Trains, Boats and Beerz

It’s been a loooong time since I let the train take the strain. Apart from holidays abroad I guess about twenty years. So I was looking forward to getting down to the London Boat Show via Bristol Parkway and Paddington, meeting up with half a dozen sailing mates and wives. I wasn’t looking forward so much to London itself though, as the last time I was there it was dirty, smokey and crowded with people and traffic. That was less than twenty years ago but has to have been at least ten. It was an altogether excellent weekend. Although you might ask me again when my credit card statement comes in…

It started with a low point, at Parkway Station, at five or so and it was getting dark. Not being familiar with the long term parking I went to the pay point and pressed the friendly big green button. A screen lit up saying swipe card, and so I did, only then to find I had paid for one nights parking; every button push incremented the period, but with no lights in the vicinity I’m made a bad call. My credit card was down £4.50 and I still had to swipe again for the full weekend.

Still, the train was on time arriving and leaving, and we found three free seats right away. The lady next to us was pleasant, foreign and welcoming. Once the train got going she went off to the buffet car and returned with an individual bottle of wine which smelled so good when she opened it that I nipped off and came back with two for us! At the first stop, Swindon, the announcer made his call and she looked up and said ‘I suppose that means this isn’t the Birmingham train then…’ Well we enjoyed our wine; I fear she had to abandon hers and dash off. I hope she got home eventually.

London was amazingly different to the last time I was there. Red Ken, like him or no, has made a vast improvement to the place. Congestion charging is a controversial tool, but the traffic (and I accept this was a weekend) was virtually non-existent. The roads were also clean, the people friendly and the pubs not much more expensive than out here in the sticks. I could be persuaded to go back. The hotel we stayed at, The Sanctuary House Hotel was in the heart of the City and very comfortable. It also had a fine public bar underneath it, which we … er frequented hugely.

On the Saturday morning we were bemused to find the whole of the Broadway, right outside our bedroom window, congested with young girls and a few haggard fathers. The queue stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, and must have been more than a mile and a half long. It even zig-zagged into the small cul-de-sac side roads, and went around the corners at either end of the Broadway. Coaches kept pulling up and disgorging more and more girls, who looked at the queue, sighed, and went to find the end. It turned out they were all auditioning for just one part in the next Harry Potter film! Thousands, just for the chance of getting that part. Apparently, they had started queueing on the Friday. I hope fervently that miss never gets the idea that I might stand in line for anything at all for that long…

The Boat Show itself was a little underwhelming, and I think Southampton still does it better. Although on the waterfront, there was next to nothing actually moored there apart from HMS Grafton – which I had no wish to clamber over, and half a dozen gin palaces. Nevertheless, we made a good day of it and negotiated a few charter possibilities for the summer. I managed to avoid spending much. I nearly bought into some trendy looking neoprene sailing boots (which I probably ought to have bought for the upcoming and freezing cold Brass Monkey regatta in the Solent this March) but cleverly fell into the Guinness ‘tent’ instead. I also picked up a few leaflets for wind generators. I have ideas of erecting one atop the house to see what I can get out of it – perhaps my computing at least could go green… Then back to the hotel and oh my word is that the bar bill?

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