Train Dramas: Your Adventure Starts Here

Your Adventure Starts HereI now have a new travel worry.

I have often feared that my very ordinary black suitcase – even with its red ribbon – might be taken by mistake, leaving me as once did happen with someone else’s entirely unsuitable clothes.

Now Matthew Parris has provided me with another anxiety. He wrote recently in an article in the Times that his suitcase – apparently bright yellow to avoid such situations – was not actually stolen as such. It was however opened by some children on the Matlock to Derby train. Woefully unsupervised by their over-relaxed parents they had opened his case and gleefully rifled through his clothes tossing everything out into the carriage.

He discovered his underpants festooned on the luggage racks. Matthew makes light of it but to my mind that could be the ultimate humiliation.

Our latest railway drama was nothing like that, fortunately.

Derby Station is being entirely revamped, with new platforms, new tracks, and new signalling. Progress comes at a price, and East Midland Trains have been meticulous in warning everyone about all the inconveniences such as lines being closed, bus replacements etc.

But however efficient, they couldn’t warn us about the latest blip we experienced one very sunny day recently. John and I were going down to London to see our growing family down there.

The Matlock to Derby TrainWithin ten or so minutes of boarding our lovely Matlock-Derby train, we stopped at Ambergate for an unnaturally long time. Peering out of the window we saw our driver standing by a little cupboard type box on the platform, talking animatedly on his mobile phone.

Eventually the conductress came round to explain that there had been an incident on the line out of Derby, where an engine had caught fire. Emergency services were helping passengers to disembark onto the tracks and as a result no trains were running for the foreseeable future.

What to do? Passengers in a hurry rushed off to try to find a bus (unlikely) or hitch a lift (possibly even less likely) and soon there was only John and me left. We sat on the platform in the sun and waited. And waited…Fortunately we didn’t have any deadlines so were quite relaxed.

Our lovely crewThe lovely train crew rallied round in a most heartwarming fashion. The driver found us a bottle of water from his cab, and the conductress offered to share her lunch. Eventually John overheard her pleading with the powers that be that they had an ‘extremely elderly couple’ who were in urgent need of a taxi to Derby.

A taxi did eventually arrive and we were very efficiently transported to Derby where we were hustled into the 1st Class waiting room and when trains started running we were escorted onto a 1st Class carriage. The rest of the journey passed without hitch, and in some comfort.

And I end with an amusing but absolutely true incident. A couple of weeks ago we had been down to Kent. As we boarded the train taking us to London Victoria John spotted a notice warning that there were no accessible toilets on the train. I reassured him that that must mean no ‘accessible’ loos. The train was crowded, it couldn’t possibly mean simply no loos.

Not so. We soon were informed by public announcement that indeed there were no lavatories at all on the train. If anybody was in serious need, the train would stop at the next station, and would wait while an attendant on the station was found to accompany this poor passenger to the station facilities. We did stop, and we did wait a while but as far as we could tell, no one had had the courage to take up the suggestion.

So, three bits of advice I have taken on board: keep an eye on your luggage at all times, pack with care assuming your case contents might be exposed to one and all, go to the loo before boarding a train…

Never mind worrying that the train might not move at all.

‘What a Way to Run a Railroad!’

We went to London last weekend.

I was intending to write a joyous post, telling of Swan Lake, baby granddaughters and other real delights. But our journey (“It’s Your Journey. Love it!”) home almost blotted out all our happy memories, so please forgive me this miserable National Rail rant while I get it off my chest… Continue reading ‘What a Way to Run a Railroad!’

Happy 2018 to Us All!

Our favourite robin
Our Crown Cottage Christmas Robin

Happy 2018!

It feels as if 2017 has been and gone in a flash. That is probably just as well as no one wants to linger long on all the dismal events facing us in the news daily, not to mention Brexit, Trump, terrorist and physical disasters. As far as the wider world goes, let’s hope 2018 goes by in a happier flash. Continue reading Happy 2018 to Us All!

Downsizing Dos and Don’ts

As most of you know, we are (still) in the process of doewnsizing. It isn’t something done in a twinkling, because buying a smaller house is only part of the story which also includes lowering one’s horizons, downsizing one’s lifestyle.

Crown Cottage July 2017But that first, visible part of the process we have achieved and mostly happily, with the purchase of Crown Cottage, so we keep being asked for advice by friends who may well be looking for polite excuses not to contemplate the idea any further.

Anyway, here goes with some personal and far from expert thoughts that may or may not be relevant because very obviously everybody’s situation is different. So much will depend on personal priorities of health, family and financial situation and of course personal lifestyle but the general How, Where and When may apply to all.

MAKING COMPROMISES. Before we start, It is worth pointing out an awkward obvious. Many compromises are called for. If you are lucky enough to still have a partner their priorities may surprise you, and be rather different from your own. It is no good making decisions that one of you is never going to be happy with.

WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES? Town or country? Two cars or one? What possessions can you do without? Do you still want to have friends to stay or perhaps you may like an excuse not to? What will their needs be if one of you is left living on their own? What are your children’s thought?

WHEN TO DOWNSIZE? Being practical/pessimistic, I’d say, do it sooner rather than later, while you are still in full control of the situation. Downsizing is difficult, physically and emotionally, even when you’re basically fit and healthy. You really wouldn’t want to be doing it feeling old and frail, or because circumstances had forced it, through ill health or bereavement, and none of us knows what is round the corner.

My sister Ruth’s devastating stroke at 70, when she was still fit, healthy and full of life and far from ‘old’ was my wake up call, and the realisation that we had to face a very reluctant decision to move from Orchard Farm, a big(ish) house and garden and two very successful holiday cottages all of which we loved, while things were still going really well.

HOW TO START DOWNSIZING? Having thought long and hard about your future needs and priorities, the first big step is selling your current house. Don’t start looking for your new one unless you can afford to buy it before you’ve sold your existing one otherwise therein lies inevitable disappointment and despair.

Make enquiries about good and reliable estate agents. They aren’t all either good or reliable; if you don’t know any ask friends and contacts for recommendations. We were very lucky to be able to choose one whom we already knew slightly personally who proved to be totally honest and upright and who guided us wisely throughout the whole process.

In our case initial tentative enquiries to local estate agents about valuations and a possible sale in a year or two led unexpectedly to a very quick sale, wonderful in many ways but handing over a successful holiday cottage business and packing up 30+ years of accumulated clutter in a few months was a nightmare.

A mountain of cardboard boxesWe simply couldn’t have done it without significant help from our young, and the many friends who at the end were physically wrapping and packing things up for us almost as we moved out.

WHERE TO MOVE TO? Next, you need to think long and hard about where you hope to move to. If you have family, they need to be part of the discussion because the time may come when you may need to rely on more support from them, and they will inevitably be busy people with demanding lives of their own.

If you’re lucky you can stay in the area where you already live. Your network of long term friends is important. It isn’t always easy to make new friends in a new place and it can take a while to feel accepted. And embarrassing as it may be to acknowledge it, driving may become a worry or a real problem eventually, so really you want to be within easy reach of a doctors’ surgery, shops and public transport and, ideally, a support network of good long term friends.

Crown Cottage gardenWHAT SORT OF HOUSE? The really brave may consider a retirement home, or a small flat. We couldn’t face that, as we felt we had to have a garden, even a tiny one, and we wanted still to be able to entertain friends and family. We made a clear check list of essential needs, and of course the house we fell in love with meets very few of these! It does have a lovely little garden though.

HOW? Fitting the proverbial quart into a pint pot doesn’t work.
We know, we’ve tried and failed.

Decluttering...Selling, giving away, charity shops, auction houses, car boot sales, Mari Kondo, skips, skips and more skips… This needs – and will shortly get – a whole blog post on its own.

I hope that gives you a reasonable idea of what to expect (or reject!). Good luck!