I have escaped. Having survived a whole 11 nights* of confinement at home, with the occasional release into the exercise yard of my local town, I had to break free. Yes, I know I wrote all of that positive stuff about being grounded and relaxed. But a travelling habit is not so easily kicked. As I write this, I am already at Derby station.
I sneaked out of the house under cover of darkness and on the pretence of bringing the wheelie bins in from the road. My driver rocketed me up the motorway in the getaway car, deposited me at the station “drop and go”, and ushered me out of the door. Time was critical. She only had 10 minutes, or there would be a £1 charge at the barrier.
I board the train, my clothes stuffed into a suitcase with my toothpaste, my head and shoulders in a plastic bag (just in case it leaks).
I already feel liberated. Things are returning to normal. I have a valid ticket in my Apple Wallet. My laptop is open and reassuringly low on battery. I have the warm familiarity of uncomfortable seats, unpalatable free coffee and finally – after almost two weeks – a receipt to scan into my expenses app. It’s been too long without a receipt to scan. I was getting withdrawal symptoms. I fold it neatly and lovingly into my receipts wallet. £4.17 for a cup of tea and chocolate. Perfect.
A train is not quite a plane – there is no security and no border control – at least not until we try to enter Oxford. But the broken lift at Derby station evoked fond memories of travel disruption and technical hitches of so many previous journeys. To complete my rehab., they announce we all have to change trains at Birmingham, as this one needs maintenance. Everything in the carriage rattles – windows, seats, doors, even a couple of the elderly passengers – as if to underline the point. It will be “taken out of use”.
All being well, I will arrive in Southampton after 23.07, where a prearranged, unmarked car (24 x 7 cabs) will be waiting to transport me to my overnight hiding place, the Solent Hotel and Spa. Here I will hole up, lie low, and finally get a good night’s sleep – without having to share a cell with some noisy cellmate. Hopefully nobody will recognise me. Just to be sure I will wear a sleep mask.
Outside I see the stars. This is my Shawshank Redemption, my Escape from Alcratraz. I wait for the refreshments trolley to roll seductively down the aisle. I sigh contentedly. When I close my eyes, I can almost imagine that I am flying.
- including weekends