Tag Archives: travel

Lime & Lemongrass My Way Through This Summer

This was I post I wrote back in 2018…but it feels like summer again here in the UK, so I thought it was time to re-publish.

Summer started at the end of April here in London.  We had something miraculous: a sensational bank holiday weekend, during which we all rushed out in shorts and flip-flops and came back sun-burnt.  I think the British are renowned for talking about the weather.  It is hard to not pass a comment on the changes in weather.  It doesn’t seem long ago since we had the most snow we have seen in about eight years.  Apparently there are scientific, geological, meteorological reasons why the weather in Britain swings one way to the next some times even within a 24 hour period.  I am one of those shrewd types that took a brolly in my bag even on those blistering hot days we have recently enjoyed.  We like having a bit of a chitchat about the weather…it is an equalizer.  Rich or poor we are all effected by it. 

We don’t even have the extremes of weather many other lands seem to face.  We are too small and seem to be in a location that keeps our weather reasonably mild on the whole.  We never feel we receive quite as much sunshine as we would like.  But still…we should not complain.  We should count our blessings – should we not! 

Well, my tastes change entirely from winter to summer.  I like my warm comforting treats throughout the winter.  A steaming bowl of soup, a traditional favourite (vegetarian version in my case) cottage pie, hot pot, stew and dumplings, roast dinners, hot chocolate and yummy sticky gooey naughty puddings…(bad, bad, bad – we must keep reminding me!!!)

But now it is summer, I couldn’t touch any of that.  With the increase of temperature, the winter duvet goes to the dry cleaners and then into storage and the summer duvet appears, I unpack my vacuum packed summer clothes and put them into my wardrobe and the winter woollies are packed away. 

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My taste-buds are transformed entirely.  Salad, lots and lots of salad, with the occasional new potato salad creeping onto my plate.  Fruit…I like to mix red fruits together…strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries….and then I don’t seem to tire of lemon and lime, and also tropical fruits, mango, pineapples, kiwi.  I don’t enjoy them anywhere near as much during the winter months.  But now, I crave them.  I drink litres of water each day.  My occasional treat has changed from hot chocolate (last winter I went through a whole tub of white hot chocolate flakes) to fruit cordials or pressé.  This year I have a favourite.  I may have given it away in the title of this post.  If in doubt, please see the photo below.

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So refreshing.  I have it with chilled water a lot.  Or this evening, I diluted it with zero sugar lemonade.  My treat for these summery days when I have had an excess of water already.

I finished one bottle last night so I have just been to the supermarket on the way home to buy some more.  I had my tablet with me… (Do you know I have never bought a phone or a tablet in my life?  Every phone I have had was someone else’s hand-me-down and the tablet I have I won.  I filled out some test-your-knowledge cards relating to training booklets I had to complete at work in order to obtain some certificates for our staff training folder.  I waited and waited for certificates and none came.  I sent an e-mail to the course providers asking them about certificates and then I received an e-mail to say I had won the monthly prize drawer and they would send me a tablet.  Bizarre.  It took three more months for those certificates to arrive.)  …anyway, I used my tablet to take some photos of the cordials I buy for a summer treat.

When I came upon the shelves all the bottles were out of order, so I spent a few minutes straightening them to be able to take a pretty picture for your benefit.  They must have wondered what I was doing.  I did go through a bottle of ginger cordial during the winter actually.  I usually have elderflower cordial every summer.  The lime and lemongrass is a new choice for me and I am very happy.  I think I may try the elderflower and rose soon though.

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Now on the subject of treats.  These are treats for me.  They are a bit pricey compared to some of the other cordials on the supermarket shelves.  But please don’t judge my indulgence until you know a little more about me.  I have never owned a house, though I have always had somewhere to live.  I have never owned a car, though I am a driver and have driven various vehicles many thousands of miles for work purposes.  Most of my clothes have been hand-me-downs or I have bought them from charity shops.  I do buy new shoes and new underwear though.  I have never spent money on buying a phone, though I do pay for my own credit – £10 per month means I have hundreds of free text messages.  The tablet, I mentioned I won.  I am on my fifth hand-me-down laptop in seven years.  Before then I didn’t have one.

Woman, Luggage, Baggage, Back

Essentially, my life is extraordinarily simple.  My belongings would fit into a suitcase.  I am only mentioning it because I feel a twinge of guilt buying cordial that is twice the price of some of the other cordials on the shelf.  But it is my treat.  I am on the whole very prudent with my pennies and I hope I am not too heavily under the influence of the commercial system…but hey, we all have to drink and eat and we all need a few pennies to buy the things we need.  I am disgusted by the economic extremes this world allows for.  Of course it will fail.  Any economic system that allows for shocking monopolies and shocking poverty is utterly doomed.

I grew up thinking we were poor, but then I travelled.  I saw the world through new eyes.  I had no idea that so many millions had no access to the things we consider as basic, an electric shower, a flushing toilet, a refrigerator.  Ever since I had the opportunity to do some travelling, I have tried not to be sucked into the treadmill of consumerism.  I have remembered the beautiful men and women I met who lived on one dollar a day and knew more about life than many with far more possessions than they have.

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That is one good reason why every teenager should travel to a country with a very different economic make-up to the one they grew up in…(I mean a country where there is not such an abundance) it is a huge education in reality.  An education in what really matters.  An education in appreciation.

I wish that everyone was able to have equal enjoyment of this beautiful planet.  Equal responsibility to look after it and preserve it, but also equal enjoyment of it’s richness.  When I am enjoying some pleasure – and there are such an abundance of delicious food and drinks available, I remember not all have these pleasures.  I can’t wait for the day when this earth is how it should be and the human family – every single one – are happy and healthy and have everything they need and some extra treats too!

Imperfect I am indeed, please don’t judge me too harshly in my choice of a treat.  I truly tell you lime and lemongrass cordial will be my indulgence this summer.

Panic After A Pickle With A Portuguese Man

It was not only in the accommodation I was living in that I was having challenges that came from men who did not seem to realize how uncomfortable they made me. I published this post a while ago, but it describes an incident that occurred during the time I was in my first “tied-accommodation” post and facing almost daily harassment:

I had a little incident with a man today.  I was in a bit of a pickle and I panicked.  Now, I am wondering if I over-reacted, and I feel bad.  You can judge me…it’s alright.  I am aware that I did not handle the situation perfectly.

I had just jumped off the tube when a stranger brushed against me and then immediately apologized.  I replied, “No problem”.  As we came down the steps he was looking at me and smiling.  When we reached the end of the steps, he put his arm forward and touched my arm and said “this way”.  I was just a tiny bit freaked out.  He would not know why I have reason to react awkwardly to a stranger touching me.  I looked at him and clearly told him “no thanks”.  I very deliberately walked the opposite way straight into the newsagents within the station, WHSmith, even though I didn’t need to buy anything.

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Once I was in WHSmith, I looked at a few items I sometimes pick up on my travels.  I decided there was no point buying anything right there and hoped now I could just carry on with my journey.  As I was leaving the shop, he was standing there in front of me.  I may have been imagining it, but he seemed to be watching me.  He smiled at me and said “Hi”.  I said “Hi” and walked out with a very quick pace.  He had not done anything terribly invasive, but for some reason, he had triggered my panic buttons.

I walked through the barriers and then did a U-turn to head up to the busiest part of the street even though that is not where I was headed.  I just needed to know there were other people around.  I had panic running up and down my spine telling me not to go anywhere isolated.  I was walking so quickly that my silly little shoes kept sliding off my feet.  He ran up beside me and he asked me if he could have some shelter under my umbrella.  I gave him a look which I thought said “not on your nelly!” which he did not seem to interpret correctly.  (Now I was starting to feel trapped).  He asked me to walk with him towards the bus station.  I told him I was going the opposite way.  He said that was fine, but he carried on walking with me.

portuguese tartsHe told me he is from Portugal and asked me if I had ever been and would I like to go.  (I have many Portuguese friends and know a few Portuguese expressions but did not tell him anything.  Even my sister Mandy has learnt enough Portuguese to have conversations about art and order a few pastéis de nata when we are in town together.  We even have Portuguese connections through marriage.  Our Helen married a very handsome Portuguese man and then when his best friend came over from Portugal for the wedding he met one of my best friends Laura…and it was happily ever after for them too.)  I was not liking the attention from a complete stranger so I did not respond to his questions.

He decided to ask me where I was from.  I said Liverpool – that is where I amUmbrella from, although I have not lived there for over ten years.  He then put one of his hands on my umbrella very firmly.  He asked my name.  I was starting to feel very threatened.  His grip on the handle of my umbrella was so strong.  (Maybe he wanted the umbrella and was not really interested in me.)

I told him that I knew he was just being friendly, but that I was not comfortable sharing any more information about myself, because he was a complete stranger.  When he objected, I just confirmed it was a no saying, “I don’t mean to be rude and please don’t take it personally, but this is the world we live in today”.  He told me that although we were strangers he would like to get to know me.  He asked if he could take me for something to drink or eat.  I cried “no thank you, I am headed to meet friends”.

He asked me if I was going shopping.  I was starting to get a bit frazzled.  He offered to hold my umbrella for us so I could rest my arm.  Again, I declined, “thank you but I am going inside now anyway.”  My umbrella has a button in the handle that pulls it in, so I clicked it.  He said he would like to talk to me until I met my friends and maybe we could go for a drink another time.  He then asked me my name again.  I felt like crying, “I am sorry, but I have told you I don’t feel comfortable simply because you are a stranger.”

I saw two security guards in big hi-vis yellow coats and ran towards them.  I didn’t say anything to them.  I just stood beside them until the man who had been walking with me backed off.

I know I have a very good reason to be nervous around men I don’t know…but do you think I was rude???  Do you think I over-reacted?

There is not much I can do about it now…I am just feeling a bit unkind.  Yet at the time I really wanted to get away from him and he did not seem to pick up on the vibes I was sending out.  I thought I was making it very clear that it was a no!  I was saying no and he was not listening.  He just made me feel more and more uncomfortable.

I know some women would not have minded, they perhaps would not have felt as threatened as I did.  It’s just after that night in the park, I have panic buttons I did not have before.  He triggered them all.  I ended up feeling like a hedgehog or porcupine with all my sharp needles bristling!  It is funny because my lovely Goldfinch was a complete stranger when I met him, but he did not make me feel uncomfortable.  He certainly did not trigger any of my panic buttons.  Aaaah, Goldfinch…I forgot I was going to tell you about the lovely day we had together on Wednesday.

I am not going to let myself brew on this one.  Perhaps the Portuguese stranger was a lovely man.  I did not feel comfortable though.  For whatever reason, I had every right to say “No thank you!”, just as I did with my workmate in “Icky Sticky”.

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What a shame this is the world we live in.  I really don’t like feeling as if I have been rude to someone, but in this world, there are times when you have to be on the defence, cautious and you have to flee to a point of safety.  When you are in a pickle that makes you panic…just run to safety.  That is one of the reasons hi-vis jackets were created…for moments when a stranger crosses the line and we turn into damsels in distress.

(Thanks hi-vis jacket designers…these are my go-to whenever I have a panic moment!)

One Epic Day on The British Rail Network

I mentioned in another post that whilst working in Notting Hill I had caught my head on the underside of a sink and subsequently, bruises had appeared all down one side of my face. When I was attacked most of the injuries I had received were from blows directed at the same side of my head as the bruising. The incident at work aggravated my injuries. I was taken to hospital where I had a CT scan and was told I should rest for several weeks. So I had to go back up north to stay with family and recover. I wrote an e-mail to Stuart telling him about my journey:

I had to travel across the country after being told by staff in hospital that I needed to rest up. What a journey! I made my way up north and my sister Milly and her husband travelled down to London to collect my belongings from the house in Notting Hill where  had been living. I am so glad I did not have to drag a suitcase across the country with me. I was in a bad way. I made the journey confidant that if anything happened to me train staff or members of the public would call emergency services. Hours of wondering in my head “Are we nearly there yet?”

The most memorable events I will tell you of – read them at your leisure – this is just me prattling about people I crossed paths with.  The good, the not so good, and those I kind of hope I will never be stuck in a train carriage with again.  I will start with the worse and it will get better.

So starting with the tube journey on the way to catch a national train that would take me up to a hospital in the north.  I was sitting in a corner of the carriage.  A man boarded, he must have been in his forties.  He headed towards me and had the audacity to wink at me and blow me a kiss.  I turned away.  He plonked himself next to me.  Maybe ignoring him was a mistake because he then whispered into my ear “sexy”.  I just shook my head and turned away again.  He was quiet for a couple of minutes, but then nudged me and said ” sexy ” again.  I put my hand up and said “do you mind!” There were plenty of passengers so I felt safe.  But then a couple of minutes later he put his hand on my lap and said “sexy” again.  This time I jumped up and went to stand near the area for prams / wheelchairs.

coat.jpgAnnoying!!!!  Was he mocking me?  The thing is, I was wearing a knee length pencil skirt, woolly tights, flat court shoes, coat, scarf – all proper and modest nothing about my appearance suggesting I would be open to attention from a man on the prowl or an utter fruitcake.  Or maybe he just wanted my seat and was trying to get rid of me?

Annoying!  Maybe you are one of the many who have been made to feel super uncomfortable by a complete stranger presuming to behave inappropriately in a public setting.

Now I had to face the train journey across the country.  I had insisted I could undertake the train journey alone.  Several family members had kept insisting they would prefer to drive all the way down south and then take me up north in their car.  That seemed such a waste!

7.08am I boarded the train with a large flask of super strong coffee.  But a group of seven, all men accept for one brave girlfriend sat near me.  They were on their way to a footie match.  I overheard that they were planning sightseeing beforehand.  From the moment they sat down it was apparent that they were breakfasting on Foster’s lager.  One of them!!!!   In his twenties, vibrant ginger head, beard, very loud and prolific with his use of the most colourful language imaginable.  Sometimes I am shocked by the language people use in public, even when little children or the vintage generation who surely are deserving of more respect are present.

I was already nauseous, groggy and exhausted.  I knew he could make the journey a nightmare.  The conductor came to check our tickets.  I went over and said to this lad “excuse me, I really don’t mean to be rude, but would you be so kind as to make your language less colourful as it is still a bit early in the morning.” He asked me what I meant.  I said that if it had been evening and there were crowds heading out for a drink I would expect bad language but to hear so much swearing so early when I didn’t feel awake yet was exhausting.  Well he was very nice about it and apologised and his mates were lovely too.

It turned out he had been out drinking all night and had not even gone home to shower or change his clothes.  Nice!!!

So, he decided to include me in their chatter / banter for the rest of the journey.  Things improved slightly when a very cheery woman, who turned out to have been a police woman for almost ten years, sat next to me.

There was a very long queue for the toilet who were listening to the conversation between me and the police woman and the man who had not been home all night. The three of us seemed to be giving them some laughs.  Can you imagine?  Me…only conscious / remotely coherent due to the copious quantities of espresso I was pouring into myself.  He…giddy and running on adrenaline with hangover delirium and believing himself to be the on-board entertainment.  And our PC who was just ecstatic to be off-duty and determined to have a great day and chuckling at everything.

I don’t remember all of our conversations now.

I do remember him telling us he was single but open to meeting the woman of his dreams. Then he remarked maybe fate had lead us to being on the same train.

I remember telling him I was sure the vast majority of women would be attracted to a man with mud all over his trousers (hope it was mud) and who hadn’t washed or brushed his teeth and had Foster’s for breakfast.

His mates just laughed the whole journey.

Track Crisscross, Prior To CourseIncreasing my agonies was the severe delay to our train journey.  Someone had been throwing things at the trains from an overhead bridge.  There was some damage to one of the trains but also the overhead cables.  So, they had to remove the damaged train and turn the overhead wires off so that it was safe for some engineers could repair them.  No trains were able to move until the work was completed.  Everything was repaired within three hours, but that is a very long time to be trapped with someone who is totally repellent to you!

He was alright really, just ever so loud!  I was so grateful to get off the train.  Only I was horrified when he kissed me.  I told him to get off me.  Only he carried on kissing my hair.  I was pushing him away with my hands, but the fool tried to kiss me. I was outraged. His mates grabbed him.

Ay ay ay!!!!!

Gloves, Wool, Warm, Winter, FingerThen came another shorter train journey to my final destination. On the local little train there was an older lady, she was probably well into her eighties. She was wrapped up  well, but had no gloves and as I chatted with her I saw her rubbing and blowing into her red hands. Well, co-incidentally….I had forgotten my own gloves when I had left the house. When I was at the station waiting for the train and noticed how bitterly cold it was, I bought some gloves.  Only, the only pair I liked had a second pair attached. Two pairs for the price of one. So I pulled the brand new gloves out of my bag and handed them to her.  She was so pleased. She seemed to be crying tears of joy. It was lovely to end my journey chatting with a sweet gentle soul after all of the other trials of dealing with challenging passengers during my epic day on the British Rail Network.

I love having a little opportunity to be kind. Being kind is a wonderful way to achieve instant happiness. Whether you are on the bus, or train, or any other mode of transport, please be kind, be considerate, be patient and be lovely. Try not to harass or offend your fellow passengers.

I’ve Become A Nervous Traveller

In an effort to be super-organised, I prepared my posts for this week in advance. When I looked at it, I realized, everything has changed over the weekend. So my plans were all changed on Saturday. I will not be seeing my family at all this week. That is because I live in London. We are in Tier 4. So it would be very wrong of me to travel up to the North of Wales or England. So I will be here – probably catching up reading and cleaning my little nest thoroughly.

Anyway…here is the post I originally scheduled for today!

Transport, Road, Outdoors, Travel, Train

I am hoping for a smooth journey, but secretly anxious, What if it all goes wrong? What if it is a travel disaster? It’s been such an odd year, what if the rail networks cannot cope with the influx of travellers?

On Thursday I will be taking my suitcase to work and after working most of the day, I will head to the railway station for a three hour journey ahead of me. The following morning we will drive into Snowdonia.

I have made this journey countless times, but this year I feel nervous, much more nervous than ever before.

I am going to take a book to read on the train. I have some books written by bloggers that I want to start reading so that I can add them to CARAMEL’S CORNER Book Reviews. It will be a great opportunity to read.

In the past, the train journey would have been horrendous – crammed in like sardines, people sitting on the floor near the doors to train if there was space to do so. I believe this year will be different. I am told we will be on socially distanced trains. I hope so. I really hope so. Otherwise I am going to be super scared about seeing my parents.

First Car Fling

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Passing my driving test was the most amazing feeling on earth! I remember looked in the newspaper to see if there were any cars I could afford. For £300 I had my very own set of wheels.

That night after I picked up my new car, my friend Adrian and me went for a drive. I drove and I drove and I drove. Adrian and I sang our hearts out all the way from Milan in Italy, all the way to Edinburgh in Scotland!!

Woooh hooh! Driving license is the greatest freedom! No looking back for me!

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The short post above was my response to the….

…hosted by Cyranny’s Cove

£11 For An Entire Carriage

I mentioned in another post that when we travelled up north recently, we paid £11 for each ticket. Normally I am thankful just to be able to have a seat. Many a time I have been on that train and it has been packed….every seat taken and people standing up all along the central aisle as well as in the open space near the doors.

But for £11 each, we ended up with an entire carriage to ourselves!

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It was kind of bizarre. However, all my anxieties over travel were allayed when I realized we were being well looked after at Euston and on our own for the entire journey. If it wasn’t for the bizarre station staff at the end destination I would have been a very happy bunny.

From Practical Precautions To Paranoid Pandemonium

You do not need me to tell you that 2020 has been pandemonium…and it is not over yet. I have a feeling that this American election is going to mean that 2020 ends on a bang – not in a good way. What I mean by that is whatever the result is, there is going to be a lot of whinging.

Year 2020, Grass, Graphic, Nature

I did not start this post to talk about politics. Oh no. I felt I wanted to write a post for Paula Light’s MONDAY PEEVE (please don’t tell me it is not Monday, I am not in the mood). Yes, that’s right, it is one of those weeks. After being with my family and Jack I have come back to London in a flump. I am a bit of a grump because of feeling discombobulated by this year. But I am not the only one, and I do not want to have a general peeve about a situation we are all in.

Coronavirus, Quarantine, Mask, Covid-19This is a more specific peeve. I totally understand that we are still very much in that phase we need to STAY ALERT. I would only encourage everyone to take precautions, especially in line with local guidelines. I do believe that most people have tried to do their bit to observe guidelines that they can see our designed to protect. However, there have been lots of people with their own interpretation of what social distancing means. At times when people with different attitudes cross paths, conflicts can occur. I have seen it at work, patients yelling at each other, because one patient thinks some else was too close to them.

Here in London, it’s all a bit weird. Everyone seems to be either interpreting the “guidelines” differently (and I acknowledge with all the chopping and changing, not many are sure what the those guidelines are from day to day). but as far as it effects me, this is my day to day life now. As well as wearing PPE at work for many months, now I wear a facemask when I go shopping. That’s a legal requirement (as far as I understand) although some people have exemptions. I am still not using public transport on a regular basis, but recently I caught the tube to Euston Train Station, so of course I wore a facemask for the whole journey.

Girls, Women, Young, People, WearingAs far as I was aware, keeping a distance was still supposed to be very important. In the local shopping precinct there are arrows and signs asking people to observe a “one-way traffic” system. Do you think anyone follows the one-way system? Not when I am walking through the concourse.

I went into a shop recently where they have just installed self-service tills. Self-service tills have been around for years, and I often use them. However, even though I was the only person arriving at the tills, a member of staff still wanted to bound up to me, seize the two items I was purchasing from my hands and operate the self-service till for me. She was just inches away from me the whole time. Perhaps I look like someone who is incapable of operating a self-service till myself…I don’t know?

Tube, London, Underground, StationTo be honest, there are times when it is nearby impossible to keep a distance from other people here in London. I have not used public transport in a long time. I have been walking everywhere for months, but the pavements and supermarkets have been getting steadily busier. Everyday, I pass very close to people. I am sure we breath in the same air. I am not overly anxious. I have never been anxious for myself from the start of the …you know. My main concern was always eliminating ways I could become a vehicle for the virus because I was working with vulnerable patients.

As you know last week, I travelled up to the North of England. There was some even weirder weirdness than anything I have seen in London. Parts of the North have been under stricter social distancing these past few weeks because of a surge of cases. But I was travelling to Cheshire and so far, they have not had the stricter lockdown measures reinstalled. However, like the rest of the country, I expected to see facemasks and some social distancing in operation.

I was nervous about travelling across the country. But I had nothing to fear. Normally, I am thrilled to find an empty seat on a train from London to the North. But for an £11 ticket, on this occasion we had an entire carriage to ourselves. That’s right, there was nobody sitting in the same carriage as I was (except Jack of course). We still kept our facemasks on the whole time.

On the day we arrived the rain was absolutely teeming down. On arriving at the station up north, I wanted to use the Ladies. There was one of those yellow plastic display boards outside that said “CLEANER AT WORK” on one side and “CAUTION – WET FLOOR” on the other side. I presumed they had put it there because of the rain water all over the station platform. When I pushed the door open and walked in, there was only one free cubicle (I think there were six cubicles in total.) I was only surprised because since arriving on the platform I had only see three other passengers. On leaving the cubicle I washed my hands at the sink at the same time as two other women. We automatically spaced out across the bank of sink basins. A member of the station staff came in and started to clean the sinks at the same time as we were using them. She was standing right next to me while I was drying my hands. (This may not seem interesting, but wait for what happened on my return journey through the same station).

Jack and I made our way up to the barriers to exit the station and bundle into the car of one of my relatives (who does not like mobile phones) waiting to collect us. I have been to that station many times and that is always the way out of the station. But the barriers would not open for us. I looked for a member of staff. There were three of them huddled together, not wearing facemasks. When I tried to tell them the barriers were not opening, the guy I spoke to looked at me as if I was in idiot. He told me that we had to walk to the opposite side of the station to leave.

Woman, Platform, Waiting, Train, TracksSo we traipsed through the empty railway station and left on the opposite side of the station. We then walked around the station in the pouring rain. The rain had been very heavy so the pavements were flooded with several inches of water, we had to walk into the road (which was a national speed limit A-road, but fortunately pretty quiet at the time we were rumbling along with our suitcases). I did have an umbrella, which Jack held over us to keep the rain out of our faces, but by the time we made it to the front of the station where the car was waiting for us, we were soaked and our suitcases were soaked.

I was upset when we reached the home of the family members we were staying with. The anniversary card and gift I had bought were soaked through. My shoes and clothes were wet too. That’s what happens when instead of being allowed to walk through a barrier inside the station, you are made to walk around the station in heavy rain. It made me disgruntled. In London a simple cordon ensures a one-way flow of traffic in some rather cramped stations, or else there is no one-way system. Here we were up north at a large airy station with hardly any passengers to be seen and we were given a drenching by a monsoon shower to welcome us.

Bunting, Flags, Blowing, Breeze, WindAnyway…I had a fantastic time with my relatives and tried to forget the bleak arrival. Eventually, we had had to tear ourselves away from the family and make our return journey to London. This time, we were able to pass through those barriers at the front of the station with ease. I was hoping things would be simpler on our return journey. But I had not reckoned with what would happen when I wanted to use the Ladies toilets again before we boarded the train.

I arrived at the Ladies toilets to find the same yellow caution sign outside the toilets. I pushed the door open and went in. This time there was nobody else inside. I chose a cubicle and went in. After around half a minute I could hear a woman’s voice speaking to somebody else. I was inside the cubicle, so I was not sure what was going on but I heard the woman saying, “You’ll have to wait, I need to go in first. Just wait here until I tell you you can come in“. I did not hear the reply from the other woman, but then the first voice said, “That’s what the sign is there for“.

Wc, Toilet, Purely, Public ToiletWell, by this stage I was almost ready to leave the cubicle. I waved my hand across the sensor to trigger the flush mechanism. I could hear the same voice calling out, “Just stay there. I can’t have anyone near me. I’ll tell you when you when I’m finished”.

I opened the cubicle door and recognising the same little lady who had cleaned the sinks the day I arrived, I walked past her and went to use the sink at the opposite side. She then started to yell at me, “I told you to stay where you are. Are you deaf or something? I can’t have anyone near me when I am working. We are supposed to be keeping at least two metres away (I was around four metres away from her at this point, still wearing my facemask). You were supposed to stay in the cubicle until I have cleaned the rest of the toilets and sinks. I will tell you when you are allowed to leave“.

I am so glad the facemask was hiding my expression. Genuinely I did not realize she was addressing me. She could have perhaps knocked on the door of the cubicle to make me realize that she was telling me to stay inside the cubicle. I was bewildered by what she said to me, especially as several days earlier she had decided to stand next to me and clean the sinks at the same time as three of us were trying to wash our hands and make out way out onto the platform.

Washing Hands, Wash Your Hands, HygieneAlready in the process of washing my hands, I paused, and then replied, “Why don’t I just finish off and get out of your way?” I held my hands under the heated air dryer. I could hear her mumbling but could not make out her words. Once the dryer had stopped, I indicated that I would pass to make my exit. She said to me, “Why can’t you just follow the rules? Haven’t you heard of coronavirus?” I was baffled. I was truly baffled. By this point I was ticked off. Falling back on what is normally a reminder to other people that I have been in the trenches during this pandemic, I said, “I work for the NHS“. She said “You should know better!

I just made my way out, wondering when it became so stressful to use the Ladies toilets at a railway station. I am not surprised the travel industry is in a pickle. We have all had to adapt to what has been asked of us (which is important). For the most part people are doing what they have been asked. But then we venture out away from home and find a whole other set of rules.

Upset, Sad, Confused, Figurine, UnhappyOr perhaps not. Perhaps there is not another set of rules at all. Perhaps we are just coming across people at different ends of the spectrum. The spectrum that starts with people who don’t seem to care at all…has a middle zone of people taking sensible precautionary practical measures to protect themselves and other people…and at the other end has people who seem paranoid and pedantic.

I empathise with all sorts of business and retailers who are trying to get the balance right between “customer service” and keeping staff and customers safe. But even when you have to ask a customer to observe a rule, there is a polite way to do it. Frankly, I thought that the member of the station staff cleaning was rather rude. However, she obviously thought I was inconsiderate. Somedays I do not know what to make of it. I am going to draw a line and put it behind me because I don’t feel bad.

Corona, Mask Duty, Protective MaskJust like the vast majority of people, I have made many sacrifices as was asked of me, including holidays, social gatherings and freedom to do as I please. I have worked overtime for months. The first time I have seen my family since December and it was a great week. I wear a facemask all day at work and whenever asked to do so. I keep a distance wherever possible. I have even gone the extra mile and stopped using the communal kettle and microwave at work, I always take a flask and a salad for lunch. I know that I have been taking sensible, reasonable, practical precautions and have completely changed my lifestyle because I care about interrupting the spread of a virus that threatens precious older and vulnerable people. So I am not going to let one station employee belittle me and label me inconsiderate.

I am just going to hope that she does not use that rather questionable term “…are you deaf?” towards any other passengers. If she does, I think she is going to get herself into trouble.

Mr Portillo, If You Are Reading This…

I forgot to tell you…I was walking to work recently, when I realized that Michael Portillo was walking towards me.

Three things went through my mind. The first thing I noticed is that he was wearing pinky red trousers. The second thing I noticed was that he seemed shorter than I am, although Wikipedia claims he is three inches taller than I am. I guess I was walking down hill and he was walking up hill, so he may have seemed shorter at the time.

Anyway, I have no connection with human politics, but I have watched Mr Portillo present some travel programs including one where he travelled in Australia – heart skips a beat.

For a split second I wondered if I should say “Hello, I have enjoyed your travel programs”. But I didn’t. Partly because I was rushing on my way to work, and partly because there were a number of people walking up the hill. It seemed quite a crowded section of the high street. It doesn’t seem clever during social distancing to go greeting people I don’t even know in the middle of a crowded part of London.

But Mr Portillo, if you are reading this, I just wanted to say, I genuinely have enjoyed some of your travel programs, especially when you were over in Australia. I would have liked to have seen more. Perhaps if you go back, you could explore Adelaide.

Skyline, Night Lights, City, Night

Travelling Companions

I was going to take some time off during the summer again. Last year someone paid a fortune to live in my little nest for a few weeks while I was out in Australia. So we were planning to do the same this year. Rent out my flat while I went away again.

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Jack thought it will be a great idea for us to have a holiday together. He knew he was going to be abroad working on projects a lot. He wondered if at some point we could squeeze in a week’s holiday abroad. All those ideas seem futile now.

If we had have been able to have a holiday together, I can already see that he and I have slightly different ideas about where we would want to travel, the accomodation we would enjoy and what we would want to do. Me: somewhere with a comfortable temperature (if we were going to do extreme temperatures, I would prefer a snow holiday over a hot one – sweating night and day is not comfortable), stay with friends in their home, do normal stuff with our friends, fit in with their way of life. Jack: somewhere hot, nice hotel, luxury pool and restaurants, do things we would never be able to do back in England.

I wonder what kind of travelling companions Jack and I would make!!! If the travel industry is still there when the smoke and dust clear from the air, we might give it a try. There could be trouble ahead!!!

Perfect Days Versus Flashbacks

It has been a perfect weekend. Glorious! It’s still a little on the chilly side of course. Certainly not picnic weather yet! But I am sure the weather will be kinder to us soon. Perfect days ahead.

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Nonetheless somebody kept me warm and snug throughout the weekend. It was a great weekend. Perfect. I needed that so much. Jack could tell I was tired though.

He also seemed a little anxious about my decision to go to Australia while he is Africa for a couple of months. I told him it’s a time of year I dread because I have vivid flashbacks of what happened to me just after my birthday. I told him that last year was the first time it really felt different. Being on the opposite side of the planet was a huge relief to me. There were so many different things to distract me. Perfect days.

Koala, Animals, Mammals, AustralianI explained how upset I was to have come back without any photographs. ALl my pictures and videos of kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras lost. This time I am taking a cheap digital camera out with me instead of my tablet, in the hopes that this time I will have some evidence of my trip.

Jack obviously made the connection to me wanting to see Goldfinch. I acknowledged that I want to see him very much, but I told him about the conversations Goldfinch and I have had about accommodation etc. I also want to see a friend I made when I was out there last year and whom I have been emailing ever since.

Anyway…I need to reassure Jack. He seemed anxious in case there was something wrong with him and I. I said the only thing I am finding hard is his absence. I would have loved to spend that difficult time around the summer with him.

I had a strange situation recently. I was over with some friends in rainy Chelsea. When I was walking to meet them I found my mind flooding with memories that distressed me. I was walking along having to fight the horrible images from that night that were running through my mind. It was overwhelming. Within a short time I had tears streaming down my mouth and I had to bite my scarf because of the sensation I had to scream. Very strange for it to happen at this time of year in an area that does not remind me of the park where it happened.

But flashbacks are a weird thing. You don’t know when they are going to creep up on you and what might trigger them.

I am going to Australia because I had a wonderful time there last year. It was very helpful to be far away from London. I am going because Goldfinch is an amazing friend. I will have to be careful because I know my heart is still split between Goldfinch and Jack. It’s good that Jack raised the issue and we were able to discuss it. I would not want any issue to come between the two of us.