THERE was always a little niggle in the back of my brain that returning to London might not be quite the sunshine and roses it appeared to be. There was something I had forgotten about when taking the dramatic step of moving back to the smoke for work, but I couldn't put my finger on it...
Last night, it hit me with full force. Bloody London transport. Or, for that matter, any mode of transport in and around the nation's capital.
After an enjoyable few hours spent in the Batman with Adam "webmaster" Marshall and Critch I started to make my return journey to the delights of Shoeburyness, hoping to get in just after the Fat Kid had taken delivery of our eagerly anticipated supper from the local chinese.
I got on the Docklands Light Railway at Shadwell, one quick stop away from Limehouse and the main line train that would whiz me back East. Trotting down the steps from the DLR I had no inkling of the saga that was to follow. Then I was confronted with a padlocked gate where the entrance to the mainline station should have been. Hmm.
No message of explanation, no one to advise you on how to continue your journey, nothing but a sheet of impenetrable steel secured by a bloody great lock. Joy.
Retracing my steps I reckoned I would have to take a bit of an unwanted detour but figured if I could get to West Ham I could catch my train from there. This involved getting back on the DLR, travelling to Canary Wharf, then jumping aboard a Jubilee Line tube.
The first part of the plan went ok, until I realised I had dropped my return ticket during the shenanighans. I had the receipt, though, so went to the ticket counter where a very unhelpful assistant told me it was no good... I would have to buy another.
Humphing rather loudly I then spent another £9.50 on a single to Shoeburyness and then jumped on the next available tube heading East.
It went one stop and then ejected me unceremoniously at north Greenwich. I waited to see if the train would move on and another one replace it so that I could get to West Ham. It didn't move.
Finally, I asked another helpful assistant where I would be able to get a tube to my destination. "Oh, you want platform 3," he said.
So I changed platforms and jumped on the next available tube.
Result, it got me to West Ham. Shouldn't be long now before I could settle into a comfy seat and wile away the next hour on route to the Fat Kid's.
I found the entrance to the mainline station at West Ham. It was blocked off with tape. A message read that no trains were stopping at the station. Then I heard my first announcement. "Due to overhead branches falling onto power lines, mainline trains are out of action between Fenchurch Street and Barking." B@ll*cks".
I thought maybe I should get a taxi to Barking so exited the station. Then had second thoughts. I could get a District Line train to Barking instead.
Yeah, but my newly purchased ticket wouldn't let me back into the station. Fellow travellers passing me as I stood there couldn't fail to notice the steam coming out of my ears. I was about to explode in full Rippers mode, fuelled by four pints of Carling.
Sod this, I thought, and barged my way through the barriers, charged onto the platform and boarded a district line train.
Finally, getting to Barking there were signs I might actually be able to get my train. I climbed aboard one which was helpfully labelled Shoeburyness. I sat there, among other people, for a good 10 minutes. Nothing happened.
Then the driver came into the carriage and helpfully informed us the next Eastbound train would be leaving from the platform opposite. "When?" I asked.
"In three minutes."
Gathering my bag and other junk I raced up the stairs, across the bridge, and down the other side, charged into the first carriage and found myself a seat. And waited. And waited. And waited.
Then saw a train labelled Shoeburyness depart from a platform next to us. "AAAAAAARGH!"
Our train did finally pull out another 15 minutes later, and I eventually got back to the Fat Kid's just before midnight.
And, yes, the Chinese was cold.
Bloody London transport.