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The punctual traveller at 4.47 AM – it’s in the genes.

Tom Winnifrith
Tuesday 4 March 2014

When I was a child my mother’s wider family used to meet up at a restaurant in Marlborough in December for a meal and to exchange Christmas presents. I remember the hotel served an amazing brown breadcrumb ice cream. My grandparents would travel up from Dorset and my mother’s brother and little sister would drive up separately from London while Dad would drive us down from Northamptonshire.

My father takes after his mother and so we would arrive on the dot at 12.30 as agreed. We would then spend the next two hours enjoying the sweepstake organised by my father on which member of the Booker clan would be the last to arrive. Bookers do not do punctuality and it is correctly said that the only occasion at which they are ever on time is their funeral.

My father’s mother only once ever missed a train in her life. That was when she arrived so early that she caught the one before instead. My father operates on a similar basis and so when dropping me off at Moreton-in-Marsh he always allows plenty of time. Even though he observes a strict 20 mile an hour speed limit on all roads, more or less up to and including Motorways, I inevitably spend a good twenty minutes waiting on the platform at Moreton.

But I am as guilty of this obsession with not missing my train as is he. Regular readers will know that I catch the 4.47 AM from Bristol when travelling up to London as I am doing today. It is empty almost all the way and so I can spread my bags out and work at a table. And unlike every other train until 10 AM you do not need to take out a second mortgage to buy your ticket.  And so last night, as is my ritual now, I called the excellent V-Cars in Bristol to book a cab.

What time is your train the nice lady asks? 4.47 say I. “We do advise a pick up 45 minutes before your train and if you miss the train it is on your own risk otherwise” said she. “I know, but let’s call it 4.20 AM shall we?” said I. And as ever that was agreed, it is my own risk, and she said “Nice to speak to you luvvy.”

By 4.20 I am in the cab as V-Cars is always early, texting me to say that it is blocking our street, I mean has arrived outside, at 4.15. And by 4.27, I am at Temple Meads. The journey through empty streets never takes more than eight minutes.  I could therefore cut it finer and get up at 4 AM not 3.50 AM and leave at 4.30 AM not 4.20 AM. There would be no panic. There would be no waiting outside Temple Meads in the cold until 4.30 AM when the doors open.

But I am my father’s son. What if there is, for the first time in history, a traffic jam in Bristol at 4.25 AM? What if the cab breaks down? Panic. Panic. I cannot help it. 

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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