Monday, 8 July 2013

On the end of the trip

I have an odd affection for Waverley Train Station. For some reason its location in the former Nor'Loch and the sloping access ramps make it appear to disappear into the cityscape. This is evidently nothing more than the exploitation of practical realities yet somehow it strikes me as being an elegant solution to the demands of the situation. As well, the way the platforms are laid to include both terminating and through lines heading both East and West struck me as maximizing the number of platforms that may reached without recourse to stairs, lifts and ramps.

Consequently, I was a trifle disappointed that my train to Wolverhampton was on a platform that required me to use a pair of lifts to get to. This may have been a consequence of it a Virgin Trains service rather than a ScotRail service! ;-) However, it got me to Wolverhampton on a beautiful day and on time so I guess I shouldn't complain.

I made Wolverhampton my jump-off point to get to Izzy and John as I had found Birmingham tricky to get out of on my previous trip to Bromyard. (As discussed in a previous entry.) I correctly surmised that Wolverhampton would be an easier proposition. It did involve a fair distance on the relatively busy A449 (a far cry from the single track "A" road on Mull), but the road was in great shape and there was a tailwind.

Around Kidderminster, I began to encounter an issue that I'd not really had in the Highlands: rural navigation.  Outside of towns, there is rarely the question of which route to take in the Highlands as there is usually only one option. Conversely, there were many roads I could have taken to Bromyard. Not that it challenged me, but it was a change of pace. 

I stopped for 'arf a pint in Great Whitley at the Hundred House Hotel as is traditional. Well, I also did it last time. Just afterwards are a couple of stiff hills. On the second, out of Stanford Bridge, a Toyota Land Cruiser with a license plate that read "KITTY" stopped just past me. A woman of about my age with a posh accent and a toddler in the back seat stated that I must be exhausted and offered to give me a lift. I declined as politely as my breathless state would allow. I didn't say that as I had beat the Highlands, I wasn't going to let Herefordshire beat me!

I got to Bromyard ahead of my ETA. John and Izzy were having a Paralympic tennis player to tea. Mrs. Plum, their Schnauzer greeted me with enthusiasm which was a shade painful as her claws scratched my bare shins! Nice dog though.

John and Izzy were their typical, slightly warped selves and I wouldn't have them any other way.

The next day, I visited Lower Brockhampton, a nearby moated manor house from about the 15th century. The moat was mostly a statement by the owner saying how rich he was! It was very strange to see the ancient woodwork. As well, the handout explained that the exposed half-timbers were limewashed instead of being painted black (as is generally the custom in that part of England) as the limewash allowed the wood to breath and dry thus preventing rot.

When I got back to John and Izzy, John was very interested in what I'd seen as he'd never been there despite it only being 2 miles away. One of his queries was which family had owned it! I couldn't remember as it hadn't interested me. Likewise, I hadn't a clue who owns Scone Palace much to his disappointment. John is highly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of British gentle families. He is also please as Punch to have an entry in Who's Who.

I stopped by the house of their son Ben who is currently not speaking the rest of the family for reasons that I don't have sufficient accurate knowledge of to comment upon. As luck would have it he, his wife Charlotte and Oliver, their youngest son, were there on a weekday. I hadn't been able to contact Ben ahead of time but he was happy to see me. We had a chat and a cuppa. Oliver was born a couple of months after my last visit. At that time, Ben confided in me that he and Charlotte had decided they would name the expected baby Oliver after an older brother of Ben's would died in his twenties having always been a sickly individual (blind among other things). However, as Izzy was pressuring him to do so, he was telling Izzy they were going to name the baby something else in order to tease her.

Izzy insisted on driving me to Worcester in order to catch the train back to Didcot. I accepted as I had acquired a couple of large books in Bromyard. By careful use of National Rail Enquiries website, I'd been able to identify a train that went directly from Worcester to Didcot.

Elly was just walking out the side door as I rolled up.  She greeted me with the news that her brother Justin and family would be having supper there the next evening. This was very good news as I hadn't seen Justin since 1990! Elly's daughter Caddy was back from her term at Oxford. She is frightfully bright and hardworking. Also vaguely embarrassed by her parents which is normal at her age (20).

The next day, I took the train into London and finally managed to see Westminster Abbey after three unsuccessful tries over twenty-three years! It was a strange experience as there are layers and layers of history to the place. It is final resting places of many great kings and queens as well many lesser kings and queens, not to mention a great many lesser men and women. Also memorials to many who weren't buried there. I got the impression of Victorian clutter. As well there was awe at being in the presence of the remains of figures such as Saint King Edward the Confessor, King Richard II, King Edward I (a.k.a. "Longshanks" and "Hammer of the Scots"), Henry's III, V and VII, Queens Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart a.k.a. Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I and Geoffrey Chaucer.

I wanted to buy a few things in London afterwards, however my progress was grossly slowed by London's Gay Pride Parade. A royal pain in the ass, especially in conjunction with London's somewhat convoluted street plan. I was quite worried about making the train I wanted back, but I made it.

Justin, wife Sophie, and children Anthony, Henry and Charlotte had arrived at Elly's before me. We had a lovely barbecue as the kids lost badminton shuttlecocks in the garden. Caddy was in the uncomfortable position of being the only one in her age range. Even more awkward for her was the fact that it came out that one of her future tutors/professors in Oxford had taught history to Anthony at his middle school or some such. His school is one aimed at the children of boffins or something like that.

I spent this morning packing and disassembled Leonardo. Elly drove me to the station where I caught a stopping train to Hayes & Hatlington where I changed for Heathrow. Along the way, I had Flanders and Swann's "On the slow train" running in my head. Before my next trip to Britain, I should load it into my iPhone. I should also do more in the way of prep work in loading data into the iPhone including the phone plan details. Also, I need to work on the balance of things.