31: Fall Out

Llandudno Junction

Llandudno Junction

They say lightening never strikes the same place twice…in fact “they” say a lot but I’ve yet to be told who “they” are? I feel that these “they” persons should discontinue their covert behavior and show themselves (or should that be “theyselves?”).

Well, on the old lightening thing I beg to differ…

It was a frustrating and annoying train journey that took the Pink Lady and I to Llandudno (Telling Tales 27: Arrival) and fate decided it would be an equally appalling journey that would take us home.

We finished breakfast at around 9.15am, finished any last-minute packing and then brought our bags down to the lounge. The Pink Lady wanted to have a last look at the sea front before we set of to catch our late morning train. I felt the old knee was up to that; and even if it hadn’t been I would have gone anyway.

Once back we said our usual goodbyes and not for the first time that week I noticed Mr Guest-House was a little subdued. This year he hadn’t seemed quite as friendly as the previous years; something was lacking. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But then, not everyone is up to salts all the time.

Once we said our final goodbyes we were off to the station.

To me it’s quite amazing that a train – in this case one that takes a 12-minute journey every half hour – that only has to go from Llandudno to Llandudno Junction and back again cannot be on time. Only two stops! Just two! Is it really too much to ask? Well, experience says it obviously is!

So, pulling along our luggage, the Pink Lady ahead as I struggled along doing my bad Long John Silver impression (sans parrot) as the knee was throbbing away…
After nearly two months I was getting quite fed up with the knee. It often lulled me into a false sense of security, made me think perhaps kit was going to be ok then pain…

It was the one hundredth time in the last few months that I made a mental note to get a doctor’s appointment once I got back home; I’d put it off long enough.

When the problem first occurred I thought – wanted to believe – it was a strained or pulled muscle. But having gone on so long without getting the slightest bit better, I suspected it was something far more serious.

It was with that in mind the old imagination started to kick in rather morbidly…

Most of us are aware that as you get older things don’t always work as well as they once did. Although throughout my younger years – right up until about my late forties – I gave it minimal thought; it was too far into the future. But what with the blood pressure and the very, very mild heart attack Dr Calm told me about back in the middle 00’s, I’d become a lot more aware of the fact that with each passing year things were unlikely to improve; I was passed my peak – presuppose I’d had a peak to pass.

The knee taking so long to heel was a point in fact. I’d pulled muscles before – one particularly bad case was due to Blackcurrant and Apple squash, although that’s another story. (No, really that is another story!) But most other muscle strains healed after relatively short periods of time; weeks rather than months.

I have never been someone who’s been into vast amounts of exercise like sport; even at school games was something I was expected to do rather than wanted to do. I hadn’t taken much interest in extra sporting activities out of school hours. However, one thing I’d always enjoyed was a walk and this was being hampered by the knee being so dodgy.

In previous holidays in North Wales The Pink Lady and I did rather a lot of walking. This holiday had been marred by me not being able to walk. I was getting to the stage where I seriously wondered whether it was ever going to heal!

Would this year mark the end of the Fitrambler walkies? Not being able to go much further than ten minutes walking distance from my house, no long walkies on holidays in North Wales, no long walkies while visiting the parents in Plymouth!

No long walkies anywhere!

It put me in the sort of depressed mood whereby I decided, that in my middle-fifties I would no longer be able to walk far; and whenever I did walk even the short distances I would have to take my walking stick. I felt it was far too early in life to be in possession of a walking stick; even thought it’s a rather nice walking stick! Although I suppose carrying a walking stick did have some advantages; one that springs readily to mind is accidentally prodding the flood of kids who crowd the early morning bus I needed to get me to work!

I was jerked out of my thoughts by the Llandudno Junction train finally pulling in five minutes late. The Pink Lady and I got on board. Fortunately, there were seats.

I let the Pink Lady choose where we sat. I would like to say that was purely out of chivalry, which in part it is, but there’s also something of a time-saving motive behind it. Nine times out of ten wherever decide to sit, The Pink Lady wants to sit elsewhere.

Once settle we waited and waited. Despite its lack of punctuality, it seemed in no hurry to depart. I was becoming increasing agitated and inclined towards a verbal expression of my unhappiness at what the rail company obviously loosely term as a ‘service’.

So, having pulled in five minutes late, it added a further five minutes’ delay and it was getting tight in regards to getting our connection at Llandudno Junction…

Finally, it pulled away and then informed us that the Deganwy stop was a request stop and so it wouldn’t stop unless requested. We were told this three times before we actually arrived at the stop. I suppose they were applying the rules so the lowest common denominator would understand; themselves…

I wasn’t the least bit surprised we didn’t get the connection we wanted. The one on which we had reserve seats; the very train that would have taken us through just over fifty percent of the journey without the need to charge hurried towards the next connection…No, that little pleasure was completely denied us…

So the result of all this was a free-for-all to get the bags secure and find somewhere to sit. Things weren’t totally against us as we managed to find seats despite the crowds. This was to be in my estimation the best part of the journey.

However, with regard to punctuality, this train performed no better than the previous one. We arrived at Birmingham New Street that, despite all attempts otherwise, always seemed cramped, dark and oppressive. My over active imagination convinced me you could make a good horror film at that station. I suspected, though, the station was such a depressing one that most people would deliberately fall into the arms of the mystery killer voluntarily!

I would probably rate Birmingham New Street as one of the worst stations I have ever had to deal with. It is a maze; even white mice have difficulty finding their way through it.

The Pink Lady and I separated and through mutual mis-direction by staff ended up with different ideas about which train to catch. The one The Pink Lady wanted to go on looked a little too crowded and I tried to say something but was given the look that would brook no argument from me.

So, wishing to avoid being slapped around the chops until my teeth rattled, I got on the train of her choice. To be honest, there was no guarantee the one I’d been directed to by the station staff would have been any better.
Unfortunately, the train we boarded wasn’t without faults – no surprises there.

There seemed to be only one coach which had several seats available; something that at face value seemed a plus. Quickly, though we found the carriage’s air conditioning wasn’t working. This meant sub-tropical temperatures for the journey.

I was prepared to risk that but The Pink Lady wasn’t, so we ended up in the corridor near the toilets; a convenience, conveniently nearby so to speak.
Within thirty minutes of the journey my knee was throbbing like mad and being near the toilet became less of a convenience. The Pink Lady was across the side which had a door and an open window.

Ten minutes into the journey…

‘You in the queue?’ I was asked.

‘What queue,’ I asked in return.

‘For the toilet.’

‘No, no, you go ahead,’ I replied.

It was one of those large toilets which you press buttons to get in, lock it and get out. Spacious though they are I have always been a bit wary of them. What it the electronics fail and the door suddenly slides open; there you are with your trousers down for all to see. Or worse, the door won’t unlock and you are trapped inside – in that sense they are almost as bad as lifts.

A few minutes later the guard came by with bottles of water which we secured a bottle each. It was the first drink I’d had since breakfast so even though warm, it hit the spot.

‘You in the queue?’ a voice said.

‘Sorry?’ I frowned, screwing the top back on my bottle of water.

‘The toilet? You in the queue.’

‘No, no I’m not,’ I replied.

The man moved forward into the toilet.

‘So you’re not in the queue for the toilet then?’ another voice said from directly behind me.

‘No, no I’m not. If I had been, then I would’ve gone in before the bloke who just did go in…’

The man sighed, shaking his head. ‘I’ve been bloody standing behind you for five minutes thinking you were in the queue for the toilet.’

A few minutes later the first man came out of the toilet and a few seconds later the second man walked past giving me a shake of his head.
Unfortunately, although in keeping with the type of day I was having, after the tenth time of being asked I rather lost it:

‘No, I’m not in a queue for the toilet! Perhaps I ought to get a tannoy announcement saying ‘the poor bastard with the walking stick, white hair and beard who has had to stand in the corridor where the toilet happens to be is not in a queue for the aforementioned toilet so don’t so sodding ask him ’.’

‘Alright, mate, alright. Just asked.’

He shuffled into the toilet looking as though my outburst had probably made it easier for him to carry out his business.

Over forty minutes later we reached Bristol Parkway, where after a wait we took the 18.01 to Swindon. Finally, seats and an uneventful journey back home, travel as it should be!

Just outside of the station The Pink Lady was picked up by her daughter. Feeling my knee can’t get any worse I walked the seven minute journey back to my house. Once home I felt I could relax a little and put behind me what must have been the worst holiday in North Wales since I began going there again in 2005.

There were some good highlights but most of what I knew would stick in my mind is my knee and the way it interfered with getting about.

However, the continuing saga of the knee wasn’t the only piece of bad luck linked to the holiday. When I received my usual Christmas Card from Mr & Mrs Guest-house it contained some rather bad news. They felt as we were regular guests we should have advanced notice that they were selling up; they were getting out of the guest house business.

This was rather a shock and very disorientating for old Fitrambler. I’d been going there ten years and it was hard to imagine staying anywhere else. Unfortunately, if we were to go back we would have to.

When I talked things over with the Pink Lady we decided we would miss a year. I still wanted to go back to Llandudno albeit staying at an untried Guest House or Hotel but there were rumblings that the Pink Lady would prefer using the closure of Audley House as prompt to try some other place.

When I think back to early 2005 when I was planning to have a holiday I planned on visiting all the places I hadn’t been to for many years, like Weymouth and Margate; the childhood holidays. Then I looked at Llandudno where Blameworthy and I went between 1981 and 1984. However, Llandudno was the place I settle for in 2005 and enjoyed it so much I returned for the next nine years.

I could see it was a good idea to try somewhere else but I also pined for a return to Llandudno at the same time. As it turned out it’s 2016 and we’ve not been back to Llandudno nor have we tried pastures new…

23 comments on “31: Fall Out

  1. There was a time I would have said William Trevor and Beckett were worlds apart. Trevor, for all his absurdist leanings in the early days, is a realist where Beckett is a militant pessimist. But they both share a love of economy in their writing and both make use of quite clever and subtle devices to undercut realism and banjax the reader.

    As for optimist v. pessimist, I am a realist who believes the pessimist more often correct than the optimist, though not invariably so. Worcester aside, nothing bad has happened to either of us. Yet.

  2. The natural world is entirely separate from the human dilemma; our sense of our own mortality excludes us from it. There is hope in nature but it’s not for the likes of us. The question remains whether false optimism is better than no optimism at all. Beckett is right not to muddy the waters with it; Hardy is more humane but often unrealistic.

    There’s an interesting essay concerning Beckett in William Trevor’s Excursions in the Real World.

  3. You have a point, of course, but there is what I might term ‘reasonable pessimism’ which is not laughable. A sort of pessimism that talks of the high probability of future unhappiness rather than of its absolute certainty. I love the laughable extremity of Hardy and Beckett at their most pessimistic but there are objections to be made to both which boil down to both writers weighting the scales to make the lives of their characters accord with their absolute pessimism. It’s especially odd in Hardy’s case because of the contrast between the unfolding tragedies of his novels and the beauty of the landscapes against which they are acted out. Beckett would, I think, have said that even these visions of the natural world allow the reader to entertain optimism and he felt he had to slam that door precisely because it is human nature to open and rush through it to hope.

  4. Oddly, since I find many of them leave me cold, I have a volume of Hardy’s Complete Poems to hand by my computer. When waiting for something (ask not what, sir) to download, I tend to return to poetry. I feel I ought to like Hardy’s verse better than I do; all those sing-song, tuneful verse constructions make me wince. Even his pessimism is so extreme as to be laughable, as in Jude the Obscure.

  5. I’m ashamed to admit that, being too lazy to dig out The Complete Poems, I Googled the title, safe in the knowledge that Robert Robinson – being dead – would be unable to correct me if I got it wrong. Apparently the poem is a translation from the French of an original Greek epitaph. I also came across ‘Ah, Are You Digging On My Grave?’ again, which contains a double dose of pessimism in the implication that bitter disappointment might even continue after death. I can only hope that Mrs. Sunshine’s dog buried his bone a little closer to home.

  6. Ah! (peers over top of specs, Robert Robinsonwise) I fear, Blameworthy the Elder, that you have slightly misquoted Thomas Hardy.

    I’m Smith of Stoke, aged sixty-odd,
    I’ve lived without a dame
    From youth-time on, and would to God
    My Dad had done the same.

    Fie, I say. Not to say tut. As Smith of Stoke would have put it had he Bob’s intellect ‘Would that I weren’t, would that I weren’t.’

  7. Reminds me of Hardy’s ‘Epitaph on a Pessimist’, GloomLaden, which I’m sure you’re very familiar with:

    I’m Smith of Stoke aged 60 odd
    I’ve lived without a dame all my life
    And wish to God
    My dad had done the same.

  8. Not that one can be buried in Radnor Street cemetery any more, of course. I suppose you could have your ashes sprinkled about the place following cremation, thereby helping the flowers along in the futile bid to continue the charade of existence.

  9. Funny how when contemplating being laid to rest we often consider our options in much the same way as we might if purchasing a somewhat less permanent home in which to reside whilst still drawing breath. Radnor Street cemetery has the benefit of a splendid view down across Swindon and even GloomLaden couldn’t fail to appreciate all those colourful wild flowers blooming overhead in spring as he relaxes six feet under. I personally, however, could never settle in the crematorium with the vibration from all that heavy traffic on the nearby A419 constantly disturbing my ashes.

    Despite these illogical musings on the subject of death I know in my heart that when
    I have finally passed over to the other side I must take a firm grip on reality and force myself to accept that, rigor mortis having set in below the waist, I shall have no need to make any further entries into my leather bound pedo-file.

  10. But I do understand. The blossom in the Town Gardens is one of the admittedly few highlights of my year. Less so the bluebells in the cemetery, though I did notice them the other day as I strolled through, yearning to join the residents.

  11. Steady on now, GloomLaden; have a heart! Those revelations shared whilst in our cups are best kept private amongst ourselves. Although, frankly, the opinions of funeral parlour minions are of little concern to me now, let alone after death. As long as that final journey into the fire is recorded accurately they can gossip to their heart’s content as far as I’m concerned.

    Despite the adverse weather conditions, me and my pedometer have been out this morning on a hike to Old Town in search of a new pair of secateurs from the hardware shop. These implements will be unfamiliar to you, of course, but to us keen gardeners they are indispensable. I had hoped for a pair which were capable of recording the frequency and intensity of my pruning but it seems these things are, as yet, unavailable in a small provincial town. I long for the Smart equivalent of the Swiss army knife; the digital iKnife perhaps, to record one’s every stab.

    15,000 steps in case you were wondering; perhaps I’ll go out again to knock it up a bit more.

    The blossom in Town Gardens was rather splendid.

    And the cemetery bluebells, of course.

    But, you wouldn’t understand.

  12. Careful, though, Blameworthy. Blameworthy the Younger, quizzed by the dismal civil celebrant you’ll doubtless favour for your send off, may respond to the question about your hobbies and interests to the effects ‘Oh, he became something of a pedophile in later years.’

  13. You should know me better, GloomLaden, than to suggest that, even in the latter stages of dementia, I might tolerate the use of a smart watch to measure my output. No, I’m confident my 1950s Regulator Clock Co. ‘Pacemaker 37’ step-counter will see me out. Its English Oak casing and cast iron fascia with oil-fired illuminated dial, built by hand in a Victorian workshop up a Whitechapel back passage, was made to last. The sturdy Hereford bulls-hide leather strap will hold it firmly against my arrhythmically pounding chest until the bitter end. I shall gain comfort from the gentle hum of its well balanced clockwork mechanism and the satisfying clunk of the wooden hands as they measure each step in perfect time with the grating clickety-clack of my loose and decaying hip joints. Following my demise, I shall expect Blameworthy the Younger to carry the machine alongside my coffin to measure my final journey into the Fires of Hell by way of the funeral parlour and in Larkinesque fashion:

    My pedometer will click and hum
    To the crematorium.

  14. Years hence, you’ll both find yourselves obsessively – if impeccably slowly – pacing the urine stained industrial carpet of some Swindon care home (blaring Vivaldi insufficient to blot out the screams and witters of other residents) in order to reach some futile, self imposed daily target. ‘Keep going, Mr Fitrambler’ or ‘Well done, Mr Blameworthy’ will issue forth from the mealy sub Saharan mouth of an inattentive care assistant as you shuffle ill advisedly on, your smart watches clocking up another pace and another and another and another and another and another and another and another… and another. . . . and another . . . . . and another . . . . . and another . . . and then the final step before the fatal fall, the step that is recorded by the smart watch but never by the man sporting it, the most – perhaps only – important step. Next of kin may pick up the smart watch as part of your ‘left off effects’. But will they take note of that final total? How you had (almost) trodden out the distance between Lands End to John O’Groats on the ruinous carpets between bedroom and dayroom? I shan’t know, being by this time longsince dead of a coronary caused by lack of exercise.

  15. And let’s not forget calories burned…
    And their equivalent in grams of fat.
    Direction of travel for each step;
    Wind speed and weather conditions;
    Brand of footwear and sock material;
    Blood pressure and body temperature;
    Heart rate and stomach contents.

    No pedometer record can be complete without these vital details.

  16. Oh dear, Gloom-Laden, perhaps Mr Larkin also did not envisage a world where his every phrase was used by others because of their lacking in words of their own with which to fence with others. To add further groans to your daily life, I not only record the steps taken each day but also how many miles that equates to. There is also a monthly total, and a running total…

  17. Oh, GloomLaden! Would that just a few of those eleven steps had been recorded after rising from your seat in order to walk to the bar of a public house in the act of purchasing a round of drinks.

  18. One is naturally reminded of Philip Larkin’s phrase ‘palsied old steptakers.’ Even he could not have imagined a world so bleak that its inhabitants would count up and remember the number of steps they had taken. For the record, I have taken only eleven since the Major government fell.

  19. Blameworthy Junior started using a pedometer app on his phone two years ago and has improved his fitness enormously as a result, losing a lot of weight in the process. He persuaded me to try something similar – albeit a much more low-tech version – and, by a strange coincidence, I first used it on 1st June 2015. Proving my own OCD credentials I have kept a manual note of the number of steps recorded each time I’ve used it. It hadn’t occurred to me (until now) to add up the total for the year. I’ve only taken it with me when going on longish walks of 10,000 steps or more and didn’t use it much at all over the winter. My total mileage is probably only two thirds of yours but it did include one or two twenty-mile-plus hikes last summer. The damaged discs in my spine still cause some discomfort so I don’t enjoy long walks quite as much as I once did. B The Younger has the edge on me in the early stages of a lengthy trek but I tend to grit my teeth and just keep pressing on in a somewhat surly fashion in spite of the ever-increasing volume of beer sloshing around in my belly as the day progresses.

    I suppose when one considers our advanced age and past experience we should both take some consolation from the fact that we can still put one foot in front of the other.

  20. My knee doesn’t hurt in the way that it did on that holiday or the several months following it. I’ve managed to walk home most nights between May and November last year; the weather being the only stumbling block. On a few days in July I managed to walk about 9 miles. As of Wednesday 4th May 2016 I completed my 1073 miles since 1st June last year. (yes, that last sentence proves I still suffer from a slight touch of OCD). I’m hoping to improve upon that between the same months. It will hopefully aid me in going from Fatrambler back to Fitrambler.

  21. Sorry to hear you’ve not been back to North Wales recently, Fitters, I know how much you enjoyed all those weeks you spent there during a period of well over thirty years. Thanks for putting my mind at rest by explaining why the holiday blog posts ceased in 2014.

    I can sympathise with you having to use a walking stick. When my back problem was at its worst we had a week’s holiday in Sidmouth which I was reluctant to cancel having never bothered with insurance of any kind. I had no option but to use a stick, which I had to hold with both hands in front of me. You know, the way really, really decrepit people do. I did not even have the consolation of being able to wave the stick aggressively at passers by because, had I done so, I could not have remained in a standing position. Being unable to walk as far as the seafront, I was forced to spend most of the week slumped disconsolately inside a variety Devonshire village alehouses. Oh, woe!

    Has your knee improved since that last holiday or might you have to consider a change of name being no longer fit enough to ramble?

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