“Planes, Trains and North Sea Ferries”

by ESP on February 19, 2010 · 14 comments

You do not want to be with me on any type of public transportation…trust me, I am a traveling companion’s liability.


“Six coaches of the 1400 Glasgow to London express passenger train carrying about 300 passengers became derailed as the train approached Harrow and Wealdstone station. The train came to rest with the locomotive and leading four coaches standing on the rails in the station platform. The fifth coach was derailed and leaning over. The rear of the train (which I was in) had divided into two parts with a gap of 400m between the leading part and three derailed but upright coaches ; and a gap of 35m between those three and the last two derailed but upright coaches. Twenty-six persons were injured, none seriously. Twenty were treated locally, and six taken to hospital. The emergency services were called by the senior conductor, using a passenger’s cellphone, as the train came to rest. (conflicting reporting, I know).


I came across this newspaper cutting that my parents had sent me other day, it took me right back to that fateful dusk. Of course I just had to be on this train!  I thought I would share this story as a welcome break from my usual Hell-Strip rhetoric.

It is a really weird feeling to realize that something is going very wrong when you know you are going very, very fast, and this train, taking me back to my flat in London, had it’s pedal to the metal.  The first thing I noticed that I thought was very odd, was the sound of hail, large hail, hitting the roof of the train, odd because it had been a rare, uncustomary hot day.  As it turns out this hail was actually gravel from the more forward sections of the train that had already jumped off the track.  These carriages were ploughing through the gravel sending it shooting up into the air where it was landing on the rear of the train.  Before I really had time to think about this, all hell broke loose as my part of the train got dragged screaming and whining from the tracks.  On “disembarking” the tracks the carriage immediately filled up with gravel dust and it was loud…extremely loud. I held onto the seat top in front of me then I broke all of the crash-survival rules and stood up out of my seat for a little bit of insanely bumpy urban surfing, I think I was fighting a natural primordial instinct to run to safety, hard to do on an Intercity125 train, even if trying to escape the nasty on-board sandwiches.


The closest thing to convey this experience is when you know you are having a bad dream and you are falling, you know something really bad is going to happen to you, so you change it. You usually wake up, or change the script in that final white flash of the “impact” moment right?  Well it felt exactly like this, only your brain has made the delineation that this is not a dream, oh no it tells you, this is actually really happening and the white flash will most likely be your…well yes, that.  Lets just say adrenalin courses through one’s veins at an alarming rate when things get this far out of control.  When the train finally came to a grinding halt, (it took a while), a teenager sitting across from me at a table with her family, broke into some shock related language that targeted the driver of the train, oh and what a shocking monologue it was!


I always remember this, as I couldn’t tell if the parent’s horrified expressions were the result of the crash they had just survived, or their look of horror was the result of what was now emanating from their young daughter’s mouth?  They turned, ashen faced, and looked at her as if she was the…

“The **** of a ******, what the ******* WAS THIS *****….******* DOING?… ****!… ******!


Me? I only had one thought: “Must get out before another train comes along.” My carriage was pitched over which meant we could only exit from the high side, which required a hang and drop. We all made it out and started to head across the tracks and up onto an adjacent embankment. I could see sections of the train derailed further down the track. Our section had ploughed through a bunch of railroad ties that were now snapped in half and wedged up tight under the undercarriage, elevating the entire structure. I could also see a bloke in the distance frantically waving his arms and running toward our group screaming.  The tracks that we were about to cross to carry us to “safety” were in fact charged with enough force to sling-shot us around the moon.


Image nicked from The Reasoner

These tracks were the start of the London Underground rail network…and we were literally feet and seconds away from crossing them and getting instantly vaporized. Oh no, you do not want to get on any form of public transportation with me…

Here are a few other travel nuggets I think you should know about…

I was on a North Sea ferry that hit a force 10 full gale on its way from Hull to Belgium. Everyone was confined to sleeping quarters. You could feel this massive ship riding over waves the size of mountains. When the ferry would get to the very top you could feel the whole boat shudder as the propellers came out of the water, riding down these waves actually caught your stomach. I asked a worker the next morning if that was normal? “Oh no”, she said, “We would have turned around but the waves got too large too quick, worst sea I have ever been in, in twenty years of doing this crossing”. I avoided the piles of sawdust until I disembarked.

It continues…

Apart from the Chevy Tahoe hitting my house a few months back http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2009/09/dude-wheres-my-car/ I do have a few more travel-tales believe it or not.

I was on a Virgin Atlantic flight that was almost empty (which added to the surreal atmosphere).  About an hour and a half into the flight we hit turbulence, no big deal, oh but it was, it was turbulence that got worse and worse until the 747 felt like it was literally getting punched in the side of it’s fuselage.  I have traveled a lot and never had turbulence like this.  The captain commented numerous times with the last one being…“Well folks we have taken the plane as high as we can possibly go, and as low to get us out of this cell, but it looks like there is no avoiding it, please stay seated with your seat-belts fastened”. There was a young couple behind me, in the quiet darkness I heard the girl whisper: “The plane surely cannot take much more of this beating”, I looked out of the window, and immediately regretted it when I saw the wing of the plane flapping like a migratory goose…I slammed shut the window screen and continued to panic for the next five hours, it was exhausting.

I swore I would never fly again after that…whatever.

Oh yeah, you don’t want to get on any public transportation with me…

There was this other incident that involved… oh never mind…


Enough of this nonsense, back to more of my Hell-Strip rhetoric…You didn’t really think you could escape it did you?


I got a letter today from the leader of the Naboo tribe thanking me for expanding his tribe’s territories in the East of the Patch. The area is now cleared and prepped (for the most part), ready to receive copious amounts of decomposed granite, and some rocks…


…and the first of many gnarly holes have been excavated and tested for drainage, which I have to say did not go very well, not very well at all.  This hole took a good twenty minutes to drain, not good, and yes, RR, these holes needed some tooth shattering, pick-axe action to get them down to the deeper depths. Got to love hell-strips for supplying soil and drainage more reminiscent of an off-world, dead planetary “crust,” then soil you would actually plant anything in!

“The substrate is totally devoid of all life-forms captain, ESP’s hypothesis is correct.”

There were a few treasures to be found though, treasures like this old milk bottle, I think that is what it is…Spock, analysis?

The new home for a future planter. I think another burgundy canna lily will be going in here, along with some pea-gravel as a back-fill.  Sorry to make you tilt your head.


Here are some boulders starting to go in at the base of the mound to hold it all in place.  (Hobbit picture)


A few transplanted rosemary plants and an old cedar carcass will help fill-in and naturalize the area.

I used some of my compost tea that has been stewing for the last six months to water these plants in…this immediately caught someones attention, especially when it started to foam up and stink.  He would stick his face right inside this vessel and keep smelling it, I had no idea really why?




The next thing I will do is to plant yet more babies from my Mexican feather grass in front of the boulders like I have in my back garden to soften the scene up. I have transplanted about twenty-five babies so far this year and they are all growing well at about an inch tall. Excuse the stroller, it seems like this product is a camera hog, I take pictures and think “mmm, I think that will make a nice shot”…and sure enough, there she is, lurking upper frame in all her pink raggedy glory!

“I like the way it looks ESP”.


“Sorry Molly, I thought you might”. While I was out messing with these mounds of dirt and clay I did happen to notice that we now have moss, and a lot of it on my moss-boulders, and oooh how fresh and green it is. It amazes me how these boulders green-up with only a little moisture. It is also amazing that these mosses survive our harsh Texas summers…one tough, resilient, bounce-back tiny little plant.


Good enough to eat, balsamic vinegar and chop-sticks please.

Poppies are looking bumper this year…and



With all of the construction going on with our house, a few bugs have been coming out of the woodwork so to speak.  This one climbed up my USB laptop keyboard light and succeeded in completely giving me a full-on conniption, complete with silly walk around the room…in my peripheral vision I thought it was a roach, I hate roaches. I instinctively slapped it to the ground with the back of my cordless mouse, where I found it lying on it’s back in this pose, cracking up laughing.

Inspirational “mossy” image of the week:

Stay Tuned for:

“The Shire”


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intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and

punishable by  late  (and extremely unpleasant)

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1 Gail February 22, 2010 at 7:40 am

….aren’t you the one thinking of a family trip on an ocean liner? Are you mad?? :)

2 Jenny February 22, 2010 at 8:58 am

Oh yes. Let me know if you are thinking of the Transatlantic trip because I don’t want to be on that ship! Pretty soon you won’t be able to call it the hell strip. All the hard work is paying off and I think by next week you will have the planting in. Mexican feather grass may reseed everywhere but it is oh so worth it. I have been doing the same thing. When I saw the milk bottle I thought it was a bird bath stand! We are all talking about moss in the garden. I have a patch in my granite but are you sure that is moss you have there. It looks more like some other weedy thing. Whatever it is you certainly have a lot of it. As to that stink bug. I was cooking one day and felt a tickle on the back of my neck, then again. I put my hand up and felt something hard and grabbed what ever it was and squished it. Then I smelt the tell tale smell. It must have been in the firewood that came inside and it woke up from a winter nap. Yes, the stink bugs made it through the winter.

3 ESP February 22, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Haha! Good point JJ. I think though that I have already had my boating scare.
The ferry the next day was a complete wreck, stuff was everywhere and I will not mention the stench! As someone we know would say…EWwwwww!

4 ESP February 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Hi Jenny.
I will be sure to keep you informed of my travel plans :-)
I have already named the front area “The Shire” in homage to all the mounding that has appeared, due to that absurd law of Hell-Strip physics that was discussed in my previous post.

I agree with you on the feather grass front, one of my favorites. I probably have another 20-30 tiny grasses still to transplant, a lot of these are destined for the Shire. Moss, Moss, moss everywhere. You know, I will have to go back to that rock and take another look at what I was calling moss, it was green, it was on a rock, there was a whole bunch of traditional fuzzy moss around but hmmm….this one? I will check as to what exactly this is (pushes nerdy glasses up and back onto nose).

The stink bug did make me jump, the way it cast a film noir shadow across my laptop table, Brrr!

5 The Garden Ms. S February 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Yep, never travelling on public transport with ESP!

Your newly emerging “shire” is going to be quite an improvement. Perhaps your neighbours will be inspired to try something as well… :-)

6 ESP February 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Chicken Ms. S! Come on – there is never a dull moment, “only the other day I was getting on a bus when…. :-)

The Shire is slowly taking shape. I am trying to wait a little longer to really start planting it up, though I did break down in this weekend’s fine weather and transplant a few rosemary plants.

That would be great if my neighbours followed suit, perhaps the whole area will turn into Middle Earth?

7 Pam/Digging February 22, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Then again, you do seem to be a survivor, so maybe it would be OK to travel with you and just stick close by. I have a friend who was visiting San Francisco during the big earthquake of 1989; who was living outside S.F. when the horrible wildfire of 1991 came and took her apartment; who arrived in Houston during the big flood of 2001 (her rental car submerged in a parking lot, and she had to climb out the window onto the roof); and who was living in NYC when 9/11 happened (though she happened to be traveling to D.C. that day). She seems to be a disaster magnet, and yet I’ve traveled with her numerous times. Lucky so far.

Your hell strip is coming right along. You seem to be highly motivated. It wouldn’t be that fall garden tour lurking on the calendar, would it?

8 ESP February 22, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hi Pam.
Wow, and I thought I had used up a fair amount of MY nine lives! Your friend has had quite the time of it! Imagine if we both traveled together, that would make for an “interesting” journey.
The hell strip is slowly taking shape, and yes, it seems like you know me only too well :-)…time is short to get anything remotely established and naturalized, but I will give it my best. I also do not want to be tackling this project in the heat, oh no, not the hell strip, not me! The ground would be practically impossible to dig or pick axe if it dried out.

PS: I forgot to add. I arrived back at my parents house the night the Pan-Am flight went down in Lockerbie (they live in a small town near Lockerbie)

9 Bob Pool February 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

OK, on the Garden a Go Go thing, If we are both going to go, I will meet you there. You take your rig and I’ll go in mine. I ain’t going any where with you. I don’t know how you can work in the Hell Strip, it being so close to the road and all. I’m surprized a bus or a taxi has’nt jumped the curb and whacked you. Keep the Water Bug back from the road as well. He might have inherited some of your negative mojo.

If that Tahoe that hit your house had been a taxi instead, and I were you you, I would be afraid, very afraid. You might need to check in with the Witches of the patch. There just might be a spell to fix this. If in the next post there is a picture of you gathering toads, then I’ll know there is spell forth coming, payed for by your ill gotten toad booty.

10 ESP February 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Hi Bob.
Haha. Yes, that is probably for the best…when you see the state of my rig, all of my auto-encounters will also become painfully apparent. My truck at this point resembles something from a Mad-Max movie, bless her battered, transmission slipping heart.
Regarding working in the Hell Strip, yes it was a risk, but I had the forethought to employ some Naboo sentinels that, through an elaborate smoke signaling system at both ends of our street, would warn me when a car had turned…it worked out a treat. I would simply run into the house for safety every time I saw the alarm signal down the street. All the mud trampled into the house from this repeated activity did get me into some trouble though…the price to pay for staying alive!
Regarding the ESPatch witches, I really try to avoid soliciting their rather nasty skill-sets…once in their debt, and all that! I did notice this evening that they have already hung their stinky hessian sacks in a low post oak branch, no doubt in anticipation of the forthcoming spring toad “harvest”. Foul, despicable creatures.
Sorry bob I hear a car…better get in the shelter.

11 Katina February 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

So what you’re saying is that your life is a mix of Speed 1 & 2 and Unbreakable…great. I hope the Go-go isn’t ever next to a bus stop.

12 ESP February 24, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Hi Katina…me too, I was on this bus once and you wont believe what happened to me I was ju……..Kidding!
Imagine if I held a Go-go in the Hell-Strip of the ESP, I swear, nobody would turn up! (uh uh, that close to the street, with him, oh no, not me!)

Encounters like these both age you prematurely and build character, I feel like I have gone over my quota.

What time did I say I was picking you up in my rig Bob? :-)

Cheers Katina.

13 Les February 25, 2010 at 6:14 am

How do you expect your readers to focus on feather grass and compost tea after your tales of travel? The first one is expecially harrowing and those sandwiches must be really bad. If the city comes through and decides to put in a metro bus stop next to the hell strip – surely that would be a bad sign for you.

14 ESP February 25, 2010 at 10:27 am

Yes quite a jump of topic going on here, crashing in a train and transplanting feather grass! You just never know where it will go in the Patch.
Yes Les that would be very bad indeed, that is why I am preparing large mounds around the hell-strip for a little protection. I would have to employ the Naboo sentinels full-time should a metro bus stop be put in.

Can’t talk about train sandwiches, I have had some nightmarish ones in my time. Brrrr.

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