“You'll have to knot it up if you need the loo,” beams a jovial voice as fellow passengers smirk in amusement at the train conductor's attempt to make light of an already testing situation. A sarcastic voice taunts me; “Welcome back to England,” it jeers.
“When it rains it pours”; my return journey to Inglaterra perfectly illustrated the idiom's meaning. An hour journey to Guatemala airport in order to get a three hour flight to Houston was followed by a two hour wait before another flight to Frankfurt. Nine hours later and I pottered around Frankfurt killing time before the final leg of my journey back to Manchester.
Another seven hours later and finally back on English soil and keen to get home, the queue for passport control loomed and the normal luggage collection fears kicked in. Already dubious I'd be reunited with my bag, the fear started to mount thirty minutes after the imminent arrival of our baggage was announced. Allayed by the cluster of fellow passengers also looking expectantly at the “carousel”, I'm still optimistic bed is in sight.
My gut instinct is unfortunately perceptive and five minutes after the last bag appears, there's still no obvious sign of my luggage. A lady in uniform confirms the obvious telling me there's no more baggage. The explanation is predictable: my bag has been held in Houston and will be returned to me by courier the next day.
Having already been awake for nearly thirty hours, I make it to Manchester airport's train station only to be told services are limited due to engineering works and I'll have to wait almost an hour until the next train. Running on a mixture of frustrated adrenaline and exhausted near hysteria, I board the train only to hear an announcement apologising that all the train's toilets are mysteriously out of service. “Welcome home,” says the man opposite me, mirroring my English sarcasm. When it rains it really does pour!
Bed is almost in reach. As I contemplate sinking into familiar surroundings, the tannoy announces the “mysterious recovery” of one of the train toilets and there's all-round chuckling. At least I'm finally less than two hours from home and won't have to cart much around or unpack on my arrival! Things are looking up...