Our plans to have a romantic/fun family weekend away did not bear fruit. We’d had a difficult night, with Phoebe unhappy in an unfamiliar room and uncharacteristically waking up every couple of hours and me reeling a bit from one beer too many, barely getting any sleep myself. Catie managed to at least get some time in the pool whilst I blearily cared for my daughter whilst trying to catch up on blogs and my late Metro column. But we were all too knackered to have much fun. I was staying in town to take part in the annual Tringe festival pub crawl gigs, but Catie and Phoebe were going to get the train home. We decided to cut our losses, walk into town, have a cup of coffee and then they could go to the station. Foolishly I had assumed that the train station would be in the town, but as we set off I realised it was in the other direction, and about a mile and a half away from civilisation. Presumably there would be a cafe or a pub that we could sit in and relax, but after the 15 minute walk we discovered there was nothing there but the station, not even (as far as we could see) a toilet. There was a train coming in five minutes and we realised that the only real option was for them to get on straight away (especially as my wife needed the loo). It was going to be an anticlimactic ending to what had already been something of an anti-climax from a personal point of view.
I checked the screen and headed for platform 3. Even this stage was tricky as there were long staircases down to all the platforms. Tired and irritated we carefully carried the pram and our sleeping daughter down to the platform. It was a palaver. Catie didn’t want to go down backwards. We carried the pram less efficiently than Laurel and Hardy would have managed, though we didn’t get to Battleship Potemkin levels (or the Untouchables if you aren’t as clever as me). The train was a minute away so at last something had gone right. Except I’d misread the screen. Two trains were leaving at the same time and the London train was on platform 5. There was no way that we could get the pram up and down the stairs in time. Although I perhaps couldn’t reasonably have expected that the Tring station was not in Tring or that it would have no facilities of any kind, it was possibly my fault that we were on the wrong platform. Would we sit here and wait an hour for the next one, with my wife holding her bladder, or were we going to have to walk back to the hotel and then almost immediately walk back to the station? Either way this was not going to be any kind of relaxing weekend. Our exhaustion had been responsible for a lot of our mistakes this weekend, but understandably things were a bit tense. Even if we got to the hotel could we be sure we’d find a toilet that wasn’t blocked.
We elected to walk back to the hotel and have a coffee there. I told my wife that we really should laugh about the whole thing. I don’t think she was ready to do that yet. I wasn’t even sure I could physically make the walk back. I considered throwing myself and my family into the traffic and let this hell be over.
But after a sit down and a comfort break and the realisation that I could drive them back to the station (we were really that tired that again the obvious options were not leaping immediately to mind). In a sense having this extra hour to let out our frustrations and forgive each other for our errors (well my errors on this occasion) was a good thing. It’s a typical Herring holiday. I don’t know why everything always goes wrong. Unless I really am the unwitting star of some live action sitcom.
And somehow I regained enough energy to perform a ten minute set in four Tring pubs. There were four groups of comedians with one professional and three newbies going round in a circuit and playing to four boozy audiences. It was terrific fun. In fact in one pub the drinkers laughed at my set more than I think any audience ever has, to the point that I almost had to stop and ask them if they were being sarcastic. It was like an audience in a drama about a comedian. Usually it’s only on TV that an entire audience are pissing themselves over everything that gets said, in reality, usually different sections of a crowd will find different things amusing. But it was also fun to see three new comedians doing some of their first gigs and doing well. They all went to the pub to celebrate their achievement at the end, but hungover and close to exhaustion I drove home, hoping for some sleep.