millionreasons: (Default)
Arrive at Euston 90 minutes early, which is neurotic even by my standards. In the old days, it didn't matter if you missed a train, you'd just have to hang around for the next one, but now it would mean buying a new ticket and I'd rather wait in the smoking/commuter/eating area than murder/sigh at every trolley-wielding tourist who gets in my way after setting off too late. Railway termini are like St Mark's Square, you're bound to see someone you know sooner or later. I don't, but I do enjoy watching a few, then several, then many people walking around in green, blue, white, red boiler suits, looking for the George Stephenson (no relation) statue. It isn't until I see three beautiful forties-dressed women walk past that I realise it must be a Secret Cinema event. The boiler suits have Brave New Ventures stamped on them which proves my theory correct. The commuters/smokers/eaters pay little attention. Mancs and Lancs jabber on their mobile phones: "I'm outside caffay nee-raw, can't y'see me?" and a man barks at his wife whilst canoodling with their small dog.

Fortunately, Virgin's failure to mark the reserved seats has failed (on Virgin, success is only ever a failed fail) so I can sit down without having to eject a Crewevian or Rugbyite out of my seat. The train is full, everyone fleeing the jubilant city on a four-carriager. In the toilet is a notice explaining that Virgin will aim to ensure that these toilets will conform to a high standard of cleanliness. Why not just "Virgin will clean these toilets "(preferably by Branson on his knees using his beard). There's also a poster warning potential cabling thieves about not stealing cables. I'm not convinced cable thieves would be on the trains rather than the tracks, but there y'go.

David has gone to Barcelona, I am going to Wigan. Tapas vs butter pie, Sagrada Familia vs Wigan Pier, Montserrat Caballe vs George Formby. The George Orwell connection. Out of the window, I can see England: country churches, oilseed fields, Roman ruins in Berkhamsted, the Grand Union, saplings, narrowboats, caravans, rabbits, shorn sheep, a watertower at sunset, optimistic photovoltaics on a roof. We speed through Milton Keynes, Litchfield, Tamworth, middle England, escaped pigs, marginal seats.

Arrive at Richard and Rachael's and eat an Eccles cake before sleeping the sleep of someone who doesn't sleep very well at other people's houses.

Crimson and clover
We set off on a four mile walk which rapidly doubles in length, through the Fairy Glen (a waterfall-laden wood), across holey fields, past clover-munching cows, a detour up a hill for a view and an ice-cream, and onto the canal, before stopping for a late lunch at the Rigbye Arms. I take a photo of the perfect English vista: all misty hills, green and grey countryside, fields, hedgerows, a spire - it probably remains unchanged since the Enclosures Act. Coming back down, we can't find our way out of the glen/wood so end up doing half the walk all over again before trudging to Appley Bridge and then what seems like another 40 miles to Gathurst where we collapse into bhajis and paneer at the Baby Blue Elephant Indian restaurant.

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Crosby is finger-freezingly cold. We manage five minutes with the Gormleys before rushing back to the car where R&R have an ice-cream from a van situated pragmatically opposite a truck selling tea, coffee, soup and hot Bovril. England's adaptability. 

They're beautiful though (the sculptures, not the catering vans).

They watch each other out to sea.

Apparently, people dress them up, like the Mannequin Pis, although nobody's thought to put a hat and scarf on them today. If you look slightly to the side, you can see them shivering out of the corner of your eye.

We drive onto Formby where there is a National Trust managed forest and, allegedly, red squirrels. 15 have been spotted today. It is pissing down with rain and we don't see any; presumably they're all watching the Thames flotilla on TV in their dreys. We manage about 10 minutes in the wood before scampering down to the sand dunes (and salty air) of the beach which feels more like January than June. I want a jumper and some gloves. Still, there are plenty of people out dog-walking and strolling.

Back to the railway station for the train to Crewe. Because Beardy Twat (Branson) wanted £72 to come back on a Sunday, I did the Guardian Money advice thing and split my journey. This means I either have 12 minutes to change at Crewe or 90 to wait. If this were Germany, France, or even Spain or Portugal, I'd go for the former option and probably have the time for a stand up kaffee/café creme/café con leche/galão as well. But this is England, so I go for the long wait. Except the Wigan - Crewe train is delayed, so have to wait 25 minutes in the rain. The British railways are just one long lone of unheated waiting rooms, awful Pumpkin cafes, rain-strewn delays and failed seat reservations. George Stephenson would be rolling in his fucking grave. But when I get there, Crewe station is rather nice - the waiting room is warm and, bizarrely, Virgin have provided free wifi (which they don't on the trains) Loud children are absent because this is the last train of the day. The train manager hands out jubilee sweets (not quite the promised at-seat massage, but still) and we roll into a rainy London a few minutes early. At the bus-stop a Chinese woman stands with a a life-size cardboard cut out of the queen. Two Nigerian women ask if they can pose for a photo with it, to which she acquiesces. This is England.
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Friday: To Euston with [info]commonpeople and his amant [info]wink_martindale to Amy Lamé's Unhappy Birthday. I have met Ms Lamé before when Fosca did a live set at GLR and she was very nice. Unlike, say, Eddie Izzard, she's kept her 'outsider' status, she's still the first female drag queen, "lesbian trapped inside a gay man's body", whilst going into the mainstream (mayoress of Camden, radio show with Danny Baker etc), so I suppose I thought it would be a night of amusing tales from a Moz obsessed raconteuse. Instead, it was a rather dark journey into the pitfalls of fandom. With audience participation, selected by pass the parcel. As well as complaining to Ollie about my back pain and sniffles, I mithered beforehand that I do not do audience participation. Even as a small child at a panto, I would not run on the stage to do the "it's behind you" thing. As well as crippling self-consciousness, I believe if you've paid a tenner to see someone perform, they should do the performing. Anyway, the night is staged at Amy's birthday party in which she invites Morrissey, he doesn't turn up, she runs around in a manic-depressive kind of way, cutting her hair, snogging an unsuspecting member of the audience, making an eau de Morrissey (tea, armpits, hairspray), removing items of clothing, and listing 30 ways in which Morrissey has ruined everything - from the sublime ("Increasing the numbers of cross-dressing members of the clergy") to the ridiculous ("making David Cameron seem cool"). The audience participators seemed mostly happy to fling gladioli around and get covered in lipstick and cake so it's possible that the sound guy stopped the music at people with a little more exhibitionism than me, but it still seemed an odd thing to do considering the shy and retiring nature of most hardcore Moz fans. It ended with a prayer to the Mozziah and a jolly sing along of This Charming Man. I enjoyed it, but I was mostly terrified and also, traumatised by Amy taking a delicious looking red velvet cake and smashing it to smithereens. That's just disrespectful.

Saturday: To Shoreditch Grind for a cuppa and in the evening to a work colleague's 50th birthday bash. I am far too young to be going to 50th birthday parties and I should definitely not have to witness 50 year olds shaking their booty to Salt 'n' Pepa's Push It. Still, a good time was had by all, especially by those who hadn't been out for 5 or 6 years.

Sunday: To Hackney Wick to do a Hidden City "treasure trail" that was a free offer in the Guardian. To my chagrin, unlike the last one we did on Christmas Eve, we did not get any free hot chocolate or mulled wine, but on the plus side, who says Londoners are unfriendlyl? Three people asked if we needed help whilst we were peering at the text message clues and one woman offered to help me carry my bike up steps. Oh, and a charming canal-side drunk asked me if I were entering the cycling in the Olympics. But we didn't get to finish it because David decided he had to take his bike to London Bridge for a service.

Monday: A traditional bank holiday jolly up to the Royston cave in Hertfordshire. We arrived a little late and so had to go to the pub whilst the previous group did the tour. On the way there, Allan, now living in Devon, remarked that he didn't know why people live in London, citing police cars, noise, dog shit etc. On entering the pub, I remembered why. The place had no tea, coffee, juice or beer. People glared at us. I've got too used to nice places. Later, we found a nicer pub with squishy sofas and the ubiquitous fairy lights and bar snax, so please go to the Green Man if you ever find yourself in Royston, and not the Coach and Horses. The cave is great, it was discovered in 1742 and believed to have been four hundred years old at that point. It is full of carvings: Jesus, St George, the Holy Spirit, a sheela-na-gig. It was like staring into a fire or at stalactites, you start to see your own things: a teddy bear, a skull, Munch's scream. As with practically everything old, it was probably a haunt of the Knight's Templar. The original entrance was sealed with a millstone, but is now outside Ladbrokes under a grille. We knelt on the pavement looking down at those still inside. People in cars stared at the idiots on their knees. In the pub, Allan told us a story about the government exporting double decker buses to Cuba in the 60s on a boat which sank. They tried to re-float it with ping pong balls which escaped, floating down the Thames. We go home on the train, a golden cloud break over the fields of oil seed rape.

millionreasons: (hackney)
I've never been anywhere from Fenchurch St station before. I was quite excited.

Rachel's Fenchurch Facts
  • It was the first ratilway station built in the City of London
  • It is the only mainline Central London station with free toilets
  • It is the only mainline Central London station without a tube station
  • It is quite cycle friendly, with a lift to the platform and guards who open the luggage gates wilingly (take note, evil djinns at Liverpool Street)
  • There was a church nearby called St Gabriel Fenchurch but it was destroyed in 1666.

Down to the shore, the trees and the slipway

Anyway, we travel to Leigh on Sea for a sunny Sunday out. Leigh is allegedly the second best place in England to live after Christchurch in Dorset. I've never been to Christchurch in Dorset but Leigh seems very pleasant with its own nature reserve, the misnamed Two Mile Tree Island, a folly on a hill, a vegetarian cafe where we lunch and, instead of a promenade, an esplanade that we cycle along, through Chalkwell, Westcliff-on-Sea onto Southend where an airshow is taking place. People seem very keen on aeroplanes in Southend; they have set up camp (literally, with tents) on patches of grass to watch planes doing loop the loop. Our train was packed with people travelling from Upminster and Benfleet to visit. I suppose there's not much else to do in Southend except eat chips, have a couple of kids and then eat some more chips. Parents take pictures of their under-10s handling replica guns at the army recruitment tent and on a police motorbike at the police tent. There are loads of coppers around; perhaps they expect a fight between the Avro Lancaster supporters and the Spitfire fans.

As for the rest of the weekend - Saturday, I spent spending my birthday tokens (not as much fun as when you're 11) and bought some Prestat chocolate and some very sharp knives. I'm not sure which pleased me the most. We also had lunch in Mooli which, in addition to serving tasty food, gave us some free poppadoms as it was our first visit. I hope they don't have very good facial recognition (for our next visit).

Monday, we took a constitutional around the marshes, seeing very few people in an hours worth of walking. I like it when Londoners leave.

For fans of Lost.

January 2017

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