We had gone to the Globe to see Henry IV (which, by the way, was fantastic). Our show let out at about 10:30, but of course it took a while for everyone to stop by the toilets and then get reorganized. At about 10:50ish I'd say we headed off to go look at St Paul's- the last train left at 11:30, so in theory we had enough time.
We crossed the Thames on the bridge that gets destroyed in Harry Potter 6. The view of London was breathtaking from there. From the bridge it's not very far to St Pauls at all. We walk down the street looking a it, and then when facing the front stairs some of the girls start singing the "tuppence" song from Mary Poppins (the part that I always wanted mom to skip). After that brief interlude we head on down the street for the Underground station. Here's where things start to go wrong.
Tom takes us down to Blackfriar, not realizing that it's closed. And instead of heading back up to St Paul's, which is fairly close (although I don't know why we didn't go there first), we go on down to the next one, because surely it can't be too far.
We walk, and walk, and walk. But with Tom it's closer to a run. He's a rather short man, but the speed at which he walks is ridiculous. Everyone is strung out in a long line, with people having to break into run occasionally to keep up with Tom and people crossing streets is a very perilous manner.
Finally Tom asks for directions to the nearest stop- and we find out that it's STILL not close. We cross the street, and then Tom himself takes off running. It was ridiculous. A group of thirty odd people, mostly girls, running through the streets of London, screaming.
Needless to say, I was not doing too well by this point. I've never really enjoyed physical exertion- especially running. My feet are aching from a day spent walking around London and then standing for three hours (yes, we were groundlings at the play). My breath is coming in great gasps, and I'm beginning to seriously lag behind with some other girls who are equally out of shape.
We catch up with everyone at the Underground station, and once Tom has made sure everyone is present and explained the stops and connection to Ana (one of the supervising adults) he takes off ahead of us. A group of girls had already gotten on a train and left.
So we're finally on the Underground. We file into a cab, and all fall into seats. I pop some sugar and some nuts (see Mom, I'm taking care of myself), and begin watching the time. Remember I said that the last train leaves London at 11:30. Well, at 11:30 we pull into the stop where we have to disembark and make a connection. For some reason however, this escapes the others and we take off running through the Underground station- which is rather warren-like. I'm shaking my head at the ridiculousness of running for a train that you've already missed, but keep up with the group.
We make in onto our connection, and in a few minutes arrive at Paddington Station. In the train terminal we meet up with Tom and the others girls, far after our train is gone. Tom gives us a few options: spend the night in Paddington Station or take a train that could take to get us part of the way there, but we would end up arriving in Cardiff much later. We pretty much unanimously decide that the later is waste of money and a little silly, and begin to make ourselves comfortable.
We all use the toilet (which costs 30p) since it will close at 12, which is quickly approaching, buy some food from the few places still open and either sit on the ground or benches. Eventually Tom manages to procure us some cardboard (which is actually an amazing insulator against the freezing floor) and arranges some of the benches into a square enclosure for us. I spend the night alternating between reading (I'm so glad I almost always have a book with me), talking, and dozing. All the while absolutely freezing. At 4:30 someone notices that one of the stores is open again and I rush over to buy a hot chocolate and a croissant- two of the most lovely things I have ever ingested.
As 5:30 approaches we begin to watch the board to see what platform we will be on. And watch, and watch and watch. I'm beginning to grow more than a little nervous now. I've developed a lovely pair of blisters on my foot, I'm tired and sore from sleeping on a stone floor, and I haven't eaten very much in the last several hours. I really, really don't want to have to run for it.
At about five till the board finally says delayed. We all sigh and several of us, including myself, sit down for a few minutes until the board tells us to go to Platform 2- which thankfully is the one we were closest too.
Once on, everyone absolutely crashes. It's about a two hour ride to Cardiff, and my eyes were closed throughout most of it. In Cardiff we catch a train to our local station (Thank Goodness) and then all make our tired way home and straight into bed. I think it was about 7:30 when my head hit the pillow.
After a few hours I force myself up- so that I won't get my days and nights switched around- and hobbled downstairs to get some food and write this up.
It was a long, tiring night, and if I could go back in time I certainly wouldn't do it again, but now I can say that I've slept on cardboard in a London train station.