Probably with hindsight, I should not have gone to the gym on Thursday night and instead focused on packing for my weekend away with the boys in Newcastle. Being the keen gym bunny that I am now, I decided I would pack straight after dinner on Thursday evening. Say around 8:30 – 8:45pm. During the course of eating, I noticed a slight headache start and decided the best course of action was to lie in bed for a few minutes, let the headache pass and then crack on with the packing. The next moment I woke up and looked across at my alarm clock, it was 00:35. I swore, a rather pathetic way to release the tension. I would now have to pack at 4am in the morning in a rush.
Let me first fill you in on events throughout the week. Firstly Geoff had pulled on late on Tuesday evening, so we left with just six travelers by car for Friday morning. Too many for one car, too few for two cars. Pav looked at renting a seven seater for the weekend and split the cost of rental and fuel. However trying to rent a large vehicle just prior to a Bank Holiday Weekend was just a no no! If a vehicle was available nearby, the costs were just astronomical. A decision had to be made and somebody had to take the hit. I decided to take the train up which would be funded by my friends. While it perhaps would have made sense to get the direct service from Reading to Newcastle, I opted to get a ticket from Slough via London’s Kings Cross. The reason for this was cost, travelling into London was cheaper and gave me a more realistic arrival time of just before 6pm. Originally when planning this holiday, I was going to take the Friday off to get a four day mini break but as Pav was working half day, I opted to just take the afternoon off (more on this later). It made sense, I would be in Reading at the office anyway and just be able to catch the TVP bus back into town, jump in the car with Pav and boys (the Fox brothers) and hit the road.
I had reset my alarm (ancient smartphone) for 4am and reluctantly got out of bed to pack. I had quite a deal to do but thankfully had made a list earlier in the week. Using this as a reference point, I quickly and more importantly quietly, as to not to wake up Michelle, grabbed my travel bag and clothes from the bedroom and packed everything in the lounge. I put on the laptop to transfer over The Big Bang Theory episode from my server over to my Nexus 7 for the journey. I rushed through my list and then grabbed a quick bite to eat before jumping in the shower. As I was packing away my toiletries, Michelle woke up and kindly made me some sandwiches for the train journey into work, to fuel me for my three hundred mile and almost six hour (including waiting time) trek up to the North East.
I got to work at the usual time but was planning on leaving at midday sharp. Our Director sent out an e-mail to the entire department, giving everybody the afternoon off! Fantastic news but I was slightly annoyed as I had already booked the time off and would have to reverse my holiday to get the time back when I got back in the office on Tuesday. I charged up my gadgets in preparation for my adventure. It was going to be a very long afternoon but at least the sun was shining and I could put on my sunglasses. This among many other simple pleasures in my life. I said goodbye to Harps who was leaving and the rest of my colleagues were off to Frankie & Benny’s up the road for lunch and drinks. I was missing out for a change but cared little. The party tonight was going to be in Newcastle.
It did feel rather strange to be leaving work so early on a Friday afternoon. I was all set as I waited for TVP bus to take me into Reading town centre. From here I planned to catch a direct service to London Paddington. Strictly speaking I should have used a service which stopped at Slough (as per the terms and conditions of my permit to travel i.e. my train ticket). I had plenty of time on my hands. As I made my way up the escalator I got a call from Kevin. He had just landed at Heathrow airport and wanted to know the cost of a ticket up to Newcastle. When I checked earlier in the morning, the price had gone up to £120. Kevin had been delayed by six hours at Dubai airport after his connecting flight from Thailand had disappeared off the radar. It was always going to be tight for him to arrive early on Friday morning prior to us getting on the road. I had received a text message from both Pav and Kevin while I had been sound asleep of these additional obstacles. Kevin had asked if the car group could swing by Terminal 3 to pick him up at 2pm. This was unlikely now, as the road trip gang had decided to get onto the motorway by 11am, if not earlier. Kevin would have to make his own plans, however with all his luggage to carry around, he would have quite a struggle on the train to Newcastle, even if he caught a direct service. The price had rocketed to £160 (on the day tickets are notoriously expensive in this country for our Victorian infrastructure). He would go home, rest and catch the train up in the morning with an ETA of around 2:30pm. My train journey into London was uneventful and the service ran on time. From Paddington I caught the tube to Kings Cross via the District Line. This was the first time I had been at the redeveloped Kings Cross station. Last time I was here was in my final year at University when I caught the train from Leicester to London and then train from Marylebone back to Wycombe. I had some time on my hands, so grabbed a sandwich from Boots and then waited by a screen for my train to be called. I was yards away from Platform 9 and 3/4. The marketing people will never miss a trick to create a tourist attraction within a busy train station concourse. Want to know more, check out the full disclosure from London blogger extraordinaireDiamond Geezer
The station was busy with crowds of people making an early get away for the Bank Holiday Weekend. Plus those heading to business meetings in the afternoon, school kids, college students heading either home for the long weekend or off away with friends for the long weekend. I checked my mobile phone to get updates from Twitter and Facebook and my Yahoo! mail account to kill some time after eating my sandwiches. Shortly before my train was due to depart, an announcement was made. Platform 8, so I headed along with a group of other passengers to the platform. The ticket barrier was up, so I put my ticket away while making my way down the platform to my carriage. It was a long walk towards the front of the train to my carriage. I was near the door at least but found other people in my seat, so sat in an adjacent seat, after putting my luggage on the rack. Once we finally got going, I put on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory on my tablet to enjoy. Episode 22 from Series 6, imaginatively entitled as always, The Proton Resurgence. However that only killed 24 odd minutes of my journey, I still had over five hours of travel (including one train change) before I reached my final destination. I opted to listen to my mp3 player and switch my tablet of. I needed to conserve power until I reached the hotel as that would be my first opportunity to charge. I was tweeting on a regular basis with updates on my current location and progress on my estimated time of arrival for Newcastle. I was also texting Foxy, to get updates on their progress in Pav’s M3. Bear in mind they left Reading around 10:30am and were north of Oxford an hour and ten minutes after this time. I meanwhile had not even left my office. They were taking a good lead and even my journey to London was a detour of sorts. I believe the cost of a direct train from Reading would have been far too expensive at this time in proceedings. So by the time I was waiting for my train at Kings Cross they were already 166 miles ahead which in journey time was ten minutes within the three hour mark. I was hoping to catch them up but it was going to be tight and if my service had been direct, perhaps I would have been beaten them to the hotel. By the time I got to Doncaster to change, they were within an hour of the city. They checked in around 5pm and I would not make it to hotel until almost an hour later. It was great to see everyone waiting in the lobby. Now the weekend could truly begin in earnest. It was time to switch off the mobile (after I had checked into my room and spoken to the wife and my family back in Wycombe briefly). A break from the online world and social media in general. Time to see if the nightlife in Newcastle really is as good as I have been let to believe.