Tag Archives: Travel

The £50 Sausage Roll

27 Jun

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I guess it’s up to me to start the ball rolling…two weeks ago tomorrow, I met up with three other bloggers.  You may recall my anxiety about it and your endearing replies, to wit: Stuff ’em if they don’t like you; we do and that’s all that matters.

Terribly sweet, thank you; if a little unfair to three lovely bloggers who would have written the same thing, I’m betting, if it hadn’t been them I was meeting.

Back to the ball: don’t you think it’s peculiar that we are all bloggers and yet no one has written anything at all about our day?  I can’t decide if it’s:

  • Fear of what everyone else might say so they’re exercising a little caution i.e. waiting for someone else to go first, to check if what they’ve written is nice/nasty/sweet/flattering/boring/complete lies, and then they’ll reply accordingly
  • Idleness
  • That they’ve been far too busy with their real lives to write about me, me and more me
  • That I didn’t provide enough Maltesers and now they’re punishing me
  • That they are still recovering from the horror of it all
  • Something else.  What do you think their something else could be?  Answers in the comments, please (bearing in mind that all three bloggers will read what you’ve written, so be nice/sweet/flattering/tell complete lies)

The day began, as all of my days seem to begin lately, with a train.  Specifically, the Stockport to London Express (similar to the very first express train journey in the days of steam from Stockton to Darlington, only not as fast).

When I booked the tickets (which is to say, every so often I would say to the Hub, ‘Have you booked my tickets yet?  Better get a move on; I’m going next week.  I wish I didn’t have to keep reminding you.’  And he would reply, ‘I will; just as soon as you tell me which day you’re going and what times you want to travel.  As I keep asking you.’  Such a nag) the Hub suggested I travel First Class as a treat, because they had an offer on: £96.  I could do First Class, I thought, Sure; why not?

Turns out, I can’t do First Class.  Not both ways, anyway.  And not even one way, I suspect my fellow passenger was thinking fifteen minutes into my journey.

I arrived at the station early enough to catch the previous Stockport-London train if I hadn’t bought an Advance Saver ticket, which is the only way I could afford to travel First Class.  I had to wait for the train  I was booked on, but this sign made me giggle for the time I had to wait:

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The train arrived; I ran to the back coach to board, terrified I’d miss it (hence the fifty minute wait at the station).  Horror!  A man had put his briefcase and jacket on my seat!  What to do?  What to do?

There’s this whole British embarrassment thing going on, you see, that says if someone behaves inappropriately on a train, you have to ignore it and not make a fuss.  It is best exemplified by an apocryphal story from back in the days of British Rail.  

***BRIEF WRITING HIATUS WHILE I LOOK IT UP ***

I was going to tell it and I thought I’d Google it because I’m a dreadful storyteller. That is, I’m dreadful at telling stories; I don’t tell dreadful stories.  I hope.  I tend to wander off down random alleyways, like Ronnie Corbett on acid, and this post is supposed to be a five-minute read; but clearly isn’t.  I don’t want to make it even longer.  

When I Googled the story, I discovered it’s actually true!  And, unfortunately, a little too blue for a family blog, so you’ll have to click on this link if you want to know the story.  And you should click on the link, because you’ll never read a more accurate example of true Britishness.

So there I was, British and embarrassed, but I had paid for that seat and First Class is a rare treat so I blushed from the hair on my head to the hair on my toes and whispered to the gentleman that I thought he might have – excuse me – put his belongings on my seat and would he mind terribly…?

He did not mind, being British and horribly embarrassed at his very public solecism; and he stood up to let me past (no squeezing past because this was First Class and there was tons of room) to my window seat, moving his belongings out of the way.  We smiled politely without making eye contact and then ignored each other as much as possible.

I got comfortable: Kindle out – hardly read a page when oh goodie! the tea came round – oops! forgot to message the Hub that I’m safe on the train – and should I message Al that I’m on my way?  Yes, because I’m really excited – get bag out – phone out – message them – put phone away – bag away – oh, wait – wanted to write something in my notebook – get bag out – put Kindle away – get notebook out – put bag away – write three lines in notebook – get bag out – put notebook away – get Kindle out – put bag away…and so on.  Then breakfast was served and I swear my neighbour had a mini-stroke.

I wish I was joking.  Sadly, I’m not: I am that annoying passenger you wish hot tea would spill upon.  I assure you it’s not deliberate; it’s nerves.  I’m an anxious – and therefore fidgety – traveller.  Sorry about that, multiple strangers I’ve annoyed in my lifetime.

To be on the safe side, I ordered something I could eat with a minimum of fuss i.e. no cutlery, so it was two overdone sausages on a dry roll instead of the full English I’d have ordered if I hadn’t been A. embarrassed at how irritating I was and B. worried that I might cause the businessman to have a heart attack if he had to sit through my sideways fidgets on top of everything else.  DSCN0148

The roll was dry, by the way, because I’m not used to being posh.  When I buy something on a bread roll from a shop, for example, I just expect the roll to be buttered, because it has never not been buttered.  The Other Half, however (and how I was wishing by this point that I wasn’t discovering how they lived), are offered butter and thus choose to have it on the bread roll or not, according to their dietary needs, I suppose.  Unfortunately for me, a surfeit of choice from some people having more money than sense means that ordinary working class women are left ignorant when offered butter and think it is extra butter and don’t want to betray their ignorance of the Ways of the Rich or their own on again-off again diets and so decline the extra pat which turns out not to be extra at all; just simply all.

And of course, being British, when I discovered I was down one butter pat and would have to eat a dry roll or ask for butter after all, I chose to eat a dry roll.

That drama over, I looked up from my half-eaten breakfast (would you eat an overcooked sausage on a dry bread roll?  Then stop judging me) and made the truly appalling discovery that there only five passengers in the whole coach…which meant I had made a stranger move his things for nothing!  

I wanted to crawl into that leftover bread roll and be served on a platter to The Giant Embarrassment (I believe you’ll find him in a fairytale about sex and trains and cigarettes), who eats idiot working class English women for breakfast.

I apologised profusely to my neighbour and then made him move so I could move to the other side of the table and stop crowding him with my blush.

I settled down to read.  Had a cup of tea.  Wrote in my notebook for a bit.  Read some more.  Drank tea.  Wrote some more.  Drank tea.  The nice thing about travelling First Class is all the free tea.  What I didn’t like was being asked to use the same cup again.  I’m a bit of a diva that way so I owned my temporarily elevated status and insisted on a clean cup each time.  As there were so few passengers, I used all of the clean cups around, to the side, and behind me.

Then my table mate asked for a second cup.  

Guess who had used all of the clean cups…?  

Kill me now.

When the train pulled into Euston two hours after setting off, I was seven pounds lighter from all of the nervous sweating I’d done.  No wonder my fellow passenger did a runner the minute we stopped.

But he did wish me a good day; he was British after all: there’s no need to be rude to the aggravating hoyden who took all the space, drank all the tea, fidgeted, unnecessarily moved him twice and – worst sin of all – left crumbs on her seat from her dry breakfast roll.  Why not use butter like ordinary people?

First Class…it’s not for me.  As I discovered when I obsessively checked my ticket before returning home that day: First Class had only been booked one way; the train company website had been rather vague when I booked my ticket and I hadn’t noticed that the home ticket cost £23 to the outward journey’s £73; which meant that my half-eaten and unappetising breakfast had, in effect, cost me £50.

I had to travel back in standard class instead of First.  I’ve never been so relieved in all my life.

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More to follow on the lovely day I had with my fellow bloggers; but the post will probably be considerably shorter.

 

I Went To France And It Was Closed

29 Aug

Some things I learned on holiday

Six Word Saturday

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French People Take Holidays, Too

A Jock-in-the-bush

A Jock-in-the-bush

I went to visit VivinFrance and her lovely Jock – as in Jock, her delightful Scots husband, not jock, her meathead athlete; though he could have been a meathead athlete in his day, I suppose: he did once play ice hockey in Canada.  

The trip was organised fairly last minute but Viv had some ideas to entertain me: a poetry workshop with two of her writer friends; a meal at the excellent restaurant in the village; shopping on Saturday.  

Unfortunately (for me, not them; I have nothing against the South of England, honest), her friends went to Cornwall as I arrived in Europe; the restaurant closed so the owners could take a holiday (at the height of the summer season: the French have their priorities right); and Saturday was a public holiday, therefore many shops were closed.

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My hosts are lovely people

I didn’t really learn this on holiday but I need to shoehorn in the fact that when I went to bed, I found a box of fudge under my pillow, called Mrs Tilly’s.  

I was too tired from the drama of flying alone to take a photo of my delight that night, but here’s a dramatic re-enactment from the next morning:

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I like to go with the flow

France being closed didn’t bother me – I was with my dear Viv and we read poetry (some), talked poetry (more), critiqued poetry (a lot), wrote poetry (a little).  We managed visits to a supermarket and a hardware store that I thought was a supermarket (schoolgirl French never covering le tool shop), as well as the fulfillment of a childhood dream when I entered a pretty boulangerie-patisserie straight out of a French text book drawing.  I bought elephant ears, a French biscuit.  First introduced to me by blogger Laurie, who sent her home made version from the States, I have long wanted another go at them.

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Nostalgia is weird

On our daily walk into the village – There was fighting on this street during the war, Viv casually threw out; as if the French also have lots of history.  I thought it was only us Brits – we popped into a corner shop and I spotted and had to purchase a box of Maizena!

If you don’t know, I lived in South Africa for fourteen years and learned to make gravy with cornflour – Maizena, a popular brand.  If there was any other brand of cornflour, I never saw it nor bought it.  Even now, nineteen years later and back in the UK, the grocery list often says ‘Maizena’ instead of ‘Corn Flour’.  Of course I had to buy a box.  Probably the oddest souvenir I’ve ever had.  But I don’t care – Maizena!

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French folk are funny

DSCN3782Viv, her lovely friend Annette and I rested during a trip to the seaside (I don’t think France wanted to meet me – even the tide was out).  A man on a bike shouted as he passed, A kebab of old people!  It was funny once translated, until I realised that I was part of the kebab.

I wouldn’t mind, but I don’t think he was really French: he was on a bike but he had no garlic, onions, beret, baguettes or striped shirt.

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Goats and lemurs get me going

DSCN3828We had a trip to the zoo: Zoo Champrepus.  Say it aloud; it’s fun, especially with the French rising inflection.  I haven’t stopped saying it since I got back. It’s up there with ‘giggle’ and ‘hitch’ as one of my favourite words.

Our first stop was to feed popcorn to the goats and I was chuffed when a goat stood up against me to make sure he got his fair share i.e. all of it.  It was the highlight of my day until we visited the lemur enclosure at feeding time.  The animals wander around amongst the visitors, who are not allowed to touch them. However, they are allowed to touch us.  One cutie pie, deciding he hadn’t been given enough, stood up against my leg, wrapping his adorable little paws around me and giving me his best Puss in Boots from Shrek impression (previous post refers).  I’m in love.  I haven’t felt that aglow since my wedding day.  In the zoo shop afterwards I bought a lemur cuddly toy, lemur keyring and whatever lemur else I could find to remind me of my new favourite animal.

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The little fellow who won my heart

The little fellow who won my heart

French food is the best

Viv and Jock fed me well, including Jock’s homemade Waldorf salad and Viv’s (drool) garlic lamb; but the culinary highlight had to be a trip to their favourite restaurant with some old friends and a bottle or three of good French wine.  

Viv translated the menu (which had no prices listed; need I say more?) but I had no clear idea of what I was ordering; I just trusted it would be good and it was, more than good, viz. photos below:

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DSCN3800DSCN3806Talking of wine, I couldn’t drink when I first arrived in France (surely a crime against nature?) because I was on antibiotics for an abscess, but I made up for it come Saturday-Wednesday and spent a lot of my time tipsier than the hour before a flight.  I don’t think my hosts noticed, apart from the night I sprawled across their couch, giggling uncontrollably at re-runs of M*A*S*H.

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Flying ain’t so bad if you know the pilot

I’m terrified of flying.  Mostly, I’m afraid of take-off; once I’m up there, I’m committed and, as a pragmatist, I relax enough to loosen my seat belt to Victorian corset strength.  Due to the aforementioned antibiotics, I was unable to have a fortifying beverage on either of my outward flights (to Exeter and then Deauville).   I compensated for my unusual sobriety by taking deep breaths, praying really hard, and singing hymns quietly (don’t want people to think I’m nuts; terrified is enough) in the spirit of Whistle a Happy Tune and I Have Confidence.  Musicals are good for more than Saturday nights in bed, you know.  I could have sung Nearer My God To Thee but I opted for Lord I Lift Your Name On High; it seemed appropriate.

It wasn’t so bad coming back because I still had my pickle on thanks to Jock’s single malt; and on the Exeter-Manchester flight I was delighted to find myself sitting next to a FlyBe pilot (one of six dotted about) who had been on a course, and who flew the route regularly.  I bombarded him with questions – How can this thing even take off?  What happens if one engine fails? Why don’t we crash?  When you’re a passenger, do you judge the actual pilot on his technique? – and he gently slapped me about the head with facts, figures and common sense.  He added to his goodness by pointing out landmarks I’d never have spotted, such as Blackpool Tower (you know, that great big pointy thing with delusions of Frenchness) and allowed me to enjoy the first flight I’ve ever almost enjoyed.  And I was sat by the window – not a matter of choice; I always ask for an aisle seat so I can be one of the first off the plane when we inevitably go down.

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Families suck

TB: Did you miss me?

Hub: No, not really.

TB: Why not?!?

Spud: We didn’t have one cross word while you were away; and everything got done.

Hub: Yeah.  We came to the conclusion that you’re a stress head.

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I was going to tell you about the romantic thing the Hub wrote to me while I was away, but I don’t think I’ll bother now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll pay my own way to the moon, thank you very much.  When it opens.

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