We are off on courier run today. The recipient is in Aylesbury, so it is not far. As the deadline for delivery is midday, we don’t have to rush.
We bought our train tickets yesterday at St Pancras because the main ticket office there is very good and can sell tickets for any route. Buying early gets better prices.
Our starting point (not counting the familiar 205 bus from Angel) is the lovely Marylebone station, a favourite of John Betjeman to whom there is a blue memorial plaque in the main concourse.
The work of building Marylebone, the last of London’s mainline stations, began in 1897 and the first public services ran in 1899. The station was “future-proofed” by the inclusion of space for adding extra platforms if needed.
We breakfasted in Etsu before catching the 9:57 Aylesbury train. The sky is overcast and there is a threat of rain, reinforced by a couple of showers. Optimistically perhaps, I am wearing my panama hat but I also have a rain jacket in my backpack! I am confident that whatever the weather we shall have fun in Aylesbury.
The train reached Aylesbury without incident and the client’s office was nearby, so, as the rain was holding off, we set out on foot. By 11:10, the job was done and the rest of the day was ours. We started our tour of the town.
Aylesbury, like many towns today, seems intent on modernizing itself. Yet it is an ancient town – archaeology has revealed a Romano-British settlement – and the new uncomfortably overlays the old. For example, there are buildings that are true monstrosities. Or we could point to the tacky shopping malls, populated by the usual suspects without any sign of novelty or imagination.
Why modern architecture has to be uniformly tasteless is beyond my powers of explanation. One would like to believe that towns like Aylesbury could be modernized in harmony with their vestiges of the past but too often what actually emerges seems to come from a kit called “Urban Blight”.
I noted one or two interesting ideas, such as the calendar fountain, but the whole is still so bitty that it is difficult to gauge how harmonious it will eventually be. On the present showing, I have my doubts.
This will be an “in and out day”: we go in (shops, museum, cafes) when it rains and out (streets, squares and parks) when the rain stops. The game is to avoid getting the rain jackets out.
After an initial browse around the town, we looked for somewhere to have lunch. There wasn’t must choice, as far as I could see. Maybe there is some quarter or street bursting with every kind of eatery, all begging to be sampled. If so, we were unable to find it. We ended up at the Bell Hotel. The interior was bright and clean with two nice antique wall clocks that unfortunately turned out to be reproductions.
We ordered our food and waited. In fact, we waited the best part of an hour. Eventually, the waitress came and said the chef had made a mistake and cooked the wrong dish for Tigger. Was that all right? Well, no actually, but as we had already waited long enough, we accepted it.
By now the dry intervals were decreasing in frequency until the rain became continuous. There are some towns that are as enjoyable in the rain as in the dry but Aylesbury isn’t one of them.
There was only one thing to do: go shopping! So we did. We stumbled upon a branch of Wilkinson’s where we found a lampshade for our kitchen light. As we emerged, it was raining cats and dogs, so we made a dash to the shop opposite, Roseby’s. Here we found a chandelier-type lampshade for the living-room. So our visit produced a lasting result after all, despite the disappointments.
Even so, I think it will be some time before we visit Aylesbury again, at least voluntarily.