Europe 1999 ???????????

Fare dodging in Chichester

It was almost time to head back to London, but not before dropping in on my Uncle Kevin’s family again. We somehow managed to cram all our stuff into the backpack (the other one was back in London) and Gran and Grandad drove us to Bognor station. We said our goodbyes and boarded the train, then got off five minutes later in Barnham, to change to the next train to Chichester.

The screen said that the next train would go to Chichester, and when it arrived we boarded. L carrying Jeremy and a shopping bag full of miscellaneous stuff we’d probably need on our travels that day – stuff like snacks and spare nappies and so on. A fellow passenger decided to be a do-gooder and help L with her shopping bag, but instead managed to break the handle, which was probably not the intended outcome, but annoying nonetheless.

There weren’t any seats available on the tiny South West Trains service, so we stood, but thankfully it was only a ten minute journey. We got off at Chichester, and gave Uncle Kevin a ring and he came in his tiny car to collect us. It dawned on me later while reading the small-print on our Britrail SouthEast passes that they aren’t actually valid on South West Trains. Lucky for us the conductor had been nowhere to be seen on that train.

A short drive around the tangled mess of one-way streets of Chichester got us to Uncle Kevin’s house, where he and Liz (and Luke of course, though being a toddler he probably hadn’t helped a lot) had prepared a mass of food for our consumption. We munched, drank, sat, swapped toddler stories and let the kids play and watch Wallace & Gromit.

Kevin showed his sense of humour by asking young, impressionable Isaac if he liked McDonalds. And had he ever had a McHamster burger? According to Kevin, who kept a straight face throughout, they get a hamster, and a large mallet, and BANG! – flatten the hamster, and put it in a bun. Presto, McHamster burger.

When it was finally time to go, we said more goodbyes, and Uncle Kevin dropped us back at Chichester station, where we boarded a Connex train (and theydo honour Britrail Southeast passes) back to London. Well, East Croydon to be precise, as we were going to inflict ourselves upon Uncle Hew for a few more days.

After dinner I gave my old mate Merlin a call. He’d been in London on and off for a couple of years, and I’d dropped in on him the previous year when I was there. He said to come on over, and gave me instructions on how to get to his place in Lewisham. Thankfully I had an A to Z with me, and found the place okay, which just as he had told me, was a block of flats which had a car park that included a line marking where the Prime Meridian was. Very cool. Well, for a car park, anyway.

He showed me all the weird and wonderful music gadgets he had in his flat, which was a big change from the place he’d been living in the year before in Willesden Green. Back in Willesden, he’d only had one room, about 90% of which was filled with a double bed. In Lewisham he had two rooms plus kitchen and so on to himself, which was a vast improvement in terms of space.

We sauntered down the street for a quick ale at the local, and over a pint caught up on the latest news. After that it was getting late, so we walked back to Lewisham station and I made my way back to East Croydon, making the connection at London Bridge by mere seconds, and by the time I got back, thoroughly worn out after what had been a very full day.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.