It's 5.30 a.m. A small, well wrapped figure picks her way up the catwalks of the Luxor. She's wearing high heeled shoes. Good idea for an icy morning on board a Dutch barge. She reaches the gangplank. Hmm, low water this morning and with an east wind the barge has settled comfortably on the bottom like an old maid in a sagging armchair. The plank is like the north face of the Eiger and the angle is at least forty five degrees. No exaggeration. How on earth is she going to get up there? The high heels come in handy for once, for what else can you use as pitons to haul yourself to the top? As she scrambles onto the quay, she has to rescue the pitons and restore them to her feet as shoes. The morning dash is now on.
There's a group of them. About six in all. They all catch the same trains in the morning. It's like a Monty Python sketch, though. The first train takes them to Rotterdam Central. They have three minutes to make their connection. As one, they leap off the train and charge through the station stampeding past six platforms, trampling all in their path to catch the 6.02 to Utrecht. They arrive on platform 2 together, breathless but nodding to each other in satisfaction at another race won. The train isn't in yet. But this morning the station staff are in mischievous mood. They must be watching the team on their CCTV's. Let's make them run for it again shall we? Across the station intercom a voice booms. "Dames en Heren, the six oh two train to Utrecht will depart in two minutes from platform 14." The group all stare wildly at each other. Panic reigns. Off they set, arms and bags flailing in another mad dash to reach platform fourteen before the train arrives.
They make it just as the intercom booms out again. "Dames en Heren, the six oh two train for Utrecht departing from platform fourteen has a delay of 5 to 10 minutes." The station staff chortle delightedly as they watch the varying degrees of murderous intent on the faces of the team. Another day, another morning of entertainment over. Who will they get tomorrow?
At Utrecht, the team disperses and our small well-wrapped figure stands on the concourse watching the the departure board. Another tense few moments ensue. Will the train to the east leave from platform 3 or platform 10? You never can tell...and every day is different. She stands midway between the two. They have a really mean minx in the control office here. A minute before departure time, the board springs to life. Platform 10 it is. Sprinting to the other end of the station, the pitons have now been stowed for future use in our heroine's bag...trainers are required for this leg. Flinging herself between the doors of the train carriage as they start to slide shut, she's made it. Triumph again! At last, eventually, she is ensconsed in her compartment, the only test left to endure being the mobile phone terrorists, who seem determined to hi-jack every sleep deprived traveller's morning commute. Ah well, it's all in a day's work.... isn't it Mo?