Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Train, A Taxi, A Medical and Platform 9 & 3/4

Today (30/08/2011) I completed yet another step on the path to getting my US Visa and most importantly starting my life with Linsey.
Before I'm able to go for the interview at the US embassy and hopefully get given my K! Visa, I'm required to attend a medical - the US government in its wisdom have only one medical practice in the UK authorised to conduct the medicals. It also won't come as a surprise to hear that it's held in London – 200 miles from Leeds
Now when I came to book the interview, I remembered that I was attending a family wedding in my parents home county of Worcestershire, so being rather clever, I decided a journey to London from Worcester, was easier that all the way from Leeds. I also thought that a family day out London would be fun, so invited my parents to come down with me! Unfortunately due to circumstances, only one could make it - so after a short discussion it was decided that my Mum would go down with me. She would shop, while I got prodded and poked (with a small amount of stabbing). It was also decided that we would take the train as it would be a) cheaper & b) less prone to unforeseen events - how wrong we were!!
The Day arrives – Tuesday 30th August
The day started off relatively well - Mum & I were dropped off at Birmingham International, and we decided to take the High speed Virgin train - 125mph, Birmingham to London in 1hr 30mins. :-)
We arrived at the station at 9:30am to be told that off peak travel (much cheaper) would not be available until after 10am. So we sat, had a coffee and watched the clock tick over. 10am, we got to the ticket counter, explained what we needed and walked away with our tickets. Mums return journey would be back to Worcester, and mine Leeds. My return journey was set for an hour after Mums, so I could make sure she got on the right train! ;-)
So 10:20am got on the train, and we set off expecting to arrive in London at around 11:45am, plenty of time to explore before my medical at 2:30pm.
11am: the train stops at Rugby (not a stop on the timetable). The driver informs us that there has been an incident on the line. We should resume in 10mins
11:30 we're told a train has broken down, but that the line should be clear at 12
12:00 get told that the broken down train is actually on fire, and the fire service are trying to put it out. But they still expect to resume service
12:30 all lines southbound are cancelled (by this point trains are backing up behind & alongside us). A statement is released saying that trains at Rugby will now return to their destination, you are free to take one of these - however if you want to continue your journey there will be a bus (but they're not sure when they will turn up).
At this point I've rung the medical centre to push back my appointment, mum decides to go back (all fares refunded) on one of the returning trains, and as I now have nothing to lose, I choose to stay and try a bus – but not holding much hope of getting to London on time. So Mum leaves - and I sit and wait for a bus.
I suddenly overhear a conversation between four other commuters, discussing the option of a taxi to London. One of them pulls out, and I butt in (not like me at all). "could I join you?" I ask, "certainly, it'll cost about £35 each. Are you ok with that?", "yep - I really need to get to London"
So 10 mins later, I'm in a taxi with three other people I don't know, plus the friendliest taxi driver I've ever met. A Sikh, who's lived in the UK for 47 years – we got his whole life story on the way down and loved every minute of it.
2:35pm Arrive in London (Euston station). Now have 40mins to make my rearranged appointment.
2:40pm arrive at underground, buy ticket. Find out that signal failures are plaguing the entire underground. 10 min wait for train (should be every 3mins)
3:05pm after two taking two underground trains, I walk out into Oxford Street, the medical centre is 5mins walk.
3:10pm - can I find the blasted medical centre? Seek help
3:15pm time of my appointment - on the right street, can I see the right building – nope!
3:20pm find it - a small brass plaque reads "Knightsbridge Doctors" ring bell, get let in
Arrive in reception; give my name between huge gaps for breath, due to all my running. "Mr Owen, please have a seat can you please fill in this form and can I have the documents you were asked to bring" the receptionist asks
"Certainly, here's the questionnaire, police certificate & vaccination record - oh s#@t! where's the vaccination record, I'm sure I put it in the pack?"
I'm already worked up with the journey down, so this is the last thing I need! I get told no need to worry; you can discuss the vaccines with the nurse. So I sit down and await my fate.
Round one: x-ray. Go's fine,
I go back to the waiting room and ring my parents explaining about the vaccination record, they agree to have a look around their house for it. I get a text from them a few minutes later "We have it, do you want us to fax it?", I reply "Not yet – let me talk to the nurse"
Round two: the doctor. we discuss my answers to the questionnaire. Blood pressure gets taken: doctor: "seems high", me: "I'm not surprised!"
Then…."Have you got a vaccination record?", "Err no, but I can have my parents fax it across, have you got a fax number?"
She hands me the number and I quickly ring them and give them the number.
I then get told nope – "sorry, we thought we had it, but actually it was just the list of vaccines you need!" I tell them "not to worry – I know I can put them on hold and have them at a later date"
I then return to the doctor, she checks various other things - won't go into too much detail ;-) and finally gives me another blood pressure check – it's dropped, so everything is good.
My phone then starts ringing constantly as the doctor finishes up – I finally get up to answer it, and see a text message saying – "found it!" . I give the good news to the doctor, who tells me "that she'll inform the nurse".
As I'm back sat in the waiting room, I ring my parents, to find out what went wrong. It seems that the vaccination record had been placed with my nephews comics!
So one last session – I go into see the nurse, who tells me that the only vaccination missing in my MMR (which I know about), and would I like to have it there. Yep, and as she is giving me the injection, I find out that she's from Norway – makes a few jokes about Mn being very similar (except for the mountains) and I'm suddenly all done.
I'm then led out to reception, pay - £250 ($400) and I'm out of the building 1 ½ hrs later.
First stop is for a beer at marble Arch and some food (first of the day) and then I head off towards Kings Cross Station
Harry Potter
During my last visit to London with Linsey, we both visited Kings Cross Station to try and find platform 9 ¾ (photos on facebook). However I had heard that since then, they had actually identified the platform with the exact location to enter it.
On this occasion, I had a quick look, but couldn't find it, until sat waiting for my train – I saw a sign right in front of me (I must be blind) with directions to "Harry Potters Platform 9 ¾"
I found it!! Now time to get onto my own train and a 3hr trip back to Leeds…..
Thanks for reading

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