Today, I heard, was the hottest day in England…ever. That happens every so often, and it happened to us in 2005.
When we had arrived in Ipswich for our May 28 show, and we told the local folks that we’d had a great train ride down from Newcastle, their usual response was “Oh really?” or “I’m very happy for you.” When Friday morning came around, along with our planned departure for Birmingham, we were excited about another lovely ride on the British railways.
Boarding the train, headed toward London, it became apparent we were no longer aboard the Flying Scotsman. The amenities had shrunk from posh to pish. And it was hot. No air conditioning, no windows that open, not even a fan to move a little air around.
But at least we were moving.
For a while.
At each of the stops along the way, the temperature in the train cars rose. And then, at a village oddly called Hatfield Peveral, the stop became a pause, then a delay, then a breakdown, then a shutdown. The train was not moving, the thermometer was soaring, and Touroid patience was growing thin.
The train staff sympathized, but wouldn’t open the doors “for safety reasons,” and it continued to grow hotter.
“In Los Angeles, you could be arrested for keeping a dog in a car like this,” one Touroid correctly pointed out, and soon a revolution was building. Art Cisneros slithered through a window and spoke to officials, making a list of demands and pleas.
Eventually, a door was somehow made to open, thanks to our tireless security personnel, and the Arch Angel company spilled out into the station like prison escapees, eventually clusering in a nearby street. The horn players whipped out their instruments and played a few numbers and putting forth a hat which collected them a few quid.
After some reconnoitering, a plan was formed and the party packed up their axes and went on by foot, walking through a modestly lovely area of homes, across a highway bridge, and into the village itself, finally arriving at an establishment called The Swan Pub, which offered plenty of beverages but no food.
Beverages would suffice, and Touroids were finally able to taste the touted local Greene King IPA.
Officials requisitioned a short-order bus from somewhere, and an hour of so later one pulled up in front of the Swan, and some sorry, shot, and somewhat soused Touroids quickly climbed aboard.
This bus, it was quickly and happily learned, came with full factory air conditioning, from a fully air-conditioned factory (thank you, Phil Proctor) which brought sighs of relief, which were tempered by learning that it contained no toilet. “Oh hell, we can pee out the window,” was the cry and the party carried on.
By now, any hopes of avoiding rush- hour traffic had evaporated, so eventually the driver surrendered and pulled into a freeway rest stop, a food court featuring such amenities as Macdonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut, along with a French baguette joint with a pseudo cappuccino machine. A sign in front advertised internet access, but the wi- fi system required a password to enter, and the sign contained no clues about how to do so.
So Touroids threw themselves on the mercy of the food court, along with the occupants of dozens of other tour buses, many of them child-filled. Word filtered down that we were still hours from Birmingham, so stragglers gathered at the bus and the journey resumed and continued until the sun was on its way down and Birmingham finally showed its pretty face, sans its Raymond Mason “Forward” signature artwork, which had been tragically destroyed by fire two years earlier, and for which we'll now shed a post-mortem tear.