Monday, 15 February 2016

Some travel reflections and getting out and about.

This weekend I paid a flying visit to our son's house. The occasion was a party to celebrate his little daughter's second birthday. By a masterpiece of planning I arrived just as the first wave of total mayhem had calmed down. Ten minutes or so prior to my arrival, eight or more very small children had been running round and round through the interconnecting rooms of the ground floor, squealing with glee and waving teddies and other toys in the air. By the time I got there, however, several mummies had whisked their little dears away homewards and the birthday girl herself had fallen asleep and been popped in her cot for an energy restoring nap! 

And so there was time for the adults to have a chat without fear of accidentally treading on a small person. Those small people who remained had settled for quieter activities (well, less energetic anyway) such as tipping the Duplo all over the floor trying to build towers. 

On my way there on the train, I had been amazed at how much sustenance some travellers need to consume. The couple opposite me went through a pack of sandwiches and a salad bowl with breadsticks to dip in humous. After a brief pause, the female of the pair leaned towards the male and said, in a quite clear voice, "Choc, choc, choc! Choc, choc, choc!" Whereupon he produced a large pack of M&Ms (whether peanut or chocolate, I could not say!) which she proceeded to consume, fairly quickly. 

Now, I realise it was only mid-morning and that they might have come out without having had any breakfast. I was, after all, drinking my second cup of coffee of the day on the train instead of at my kitchen table. But the "Choc, choc, choc!" incident left me queasily embarrassed. Many couples, indeed many families or groups of close friends, have endearing little terms or catch-phrases that they use among themselves. Most of us, though, don't use them loudly in public! 

Despite such trauma, I survived the journey, made my way to our son's house and joined in the fun and games, admiring his offspring and those of his friends, many of whom I know from the days of ferrying said son to and from university, more years ago than any of us will admit to. 

Yesterday morning we visited what remains of Berkhamsted castle, largely some bits of old wall, a mound where the keep would have been, a sort of hollow all around where the moat would have been (indeed photos on Wikipedia show the moat full of water) and a quite impressive well, thankfully covered with a metal grill with holes too small for any but the tiniest of animals to fall through. 

 My son assures me Berkhamsted is where William the Conqueror formally accepted the final surrender of the Anglo-Saxons. I have no reason to doubt his veracity. He has always been great fan of castles (designing them in great detail as a child) and he did study history both for A-Level and as one of his university subjects. Wikipedia suggests that the castle was built by, or at the command of, William's half brother, Robert of Mortain. There you go. 

Apparently I should have been able to see the remains from the train which carried me back from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly but Virgin's Pendolinos thunder along far too fast for you to pick out bits of castle wall, unless by some happy chance you are looking in the right direction at precisely the right time. 

 During my return journey I was not subjected to any displays of gluttony, although there was a snorer! There seems to be no way of ensuring that the stipulations of the "quiet" carriage - no phone calls, keep your use of electronic devices as unobtrusive as possible - can be extended to include a snoring ban!

Today dawned fine and crisp and cold with a bright blue sky. As Phil was off to a friend's house on an errand of IT-related mercy, I suggested to my daughter that she might care to accompany me on a walk round the local reservoir cum beauty spot. Too busy! Maybe another day! So I hopped on a bus and then walked round the reservoir on my own. 

My photos seem to have taken on a trees-against-the-sky theme but I have to say that I am not really bothered.


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