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…