5.34pm: I speed-stride through Glasgow Central Station – I refuse to attempt to run as it is so long since I last tried, my body has forgotten how to coordinate my torso with my legs, so I settle for walking briskly; very briskly - and leap through the door of rear carriage with literally only a few seconds to spare. Cramped, standing room only. The engine revs, a sudden jolt and we’re away.
Part of me had known that this train never leaves the station at 5.30pm, no matter what Scot Rail’s timetable might say, but this was closer than I’d expected. In fact the train had actually arrived in Glasgow on time this morning, which threw Dave out completely. He always has to wait at least 15 minutes when meeting me off the train, so was somewhat surprised to wander into the station only 10minutes late and find me already there, halfway through a Sudoku puzzle I’d started an hour and a half earlier, just out of Dumfries.
5.36pm: “Hello? Hello? I’m on the train. The TRAIN. Hello?” I’ve only elbowed one person in the ribs while getting out my mobile phone to let Maggie know I’ve caught the earlier train after all.
5.42pm: I try to fill in another number in the Sudoku grid, but the combination of heat, movement and claustrophobia mean I quickly start to feel travel sick. A flicker of disappointment crosses the face of the guy opposite me who I think had been mentally filling in the gaps before I put the puzzle book away.
5.49pm: First stop and enough people depart the train for me to flop down on to the only available space, next to a smartly dressed woman who proceeds to squeeze her body up against the window, trying to put as much distance between us as is humanly possible in a double seat only 3 feet wide. I’m self consciously aware that my earlier exertion and the crowded conditions means that I’m dripping in sweat. I feel like the odorous tramp everyone worries will sit next to them.
“And then he… he… he opened a triple pack of curried chicken sandwiches!” she will wail later. Her body shaking uncontrollably as she sobs at the memory.
“There, there,” her mother will reply soothingly, “it’s all over now…”
6.02pm: Another station and there’s now enough room for me to find a double seat of my own, but the smartly dressed woman gets off the train anyway. I wonder whether it was her stop.
6.13pm: We reach Kilmarnock; only the front two carriages are carrying on from here. It transpires that I didn’t need to shove the granny out the way nor tip up the pushchair in my haste to avoid being left in the wrong section, as the train is allowing plenty of time for the transition.
6.25pm: They really are allowing a lot of time. The rear carriages have left for Ayr.
6.35pm: The driver periodically revs the engine, teasing us, but we’re still not moving anywhere.
6.38pm: The driver announces that we will be underway as soon as a technical fault is fixed.
6.56pm: I’m getting a bit worried about the number of people using the toilet. I distinctly remember seeing a sign saying it should not be used while the train is in the station. If this goes on much longer, the rear carriage will become grounded.
7.12pm: We’re told to disembark. Out on the platform the driver is talking into his phone while making a rough headcount of the passengers. Coaches are being arranged to take us the rest of the way. The lady in the wheelchair rolls her eyes, while the woman with three children under the age of four is clearly at her wit’s end.
7.35pm: A taxi arrives for the woman in the wheelchair. She offers an old woman sitting nearby a lift. I overhear someone saying the bus will be here in half an hour.
7.41pm: An irate passenger is verbally abusing the woman at the ticket office. She hands him a Scot Rail Compensation form.
7.44pm: The woman at the ticket office looks like she’s calmed down, so I go up and give her a friendly smile; it’s not her fault the train broke down. She gives me a Scot Rail Compensation form before I can open my mouth.
It says that if my journey is delayed by half an hour then I can claim half the fare back of that leg of the journey. More than one hour and I can claim the entire amount. Whoopee. Two and a half hours stuck on a cold Kilmarnock Railway Station Platform and I might just be able to claim back £5.95.
7.50pm: Word has spread and there is now a long queue of weary passengers with nothing else to do except pick up a form and borrow a pen.
7.56pm: a young woman plonks herself next to me on a bench and lights up a cigarette. It’s over 16 years since I gave up smoking and I resent people forcing me to breathe their stinking, cancerous fumes.
7.57pm: F***, I could do with a cigarette.
7.59pm: According to the woman with three kids, the flush in the station loo isn’t working properly. I don’t think there’ll be much loo roll left either judging by the long trail of it attached to a 3-year-old running about.
8.02pm: The bus has arrived. It will have an overall longer journey time, and be less comfortable, but the next train to Dumfries isn’t for another 40 minutes and it’s getting cold. The heat and sweat from the beginning of the journey is a distant memory, unable to be recalled with any clarity. I follow the crowd out of the station.
It’s one of those Luxury Coaches with curtains at the window, a downstairs loo (not to be used while parked) and a little button you can press, next to the air vents, that apparently calls for a hostess. I can’t see anyone who looks like a hostess.
8.05pm: “Hello? Hello? I’m on the bus. The BUS. Hello?”
8.06pm: Maggie reminds me I get travel sick on buses.
8.10pm: The driver periodically revs the engine, teasing us, but we’re still not moving anywhere.
8.18pm: Apparently the driver can’t engage first gear. Everyone is getting off the bus.
8.45pm: A cheer goes up. The next train to Dumfries pulls into the station. This is the train I would have caught if I’d accepted Dave’s offer to stay to dinner instead of deciding to catch the earlier one to ensure I’d be home in time to put my children to bed.
8.50pm: The train starts moving. Another cheer goes up. A deep golden, full moon is just rising over the horizon. Only an hour to Dumfries now and a further 30 minute drive to Castle Douglas. I phone Maggie.
“Hello? Hello? I’m on the train. The TRAIN. Hello?”