Our last day in Britain. The morning we would spend going through book stores on and off Charing Cross Street. As it is one of the first, we started with Motorbooks. We found it only due to me looking in the right direction at the right time—it has moved from S:t Martin's Court to Cecil Court, the next street over. In fact all the nice niche bookstores on S:t Martin's Court have moved or disappeared and the streetlet now consists of an unbroken length of pubs. One of the bookstores on Charing Cross Road proper had a lament in its window, explaining how rising costs forced bookstores out of business, and indeed, several of my old favourites had disappeared, replaced by shops for traditional Chinese medicine and the ilk. I was much saddened. Still, Motorbooks was in good shape, even though the fantastic basement stairwell covered with graffiti, stickers, and business cards from every air line, military aircraft unit and private plane owner that had ever passed Motorbooks, was gone. I bought some books I thought I'd manage to carry and looked longingly at some others, which I'll simply have to order later on.

Then we continued to Foyles. They were still in good shape and some more books were added to the collection. Then it was time to head back and pick up our bags. Pull the cart with our bags to Victoria, carry it down into the underground. Honeybuns is getting a bit jittery about our time schedule, I'm more like: “No worries, we should make it with minutes to spare.” She does not look calmed.
When we arrive at King's Cross the PA system blares: “This is an emergency, proceed to the exits immediately!” Oops, well, we were in a hurry anyway. The station pours out hundreds of people onto the street. We push ourselves towards the entrance to S:t Pancras, just as we see it being closed up as well. Is it more than just the underground station being closed? I accost one of the guards by the gate: “Pardon me, is the rail station closed as well?” “Yes, yes, don't you see, all the electricity is gone, nothing is running, everything is closed. Please move out of the way.” Clearly not all of the electricity is gone, as the escalators had been running and other signs of electrical activity are obvious, but of course you would have to have backup systems for those. Now what are we going to do? We'll miss our train and all connections, who should be approached to sort this out?
MillersPeople milling around.
After milling around a bit we sit on the steps outside the station and consider our plight. After a while it strikes me that there doesn't seem to be all that many other forlorn people milling around, maybe Londoners know what to do under these circumstances, but where do all the other tourists that should be on our train go?
Honeybuns peers curiously at some people that go up the steps, is there a pub up there, maybe we could at least have lunch? We lug our cart and ourselves up the steps and Blimey! there's another entrance to S:t Pancras and the station is obviously in full operation! We rush in, carry the cart down the stairs and come running into the Eurostar terminal as we hear: “Final call for the 14:34 to Brussels, proceed to checkin immediately!” I bang our tickets on the desk and we are checked in. We even have time to pick up some sandwiches and drink on the way to the train, which pulls away soon after we've sat down.
I love the active and curious mind of Honeybuns more than ever, as my breathing calms down. I also check some news sites with the web browser in my mobile, but there seems to be nothing about the emergency, maybe it's a fairly common occurence and nothing to write home about.
Our connection in Brussels is smooth and then we get to Cologne, where we have a couple of hours' wait. Time for dinner. We find a sushi bar, operated by some Vietnamese, and get some quite good sushi (yes, vegetarian too). They do however not accept credit cards. A Colognial sitting on the stool next to us offers to pay the difference for us, but Honeybuns runs away to a cash machine and gets some Euros.

Finally our train arrives and we pile into our sleeper. It is Czech too, but of a subtly different design than the one on the way down. We sleep the sleep of the exhausted, and enjoy breakfast next morning while travelling through Denmark. Again we have a layover in Copenhagen, which I spend writing a few postcards, and then we suddenly run into an old colleague of mine, who's also going back to Stockholm. No direct connection this time, we have get to Malmö first where we change to X2000. I make a point of travelling forwards and not reading on the way up. I avoid motion sickness this time.

Then, just a short tube-trip home. As I walk through the park on the way home, I see that the new playground has been opened and is full of children with their parents, playing in the early summer evening.


Martin said...

Train travel is of course slower than air travel. But what was the price difference for this trip?

kai said...

That's depending a bit on exactly when you book and so on, of course, but I estimate that it cost four to five times as much to go by train as fly.