Sunday, July 24, 2005

Seaweed: Isle of Wight Posted by Picasa

Sea crossings and unattended luggage

Yesterday: I’m sitting on a train from Sainsbury to Waterloo Station, ‘twill be interesting to see how I manage to navigate from Waterloo to Kings Cross with the tube closures. Anyway, I’m coming to the end of a week away with the visiting parents.

We were on the Isle of Wight most of that time, staying in the yachting port Cowes the week before the annual Cowes regatta (most amusing local brand: “Mad Cowes” clothing). We had a pleasant, low key holiday that featured rambling round pretty villages and National Trust and English Heritage establishments.

But getting there was another story entirely. Despite Mum’s apprehensions we made the motorway journey from Little Walden (north of Cambridge) down to the London orbital road and out to Portsmouth without a hiccup. We were in fact, the better part of two hours early for our booked Isle of Wight ferry.

Which seemed a good thing, the traffic to the ferry terminal was so backed up. We discovered eventually that our 4.30 ferry would be 60-90 minutes delayed by three breakdowns in the ferry fleet. We were requested first to come back at 4, then to come back again at 4.30. This involved fairly stressful and tedious escapades best not related featuring British multi-story car-parks of the kind despised in detail by Bill Bryson and parking on double-yellow lines. Eventually, we got into the holding pen car-park, were directed into another queue and issued a windscreen boarding sticker.

Now all that remained was a wait in the blazing sun in a shadeless car, right?

Oh, no. The holiday street theatre occasioned by unattended baggage was yet to kick off. We were politely requested to leave our cars and queue on the far side of the road, then asked to back up to the corner, while the yellow-jacketed car queue managers and a single bobby broke out some blue and white police tape.

There was an oddly well-behaved block party atmosphere to the whole thing. No grumbling, not a great deal of mixing among different groups, but a general good humoured wandering about aimlessly in a little street-area between the police tape and cones blocking traffic. Vans of police came and went, the odd idiot driver ignored the cones and came up to the tape before being turned back.

One of the dull, loud, stupid “hooray Henry” types from the next car appointed himself in charge of moving cones out of the way of arriving police vehicles, and then putting them back. A small crowd of middle aged men, in bad floral shirts, worn shorts, socks and sandals listened attentively to a policeman telling them exactly nothing.

It was all rather amusing. I wandered about in my iPod watching people.

Even after what the newspapers are rather tackily calling “7/7”, everyone was calm and knew that this was what it looked like, and eventually proved to be: an inadvertantly abandoned bag.

This phlegmatic acceptance of inconvenience in the name of the public good is probably the best part of the British character, even if present comparisons to “the spirit of the Blitz” are tawdrily overstated.

PS Well, I’m now on an express train back to Cambridge from Kings Cross. The mood on the tube seemed … sombre and quiet. Mid-afternoon Saturday is hardly a peak time, but still, I couldn’t help but feel there were fewer people on the trains than usual.

There was a higher police presence, pairs of officers roaming platforms at Kings Cross station (not the Underground) in their high visibility yellow jackets.

It was all a little salutary, and I’m not sure the UK outside London has fully come to terms with the implications yet.

No comments: