Ritarded Deep breaths.

So there I was, waking up in duoMo hotel, riMini (according to the hotel’s weird way of writing). It’s Friday. I’m pleased with myself for having ticked off a new country in a lightning visit the day before, and I had a very good plan for the day. Immaculately conceived, you might even say, given it was December 8th and a Catholic country ‘n that.

  1. Breakfast in Rimini
  2. Fancy first class comfortable train ride to Milan
  3. A few hours in the city, a beer or two
  4. Express train to Malpensa airport
  5. Lounge and flight home

Having had the forgotten foresight to book a rate including breakfast, I messed up a bit by getting up late enough only to blog, shower, pack, and leave without eating. Scratch number 1, then. My train was booked for 1115 and I entirely overestimated the length of time it would take me to wander back to the station. Mind you, I wanted to be a bit early to grab a Coke Zero and get my bearings.

I’m there with 40 odd minutes until the train and, er, oh. Hang on. That display board looks bad.

That says “most trains are running over 100 minutes late”.

Bugger. Hmm. Though I’m kinda laughing a bit. I can deal with fail, it’s quite funny, and besides I’ve got acres of time. What’s more, my train isn’t showing any delay - the 1115 Frecciarossa to Milano Centrale (pronounced “chen-trar-lay”, not “sen-trar-lay”, innit; dunno why it took so long for me to comprehend that the letter C is always hard in Italiano). I think perhaps, being a once day mega-fanciest-train-in-Italy service that perhaps it gets pride of place during disruption. It has come up from Bari, after all.

I wander under the subway to platforms 2 and 3. There’s a train on each, these are ones running > 100 minutes late. There’s loads of people on them, and tons more milling about on the platforms smoking and looking confused. Precious few staff about. Constant announcements about how late everything is. I’m on Slack talking to my Italian mate Mauro, who wishes me the best of luck and reckons I may not make it home until after the weekend. But, for now, I’m still just finding it a bit amusing.

Come 11am, my 1115 train changes from no delay to 50 minutes late. Bah. Though not wholly unexpected, since nothing yet has moved. I get a coke zero from a vending machine, another one steals €2 from me as I attempt to buy a terrible sandwich. A third one delivers me a packet of TUC crackers 3 times the size I expected. Salty.

I skulk up and down the platforms, heavy bag on my shoulder, pondering my options. Fuck all is happening, there’s no staff helping anyone, the bar isn’t appealing. I’ve still got plenty of time to spare, but it’s starting to feel a little perilous. And, having lost my headphones in San Marino, I’m bored to fucking tears because I can’t even listen to music or a podcast.

I spend a while, along with numerous other folk, staring at this board. My train is “only” an hour late; some of the earlier ones are now over 2 hours late, or cancelled.

With about 10 minutes to go until 1215, my train moves to 100 minutes late. Hmm.

Terry Bell’s gambling arcade is sadly not open.

Still 100 minutes late, but the others are even worse. Still nothing has moved. There are lots of announcements in English, mostly saying “contrary to previous announcement, the <xxxx> service to <wherever> is now running <even more> minutes late”.

I’m now really starting to think I won’t make my flight home. Periodically there’s a flurry of running from some passengers, but I can’t work out why because still no trains are leaving. I research plan B. There’s a flight from Bologna at 6.40pm, and a bus direct to the airport, but not very frequently - the only one I can get is at 1.30pm in fact.

Outside, I phone up the BA Executive Club gold line and tell them my tale of woe: I’m stranded hundreds of km away from Malpensa and thinking I might not make the flight I’m already checked in on. Can they offload me and shove me on the Bologna flight? Yes and no. No, they can’t do it for free; yes, they can do it for £300. Damn. But there are seats available with Avios if I’m interested. I’ll consider it.

Back inside the station, my train is showing 100 minutes late still. That’s 1255. So if it doesn’t come by then, I’ve got 35 minutes to book on the Bologna flight and then get on the bus. OK. Plan. I wander outside to find the stop, and get the “buy the ticket online for a discount” page ready on my phone. And fuck it, if I spend miles I’ll go home in business. It’s not ideal but plan B is not awful.

Suddenly, at 1235, one of the platform numbers on the display starts to flash. Good lord, a train is moving. Holy shit. The 0936 service to Lecce finally departs. Then the 0947 goes somewhere. A few other delay numbers drop. Things are moving! This is a cat among the pigeons.


My train moves to 120 minutes late. That’s 1315, giving me not much leeway to get the bus and new flight. But I’d really like to still ride the fancy train I’ve paid £50-odd quid for. Could this actually work out?

Suddenly a platform comes up, and then my train appears on the platform’s display. Briefly it shows an impossible time of arrival, one that has already passed, but then says 1330. Same as the bus. It feels like a gamble, sort of, but I also figure that with so many trains now on the move I can get to Bologna without the bus if need be.

Along comes the Frecciarossa. Hurrah! And whew. My 3+hrs of boring fail and peril at Rimini station is at an end, and here comes 2hrs of luxury comfort and peace speeding through the Italian countryside towards Milano. Plus, I can have my beer that I was convinced for quite a while I’d have to jettison - I didn’t know the rules about drinking in public and assumed it wasn’t allowed, and certainly wouldn’t have been allowed it on the bus. But on a train I certainly can.

There are single seats, and I was fairly certain I’d booked one, but alas I’m on a table opposite someone else - the father of a family of 5, the other 4 of whom are across the aisle. I have my beer and start to relax.

Neither beer or relaxation last long. The seats aren’t very far apart, and because of this guy opposite, I can’t stretch my legs out. Having lost my headphones in San Marino, I can’t drown out the sound of the hundreds of screaming and shouting kids. Sigh.

Yeah. First class is full of young kids, tearing it up and down the aisle for most of the journey. Some toddlers are screaming. Some young ‘uns are unable to control their volume. It’s ceaseless and does my head in. I get online but nothing is able to immerse me in such a way that I am anything but constantly annoyed by everything about this journey so far. I’m hungry and thirsty but loathe to leave my seat, or my stuff lying around. So bleurgh.

Staring out the window does no good because everything’s grey and bleak and horrible and anyway the windows are filthy. There’s no trolley service of any kind, if I wanted stuff to eat or drink I believe I’d have to go sit down in the restaurant car. A few people do walk through with bottles of water but there doesn’t seem to be a big culture of snacking and drinking on board and anyway, I’ve no room on the table to put a bunch of beer because my iPad and his laptop are taking up the whole space.

Of course, no-one comes to check my ticket. I get to Milan at 3.50pm, 2.5 hours late. That’s pretty much taken away all the time I had to spend in the city. As with the only other time I’ve been to this station, in 2013, I’m in a bit of a daze. Starving hungry and thirsty I think bollocks, just find somewhere to have a pint and then get the Malpensa express.

First I had to figure out how to get out of the station. There’s all these gates, like airport security without the X-raying. I think I’m in a “passengers only” bit. Beyond, I’m in a giant impressive old ticket hall. Blimey.

In fact, Milano Centrale really does take the piss as train stations go. It’s an absolute beast, outside and in.

Also Christmas. But everything’s still grey and miserable and the colourful tree doesn’t do a great deal to make up for it.

Anyway, that’s my Milan tourism done. Back inside I scope out a few food joints before picking Bistrot Centrale where I buy a slice of pizza, a coke zero, and a muffin. Then I think, screw it, 5 minutes until the train, I’ll just go get on it.

The Malpensa Express website told me there’s contactless gates like TfL have where I can just wave a credit card and pay. But, er, I can’t get back through to the platforms unless I have a ticket to wave at someone. So I buy a ticket and wave it at someone and wander along to platform 2. My Trenitalia ticket is not a Trenord ticket but I hope they’re basically the same thing, and get on an empty-ish carriage near the front with a couple of minutes to spare.

At 1625, the train does not leave. There are some garbled announcements, none in English. The scrolly display says this train is diretto to MXP T2, but I need T1. Does this mean I’m on the wrong train? Fuck it, I can always figure out how to move between terminals of an airport.

About 5 minutes late, the train doors close and we move forwards. Then we stop, about 5 yards further up, not having even left the platform. Another garbled announcement is made and the only word I can make out is ritardo. Some lads make an “aww, no!” kinda sound and jump off. For fucks sake. Italian trains really fucking hate me.

I persevere beause I don’t know what else to do, and anyway I’ve plugged my phone in and am eating this really quite terrible slice of pizza. A couple of minutes later we lurch forward another yard, then finally we set off. What’s more, it says the next stop is another one in Milan. Turns out this express is not an express.


The two men nearest me, travelling separately, each decide to watch videos on their phone with sound coming loud out of their speakers. Having lost my headphones in San Marino I cannot drown this out.

At the first stop, the 3 empty seats around me get occupied by a family of four. I pack my stuff up and offer my seat so they can have the whole lot, but they’re all like “no no, please stay there” because the baby is going to sit in the mother’s lap anyway. My good deed does not go unpunished, as for the next half hour the young girl opposite me coughs constantly and clambers regularly, while the aforementioned baby kicks me repeatedly. The whole family take the piss ouf of the English phrase “next stop”.

Scusi doesn’t really cut it. I write FUCK THIS in my pad, and underline it for good measure. That’ll teach the world! And I figure, thank fuck I’ve got asthma: these inhalers have improved my ability to take deep breaths, which I have needed to take throughout this entire shitty fucking day. But hey, at least now I’m on my way to an airport. I like airports. What’s more, the family got off and I had some space around me for the last stretch to T1, where the train did indeed stop.

A couple of minutes before we pulled in, one of the men in the bank of seats opposite decided it was time to tidy up his clothing. So he undid his belt, pulled his trousers about a quarter way down, and made a very big deal of rearranging his junk and tucking everything in. Mate. Can’t you wait until you reach a loo? In my mind’s eye I’m now playing the part of Cousin Avi in Snatch, about to have a montage of a plane journey finishing with the conversation “anything to declare?” “Yeah, don’t go to Italy”.

Anyway, quit yer moaning Foreman. You’re at an airport now. You like airports. It’s just under 3 hours until you fly and there’s a lounge to be visited. And, what’s this? An aviation museum? That sounds interesting. So, up the longest escalator I’ve ever been on, and outside to... a sign that says it’s still a ten minute walk to the museum. Can’t be arsed.

Back inside, through fast track security, where I take two trays and start putting my stuff in them. Well, in the first one; just as I’m about to take my jacket off, a woman appears behind me and just starts putting her shit in it. There are spaces ahead of me but no, she steals my tray and then gets in a huff because rather than go round me, she’d rather tut and make out like I’m delaying her. Just fuck off!

Airside, it’s a hell of a walk to passport control and the bit where the lounge is, punctuated by a stop in a shop to buy some bluetooth headphones because I can’t stand listening to the world at large any more. I’m waved through passports and welcomed into Sala Montale.


I grab an isolated seat, dump my stuff, and go straight back to the buffet for a variety of cold meaty cheesy bready things plus some kind of roe, and a bottle of beer. After opening said bottle and putting the top in the glass of discarded tops I return to my seat, instantly realising I’ve left the actual beer on the fucking counter. I go back, it’s gone, so I open and take a new one. When I get back to my seat a second time, I take a sip and get ready to check it into untappd before I realise it’s disgusting and alcohol free. A few sentences after “FUCK THIS” I write “FUCK TODAY”.

The bluetooth headphones come pre-charged and I drown out the world with a podcast. Back at the booze shelf I find prosecco and unreasonably large glasses, plus more comfort food. Also a bottle of proper beer. At the seat I rage eat and rage drink.

My flight is at 2030. A gate is announced fairly early, and because I’m slightly worried about getting too rage-pissed I leave with plenty of time even though it’s only a 6 minute walk. At the gate I buy yet another coke zero, and much to my delight boarding is announced at 1955. Very few people get up; I wander through, and we’re told to hang back on the airbridge because the plane isn’t quite ready for us yet. I’m about 6th in the queue. While I’m waiting, a large man queue jumps his way right up to second, then tries to hang his suit on the tensa barrier thing.

When we’re let through, the queue jumper hinders all of us by managing to walk in such a way that he’s taking up most of the width of the corridor, and going inordinarly slowly. Much slower than the pace he used to get to the almost-front. It’s a masterclass in rudeness.

Onboard, I am further hindered by a man having trouble figuring out where row 2 is. Eventually grab my seat window seat 6A and wonder if anyone is going to sit next to me.

They don’t. At all. I have the entirety of row 6 to myself. Hurrah! In fact, this is probably the emptiest BA flight I’ve ever been on. Boarding is finished ludicrously early, there must only have been around 20 or so people onboard in total.

We leave the gate about 20 minutes early. Excellent. Flight time might be longer than usual, we’re told, because of some strong headwinds, and indeed it’s pretty turbulent once we’re up in the air but that passes. Service doesn’t bother with the trolley because there’s so few people they just take orders individually and go fetch stuff; I ask for the nice IPA I’d had on the way out and am told no, they don’t have any (of course), because on the way out some guy celebrating his 40th birthday drank them dry of it. Apparently he enjoyed it. Thanks for telling me that.

So, OK, I’ll have two Heineken please. That’s repeated back to me, and she returns with one Heineken. Oh whatever, just take my money. I’m content to just sit here, drinking, eating this tapas plate thing and listening to podcasts.

Oh but I can’t listen to podcasts can I, because the pre-charged headphones have run out of battery already. Aha! I have a USB power brick within easy reach... which refuses to charge the headphones. Plug in, light comes on, ten seconds later, light goes off. Repeat. Endlessly. I spend 20-odd minutes just turning the brick back on in the vain hope that enough charge will make it to the ‘phones that I can listen to stuff on the way home, but of course that entirely fails because fuck today.

The plane pulls up at a gate in the middle of T5A. A small mercy. A short walk to a fast moving queue at immigration, where the electronic machine takes an age for me until I take my glasses off at which point it instantly lets me in, as if to say “Oh! Darren! I didn’t recognise you with those glasses you’ve been wearing for the last 5 years”.

I make my way down to the tube station, where a guy is telling everyone there’s no Piccadilly line trains for 20 minutes. Of course. How silly of me to think I’d left public transport fail behind in Italy. So, back up to the local bus stops and a 490 to Hatton Cross. A ten minute wait for the X26 and, actually, the rest of the journey is great. Despite the tube fail, I am in Surbiton around 80 minutes after touching down and meeting Helen in Sainsburys, whose basket contains one bottle each of white wine, Guinness, and Diet Coke. Being back in England is great. Maybe I’ll give up all this travelling lark. 57 countries is enough for anyone, right?

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