According to Eurostar...
T'was the night (well 3) before Christmas
We were sat on the train
A controller approached us
To send us out in the rain...
"T'is a systems error!"
I cried out in vain
"We have procedures
You must get off the train!"
Yes, yours truly and her children were almost mistaken for illegal immigrants complete with British/French passports, return tickets from Montpellier, and 30kg of presents and wine boxes between us. Your typical illegal immigrants in fact.
Here's the story. I bought the tickets back in October on the internet and was assigned seats in carriage 18. We travelled via Lille Europe which meant a quick connection of 32 minutes between the TGV and Eurostar trains. Luckily it did not involve a trek across town, and we made it through check-in, customs and baggage check, got our tickets stamped and arrived in the waiting room with 3 minutes to spare before boarding started.
Carriage 18 was at the back of the train so we had a nice long walk behind two guards all the way down the platform. No one else was following us...
The guards put up a barrier across the platform and told us to wait for those getting off before getting on... Normally of course we would stampede our way onto the train and bash anyone stopping us with a heavy suitcase...
The carriage was lovely and empty unlike the rest of the train which was bursting at the seams. We had no trouble stowing our bags unlike the others getting on at Lille who would have had to find nooks and crannies in the already over-stuffed slots.
Then the controller came along and asked us what we were doing in carriage 18. It was like some psychological thriller. You could almost hear the accompanying music thudding threateningly in the background. I showed him our tickets which said quite clearly carriage 18. He took them away, I went back to my Kindle and the boys went back to their crisps and film.
Then he came back with an explanation as to why we shouldn't be there. There are certain savvy illegal immigrants who buy two sets of tickets: one from Brussels to Lille, one from Brussels to London. They get on in Brussels without going through customs using the ticket to Lille, then at Lille, change seats and carry on to London. Clever n'est-ce pas!
To combat this, Eurostar devised a cunning plan to put all those going to Lille or Calais in carriage 18. No one should remain in there after Calais. Except illegal immigrants who would be unaware of this cunning plan. And us.
We created a sensation. They called London with our reference number, checked our passport numbers and found us to be... completely legitimate! However, procedures are procedures and we should have been dumped off the train at Calais at 9pm, at night! In the rain. Three days before Christmas. Luckily, our nice controller argued with some woman controller who, by the sound of it was a bit of a jobsworth, and said that the problem was a systems error and nothing to do with us, so there was no reason why we should not carry on to London.
So we did, and such is the illegal immigrant problem that the whole train had to go through customs again at St Pancras, filling the hall with lines of passengers. Suspicious types were taken aside and told to wait. We were beyond suspicion by now so sailed through into the tube and home! Phew!
And a merry Christmas was had by one and all, chez nous at least.
Ommigod. Call Manuel Valls and tell him your children have been shocked by the experience. No, SOS Racisme and "touche pas à mon pote de chez les puddings". What a bunch of total planks.... Whilst legitimate travellers are being turfed off the train the illegal immigrants probably use the window of opportunity to get on board. Et viiiiiiive la France :-)ReplyDelete
There is a further happy ending to this story. I wrote and told Eurostar about our experience today and I got a very nice apologetic email back, and an offer of some wine, red or white, which would be sent to me.Delete
I was also assured that the systems error has been fixed and we should have plain sailing (as it were) in the summer. What a nice way to end the year. :)
They had a cunning plan.....and messed it up!ReplyDelete
What a nightmare for you.
Yes!! It was rather nerve-wracking but ended happily. :)ReplyDelete
And Eurostar are sending me some red wine by way of apology. :)
How very stressful for you. So glad that you survived and lived to tell the tale. Happy New Year. Enjoy the wine.ReplyDelete
Thanks Susie. Happy New Year to you too. :)Delete
All sounds quite stressful - as if travelling home for Christmas with children (even quite big ones:)) isn't stressful enough! Glad you made it through unscathed and hope you enjoy the complementary vino! Happy New Year! xReplyDelete
My shoulders were aching with tension by the time I got to my mum's! Then they eased up as the stress fell away. Bliss. Happy New Year to you too. :)Delete
Ooh what an exciting tale! Of course any illegal immigrants googling 'illegal immigrants Eurostar' are now going to know about the cunning carriage 18 plan thanks to your adventure!ReplyDelete
Indeed, and it should put them off! They are obviously very resourceful and intelligent. Shame they don't or can't use such skills in their own countries.Delete
It must have been pretty stressful! Surely you didn't look like illegal immigrants. I can't believe that you had to go through all this. my home country has gone mad!ReplyDelete
We really didn't look like illegal immigrants, but procedures MUST be followed by jobsworths. Luckily we had a champion of common sense fighting our corner. Hurrah!Delete
See! your charm can work its way with even the jobsworths. We got caught coming back into the US on a vacay to Mexico with kids on slightly expired passports. (we hadn't realised till the night before and decided to take a chance.) Our response was to tell them they can take the kids, we were off home! That concentrated the mind.ReplyDelete
Yours is a great story! Threatening to desert the kids to the customs people. I bet that did indeed concentrate the mind! Hilarious.Delete
Glad you got there safely. After all my adventures 'driving home for Christmas' I always swore I would stay safely ensconced in France over the festive season. Happy New Year!ReplyDelete
We only go twice a year, what could possibly go wrong...? :)Delete
well everyone knows you shouldn't be in carriage 18 after Calais right??ReplyDelete
I can't imagine many illegal immigrants read my blog but they've probably got another wheeze in mind anyway.Delete
Ha ha. You have to wonder how the hell some people manage to walk in a straight line. Happy endings for you, thank goodness.ReplyDelete
Thank goodness! :)Delete