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.