Time for some more travelling tales - although this time, to places less exotic. At least, I take it that you'll agree that Frome in Somerset is less exotic than Barcelona. (Except, perhaps, that 'Frome' is pronounced 'Frooome'. With a West Country accent. Hmmm - Barcelona is beginning to sound more ordinary by the second).
Anyway, to-day sees me departing underneath Brunel's great train-shed at Paddington. All the services from here are now operated by First Great Western, unhappily the UK's least punctual long-distance operator at the moment. A fortnight ago, I was unfortunate enough to try and get to South Wales, only to be stymied by some wonderfully wintry weather. First a deluge, and then snow. Having reached Swindon on time, we were then sent to Gloucester, back down towards Bristol Parkway (our next scheduled stop) - but not quite: we were then informed by the hapless guard told we'd have to go back to Gloucester, then we did indeed arrive at Bristol Parkway, to be told to leave the train and wait for a bus to take us to Wales.
We waited an hour in the perishing, draughty entrance hall of Bristol Parkway station - not my favourite place at the best of times - with snow falling outside. Some even waited in the snow. Then, once our limbs were really numb, we were told to go back to the train, and continue that way to Wales. It was not a nice surprise to find that another group of passengers was already on the train, warm and cosy, and had indeed been there for half an hour. It wasn't until Cardiff that I had thawed out, three hours late, and five hours since leaving London.
Now, I realise that FGW cannot be held accountable for the weather, and the staff on the spot were doing the best they could. (Actually, full marks to the chap in the buffet who was handing out the sandwiches for free.) But the running around did rather feel like they were operating on the hoof, as it were, rather than thinking things through. And it really isn't on - except in really extreme circumstances - to freeze passengers waiting for non-existent buses. I have, of course, done my duty and written them a letter of complaint, so I shall be interested to read their response.
So, fingers crossed on my way to Bath to-day, or there will be another blog...
Addendum: a response from First Great Western has arrived. There are some travel vouchers enclosed, which are all very welcome (so, thank-you FGW) but they haven't actually addressed the points I made, which I feel are actually more important. Indeed, the letter reads like two standard letters put together - which, I suspect, is exactly what it is. I don't blame the person putting it together - I just hope their managers are taking it in, somehow.