Well it must have been. I mean, why else would I have had a day like that?
The only way I can make sense of Tuesday is to assume it was some kind of check-up prepared by the aspect of my greater self that likes to drop banana skins on to my path and then watch to see whether I slip. I don’t bear this part of my identity any grudge. After all, how else is it to check whether or not a particular life-lesson has been fully learned?
The great thing is – I think I passed. A series of situations that would have caused steam to issue from my ears and the air around me to turn a vivid shade of blue just a few years ago, had a very different effect that day. I think it has to do with my determination to enjoy life, or at the very least to work out why particular challenges are appearing and to find ways of overcoming them without taking it personally.
So, The Day:
I’d had a very enjoyable long-weekend in a lovely corner of Wales. Tuesday was my travelling home day. I’d not planned anything else and was in no particular rush.
Arriving early at my departure station, I noticed the blissful smell of bacon emerging from an attractive little station café. I hardly ever eat a cooked breakfast, but it was gone 10 am. Brunch would just about be in order, and I had a long journey ahead of me… I was consequently rather pleased when the station manager explained that the 10:36 train to Newport had metamorphosed into a rail replacement bus which would take me as far as Shrewsbury, and it wouldn’t leave until 10:52.
Brunch was delicious. I finished in good time and sauntered out to discover that my ‘bus’ was in fact a luxury coach, with only three passengers. Taking the front seat and adjusting my personal air con, I settled back to enjoy a scenic tour of the Welsh borders with panoramic views.
True, it was gone midday before we reached Shrewsbury station, but I had seen some spectacular valleys and even caught a glimpse of Charles Darwin’s birthplace.
Forty-five minutes to kill before a connecting train to Newport was due, but I’d never been to Shrewsbury before, so I had a short amble about, admiring the castle and other interesting buildings.
When it arrived, the train was already full. I was very lucky to find a seat, even if it was one of those flip-down ones, next to an automatic door and right outside the toilet. True, I had to stand up and juggle my bags whenever the drink trolley passed through, but at least I wasn’t having to stand all the way.
I settled down to read a book and off we went.
We hadn’t reached the next station when the train came to a halt. There was some static on the PA system, then the train manager’s voice telling us that a freight train in front had failed and we’d be stuck there for a while.
Twenty minutes passed. Then the voice again. The freight train, it transpired, had ‘failed completely’. A new engine would have to be sent to move it. This would take about an hour.
Shrugs and wry smiles were exchanged around the little vestibule where six of us were clustered. We took turns to explain to passengers from the carriages how to operate the complex series of buttons on the toilet door. The snack trolley came along, distributing free chocolate or dry roasted nuts. There were no drinks left, but people shared what remained of their water with thirsty fellow travellers.
The hour passed, as did another, and finally we were on our way. The strange thing was that although the freight train had failed completely, we hadn’t. Everyone remained cheerful and calm. I texted humorous updates to a friend who happens to be a train fanatic. He texted back instructions on how to claim a ticket refund, which I shared with others.
The train manager had called ahead and arranged to have enough Welsh spring water available at the next station for everyone on board to be given a free bottle.
At every station more people piled on and our vestibule was shared with a bicycle, a pushchair and more people than I could count. I tried to give my seat to a heavily pregnant young girl, but she smiled and declined, squatting on the floor and entertaining her small siblings to keep them quiet.
Finally we reached Newport. I collected the necessary form to claim my refund and enquired after the next train to Bristol. Ah, they told me, terribly sorry, but it had been cancelled. There would be another in about half an hour.
I just laughed and wandered off to stand in a sunny spot on Platform 4.
So it was that exactly four hours later than I should have done, I boarded a train to take me back to Bristol. Only an hour and twenty minutes on the bus, and I’d be home!
I was completely happy and strangely proud, knowing that once, in a similar situation, I would have been focusing on what should have happened, how inconvenient it was, how annoyed I felt. The day could have been spent in a sea of frustration, anger and indignation. Instead, I’d stayed in the moment, found positives to focus on and accepted the whole experience as an opportunity to show myself how successfully I’d mastered this life-lesson. The training had been successful!