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No amount of hiccups could ruin the show

PUBLISHED: 18:01 04 October 2007 | UPDATED: 12:01 30 June 2010

FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE PLEASE: A policeman shepherds passengers awaiting their onward transport outside Vauxhall Station in 1953

FORM AN ORDERLY QUEUE PLEASE: A policeman shepherds passengers awaiting their onward transport outside Vauxhall Station in 1953

I BLAME Lee Mead. It's all his fault! Yes, Lee Mead, the young chap who was once an entertainer at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton and graduated to captivating millions of BBC Television viewers when he beat off strong opposition to win the coveted title role in a new London West End production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

QUICKER BY COACH? These passengers may have reached Yarmouth Beach coach station without problems in 1962 but the Peggottys' journey in September included an unexpected delay.

I BLAME Lee Mead. It's all his fault! Yes, Lee Mead, the young chap who was once an entertainer at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton and graduated to captivating millions of BBC Television viewers when he beat off strong opposition to win the coveted title role in a new London West End production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

If Mrs Peggotty and one of our granddaughters had not enjoyed him so much that they wanted to see him in the role live on stage at the Adelphi Theatre, we would never have embarked on the day trip to London last month.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice show lived up to every expectation. It was such a memorable theatrical experience - “brilliant”, enthused our granddaughter - that we forgave the oddly-named 'one' railway for any problems that threatened our big day out.

Let's start at the very beginning, in the words of another song from a hit West End musical.

NEW STAR: Lee Mead, who plays the title role in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was the reason for the family excursion to the capital.

Because the demand for tickets was so great after the Joseph production opened in July and we were limited to certain school holiday matinees, we were unable to obtain three side-by-side and settled for the only pair available; being Mr Nice Guy, I said I would accompany them to London and while away the time as they joined the Adelphi audience to watch their new idol.

As soon as the tickets arrived, we tried vainly to book rail tickets from Great Yarmouth to London on the internet, so went to Vauxhall station but met another blank because the possibility of work on the main line on our date meant tickets could not yet be issued.

Frustrated - and anxious to secure our rail travel - we went to Norwich station where three budget price return tickets from Yarmouth to London were provided instantly, and took into account the fact that the Colchester-Liverpool Street leg would be by coach because of the track work.

On the eve of our day out, I took the precaution of checking our timetable but gave up on the 'one' website and tried the national inquiry number where, after a long extract of Mozart while I waited, the operative insisted that we had to go via Cambridge, not Ipswich. When I stressed that our tickets had to be through Ipswich (or we would have to pay the full price), she wanted to route us from Ipswich to Cambridge and on to London.

What to do? I drove from Gorleston to Vauxhall Station to try the booking office...but increasing my carbon footprint achieved nothing, for the main entrance and entire concourse were blocked by locked gates, and no staff were evident - at just after 6pm on a Friday in August bank holiday week!

But I did obtain the 'one' information number, manned by a very helpful fellow who confirmed all the timings and changes originally provided by Norwich station. Hooray! All plain sailing ahead? No!

The next morning, as we waited at Vauxhall with luggage-laden holidaymakers for our 7.44am train, news came that “unit problems” had beset it in Norwich and it did not reach Yarmouth till 7.55 and left at 7.59 - so we missed our 8.30 London connection. That was a bad start.

Realising our tickets were for specific trains, the conductor/guard helpfully had telephoned his counterpart on the next departure for Colchester. Although we had lost time, that leg went off without a hitch, and the conductor confirmed that his colleague had put him in the picture. At Colchester coaches awaited and drove off immediately they were full, and we headed for the capital.

But drama awaited - not musical drama at the Adelphi, but real-life, on our coach. We had just turned off the M25 and were heading into London when a girl passenger aged about 12 suffered an epileptic fit and was in a greatly distressed condition.

Our driver pulled on to the verge and rang for an ambulance while passengers and her family did their best to comfort the poor child. While waiting for the paramedics to arrive, he was in two-way contact with an adviser who was asking personal questions about her we could all hear, and he relayed the replies back about various facets of her condition.

When she was fit enough to continue her journey, declining to go to hospital with the paramedics, we resumed our journey, having lost about an hour. The driver seemed to give at least one passenger a chit to explain why he had missed a vital connection.

From then, our day reverted to normality. Mrs Peggotty and our 14-year-old granddaughter loved Lee Mead and Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat while I strolled around and sat in a park, and we all caught the Tube back to Liverpool Street where a fleet of shuttle coaches awaited. The only hiccough on the Underground was the sight of an elderly man, his face bloodied, being helped by paramedics half-way up one of the steepest and longest escalators, apparently after a fall - a sight that dismayed our granddaughter as we passed on the downward one.

So, coach to Colchester where a Norwich train was waiting, and in the city's station a Yarmouth train was ready to leave, giving us the prospect of getting home earlier than the late night we had anticipated. But 'one' had a final trick up its railway sleeve, and history repeated itself.

As we all got comfortable and waited for the train to draw slowly away, an announcement on its passenger address system broke the news - yes, you've guessed it - that the unit had encountered problems and we would have to disembark. Only a few minutes later a train from Lowestoft arrived and, when it had emptied, our crew manned it and we climbed on board, leaving only ten minutes late.

But a 'one' unit on the Norwich-Yarmouth route had suffered a problem that morning, causing us to miss our connection, and another unit was out of action at the last minute that night, like book-ends. Coincidence? Or was it the same dratted unit proving unreliable twice in 15 hours?

But let me reassure 'one' - nothing it could have done that day would have spoiled the Joseph/Lee Mead experience for Mrs Peggotty and our granddaughter...other than getting us there too late and causing them to miss the show altogether.

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