I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, despite knowing several people who have done it before but I knew it was for a good cause and too good a thing to miss out on so I spent the week beforehand gearing myself up; feeling alternately ridiculously excited and embarrassingly nervous.
Friday 21st dawned cold and bright and before I knew it I was on the 8am boat heading away from the island with my giant wheely suitcase. It had seemed so much smaller in the shop but compared to my companions I felt like I was going away for a week! In my defence it wasn’t full, I did have a lot of free space inside, and it was definitely more practical for travelling from one train to another on the journey. And there were a lot of trains involved.
The boat met the train to Glasgow. So far so good. This is a journey all four of us had completed numerous times. We knew we were on a pretty tight schedule as each train was lined up to meet another, and another, but when we reached Glasgow we had roughly fifteen minutes to spare before we hopped on the next train so we separated to get various essentials, like coffee.
I’d never been on a Virgin train before and I’m not used to that sort of travel. We got lucky and found ourselves in a coach with free wifi and funky tables that sort of pulled out. We were also immensely amused by the message in the toilets that started playing when you locked the door; it started out like a standard message warning not to flush things that aren’t toilet paper down the loo, but then went on to say you also shouldn’t flush goldfish, your ex’s sweater, old mobile phones, bills, or hopes, dreams and ambitions either.
I was all for getting a recording of it on my phone, except we soon discovered that far from being on that train until after 2pm, we were only on it until about 12pm! Imagine our shock when we heard the announcement for the next station. There was a bit of a scramble to get all our stuff, especially as my luggage was left in a rack at the opposite end of the carriage from where we were sitting.
We made it off the train at Preston without any further hiccups and had a bit of a wait before our next train and quickly found the one we needed to be on which took us to our final destination where we got checked into a very nice hotel. We had a bit of time before we needed to go out for the work-related part of our trip so I did what any normal person would do in that situation:
I’m sorry, but it was lovely and definitely photo-worthy. I had to show Mr Click back home.
That evening we got all set up for taking calls for Sport Relief donations. Up until that point I’d thought it was a good, worthwhile trip but I wasn’t sure if it was one I’d want to repeat in the future. I changed my mind after the first thirty minutes of the night. It was such a fantastic thing to be involved in, I loved it. There was a brilliant atmosphere in the room and it was so different to what I do on a day-to-day basis.
On the one hand I’m reluctant to put my name forward in the future because I don’t want to take that experience away from other people, but on the other hand, I really selfishly want to be involved in something that big again in the future.
It was a long day for us because we’d been up since around 6am and didn’t start taking calls until 7pm, then kept going until midnight, especially with all the travelling as well, but when we finished we were buzzing and couldn’t go to bed right away. It was like we needed some time to wind down off of the cloud we’d ended up on.
The next day was basically the previous day in reverse, though it wasn’t without a slight hiccup either. I called to book a taxi first thing in the morning. The train was at 9:26am and we figured getting the taxi for 9am would give us plenty of time to meet the train, after all, it was only about ten or fifteen minutes from the station to the hotel. Unfortunately we didn’t count on the taxi firm not actually sending a taxi!
After waiting for five minutes we started to panic, I called again and found there was no taxi coming. We booked another one at the hotel desk and waited. And waited. And waited. The panic levels rose as the minutes ticked by and we realised that we would be really pushing it to get the train.
And then a taxi showed up. We piled into it. And hit every set of traffic lights between the hotel and the station. I swear they must’ve built extra ones in the night just to slow us down!
But we made it to the station, the rest of the group took off with my suitcase while I threw money at the driver and jiggled about waiting for my receipt. And then dashed up to the platform. Where we had about three minutes to spare before our train arrived.
Thankfully the rest of the journey home was quite smooth. Our next train was just across the platform from the one we got off of. We had to walk to a different station for the one after that, but it was just across the road and we could see it as soon as we got out of the station. And we were soon settled on a Virgin train for the return trip to Glasgow.
We were a bit disappointed on that train, compared to the one we’d been on before. There was no free wifi in our carriage and the toilet didn’t have a funky recorded message but we were tired and were just glad to know we were on our way home; apparently we’d gotten lucky on the way and had been in a hybrid coach which would occasionally be upgraded to First Class if it was busy. We set about getting one of the things we’d been asked to do before we returned to work and settling in for the journey. But when two of the girls went to grab something to eat the guy at the counter heard about our lack of wifi and that we’d been down to Manchester for Sport Relief and promptly upgraded us to First Class.
Not only did we get free tea and wifi, a lady came around with little snack boxes filled with goodies (but in miniature) for us to refresh ourselves with. I was particularly enamoured with the teeny tiny Toblerone bar which made me feel like a giant. Still no funky message in the toilet there though.
I was so relieved to get home, the rest of the journey passed relatively quickly. From Glasgow Central we had a short wait for a train (where we got a bemused Virgin train lady to take a photo of us all around one of the massive umbrellas we’d each been given the night before and of course I picked up some Millie’s Cookies). It was such a busy two days with so much crammed into it that I feel like I’m only just recovering from it. I certainly felt like I could’ve slept for a week afterwards.
But it’s definitely something I’d love to do again. Next time they ask for volunteers my name’ll be at the top of the list!