|I wouldn't say Virgin Trains were tasty...|
Today, similar, but let's talk first about the fare. Can you believe that it costs something like £150 to go to Doncaster? It does. I was issued a ticket by a dopey cow on my local station – a Super Off Peak Return – and, later, when I was standing in the aisle of a Virgin train carriage on King's Cross station looking, like Jezza must have, at all the little white tickets sticking out of the seats before me, I knew that I'd be 'doing a Jezza' and sitting on the floor somewhere. Already people were settling in for a long journey on the floor, put it that way.
My ticket cost £90, but it was while aboard the 1535 Glasgow train that I heard the conductor say that Super Off Peak Return tickets were not being accepted – until AFTER 7pm. I couldn't wait that long so I jumped off, at the very last minute, having discovered that it was going to cost me an additional £60. I had to check out whether this was true or not and I was not surprised to discover that it was true. The other day I flew easyJet to Vienna (and back) for £179 and I'm being expected to pay £150 to go to Doncaster. It's beardy's fault. He's so greedy he has to fleece the public. My view: nationalise the railways.
|It all got a bit depressing on the Doncaster to Scunthorpe train...|
Not that I was bothered, I'd managed not to give him any extra cash, but then I found myself on Doncaster station faced with a criminal's dilemma. If I boarded (as I was intending to do) the 1830hrs train to Scunthorpe, perhaps the guard would notice that it was not yet 1900hrs and I was travelling with a Super Saver Off Peak Return – don't forget, folks, all I'd asked for when I bought the ticket was a return to Scunthorpe. So I thought I'd play 'the man' at his own game. I'd buy a single to Scunthorpe and not show my ticket from London. No problem. Now all I've got to do is make sure I get on a train to London before 3pm tomorrow afternoon, although I could always hide in the toilet if I see the guard coming my way.
The local train to Scunthorpe weaved its way towards its final destination and I was feeling distinctly depressed. Even up north, I noticed, pubs are being turned into restaurants. My train passed The Shapla, an Indian restaurant in a building that was clearly once a pub close to Thorne South station.
My fellow passengers looked as pissed off as I was, their faces either pensive, apprehensive or fretful. We stopped at Crowle, pronounced 'Croll' and then on toward Althorpe and over the River Trent.
By the time we reached Scunthorpe it was dark. I took a taxi to my hotel and after checking in went straight down for dinner. I found myself in a Beefeater restaurant and, well, it wasn't brilliant. For a start I was alone and bored – not their fault, to be fair – then there was the food, which was the usual pubby grubby affair. I ordered a prawn cocktail, which consisted of about six small prawns on a bed of salad smothered in a Mary Celeste sauce. There was more salad than prawns, but the sauce, oddly enough, made the bland lettuce almost just about edible. I forced myself to eat the salad out of sheer boredom. Oh, for a newspaper!
For main course, I ordered sea bass, 'gently steamed in a paper pouch' – they couldn't bring themselves to state 'en papillote' – easily the best dish on the menu, as I felt there was no way it could be mass produced. I supposed the might employ cloning, who knows? After all, it was a fish, it had to be an individual. Everything else, almost everything else, could have been produced in a factory in Basingstoke for all I knew and shipped around Beefeater's national estate in frozen food lorries, but a sea bass is a sea bass, at least it's not pre-prepared, even if it did arrive in the restaurant kitchen frozen solid. Frozen or not it was wonderful.
|A glass of red wine and a bottle of still mineral water...|
In the end boredom beat me so I skipped dessert and asked for the bill. That said, why would I even dream of having dessert? Everything seemed incredibly unhealthy: not just a nice apple crumble and custard, which I would have ordered, but a "Salted Toffee Apple Crumble". How awful! Or a warm chocolate brownie or a baked cheesecake or a Banoffee Pie, a Mississippi Mud Pie, a Trio of Sponges (not just one, but a trio), Black Forest Gateau and, one nod towards healthy eating, a fruit salad with lemon curd sorbet. And let's not forget the range of heart-stopping sundaes. 'Nil by mouth' I thought as I waltzed back to my room. Alright, I skulked back.
Now I'm in my rather dreary hotel room, with its purple curtains, its 'tea and coffee-making facilities' – but no biscuits – and it's unruly coathangers, not forgetting the black Samsung television, the cheesy hotel art and the extra pillow stuffed at the top of the 'wardrobe' without doors. I almost forgot the bible 'placed by the Gideons' no doubt. I would love to enter a hotel room and catch a Gideon in the act of placing a bible in the bedside cabinet. Equally, it might be a worthy excuse for a criminal if caught in the act of trying to steal valuables from hotel guests.
"Oi! Who are you?"
"Me? Why, I'm a Gideon and I've just placed a bible in your bedside cabinet."
"Yeah, right! I'm calling the police."
"God bless you, son."
At least there's WiFi, but I can't be bothered with it, I'm THAT bored!
I'm looking forward to breakfast, though, as I know that this particular hotel chain excels with the most important meal of the day. I think the best Premier Inns are the ones not attached to a Whitbread pub brand. I prefer an integral restaurant, which, like most hotels, doubles as the breakfast room in the morning. Tomorrow morning, however, I'll have to nip outside, cross the road and make my way around to the Beefeater before I'll see any Coco Pops or buttered toast.
It goes without saying that there's no minibar here – perhaps they don't trust their guests – and, worse still, I can't really go for a walk as there's nowhere to go. The hotel is part of a complex of garages, fast food joints, a Morrisons supermarket and residential housing. Yes, housing, it's like being in the middle of a northern housing estate. No quaint little squares, no shop windows, nothing of merit, and the last thing I want is to be accosted by a tattooed, hooded 'youth' with a knife asking me for money, which I don't have. It happens, believe me.
So it's a night in front of the box, perhaps a bit of reading and then a bit of shut-eye. I'm reading Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a great book, it has to be said.