[ July, 2020 ] In July, short time after the society started moving again, though the pandemic was still with us, we conjured up our courage to have a short holiday within England.
The destination was Looe, the small seaside town in Cornwall in the south west of the country.
The reason why we chose here was that this place was on the website ‘The beaches in the UK where you can reach by train’ and the photo was beautiful.
First I booked the train.
I did it online and found that the railway company’s website was emphasising that they were managing the pandemic crisis well, saying that they were cleaning the carriages well and having the rules of wearing face mask and keeping the social distancing.
And it said “Have a reserved seat when it is possible” and “As for the trains without reserved seats, the staff will allocate you”.
I thought I booked the tickets as usual, but when I saw the E-tickets, I found that there were no seat numbers.
I got worried that I must have done some mistake somewhere during the booking procedure and started writing emails to the online booking company as well as the actual railway company.
I also went the nearest train station and phone some places.
After a few days, both the online company and the railway company wrote me back and the summary of the mail was “Do not worry, you have got the seats” “Use this reference number”, so I was relieved.
Now the departing day.
First, we went to Paddington Station where the long distance trains left by the local train from the nearest station.
At our local station, a train which was not listed in the electric notice board arrived, which was good that we could go earlier, but this kind of thing would never happen in Japan.
This local train was nearly empty and clean, so we did not feel any danger.
At Paddington station, the number of people was fewer than usual and 90% of them were wearing face masks.
The shops within the station were mostly closed.
We waited for our train departing 11:03 am came up on the notice board to see the number of the platform and finally it appeared.
But the destination has changed.
It went up to Plymouth only and on top of that it said all the seats were not reserved.
We were to go further than Plymouth to Liskeard to change the train to Looe.
I got panicked and asked two of the workers there, but both of them were rather blunt, saying “You can change at Plymouth can’t you”.
The attitude of them would be impossible if this were Japan Railways.
Anyway, we got on the train.
Nobody was allocating the seats for anybody, so people just got on one after another and the carriage was getting crowded.
Especially the families with children were talking loudly with those children did not have to wear the face masks.
We got scared.
So we moved the carriages twice and finally found the relatively quiet carriage and felt relieved.
While we were moving in the train, I noticed that even some of the adults were not wearing the masks which was against the rule and felt angry.
What kind of nerve they have got?
In any case, I was astonished and felt furious at the gap between the official stance on the websites and the reality.
But this is England.
The surface looks so good, but the reality behind is completely tattered.
At the Plymouth station, we found the train towards Lisleard without any problems, though no staff was there to take care of people who took the train whose destination had been changed.
The second train was even more crowded and we felt scared again.
On the other hand, the last train from Liskeard to Looe was empty.
There were a few stops between Liskeard and Looe, but if you wanted to use any of those stations, you had to tell the conductor beforehand.
Before the departure, the conductor came around and asked us “Are you going all the way to Looe?”.
This train was nice and slow, stopping for some reason in the middle of nowhere and changing direction.
Finally we arrived in Looe.
It is a touristy town and it was full of people.