Has it been a whole week already?
All things considered my first week as a public-transport commuter have not gone too badly. And then the storm happened and everything was up in the air.
Having checked the Deutsche Bahn website it appeared that although many trains have been cancelled, mine would leave on time. Yaayy. Accordingly I abandoned plans to take a bus to Mönchengladbach and then another 2 to Willich in favour of letting the train take the strain. As soon as I saw the hordes of people standing on the platform I nearly changed my mind, but there was then the miracle of an announcement that the Düsseldorf train would arrive any moment. It was a double-decker jobbie and the hordes of waiting passengers, some of whom i summised had been there for a long time from their grumbled commens as they shuffled past me, squashed themselves on the train. It pulled out, slowly and I was left, alone to ponder my possible foolhardiness as I watched the bus pull out too.
But then - oh wonder - my train arrived. Unfortunately in place of the usual destination of "Duisburg" it bore the legend Mönchengladbach. 2 stations before mine. Hmmm. Well, I know that a bus goes from Mönchengladbach so I hopped on, took up a seat and opened my book. Just before Mönchengladbach the automated announcement caused consternation when it announced that our next stop would be Aachen - which is about 40kms in the opposite direction.
Finally we were on the way again and as a bonus the train would now stop one stop further at Viersen. Where I knew - because the guy from work that i met on the bus yesterday morning had told me - that I could get a bus to my office. The train stopped and everyone piled off to catch the buses that have been laid on to take them to the parts that the trains can't currently reach. And promptly all congregated in the doorway so that nobody could move. That didn't exactly set me up for the rest of my journey, but with some pushing and shoving and then running around asking people about bus stops I finally discovered that I could take a bus to the bus station and from there to my office stop. As an aside: does absolutely EVERYONE listen to music while they travel? I don't think I saw anyone who wasn't wearing earphones of some description.
And that was that, or so I thought. Wisely I periodically checked the Deutsche Bahn website and finally established that I could go to my usual stop of Anrath and get the train at 18:08 which was annotated as being "pünktlich" - on time.
There's a lesson here, boys and girls. Don't trust anything you read on the internet. I took a bus. Then I took another bus. And arrived at a nearly deserted station, when the doubts began to set in. A couple of other people arrived, including a woman who had caught the same train/bus combo as me this morning. She had also checked the website. The doubts receded. They receded even more when a few other website checkers arrived.
"No trains today," called a cheerful bus driver.
"oh yes," we chorused. "It said so on the website."
"No trains today," called a passing car driver.
"Hmmm..." we said. It's an unmanned station, but there is an info thing so we pressed the button and eventually a disembodied voice asked us how he could help us. To cut the boringly long story short. There were no trains that day from Anrath. How could we have thought such a thing... Several of us called the Deutsche Bahn info number and received various different answers. There were definitely no trains. There would be a train. There were buses organised to take the place of the trains. There were no buses. We would have to take taxis. We coudn't take taxis because there were buses which we should wait for. Which weren't coming.
Meanwhile the cheerful bus driver announced he was driving to Schloß Neersen and anyone who wanted should get on. Which we did as there was nowhere to sit and no shade at the station. When we got to Schloß Neersen there were 3 of us waiting for the next bus - which was due in 45 minutes. I could have wept - this was my alternative route and if I'd stuck to my guns and gone for that I'd have been home by then.
Still, it was a bit of an adventure, and I had my book and (important for me: I wasn't in imminent danger of needing the loo). The two ladies waiting with me proved to be chatty. We talked of this and that and at one point one of them mentioned her daughter who "is a lot older than you". Hmm, I thought. "How old is she?" There is a sort of freedom in asking perfect strangers such personal questions.
"oh, she's 46" came the reply. At which I smiled quietly to myself. YES! (I'll enlighten you: I'm 46 and-a-half)
Finally, after a long wait and a lot of conversation about Train Journeys That Went Bad, the bus turned up and after a short while deposited us uneventfully in front of Mönchengladbach station.
The was obliging enough to arrive on time and I duly disembarked and switched to my bike shortly after 8pm.
Tomorrow I'm either going to ignore the DB website or I'm going to call them every half an hour to check their data.
One thing is for sure: the Deutsche Bahn were correct when they told me that they can't plan for a one-off event like the storm. I agree and accept that in such an instance my journey is going to be long and silly. But they really have to work on their provision of information to their passengers. Especially on their unmanned stations.
It really can't be that difficult to send someone around with a car and some blank posters with at least an info line number to call.
Communing with nature and the Great Lipgloss Dilemma
Living in the country, as I do, there is some opportunity to observe wildlife. It is very flat around here with not much tree cover or even scrubland or bushes. Which means that generally what we get are hares, rabbits and various species of birds of prey. Buzzards are common but I never fail to catch my breath when I see one. They are beautiful.
Early on in the year there are also plenty of lapwings, or peewits. I love the way they flap around when someone comes close to their nest and try to distract potential predators.
Anyway, this morning I was pleased to see a huge hare sitting in a field. As I got closer I realised that he was staring down a heron who was standing perfectly still giving the hare his best beady eyed look. I turned my attention back to the road just in time to nearly run over a stoat. We've nearly bumped into deer in the past as we've been cycling around, and just as I come into town I often see a red squirrel bounding along the road.
Ain't nature great.
Oh yes. The Great Lipgloss Dilemmma. Yesterday I mentioned that the lipgloss I use was acting rather like fly-paper on all the little bugs that fly around in the mornings.
This evening as I was cycling back my lipgloss was long gone (I'm really not girly enough to re-apply it during the day) and there was nothing to stop the flies getting in my mouth. So now I can't decide which is worse: Flies on my lips or flies on my tongue.