Not quite planes, trains and automobiles

I haven’t flown recently but car, bus and train have featured.

The hire car worked very well. As usual I wasn’t bothered by the traffic – just got very stressed when trying to find my way. “Services” are wonderful. Didn’t buy petrol at any of them and sandwiches only once. But to consult maps … many, many times!! At Leicester Forest services I saw a great number plate: MI5 ROX
I finished up driving about 1,300 miles before handing back the vehicle.

The best of the car journeys was when I was a passenger. When staying at Clenchwarton the lovely Andrew chauffeured me to some old churches I wanted to see in villages with names that varied on the Burnham theme. We also drove a lap around Sandringham, one of the Queen’s places. Her Maj didn’t invite us in for a coffee – rather bad form I thought, travelling from the Colonies to the Mother Country as I have! We also went to the Walsingham shrines. Very interesting if not my style of religion.

On the buses …. the red double decker is a London icon. I’ve been on a few since arriving in London but the best bus was many miles away. The Unchanging Jennie had organised a special outing. About 20 people travelled from Northallerton to Whitby and back again on a bus owned by one of the ringers: a true icon, an old RouteMaster – the sort where you could grab the pole and leap on while the bus was still moving. A real no-no these days. Those on board had great fun and heads turned all along our route, taking in towers at Stokesly and Guisborough. Whitby was a tower plus fish & chips. Yum!
I had been to the cliff top at Whitby before when I did a five-day tour with the Benedictines of Ampleforth, In the Footsteps of the Northern Saints. If anyone had suggested back then that one day I would ring the bells in that church I’d have said they were crazy. The moral: Never say never!!

The trains have been many and varied. After returning the car, training from Luton Airport to London – dead easy but pretty standard. The Tube – no need to worry about timetables, another train will be along in a minute. And if the line is closed at the weekend as some are (like Sydney, that!), there’s always another route.
The most fun was the steam train from Toddington to Cheltenham Racecourse, with lunch in Cheltenham to break the journey, so to speak. That was made truly enjoyable because Rosie, at 3+a bit, was old enough to take it all in. From being wary of the monster engine at first she became interested and instead of being scared by the awful hissing noise of the brakes, putting hands over ears became a game … one that I joined in too, I might add! Rosie and I were joined by her dad, the inimitable Mark, and her little brother Luke but unfortunately her mum Catherine had to work.

The extravagance was Eurostar – London to Paris in 2 hours 20 minutes!! What a smooth ride. Take a tip though: don’t get a seat at a table. You’ve only got extra leg room if no one is sitting opposite you – as on my trip over. On the trip I had the legs, knees and feet of a very tall man to contend with and had considerably less room than a regular seat has. Of course, Paris meant The Metro too.
It’s hard to know why Melbourne has spent mega millions on reinventing the wheel – and failing! – when both London and Paris have automated ticketing that works!!

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