Elbows out, ready to visit the capital...

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

ONE of the things I was most looking forward to when we left London to move to the country was the fact that I no longer had to travel by Tube.

Never again was I going to join the pulsing throng of commuters pushing, pulling, squeezing and jostling in the claustrophobic carriages that criss-cross the city under ground.

I could say “goodbye” to being elbowed in the stomach, having my face pressed into a pane of glass or my nose up into the pungent armpit of a sweaty businessman on his way home.

It was “farewell” to struggling up an escalator with a double buggy, “auf wiedersehen” to the extortionate fares, “au revoir” to the unbelievable heat of the airless trains and “so long suckers” to the miserable faces of the millions of people I had to share my journey with on a daily basis.

The first thing we did when we arrived in Suffolk was to invest in another car.

We set aside a small amount for a second-hand vehicle and, cash in hand, my husband trotted off to the various dealerships in the area to bag a bargain.

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I gave him strict instructions. Reliable, five doors and not more than five years old.

But he returned several hours later with a Cheshire cat grin and a BMW which was 15 years old, only three-door and twice the allotted budget.

“But it is a BMW,” he pointed out proudly. “And that is really all that counts.”

Needless to say I made it quite clear that when his rusty bucket falls to bits he was not going anywhere near my two-year-old Nissan, which compensates nicely for its ugly exterior with its fuel efficiency, large boot space, a set of nitrogen tyres and a top speed of 140mph.

Last weekend I took the children back to London to stay with Granny and Grandpa. My husband was working and rather than sitting in the Friday afternoon traffic, coping alone with two grouchy children on the backseat, I opted to travel by train.

My two-year-old son couldn’t have been happier.

“Woo Woo!” he shouted as the train pulled into Ipswich station. “All aboard!”

A lovely gentleman helped us find a seat and another offered to put our suitcase in the luggage rack.

The journey was terribly easy and, because I booked in advance and children under five go free, it only cost me �11.

The nightmare began, predictably, as we pulled into Liverpool Street station. The platform was heaving and I had a suitcase in one hand, my son in the other and my daughter gripping the strap to my handbag, terrified she would get lost in the m�l�e.

Not one of the commuters clamouring to get onto the train we were vacating offered to help me with the bag or step in when my daughter slipped on the step and nearly fell into the gap between train and platform.

In fact one woman who barged into us, breaking the hold I had on my son, even tutted at us for getting in her way.

Clearly I have not totally lost my London touch because I glowered back, pulled the children closer and, head down, barged past with my elbows out.

For obvious reasons I decided against attempting the tube journey to get to my parents’ home in north London and opted instead for a black cab ride, again much to my son’s delight.

“Beep beep,” he cried out the window. “Coming through!”

I was very relieved to finally get to our destination and even more delighted that, because mum and dad were going to be spending the following week on holiday in Suffolk, our return journey was going to be by car.

“I had forgotten what a nightmare public transport was in London,” I moaned over supper.

“Well, your kids love it,” my mother replied. “They haven’t stopped talking about trains and taxis since they got here. I thought we could pop along to the London Transport Museum for the day tomorrow. It’s only four stops on the tube.”

I rolled my eyes.

I would love to tell you that venturing back on the underground was a good experience but it is just as hot, sweaty and claustrophobic as ever.

On the other hand, the London Transport Museum was superb. My son was on cloud nine, hopping on and off the Routemaster, swinging from the handles on the defunct trains and helping operate the traffic lights.

My daughter loved having her ticket stamped at various points around the tour and my mother and I enjoyed a good cappuccino in the caf�.

We also learnt a lot about the underground system I grew to loathe in my 30 years living in London.

We are talking 400 kilometres of track with 11 different lines and 270 stations.

I can appreciate it is a pretty incredible feat of engineering but I am afraid my mind still balks at the congestion and claustrophobia of it all. I still prefer the comfort and ease of my Nissan.

I returned home on Sunday afternoon, happy to be back in the fresh air of the country and even happier to see our cars parked safely on the driveway.

Then I walked into the house and found my husband sitting at the table with his head in his hands.

“What’s wrong?” I asked tentatively.

“What do you want first? The bad news or the absolutely terrible news?” he replied.

I grimaced. “Bad,” I replied.

“You have not one but two speeding fines from Suffolk Constabulary,” he said.

I muttered an obscenity the EADT wouldn’t agree to print.

“And the terrible news?” I asked. “Surely nothing could be worse than getting six points and �120 in fines in the space of one week?”

“It’s just terrible,” he said. “I’m devastated.”

“What? What is it?” I said, forgetting for a moment the injustice of getting done for doing 46mph just 100 metres from entering a 50 zone.

I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the very worst.

My husband took a deep breath.

“Some Suffolk hooligan has nicked the badge of my BMW.”

Please feel free to send me an email: to EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

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