Monday, 26 July 2010
The Longest Day
Sorry to pinch the name of such an epic event as D-day for the title of this piece, but Tuesday 20th July 2010 was my personal “longest day” in more ways than one and will forever be etched on my mind till the day my maker calls on me. It was a day that had been anticipated with relish for a couple of months, it was the day full of promise, it was the day I was due to make a visit to Bass Rock.
Although the trip had been organised for several weeks I still wasn’t sure that I would make it right until the last possible moment. In fact the trip was still in doubt just ten hours before the train was due to leave Wigan station at 6.28 am on Tuesday 20th July. I had two major obstacles, one was a complicated family matter, and the other was the vagaries of the good old British weather. Britain was sinking under a huge low depression with the rain bucketing down and flooding many areas of the country in the process (just as well then that United Utilities had a hosepipe ban in force). Surprisingly the only bright spot on the weather map for the 20th was East Lothian the very place I wanted to go. So I rang Maggie who manages the trips, she confirmed that the weather was set fair and the skipper had said the sailing was going ahead.
The Plan - I hadn’t booked my train ticket nor had I arranged any digs. I had downloaded as many train timetables that I thought useful and a few B&Bs and hostel telephone numbers in Dunbar and Edinburgh. It wasn’t going to be a problem getting to Dunbar in time for the one o clock sailing, but there were major problems in getting home as the boat was only due back at the harbour at 6.30pm thirty-five minutes after the last train left for Edinburgh which in turn would get me the last connecting train back home to Wigan. As far as I could make out a later train out of Dunbar would afford me a grand tour of Scotland before depositing me back in Wigan around five in the morning. I decided to get there, and then work out the best way to get back or go for an overnight stay.
So there was a plan of sorts, but the plan was so flexible it was pure improvisation.
5am Tuesday - The alarm was going off on the phone, but I was already up and dressed and preparing breakfast. Sue my neighbour picked me up at six and drove me to the station in plenty of time for the 6.28, but I still wasn’t sure I was doing the right thing as dark threatening storm clouds billowed overhead. However, there was no time for second thoughts and before I knew it I was onboard my first of six trains that day heading for Lancaster. I had arrived at Lancaster on a very palatial and empty Virgin train, my connecting train to Edinburgh was a two coach Trans Pennine commuter job and although comfortable it was a little overcrowded with no space for my bulky camera bag, my only luggage by the way. Eventually I found a space between back to back seats and managed to squeeze it in, but not before knocking other passenger’s belongings off their tables, I felt a bit like a bumbling Mr. Bean, but everyone took it in good spirits. The rest of the trip was uneventful as I drifted in and out of some welcome sleep. Edinburgh Waverly Street is a huge station, a city within a city, as I had half an hour spare before the 10 o clock to Dunbar I went for a wash and brush up, grabbed a coffee and sat on a bench and phoned home to give a progress report, Margaret asked if it was still raining, but when I looked up through the glass canopy all I could see was blue sky and it was surprisingly warm. I was the only passenger on the Scots Rail commuter train to Dunbar so the guard sat and chatted with me, he told me the weather was going to be wall to wall sunshine in-between the thunder storms, he was joking – I think. I took advantage of my new found friend to see if he could work out a route for me to get home after 6.45pm, I reckoned it would take me quarter of an hour to get from the harbour to the station; the best he could come up with was the 6.28pm going down the east coast to Newcastle, but I had the wrong ticket for that trip and it was too late anyway, so it looked odds on that I would be staying in Dunbar for the night.
10.45 found me walking down the high street of Dunbar towards the harbour with a couple of hours to spare before the sail to Bass Rock. I have lots of images to process, but not a lot of time, they will appear here and my web site in due course, along with a report on the trip out to the rock.