Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A day of ups and downs, comings and goings.

Yesterday was a funny sort of day. As it was Monday I got up, as usual, at the crack of dawn to drive to my daughter’s house and deal with getting the offspring up and dressed and to school while she makes her way to Ormskirk for a day of university study. 

 Usually I then make my way homewards and have a late second breakfast with Phil. I then get on with this and that – reading the paper, doing sudoku, catching up with email and so on – until it’s time to go and collect the grandchildren and get them home again. 

Yesterday, however, I was booked to go and talk to Radio Tameside, handily based in Stalybridge where the small people go to school, about our poetry group at the end of the morning. There wasn’t time to go home from Stalybridge and back again in between appointments so I filled time in a variety of ways. 

First, being a good girl scout, I located the offices of Radio Tameside; it would have been embarrassing to be unable to do the recording because of faulty orienteering. Then I caught a train to Ashton, only about five minutes down the line, and looked for inspiration and possible bargains in IKEA. No bargains, no home-building inspirations were available yesterday. I did visit their food shop though and there I bought Peparkakor, which probably translates as ginger biscuits since that it what is in the packet. I can recommend these “ginger thins” (there we go – when did the adjective “thin” become a noun?) and buy a box whenever I visit the store. In fact, that was probably the underlying motivation in going there in the first place. 

After a leisurely stroll back to the station I caught the train for the return journey to Stalybridge. By now my old biddy’s bus pass was operational, although the first leg of my journey had only cost me £1. In our area train travel seems much better value that bus travel but the bus pass is, of course, best of all. 

I returned to Radio Tameside’s headquarters and watched the proceedings there until it was time to record my little interview. Quite interesting, maybe I should do this sort of thing more often. 

After that, I treated myself to a very inferior cup of coffee in Tesco’s cafe. I only went there because there is precious little else in Stalybridge centre and it was rather early to find a pub and go drinking alone. It really is time the UK started copying the cafe culture of Spain where killing time is far more pleasant, usually because the coffee is better. In between reading my book and doing sudoko, I listened in to the conversation of three ladies of about my age who had clearly planned to meet in the Tesco cafe: progress of the grandchildren, films they had seen, the difficulty of finding clothes you like, the inconvenience of getting to Marks and Spencer in Ashton and so on and so on. You really would have thought that they could have chosen a better location than Tesco’s cafe to have their reunion. No accounting for taste. 

Eventually, I walked up the hill to collect the small people from school. The sun had come out and, despite the wind, it was a pleasant walk. After an initial inclination to argue, both small people agreed not to continue with any unpleasantness and we had a very enjoyable walk down to the station where their older sister was waiting. 

She had already phoned and texted me a few times to see how long we were going to be and whether we had any chance of catching the early train. She clearly put a hex on that for we missed it by about two minutes. 

We were about five minutes away from the station when the thunder started, a low rumble across the now grey sky, a low rumble that went on and on. And then came the hailstones. We had to stop and get coats put of bags and hurriedly try to get three of us under a small umbrella. This delay probably cost us the early train but so it goes. 

By the time we reached the station we were rather wet and the rain and hail continued. If anything, the thunder and lightning were getting worse. Having checked that the early train had indeed been on time and that we had indeed missed it, I bought tickets for the small people for the next train and we headed for the station buffet where things suddenly got better again. 

 I have probably explained in previous posts that Stalybridge station buffet is worth a visit. It is in fact a pub that serves real ale and excellent food. If you are undecided about which ale to drink, the landlord will serve you a small sample to help you make up your mind. The walls are decorated with old railway signs and memorabilia, intermingled with railway related photographs: pictures of visiting royalty back in the 1930s, notable train crashes, famous engines making their way through the station and things of that ilk. There are piles of those old brown suitcases they people carried long ago, the ones that look as though they are made of pressed cardboard and ended up tied together with string. My father had one. Some of the tables alongside the walls are in fact old treadle sewing machines. 

On this occasion we ordered a bacon sandwich for my small and rather hungry grandson, hot chocolate for the granddaughters and one of his specialist lagers for me. While we waited for the hot stuff to arrive, the landlord made a fuss of us, putting the wet coats close to the fire to dry off, chatting to the children about the various artefacts and advising the “young ladies” that if they thought this room was nice they should go down the corridor and look at the Ladies’ Room, where ladies in the past could wait in seclusion if they so chose, unafraid of unwanted attentions from not so gentlemanly gentlemen. 

When the hot chocolate arrived it consisted of cups of very hot milk together with a spoon stuck into a block of what appeared to be chocolate spread: a do-it-yourself kit. The girls had to stir the chocolate into the milk. The boy was growing impatient but his bacon sandwich turned up at last with a choice of tomato sauce or brown sauce. The only problem then was ensuring that he did not wipe his fingers and his mouth on the sleeves of his school clothes. 

On the whole it was a fine adventure and not a bad way of spending the three quarters of an hour we had to wait for a train which arrived several minutes late (unlike the earlier train). Everyone thanked our host for his kind attentions. 

The eldest granddaughter now wants to go back with her camera. I feel another art project coming on.


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