This weekend we were really lucky to be guests of Vosene at London zoo (post to follow). We had a wonderful time on Saturday and were even given overnight accomodation in a Marriot Hotel enabling us the opprtunity to take the boys to see some of the sights of London and visit the Natural History Museum on Sunday, a wonderful Mother's Day treat for me.
As we live on a very limited budget, we didn't have much money for extras etc, but we made some cut backs in the months before the planned trip so that we would have some extra cash for food and travel around London etc. We had a wonderful time travelling on the underground, the twins had a ride on their first double decker bus, we saw lots of London's top landmarks and finished our trip at the Natural History Museum. I can remember visiting the museum over 35 years ago on a school trip and the wonder of the size and majesty of the place. The twins too were blown away by it, although it has updated considerably since my last visit! Sadly, by about 1.30pm they had had enough, My husband and I were hoping we could pop into the V & A next door, but the twins were just too tired. Milo had been up in the night at the hotel crying and complaining of stomach pains, he was hot and over tired from all the excitement so we decided perhaps it was best if we headed home.
I checked our return tickets to discover that we did not have open returns but were booked on the 7pm train from Paddington to Exeter ! I accept all responsibility for this, I am sure that its is the train time that I requested from the PR company. On previous occasions We have caught earlier trains than those stipulated on the ticket and the guards have never had a problem. We arrived at Paddington and boarded a 2.pm fast train to Exeter. Milo was crying and very hot, all of us were very tired. We settled into unreserved seats and then the voice of the guard came over the speaker advising that if you were travelling with tickets for a later train you must disembark! I began to panic, visions of being manhandled off the train by burly policemen at Reading, like you hear on the news. So I went in search of the guard, explained that we had tickets for a later train but that we were really tired, had a poorly son and just wanted to get home could we please stay on the train! NO! she barked back, your tickets are for 7pm you must wait for that train. I pleaded, NO ! You must get off, I have 6 yr old twins, its such a long time to wait, we will stand up in the corridor if you let us stay on. NO! get off now, the train is about to leave or you risk being forceably removed from the train! The guards name was KAREN ! I told her, her name was the only thing she had in common with me and ran off down the platform to get my family off the train.
Left standing on the platform with one hysterical twin, one weeping twin and one embarrassed teenager. I was furious! Where did my honesty get me. Off to the ticket office to see the ticket office supervisor, we were met with the same reply. You can pay £100 and we can let you on the next train. I don't have £100 I replied, well you will have to wait!
We tried two more times to get on the next two trains and were met with the same answer, one guard even admitted it was at his discretion whether he let us on the train and overlooked the time on the ticket, but still they would not let us on.
The wonderful PR lady Holly from Vosene had seen my tweets and called me offering for the company to pay the money so that we could catch an earlier train, back to the ticket office I went and told them the story. NO! can't take a payment over the telephone !
By this time I was so exhausted with trying, I gave in. We had 3 hours left to wait until our train at 7pm. Holly called me again and offered to send pizza to the station ! Two wonderful London based twitter people offered to come down to the station to keep us company or for us to pop to their homes for an hour or so, How fab was that ! I have spent my life trying to be the best and kindest person I can be, I teach my children the same values, what examples of kindness they witnessed yesterday! Some of the very best in human nature and some of the very worst!
My question though is, did I have a right to expect to get a train 5 hours earlier than I was booked on ? even though there was space ? Technically First Great Western, the train company wasn't doing anything wrong by insisting I stick to the train I was booked on. Do we expect too much in these days of the ME! ME! ME! Society ?
One last thing, when we finally boarded our train at 7pm (which was a slow one to Exeter and was over an hour longer journey). Our tickets were not checked at all by a guard and there were people sitting in every seat, most of them had not reserved their seats and they just got up and moved when the rightful owners came onto the train!