Monday 24 May 2021

Unlocking the rails of travel

Travel in this day

The weekend past presented the first time I had travelled out of Manchester by train since December 2019, considering a friend had once said the places I visited the most in Manchester were the train station and the airport. I was always on my way out, though the year of lockdowns meant one was forced to explore and discover Manchester itself.

We donned our masks, socially distanced and we boarded the train and took up our outrageously priced reserved seats. The announcement throughout the journey to London suggested we were going to arrive late because of a fault on the line. We did arrive over an hour later and that meant we were entitled to a full refund for that leg of the journey.

In the look of things

Though as I have said before when I pay for a service, I would rather have the service than be compensated for the loss of it. The advent of Great British Railways in the grandiloquence of its name which is redolent of the symbolism that the government attaches itself to without effectiveness would leave much to be desired. We might even get it interesting if Michael Portillo who hosts an eponymous programme on the BBC was asked to head the new company.

The hotel I last visited sometime in 2018 had a welcoming concierge and reception, my room had been upgraded ere my arrival. The view from the 9th floor was a spectacle of the ancient and the modern of the means of transportation with the River Thames to my right and the railway tracks to the left, whilst across me were luxurious apartments probably bought with foreign money that has upended the London property market.

The River Thames to the right.

The railway lines to the left.
To Leicester we went

My plan to meet friends and the first opportunity to hug someone was as therapeutic as it was rewarding. Out to Leicester on Saturday morning, we found that the Fortnum & Mason café at St. Pancras International Station was not open even though I had called their customer services line to determine if it was. A family bereavement meant we could not meet with who we were expected to see in Leicester.

In trying to occupy ourselves, we made for the Leicester Richard III Visitor Centre which was closed that we were left with visiting the Leicester Cathedral which had a Gaia exhibition on that we were supposed to have registered and paid for, but the ushers made allowances for us to contemplate in a chapel before we looked around the exhibition and the cathedral and returned to the station for our journey back to London.

On returning to London, we shopped for teas at Fortnum & Mason before I walked back to my hotel on the Albert Embankment, probably in the wrong shoes and it took the best part of 2 hours.

Lest we forget

For Sunday, I had planned to meet my best friend of 37 years. We met up at Vauxhall station and walked up the Albert Embankment and just before the National Festival Hall, it began to rain. The wall of the St. Thomas’ Hospital facing the River Thames was a poignant memorial for the COVID-19 victims, red hearts painted for as far as the eye could see with names and inscriptions. This is what we must never forget.

The National COVID Memorial Wall

The National COVID Memorial Wall

The National COVID Memorial Wall

We took a cab to Vapiano on the Bankside had a meal before walking up the promenade from Tate Modern to pick up my luggage from my hotel and then began my journey back home which was not as peaceful as it could be as a lady literally spent the whole time on the phone. I got home just before 11:00 PM and that was the weekend done. Another friend had visited my apartment and cleaned it up in my absence, gladness and bliss. Life is good.  

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