Oh! To be in England (??)

31 Aug 2022

Ten days ago at 10 a.m friends picked me up to catch the first train for my odyssey. At 6.30 p.m a daughter picked me up at the suburban station of my hotel town. We hugged in joy and relief. Will ignore the hell of Waterloo at rush hour. We lunched and dined with old friends. On the Friday a son and his wife picked me up for the journey to Suffolk, venue for grand-daughter’s marriage. It takes two people to drive in South East England, because you need a full-time navigator to circumnavigate the red lines on the GPS, equals traffic snarl-ups.

Our B & B was in a stately home, 500 year old trees, including a huge cedar. That night I, my four children, and one wife, had a joyous, exceedingly rowdy dinner. The wedding was equally joyous, despite the extreme heat. My great-grandson, only two, presented the rings on a small cushion to the registrar – was I proud! And holding back tears, his grand-father, my third son, died in February. The next day a delightful buffet held at the bridegroom’s parents’ home. Both families really love each other. Then a trouble-free run South, daughter chauffeur this time, dropping eldest son at Heathrow. Back to my hotel, expecting anti-climax, but not what I had to suffer!

I was booked in last September, friend due to stay, hotel requisitioned for Afghan refugees. Booked hotel in Windsor in October, she had a horrendous accident, looked as though she would be paralysed. But fit enough to book to meet again, Sunday, for three days. She has Covid, quite badly. Although I had lunch, felt like a glass and a snack. No food, Madam. But all the Afghans still there were eating what looked like delicious food, why not me? Their food is sent in at government expense by outside caterers. I had a boring couple of days. Could not be bothered to go into town. Have snack lunch in hotel. No chef Madam. I attacked the manager, totally uninterested in other guests, said I could order food from outside!

So, Wednesday, daughter arrived to take me to the station. Waterloo, some fire somewhere, had to stand in line 45 minutes for a taxi.  St Pancras horrendous, no special treatment (as in Paris) for first class Eurostar passengers. Talk about herding cattle! I was ‘corralled’ with others needing assistance. Desperate for toilet and drink tried to get information. Just wait, Madam. On train, did not calm down till well on way to Paris. The train was late, taxi across Paris. Wrong platform given at Montparnasse, found correct one, TGV about to leave, Grabbed by a guard, he snatched my case and we had to run! Could not reach my 1st class carriage, all seats (illegally) filled. Next exchange my ‘minder’ could not find me, when she did we had to made a dash for next train; miss it, two hour wait, and people meeting me. And I had got gung-ho about travel! Will I go to UK again? Watch this space.

The Gardener

A Moodscope member.

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Sept. 1, 2022, 5:36 a.m.

Congrats re the wedding .... the travel/hotel obvs took the shine off to say the least! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:22 a.m.

Moodie, the wedding remained good and a lovely memory - the return WAS awful, and leaves me with a lot of thinking to do. xx


Sept. 1, 2022, 5:57 a.m.

Dear Gardener Thank you for sharing your adventure The wedding sounds joyous- shame about the travel/hotel etc


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:26 a.m.

Thanks Daisy - My friends 3rd impediment to meeting and afghans still at the hotel were Mr Sod at his very best. I was so shocked at the hotel's attitude - the Afghans won't be there for ever (???) and I've been going for nearly 20 years - manager seemed not to care about the future. But that hotel chain moves/loses its staff so often perhaps he could NOT care less.


Sept. 1, 2022, 6:05 a.m.

So sorry lovely wedding was dampened by horrendous travelling experience. One of my pet hates is missing trains, soooo stressful! And running for the train, with luggage, noooo!!


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:30 a.m.

I hope the travel disasters do not give the idea that they ruined the trip. They posed terrific questions. If I had left more 'safety' times between train connections I could not have done it in the day, mean overnight stop Paris, expensive and hassle. It was the awful behaviour of Eurostar, and my idea that it was going to be a breeze that was the worst.


Sept. 1, 2022, 6:38 a.m.

Hi TG What a hectic time you had. But as well as the more stressful moments you enjoyed family time together. Unforgettable! Will you do it again? I would not bet against someone with your determination and perseverance. Well done. Txx


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:34 a.m.

Thanks Teg, I had worked the journey out so carefully. So, travel in August bound to be hassle, heat and chaos on all travel did not help. And as bride a teacher August greatest hope of getting family together (as so happily happened). I paid a big price - I have a very dodgy back, otherwise fit. It does not like standing, climbing, rushing. Did all those, paid with four days inflammation and acute pain. Never say die, though. xx


Sept. 1, 2022, 7:58 a.m.

Hi Gardener... as I started to read I knew it was your writing, so distinctive. It sounds like a partly magical time, only ruined by travelling experiences. We sadly remember the bad, not the good, of these times. I only hope that next time your journey will be smoother. Thank you for sharing the joyous elements of the rest of your travels. Hugs from the Highlands x


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:39 a.m.

Liz, I am really sorry if the nightmare journey clouded the joy of the wedding and family happiness. Yes, it did leave a bad taste - as I said, I expected an anti-climax, but nice hotel, right on the river, sit and watch boats and swans. But from Sunday evening to getting home Wednesday evening everything went wrong. Not mentioned, but even river spoiled. Rowing club opposite spent entire two days with a pile-driver going full pelt!


Sept. 1, 2022, 8:52 a.m.

Oh Gardener, I knew it was you within the first sentence. It sounds like you had a lovely time with your family, shame about the attitude from some. My husband now hates the idea of travelling these days, even driving there are always roadworks. But I am sure you are glad you came overall and enjoyed the family time.


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 8:59 a.m.

Thanks Sue. I try to be fair, and not 'rubbish' the country of my birth. I do think UK Media put worst light on everything, but most, sadly, is 60% true, NHS, travel, house prices, parking!!. My daughter took me from my hotel to friends farm shop, 6 miles - even she says she's never seen so many road works, and she's lived in the area all her life, including the extreme disrupture of building and extending M25 and M3


Sept. 1, 2022, 9:25 a.m.

Always a writer TG-no experience is wasted if you can get an article out of it.Anything involving trains and timetables gets me in a flap.I like actually sitting on a train,but it's all the rest that gets to me.If a journey involves getting on a connecting train,with time tight,I can't do it. I am so glad though that the wedding went well,bittersweet though it must have been for you all.***


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 9:34 a.m.

Thanks Valerie, mine was just one more 'horror' story, which I cashed in on for a blog. But the 'horror' is really there. Last visit UK for my son's funeral. The journey back from Ipswich on the Saturday afternoon (this was February, to Surrey) was pure **** - you would allow 2.5 hours for a 'reasonable' journey, it took over 4. Means you do not make, or are late for, an evening appointment. Hassle and stress are paramount


Sept. 1, 2022, 9:58 a.m.

Hello Gardener. When we were driving back from Portsmouth in the early hours of Friday morning, there were miles and miles of traffic cones, thousands of them which made all the traffic go into one very very slow lane, meant for HGVs. There were no road works to be seen behind the cones. I said to my OH this would never be allowed in France. It would just never happen. I know many of the French roads are tolled and privately owned but even on the stare owned roads, many on the central France autoroutes, you'd never see this sort of traffic chaos. You managed so well. Travelling is rapidly becoming a nightmare on many fronts. Jul xx


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 10:36 a.m.

Thanks Jul. I always try and remind myself that France is 5 times the size of UK with the same population. But short journey/mass roadworks daughter says areas coned off for weeks with no sign of any work going on. One French fault, classic, village closed for bike race - 'deviation', then no repeat signs, without GPS you'd be stuck. When that happens Bonnie Tyler song 'lost in France' comes to mind. Pre GPS I would get on a hill and recognise church towers. xx


Sept. 1, 2022, 12:34 p.m.

TG I know the trip was horrid (so glad you enjoyed the wedding!), but your writing is pure delight. I felt like I was right there with you. I can't stand to travel by public transportation anymore. When my dad was sick I drove back and forth to take care of him, a month at a time. Each trip was 1,000 miles. I was in total control, in my car, unlike being at the mercy of an airline or train. I know it's not practical, but if I can get somewhere on my own, I will! BTW I am still chuckling over your blog yesterday, the comment about "...His then mistress leant me her Ford 10..." your life is so full of color! xoxo


The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 12:43 p.m.

Thanks Lexi. Life with my Pa was too full of colour! The journey from **** was just because I AM no longer independent. I had two years not driving in UK through Covid, then nerves cracked - I knew I had to give up sometime, so I am at the mercy of public transport, and they show no mercy! xx

The Gardener

Sept. 1, 2022, 12:51 p.m.

The hotel saga is a subject on its own, customer loyalty. For years that hotel has ticked all the boxes. It started as 'The Pack Horse', being on the Thames towpath where horses towed barges. Went to official dinners there 50 years ago, dining room noted. Then when I could no longer stay with friends or family due to Mr G's needs stayed there often. Now, am I naive/too elderly to think one still be welcome as a regular customer? This hotel changed to the Mercure chain, now Accord. Now, it seems with hated/unavoidable globalisation these establishments (and any others in a 'chain') that there is nobody who cares to take the trouble to make you want to come back. Perhaps the customer is at fault? Always shopping around?



Sept. 1, 2022, 10:22 p.m.

Your writing style...I had believed I was reading my own notes to self. I keep daily notes on my outings and thoughts, purposely abbreviated as no one else shall read them. I've saved some of your stuff. Thank you.



Sept. 2, 2022, 8:11 a.m.

Hi TG Sorry I'm late to this party. I'm so glad you enjoyed Suffolk. It might not have the most exciting scenery, but most of it is very pleasant. I enjoy living here. With an upcoming long train journey, I could have chosen to do home-London-Paris-Milan all in one very long day, but have decided that home- London-Paris is plenty for one day. We can relax and enjoy a good meal, maybe revisit Pont Neuf - always a favourite since seeing Les Amants du Pont Neuf in 1991 with the glorious Juliette Binoche. Then the next day we will do Paris-Milan. I both enjoy and get extremely anxious about travelling. Once on the train I really enjoy it. Splitting the journey as described removes one level of stress. It seems that I am beginning to learn how to cope with some of my issues! As usual, there are 2 sides to every story. We love France for the reason that they willingly close roads for cycle races, and most of the population are happy about that. In the UK people are giving up commuting and leisure cycling because of the abuse from car drivers. We love cycling in France partly due to the respect that is given to all road users. On the rare occassions that roads are closed for races here - cycling or running - there are always drivers giving abuse. The press always focusses on a bit of inconvenience to a few people, rather than the pleasure and health benefits given to the hundreds of racers. I hope that you can have a good relax now you are home.


The Gardener

Sept. 2, 2022, 8:23 a.m.

Thanks Susannah. I regard Suffolk like Dorset - lovely counties, happily not overcrowded as people rush through them to get to Norfolk or Devon and Cornwall. I would give Suffolk an old-fashioned word, 'charming'. I loved the port of Ipswich, we stayed in a super hotel for my son's funeral. I could NOT walk round it - he loved it, and the thought he would never do so again was harrowing. Have a good journey, Paris super 3 weeks ago.

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