Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Westerton Connection

Entry for 10 March 2014:

BACP has been running the Training the Trainers series again, so Sue Wheeler, John McLeod and I have been doing our bits of that again, like an aging rock group trotting out its greatest hits.  Unfortunately, when I went to book the Sunday night Caledonian Sleeper train down to London a couple of weeks ago for my latest gig, I discovered that there were no sleeper berths left, or even regular seats.  This presented a problem because I was scheduled to be at our Tuesday Parttime Diploma course residential weekend in Stirling until 3pm on Sunday afternoon.  What to do?  A bit desperately, I wondered whether there might be seats available on one of the other Scottish sleeper trains. A bit of research revealed that, yes, in fact, the Fort William sleeper train stops in Westerton, only two stops up the line from Hyndland, closer even than Glasgow Central. And sure enough, there were still berths available.

Fast forward to yesterday:  After a few hours at home with Diane recovering from an intense but fulfilling weekend residential weekend of training, I set off at 10:30pm, into the dark and rainy night.  There was no one else at the Hyndland train station but the guy in the ticket office, who knows me as one of the regulars, so I chatted with him for a couple of minutes.  The Milnegavie train arrived, so I got on it and took it two stops, 7 minutes, to Westerton, a commuter station next to the Firth-Clyde Canal.  There the oddness began: The London Euston train, on its way from Helensburgh Central and Dalmuir was listed as departing from Platform 2, even though I had just gotten off the Milnegavie train, heading in the opposite direction, on the same Platform.  But that wasn’t all:  The station board listed the train I was waiting for as heading for “Edinburgh Only”; my Scotrail app said the same thing.  Hmm…

It was still raining, but fortunately there was a covered shelter (although no chairs) on Platform 2, so I settled in the wait the 25 minutes for my train.  Several out-of-service ghost trains raced out of the distance and disappeared into the night without even slowing down.  The 23:10 Helensburgh train came and went.  Several other people appeared.  One had missed the Glasgow Central Sleeper train, which leaves earlier than usual on Sunday nights, making here a fellow refugee.  She was just as puzzled as I was.  The other, a man in his 30’s, reassured us that the Westerton Sleeper train did exist and that he has previously taken it, although he was unable to explain why the station board said “Edinburgh Only”. 

A couple of minutes later, from the same direction in which the Helensburgh Central training had just disappeared, we heard a low rumble: It was one of the ancient ESW engines that all the Caledonian Sleeper trains use.  A short train consisting of only 4 or 5 cars arrived. (Somehow, they had managed not to run into each other…) As we started to board one of the sleeper cars, a woman at the far end of the train leaned out into the rain and called to us.  We trundled down to her, where she addressed us by name, telling the other man to get on and go right, and me to get on and turn left.  We left her to deal with the displaced woman. 

When she came by a couple minutes later to check my tickets, she reassured me that this train was in fact going to London Euston.  I got ready for bed and went to sleep.  About 1am I got up to use the toilet; when I looked out, I discovered that we were sitting in Edinburgh Waverly station, which was brightly lit but completely and eerily empty.  I don’t know how long we waited there, because I went back to sleep. 

After a somewhat irregular night of sleep I woke up about 7am.  We were noodling along through North London.  Pretty soon we stopped, and waited for at least an hour, while sleek yellow-and-red Virgin trains raced past us.  I got dressed, shaved, ate a light breakfast, and drank some tea.  I reviewed my slides for today, did my daily 20 min of writing (working on the references for my almost-completed Personal Questionnaire Cross Analysis paper).  Finally, the train started moving again. 

We arrived at Euston Station.  The train had grown prodigiously in the night, by agglomerating most of Scotland’s Sunday night sleeper trains into the one Sleeper Train to Rule Them All.  I set out for Shelter Training in the London Forum on City Road.  Since I’d been to the training venue before, I’d forgotten to bring my London map, and I soon became lost.  I eventually jerry-rigged an ex tempore sat nav using my phone and my iPad and got back on track, arriving 10 min late and rather out of breath and sweaty… and had a lovely day talking about qualitative change process research tools, case study research, counseling research pedagogy and other matters arising to a little group of counseling trainers and doctoral students. The Westerton Connection had succeeded, although if it’s all the same I think on the way back I’ll just get off at Hyndland.

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