than when I'm pounding Corporation pavements. Absolutely exhilarating, rather speedy walk. All too quickly I was at Farringdon.
After the strangeness of the past week, it was good to get away - I know I'm lucky to be able to, but frankly I've been no use to anyone lately. Here's to more of that positivity which seems to be floating around today...
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.