I suppose I’d better get down to this. After all, I did stick a (part 1) on yesterday’s description of the journey North, and so I’d better fulfill the unwritten contract with my public (Hi, how are ya? Did you get the card I sent? How’s work?) and come up with a (part 2) to cover the rest of the experience. Actually, it’s not as interesting, but there you go.
When I left off, it was to wander round the corner to the bus stop outside Penrith Station to catch the bus to the Rheged Centre (pronounced Regg-ed, not Ruh-gged, as I’d previously imagined). There were absolutely no problems on this leg of the journey, which got me there with nearly ninety minutes to spare, but this was the Sunday timetable.
After I collected my ticket, I looked fora bite to eat. The Cafe was somewhat on the expensive side, especially for the filled rolls which were a bit on the upmarket side (i.e., more health, less common filling) for my tastes, so I treated myself to a roast beef in the Restaurant instead.
That made my second roast beef meal in three days, and boy they were generous with the beef. There was a genuine risk that I’d run out of other things to eat between hacking off large portions of beef, but it was superb. There was still time to kill, so I wandered around a bit and discovered that I have been maligning Clive Bratby slightly over his Third Edition Wainwrights.
You will recall that I have taken serious umbrage at his updated volumes being sold as Walkers Editions, but this has to be tempered somewhat by the discovery that the original versions – which have been maintained in the original, dust-jacketed format – have been rebranded as Readers Editions. It’s still a diabolical liberty, but it’s an arguably logical diabolical liberty.
For the second Sunday running, not only was I at the cinema but I was first one in, though Life of a Mountain – Blencathra filled up a lot more, and faster, than Captain America. The seating was one immense, tall bank, and I was in row G, practically central. This put my eyeline pretty much halfway up the massive screen, but the climb to get up there was almost as strenuous as getting to the top of Blencathra itself.
The audience was interesting (with the exception of the boring boor beside me). I’m not saying it was old but it was doubtful whether I actually got into the upper fifty percentile.
The Rheged Centra was an interesting place overall. It’s semi-underground, built downwards into the landscape, with a grassy roof that makes it as unobtrusive in the beautiful landscape as possible. It also had a brilliant wooden Children’s Adventure Playground that had me regretting I couldn’t drop fifty years and have a go on it myself. But what it didn’t have was a sign anywhere saying that it closed at 5.30pm.
Which was next to immediately after the Q&A with Terry Abraham, which made everything suddenly all of a rush. I wandered down to the bus stop and checked the timetable. There was a Keswick-bound bus due almost immediately but, thankfully, a Penrith service at 18.00. It meant a nearly thirty minute wait but so what? I wasn’t going anywhere.
And I nearly wasn’t going anywhere. It was still only 5.45pm when the lady came to shut the gate that the bus would need to go through to get out. There was no last bus, she assured me: they always shut the gate at 5.45pm. There was a rising tide in my voice as I protested this, drew attention to the timetable (‘extra services from 1 May to 30 October’). But they’re shutting the bus gate on the way in, she patiently explained.
I should explain that the Rheged Centre may only be two miles from Penrith, but at least half of that distance is a very busy dual carriageway with no pavements, and that this was nearly 6.00pm on a very sunny and hot day with my knees and it now being almost twelve hours exactly since my alarm went off and I was already awake…
And the lady was being politely unsympathetic to the nth degree and no doubt thinking why didn’t I just come in a car like normal people when my point was proven by the bloody bus turning up.
Except that it wasn’t, since the driver told me he’d only come in because he could see me at the stop from the main road at the top (thank Cthulhu I hadn’t still been sitting on that rock, below his eyeline) and he’d been told not to come in on the way back. And in case I hadn’t grasped what, after all, was a very simple and straightforward explanation, he told me this all over again. You only get it once.
All of which goes to explain why, when I got back to my Hotel, I didn’t head for the bar, with its Sky Sports TV, or the beer garden, backing onto Castle Park and the remnants of Penrith Castle, I hauled myself upstairs, lay down on the bed and basically didn’t shift from there all evening.
I was not totally idle. I constantly fought with the horribly unreliable wi-fi to catch up on the final day of this year’s Premier League (didn’t realise the significance of the date when I bought the ticket last November). Thankfully, all the issues were decided, so it didn’t matter, and United’s end-of-season was an even damper squib, thanks to the farce of the abandonment due to the discovery of an explosive device – which turned out to be a fake, left behind from the last security test.
I slept well and long overnight, but I’d overlooked that I needed to order breakfast, so I wandered over to Morrison’s Cafe and made do with a succulent apple tart wit fresh, local cream and a white coffee. My train was still not due for more than an hour so I pottered about, trying to avoid going back to sleep, and took up station at the Station in ample time.
Since the service had been on the move since one of Edinburgh or Glasgow, and was ultimately bound for Manchester Airport, there was a bit of a push for seats. I ended up on the wrong side of the carriage for the last views of the Lakes and a bit cramped from having to have my case in with my seat.
Consolation was to be had, sparingly, in the form of a young lady (thirtyish) sat on the other side of the coach. She was wearing a calf-length, dove grey midi-dress, with a slit to mid-thigh on the side facing me and, although she had rapped the fabric modestly about herself, as she shifted in her seat, and stretched out her legs between those of her husband, opposite, the lower part of the fabric kept falling away. Nothing untoward was revealed, but she had superb, long, slim legs that were a delight to glance at from time to time. Brought back a memory or two, actually.
The train was slow to pull out, and there were several sections where it moved leisurely or even halted, to the frequent consternation and apologies of its staff. By the time we reached Wigan Northwest, they were open in confirming that we would reach Manchester 31 minutes late, and thus be entitled to a refund on our tickets. They even handed claim forms out, though as I had nowhere to go but home and noting to do but nothing when I got in, I doubt I’ll bother claiming.
So finally it was Piccadilly (even though my ticket said Oxford Road, for some inexplicable reason). It not being after 8.00pm, my bus home was still running every ten minutes, not that I had to wait more than one.
And here I am, holed up and comfortable and already discussing the next day out, and meeting up with a mate in London to visit another Exhibition.
What a pity work has to spoil it all tomorrow.