A Day In Carlisle

21 Mar
The nave of the Carlisle Cathedral, Cumbria, E...

The nave of the Carlisle Cathedral, Cumbria, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for no blog yesterday – there was nothing quoz about it; just admin: I wanted to post about my trip to Carlisle but I had used up 99% of my photo allocation.  I had no time to write a post because I spent the afternoon playing Cyberman: Delete!  Delete! Delete!

It wasn’t a random trip to Carlisle – I went to visit Viv of Vivinfrance fame. For non-residents and geography noobs, Carlisle is not in France, and neither was Viv – she was in the north of England, visiting her daughter Sally and family for five days. You can read about our meeting from her perspective on her blog.

Sally gave me a choice of places to meet that were accessible by train, my preferred form of travel, and Carlisle was easiest and cheapest – £24 return on an Advance Saver ticket, but I had to travel on specific trains at specific times.

A week last Tuesday saw me up at stupid o’clock, when it was -4 outside, and leaving the house at seven-ten for the 7:37 train.  I changed at Preston, with a wait long enough to include a much-needed cup of tea.  I opted for a medium cup; it did not cool in time for me to drink it before it was time to board the train.  

Ever tried to use a station toilet wearing winter clothes, including gloves,  and carrying two bags and a medium cup of tea?  I don’t recommend it.  You can’t leave the cup outside in case someone drugs it or, worse, steals it.  

Keeping one hand, erm…un-used, in order to maintain the cup’s hygienic purity, resulted in contortions and grunts, and – once I emerged to see the long queue which had formed of irate people needing a wee before getting onto their train – disapproving stares.

After a pleasant journey in which none of the ladies from my toilet were on the same train, I finally disembarked into Viv’s cuddling arms at 10:46.

I had a gift for her (you can’t visit empty-handed; my mother taught me that): 


It is a packet of tissues.  Viv writes amusing and/or pained poems from wordles, or word clouds, with which she has a hate-hate relationship.  I thought she might find the packet amusing.

Don’t worry, that’s not all I took for Viv – I also gave her a packet in white.  We had a good laugh about it:


We visited an interesting bookshop, in which I was sorely tempted to buy English: A Course For Human Beings by Eric Partridge, but I was worried it might offend the next alien invaders to earth.

Viv then treated Sally and me to lunch in a friendly little place next door.


Here’s mine.  Yummy!  The filling of chicken and bacon was so large, I couldn’t finish it.  That must surely be a first.


After a long and chatty lunch, we visited Carlisle Cathedral, across the road.  Viv spotted this and said it reminded her of me after a large meal, snoozing in a corner:


Sadly, Viv and Sally had to leave at three, to be home for Sally’s son.  We walked back to the station; here’s the view from the station entrance:


Just out of sight is the woman who backed her car into a post as I was waving to my friends.  She made an ‘Oops!’ gesture and drove off without checking the damage.

Because of my ticket restrictions, I had almost four hours before my first train home.  I walked back to the cathedral because I had noticed a tourist information office next door.  I told the woman there that I had three hours to kill; what could I do?  She suggested the castle just down the road (literally – Carlisle is a small city).


Under the road in the photo above is a subway to access the castle.  It is like a mini-museum, with engineering artifacts and plaques.  Very interesting.

The photo below is of the subway, taken from the castle side.  The floor has names engraved in it, but I don’t know whose.


The castle is promising from the outside but is mostly a cluster of buildings inside.  I had a wander and I came upon an old man who watched me for a while and who must have assumed I was looking for the military museum which I didn’t know existed, because he said, ‘We usually close at four but I’ve turned off the lights already.  I don’t mind putting them on again if you want to look around the museum.’  He was so obliging, I accepted his offer.

The museum is small but fascinating, detailing the history of Cumbria’s Border and King’s Own regiments.

I haven’t seen this view of the trenches in a museum before; quite humbling.


The curator and I had a bit of a chat and then it was time for me to find something else to do.  Tourist sites close at four in Carlisle so I had a wander around the shops.  Did you know, every pound shop across the country stocks the same items?  Must be why they can sell stuff for a pound.

Fatigued by five, because I’d been on the go all day, I found a greasy spoon and ordered egg & chips and a mug of tea for me tea (for my non-Brit readers wondering about that last sentence, I’ve lapsed into my original strong northern accent, which I do when I’m tired or surrounded by other strong northern accents).

I was the only person in there and the owner disappeared into the back to (as he later explained, when I called him after spending a pleasant twenty minutes writing in my notebook in the silent shop) jiggle with his phone.


After me tea I made a slow, slow walk back to the station: partly to pass the time; partly because I was beginning to feel as old as my friendly curator of the museum.

There was a quiet waiting room at the station and I spent an hour reading, checking the electronic timetable.  The 18:46 Euston train from Glasgow was On Time…On Time…On Time…Delayed.   Uh oh.

Worried about my ticket and transfers, I found a helpful member of staff – by the way, I’ve never met a friendlier bunch of people; not one person I spoke to or from whom I asked help was grumpy or unpleasant.  I bet Carlisle even has nice bus drivers – and explained my dilemma: I had an Advance Saver ticket and had to get on specific trains at specific times (I put that last bit in for your benefit – the train man already knew how Advance Saver tickets work).

He told me he expected the train to be cancelled – it had hit someone.  It was an express train, so I’m sure it was bad news.

Darryl the Train Man told me to get on the next train to Preston, even though it was earlier than my ticket allowed.  He said that all the staff knew what had happened so I shouldn’t have any trouble and if I did, to tell them to call him at Carlisle.

The next train to Preston, where I was to change for Manchester Piccadilly  and then again for Stockport, came in three minutes later.  It was only once I was on that I saw it was going all the way to Manchester Airport, its penultimate stop being Piccadilly.  The nice female conductor not only gave me no trouble, she said I could stay on to Piccadilly and even printed out a new ticket to Stockport, to save me any hassle that side.

I arrived on Platform 13, in the bowels of Piccadilly at around 8:30 p.m.  A young woman with a toddler, a huge suitcase, a laptop and a large handbag was struggling, so I offered to take her case.  Her English wasn’t great so we walked together in silence through the extended concourse (besides, what do you say to a complete stranger who manhandles your luggage from you?), and I finally came up with a conversation starter: Are you going on?  

Sheffield, she said, and that was the extent of our chat until her grateful ‘thank you’s when I handed over her case; I don’t think she’d been convinced she was getting it back.  I wandered off in search of my 8:43 Stockport train – it was on…Platform 13.  I started to run as fast as you can run when you’ve been shopping, sightseeing, travelling and visiting all day, when I saw the Sheffield train.  I ran back to my young woman of the toddler and dragged her and her suitcase on to the right platform.  I told her not to panic because she had forty minutes until it left, then ran back again – really running this time – to the platform at which I’d first arrived.

I hopped onto my train just in time.  As we pulled off, the driver announced, ‘Welcome to the 20:43 train bound for Nottingham, calling at Stockport and…Sheffield.’


43 Responses to “A Day In Carlisle”

  1. slpmartin March 21, 2013 at 17:22 #

    In all, it sounds like a lovely day even with the delays…one always feels good at the end of the day when people have shown ‘random acts of kindness’.


  2. SchmidleysScribbling March 21, 2013 at 17:30 #

    A fun day with a good friend. Happy to hear you finally got a cup of tea. Do you think those sand bags did much good? Love cathedrals. Carlisle is one I have not visited. Dianne


  3. countingducks March 21, 2013 at 17:37 #

    What a lovely meeting. Shame about all the hanging about though. I know that’s very tiring


  4. vivinfrance March 21, 2013 at 18:09 #

    Phew! I’m not surprised you were exhausted when I talked to you afterwards. Next time we must find somewhere easier to meet – like Stockport or Cerisy la Salle! The story of your kindness to the strange young mother reinforces my opinion that I have a lovely friend!


    • The Laughing Housewife March 21, 2013 at 19:57 #

      Now, now! None of that! I only told the story because it went awry. I never mentioned the other 17 people I helped along the way, because I’m a modest chap.


  5. Katharine Trauger March 21, 2013 at 18:17 #

    Poor Dear! But it was worth it. And I’d love to be stuck on a train with you going in circles, some day. Oh, and they say the way to lose weight is to eat with fascinating people — you feel satisfied much sooner. 🙂


    • The Laughing Housewife March 21, 2013 at 19:57 #

      Oh, I like that slimming tip!


      • Katharine Trauger March 22, 2013 at 03:14 #

        You know, I meant, I’d love to be stuck with you on a train going in circles. Got my German cart before the horse! 😳
        And we could lose weight eating lunch? 🙂


  6. Elaine - I used to be indecisive March 21, 2013 at 18:26 #

    It sounds like it was a good day, despite the train problems. I’ve never visited Carlisle itself – it looks interesting. I must add it to my list.


  7. bevchen March 21, 2013 at 18:33 #

    I went to Carlisle in September. It was absolutely chucking it down!! The military museum was extremely interesting, though. And we had an excellent lunch at a pub.

    We got out just in time – the next day, Carlisle was flooded!


  8. laurieanichols March 21, 2013 at 18:57 #

    I feel exhausted for you. I’m so glad that you had a lovely visit with Viv and Sally.:) Your pictures are great, I especially like the one from the military museum of the trenches. My grandfather survived the trenches, it was horrific.:( The Cathedral is quite grand and the train station is so much prettier than anything we have in the States. I prefer historic myself. Glad you’re home safe and sound.:)


    • The Laughing Housewife March 21, 2013 at 20:00 #

      My great-grandfather was also in the trenches, I think. He was working class so it’s likely. I know he came back with shrapnel that stayed in his body and my Nan said he was a different man.

      That’s not the station; that’s the view FROM the station. I really liked it.

      The station wasn’t bad, though.


      • laurieanichols March 22, 2013 at 12:20 #

        Oh I see, nice view from the station. 🙂 It’s amazing that anyone survived the trenches. My grandfather was the only one out of his unit who survived being hit with mustard gas. He must have rallied because he went off and fought in the second World War. War is bad.


  9. gigihawaii March 21, 2013 at 19:36 #

    I am confused. Did you put the lady on the wrong train? How awful if you did. Glad you had a fun meeting with your friends. What an adventure you had!


    • The Laughing Housewife March 21, 2013 at 20:02 #

      Oh, sorry!

      No, she didn’t necessarily go on the wrong train because she was going to Sheffield, but the long walk turned out to be unnecessary 🙂


    • The Laughing Housewife March 21, 2013 at 20:02 #

      A few too many necessaries there; sorry!


  10. vastlycurious.com March 21, 2013 at 20:01 #

    What a great read plus pictures! It is very nice that you talk to strangers and offer random kindness- I try to as well- Bravo!


  11. Grannymar March 21, 2013 at 20:08 #

    A long and worthwhile day.


  12. kiwidutch March 21, 2013 at 22:48 #

    Tilly, my only beef with this post is that there could have been about 50 more photos LOL! (…you know me and photos)
    Looks like you had a fabulous time with fabulous people in a fabulous place.
    Viv sounds lovely!!!!
    You have a northern accent? (whatever a northern accent sounds like) I’m surprised because I just totally assumed you’d have a South African accent from your upbringing there. 🙂
    … btw the figure “taking a snooze” photo is priceless too!!!
    It sounds like a long day out but *totally* worth it.


    • The Laughing Housewife March 22, 2013 at 11:32 #

      Check my About page – born in Liverpool! I sound like the Beatles, but posher 😉


    • kiwidutch March 22, 2013 at 22:07 #

      Yikes I’m a slow learner! your comment had me very confused… I assumed that your “this is me” bit, WAS your “About Me so (red face confession here) never clicked on the “more than you wanted to know…” tag line because I never twigged that it was also a link.

      Since I figured out I’d obviously missed something from your answer to my question I clicked on your blog title (actually I missed it and thus found the More Information etc page completely by accident).

      I’ve read it now, so see the error of my assumptions: I just thought that since you posted some photos of you in younger days in South Africa that you must have grown up there. Mea culpa… now I know better.

      However I’m still struggling with the accent bit… I’m humming McCartney signing “she loves me, yeah , yeah, yeah” and trying to find the accent in that (failing miserably) … I can’t remember if I’ve ever heard him speak, I probably have at some point but in all truthfulness am too unfamiliar with the regional versions of Brit accents to have pinned any accent on him other than “British” LOL

      Ergo in my book that makes you “posh British… will that do?”


      • The Laughing Housewife March 23, 2013 at 10:41 #

        It’ll do nicely, thank you; but the real posh British will be offended 🙂

        Try this link:

        Jimmy Carr is posh. He makes fun of scousers (people from Liverpool). The accent is he puts on is pretty good. I don’t talk like that as such but I have a definite twang.

        Maybe I should do a post about it…hmm…


  13. restlessjo March 22, 2013 at 00:38 #

    Well, you did your best to be a Good Samaritan! Bet you slept well that night, Tilly.


  14. WomanBitesDog March 22, 2013 at 02:40 #

    Food pix making me feel hungry. Better go to bed dreaming of chips rather than eating them


  15. jmgoyder March 22, 2013 at 04:08 #

    What a day!


  16. benzeknees March 22, 2013 at 06:19 #

    That was quite the day! Did you put that lady on the wrong platform, then? Or would she have gotten to Sheffield sooner taking the other train.


    • The Laughing Housewife March 22, 2013 at 11:34 #

      I’m not sure, because some take longer routes, some are expresses, and so on. At least I was certain she would get to Sheffield because that’s where the first train ended its journey 🙂


  17. mairedubhtx March 22, 2013 at 13:31 #

    Thanks for the visit with Viv and the lovely tour of Carlisle and the story of the trains. I wish we had trains that were actually convenient. We have only only train that runs through here a day on its way to Florida. Nowhere else. They keep talking about building light rail to Austin and then on to Dallas and Fort Worth, maybe to Houston but I don’t think I’ll ever see it. It would be wonderful. I’d use it. So would a lot of people.


  18. timethief March 23, 2013 at 04:01 #

    Like you I frequently visit but rarely comment. I really enjoyed reading this post I wanted you to know that. You got to meet a blogging friend in person. Now that is super cool.


    • The Laughing Housewife March 23, 2013 at 10:36 #

      It is; and it’s not my first time but it never gets old.

      Thanks for letting me know that you visit 🙂


  19. sharechair March 24, 2013 at 14:44 #

    what a lovely day! I was paying close attention to your train adventure. Sadly we don’t have such excellent transportation choices here. Most of our train tracks have all been ripped up. Grrr. I live about an hour from NYC and Philly and can’t get a train to either. I’ll be in the UK in June and will be using those trains a few times … makes me a bit nervous since I don’t know what I’m doing. Delighted to hear that the train people are nice … I’m sure I’ll be testing their patience!! 🙂


    • The Laughing Housewife March 24, 2013 at 16:52 #

      Ooh…anywhere near Manchester?


      • sharechair March 24, 2013 at 22:36 #

        No, I’d be sure to arrange a meet if we were …That would be such fun, but not this time. We’ll be in London for a week, with a day trip out of town one of those days (haven’t decided where, yet). But won’t be heading north this trip. 😦


  20. bluebee March 31, 2013 at 04:48 #

    If we’re ever in ‘The Amazing Race’ together, you’re not navigator 😉


  21. sarsm April 5, 2013 at 16:28 #

    At least she would have got to Sheffield eventually!!

    All in all it sounds like an exhausting but interesting day.


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