Bathtime Timetables – Trains, Ferries, Coaches!
Between 1989 – 1992 l lived in East Kent, in fact not too far from where l am currently living today, but back then l was based in Margate. I didn’t drive, so l had to rely upon the public transport which for smaller journeys back then was both affordable and efficient in comparison to now when it is pricey and not frequent.
Back then, l could tolerate more, l had a higher tolerance of people for starters however back then l was in my late 20’s and early 30’s and hadn’t become exhausted by society. Back then l was younger and both fitter and more energetic in consideration to today when l am neither, and now l resemble more of a dried up husk to say yesterday’s vibrant fruit!
I had been unemployed for a short while but managed to secure work with River Island as an Assistant Flagship Manager for one of the new stores opening up in Lakeside Shopping Centre in the borough of Thurrock in Essex. The complex opened up in 1990 so this was going to be a huge position, especially considering how much traffic the expectations were from the forecasters. This particular store was a duo store so we had both men’s and women’s fashion available from one site, which is truth was a pretty standard practice back in the later 80’s. I had worked in retail fashion and had worked in management for both fashions with either the Burton group with Burtons or Dorothy Perkins and the same with Principles for men and women, so was very familiar with the set up.
Pretty much like today, in the later 80’s in East Kent work was hard to secure, unemployment figures were exceedingly high on the coastal towns of Kent, so any work you did secure and that paid not just a reasonable salary but an excellent one, usually meant you would have to be looking at the likes of Maidstone, Bromley or London for employment, so to land a position with a very good salary and in what was then a relatively prestigious location was actually quite a success.
There were distinct problems with it however; 1] l didn’t drive so this meant that l was in for a long journey and 2] the position called for shift work. The shop’s opening times were 9am – 8pm six days a week, although the reality of that meant that management had to be present usually for a good portion of that day, each day every day. So whilst a morning shift meant you started at 9am and maybe finish by 5pm if you were lucky, the truth behind that was more like get in 8.30am and be done by 5.30pm. If you were on the later shift, you hade to be in by 11am, so the reality was 10.30am, and then you were there till store closure of 8pm, and if the store wasn’t that busy it meant you ‘might’ be out the door by around 8.45pm.
Now the reason l am bringing this up as a memory is because yesterday l was at an appointment, and l was sitting in the waiting area and l overheard a conversation which caused me to snigger much to the annoyance of the speakers. I had to appologise and pretend l was coughing.
A man and a woman in their mid twenties were talking or rather griping about their work and complaining bitterly about how they had to travel to it, and low and behold it meant that because they only lived 45 minutes away from their employment, they were angry about wasting potentially 90 minutes to maybe two hours of their day lost to travelling and that it was unnacceptable. They both took buses which although ran on time and had very little delay, they still considered an ‘insult’.
The fact is today that if people wish to work, they have to put up with the possibility of travel time, whether they like it or not. I cannot speak for other countries, but in the UK today with the current climate and unemployment figures still being high, most employees must travel to their locations. For example, Suze is currently working over in Margate, which as a crow would fly is about 45 minutes away, so already we have 90 minutes on a good day. But what is considered a good day anymore? If she hits bad traffic on the roads the delays can make her travel time from a great 90 minutes to an awful 2+ hours.
Employment centres now instruct the unemployed that you should expect the bare minimum of 90 minutes each way to work, so 3 hours of your day is ‘wasted’ to travel. Hey life sucks and the world is an unfair place, that’s the harsh voice of reality.
Their conversation made me think about a journey, my journeys to Lakeside in the late 80’s and what l had to do to get to work, let me show you an example of me on the early shift of 9am – 5pm back and forth.
4.30 am – Bath, shave, breakfast.
5.15 am – Out door walk to Margate railway station.
6.00 am – Catch the train to Faversham [Kent]
6.25 am – Catch the connection to Chatham [Kent]
7.10 am – Catch the connection to Gravesend [Kent]
7.15 am – Walk from the railway station down to Gravesend pier
7.30 am – Take the Ferry across Thames to Tilbury pier
7.45 am – Catch the Tilbury rail connection to Grays [Essex]
7.55 am – Catch the Lakeside Coach to complex.
Now that was my best morning schedule – trains, ferries and coaches! if you then add in the typical British Rail delays which were notorious, then the reality time of arrival at the shopping complex was usually around 8.45 am.
So from the time l got up at 4.30am to my arrival of say 8.30am it was 4 hours travelling.
Then l would work my shift, to actually arrive before l started was always a bonus, however l was allowed a freedom of travel time which meant ‘if’ l arrived later than 9am, the women’s store manager could open up for me.
The travelling back was not so good, however. If l finished at 5pm, it was much easier and if lucky l could get back home by around 9pm, it was just a reverse of what l have already shown and slightly quicker.
If however l finished at 8pm, then THIS was the nightmare. If l could get out the door by 8.25 pm, l could catch the coach back to Grays, if however l missed it, well in much simpler terminology, l was fucked. If however one of the lads gave me a lift to Tilbury train station, and therefore the pier, l was luckier. But for this post, this whole drama llama ding dong leads to one event.
Our post centres around a particular nasty two day period. I had arrived late in the morning, [10am] due to yet another lame excuse by British Rail of ‘leaves on the line’, and all my connections were disjointed. I didn’t leave at 5pm because l was late in and so had to work the full shift because we were auditing. So l didn’t get out the door until 8.45pm. By this time l was relatively tired. Number crunching is tiring work. Luckily my manager gave me a lift to the docks. However l had missed my 9pm ferry and had to await the arrival of the 10.20pm.
Waiting back then for the ferry was a pretty damning experience, there were no mobile phones, the railway was shut but had no drinks or cafe area, there were no lights or seats where you stood, for it was basically a wooden bus shelter and also, there usually was absolutely no other fucker there, so you stood waiting for over an hour for your ferry to arrive by yourself in the dark.
Catching the 10.20pm ferry, taking 15 minutes to cross the Thames, and then hurrying along to Gravesend railway station a further 13 minute walk, to hopefully catch the 11pm train to Chatham. Which l did, only to arrive and find that the 11.25pm connection was delayed. It then arrived at 11.45pm, l then arrived in Faversham at 12.25am, only to discover the last train to Margate had been cancelled, and l now had to await along with half a dozen other travellers till the postal train came through at 2am. Once more, all the services on the stations had been closed!
I arrived back in Margate at 2.45am and l got back through the door of the house at 3.22am. That wasn’t the bad bit, bad enough, but not the problem! The problem was that l was on early shift that day.
Back then, l was in a relationship with a woman and her three children, and although l had many a time pleaded with her to move further up into north Kent, she had refused on the grounds of her family and her ex-husband still being in Margate.
Between the hours of 3.30am and 5.15am that morning, l knew l couldn’t risk going to sleep as l would never wake up. There was very little quality television, there were no computers at home, so all l could do, was creep around the house so as to NOT wake the kids and try and make myself some breakfast, have a shower and a shave, and get ready for round five.
I went upstairs at around 4am and had a shave, and started to run the bath, went back downstairs to make myself a coffee and sat down on the chair to drink it when l fell asleep ………..
……… and woke up to two things at once a screaming in my ear to wake up and the horrible feeling that l was wet through!!?
Yep, the bath had overfilled, spilled over the side, flooded the bathroom, run down the stairs and gone through the roof of the bathroom itself and dripped down on me!! My other half who had got up in the morning for a wee discovered the disaster saw the time of 5am, and quickly rushed down to tell me that l was late and l had to get GONE now!!
So in a blind panicked state of despair l quickly gor dressed, appologised for the water and was out of the door again by 5.21am!
Then the horrible nightmare began again …………..
The bath wasn’t a regular occurance thank goodness, although that particular incident spelled the end of my relationship, not from her side, but from mine. But it also made me start looking for work closer to home, or in London where l could live. But the schedules were like that many a time, l would be travelling for sometimes as long as 10 hours a day, meaning that most days off, l simply slept.
So when l hear people now complaining about travelling to work and for such trivialling times as maybe 90 minutes total, whilst l can sympathise to a certain degree because employers are not like they were back in the early 90’s … as in decent people, l still cannot help but snigger!
How about you, what is your current travel time to and from work, or what has the longest work journey ever been?