Last weekend we had dinner and a play in town and did the pin balling from local map to local map to find where we needed to go. This weekend it was much worse and not quite so easy. We had tickets to see The Full Monty and also to have dinner at the Spaghetti House before the show, one of the pre-theatre dinner packages.
Started out badly. We arrived at the train station and found a parking place without a problem but when we got to the window to purchase our tickets, the train times had been changed from the usual times we were familiar with and counting on. dang. when did that happen. Had I purchased the tickets on line like I usually do, might have discovered that, BUT after last weekend when the trains were delayed and we had to find another way home, we were told to go back to our original station to get our refund – hence we were getting today’s tickets at the station so that we could also get our refund. Nope, didn’t happen. So now we are without our refund from the prior week and we are also going to be quite late for our 6 p.m. dinner reservation. We called the restaurant and told them we would be there at 6:30.
Our train should have gotten us to Waterloo at 6:20 but it arrived at 6:30. Still we figured we could make the restaurant in about 10 minutes. Just not to be this evening. Not quite sure if it was rugby or football but the Tube was full of fans going to Leicester Square and a good many of them were already well into stages of inebriation plus wildly enthusiastic about their teams and a good deal of shouting and cheering and singing. Exiting at Leicester Square proved to be an experience in bumper people rather than bumper cars. It was so crowded that we were bumping everyone next to us as we struggled towards the exit. It was the kind of crowd that had anyone fallen down, they would have stayed down as people wouldn’t have been able to find them underneath the feet.
Finally we burst into the open and there is a drunken crowd of about 50 people clustered around the map. It is now 7:40 p.m. We can’t even get close to the map and we can’t remember which way to go so we just turn and walk down the street to try and get out of the crowd and find another map. Nope, not to be. Hubby pulls out his phone and speaks in the address and it points off in a direction so we walk along its path. Tonight is the night that the phone GPS plays tricks on us. twice we walked around the block in a circle trying to find the right street. And finally I realize we have to give up totally on the restaurant because it is now 7 p.m. and our play starts at 7:30. I tell hubby to put the theatre into the GPS and it takes us in a total different direction. huh? the restuarant and theatre were supposedly close together. Oh well, we head back towards the tube station and again are bumping our way through the crowds that are still there and surging out of the tube and go a couple of blocks and there is the theatre. Wow, had we just turned the other direction when we came out, we might have made it to the restuarnt in time to eat! Across the street from the theatre is an Eat so we dash in there to get a sandwich and drink and couple of cookies. Into the theatre for our seats and we share a sandwich and our cookies before the play begins and that was our dinner!
Lovely play, enjoyed it immensely and then when it is over, we struggle through the crowds back to Leicester Square Station. There are even more people in the streets now. We’ve never seen it this crowded. There are police stationed at each exit/entrance to Leicester Square Tube Station and they are blocking the entrances and telling people to go around the corner. We do but the queue to go into the station is so thick that we decide we will just walk until we find another station or a cab, whichever comes first.
Unfortunately, we have to “swim upstream” against a very solid mass of shouting fans and drunken fans and theatre buffs. A policeman at one of the entrances tells us to walk up the street to find Tottenham Court Tube Station and we can get back to Waterloo from there. One would think that as we got a block or two away from this tube station that the crowds might lessen but there were too many like minded people heading for Tottenham Court tube station so we strolled up the street as it was impossible to get around the people and stride out. Finally we get to the Tottenham Court Tube Station and the first entrance is closed. We’re thinking it still might be a taxi then but when we walk around the corner, there are people going into the station so we do also but at the bottom of the stairs just around the corner, the crowd grows into a large lump of humanity that is shuffling towards the entrance gates and now we are stuck as there are too many people behind us to turn around and make an escape.
Amazingly enough, when we finally go through the turnstiles, it opens up and there is still a crowd but not so bad as some people peel off to go on the Bakerloo line and we go towards the Northern line. We walk down to the platform and it is heaving at the beginning as the fans who are still drunk and cheering are getting to the platform and just standing there waiting for the subway. We push and shove and bumper our way through this knot of people and walk to the far end of the platform where there are only a few people and WHEW at last we are out of the crowds.
The train comes and there are very few people in our car so we have seats. An announcement is made that the train will NOT be stopping at Leicester Square due to the station being closed due to overcrowding. Wow. have never heard of this happening before. Glad we left that station. As we roll through that station though, they have totally cleared it out and not a single person is on the platform at all, not even a tube worker. rather eerie. Charing Cross might have taken up some of the slack but it was surprisingly sparse as well. Embankment is closed for their escalator repair anyway so another eerie station as we pass the empty platform.
Finally Waterloo and as we are riding the escalator up to the train station, we hear an announcement that says “Victoria Line is currently running slow due to a person under the train, No other lines are experiencing delays”. Say WHAT??? I turned to my hubby and he heard the same thing so I didn’t “mis-hear” it. Wow. Entirely too many people on the tracks these weeks.
Unfortunately, we have about 1/2 hour to wait for our train and it isn’t a fast train either, stopping numerous times before reaching our destination. So we stand and watch the board so we can make a dash for the correct platform when it is listed and also we are watching to make sure there aren’t any delays like last week that turned into an all night stoppage. We know from experience that the trains leaving from about 11 p.m. to a bit past midnight are almost always full as people are going home from a night in the city. And tonight there are all these football or rugby fans who are roaming the station, now very drunk and either maudlin-ly sad or ridiculously happy but either side is still shouting and cheering and singing.
Finally we get a track number and we rapidly walk to the gates. We skip the first couple of cars and get on where the first class car is located. It is next to the toilet but experience has taught us that usually, USUALLY, these seats are left to the end before they fill, if at all but other cars without the first class section, are usually quite full and people are standing until they get as far out as Farnborough or Fleet. Well, tonight was an exception to that rule as has been most of the travel evening. By the time the train left, our coach was quite full with a queue for the toilet. In the group of people left standing without seats was a group of football fans who were fairly well lit with liquor including one friend who couldn’t really stand, being that intoxicated. Luckily his friends got him into the toilet by requesting to jump the queue and everyone agreed because we all thought he was going to hurl on someone otherwise. Then his friends took him off to the end and sat him on the floor. Some nights, my hubby can sleep on the train going home but not tonight. Rowdy and loud but polite in that the fans stayed within their group and didn’t bother anyone else on the train, other than falling over on occasion when the train hit a curve.
So an interesting evening where nothing went as planned from the very start, a very entertaining play, a missed dinner engagement, bumper people game up and down the street and through the tube stations, and drunken train companions all the way home. Geez, I just LOVE London!!!!