Today started yesterday, if I may put it thus paradoxically.
“So you’re off to Coventry,” said one of Tigger’s colleagues when I went to meet Tigger from work yesterday.
This was how I learnt we were off on another courier run.
Now, as you know, I love to go on courier runs with Tigger and I am even useful on the odd occasion, but the problem in this case was that I was supposed to go the surgery in the morning to have my ear flushed and after two weeks of semi-deafness and intermittent ear pain, I didn’t want to miss the appointment.
My appointment was at 9:10 and checking train times, Tigger decided she needed to take the 9:40 train to be on the safe side. I would come along later when I could. In fact, I missed Tigger’s train by a whisker and had to wait for the 10:10.
The firm was cliff-hanging as usual: the tender would be ready sometime on Thursday evening but they couldn’t say when. We are used to this by now so we went quietly home to await events. By mid-evening, we still knew only that the tender would be sent to us by courier at some point so while Tigger waited in for the ring on the doorbell, I went off to parley with our friends in the ticket office at St Pancras.
Doing it this way was slightly inconvenient because Tigger normally charges her travel expenses to her company credit card but I couldn’t use that on her behalf of course, so I bought both tickets on my own card and she will reimburse me once she has claimed the money back.
When I arrived home with the tickets, the courier had still not put in an appearance but he eventually arrived and the final piece of the jigsaw in place.
This morning we got ready and left the house together at 8:55. I wasn’t wearing my dolbies, for obvious reasons, so the world sounded muffled and, worse, so did Tigger, and I had to keep asking her to repeat what she had said – it can be quite irritating living with someone who has suffered hearing loss.
It was a problem at the surgery too because the doctor or nurse comes out and calls you by name. I think this is a very good practice but as the waiting room is large, I find it hard to hear the names, even with my dolbies in, never mind without them, so I am always nervous that I will miss my call. I got a seat facing the door and as the nurse spoke clearly, all was well.
Afterwards, I rushed to the bus stop and was gratified to see the a 476 was due. This would have taken me right into Euston Station. I might even have caught up with Tigger and been able to travel with her and had the fun of delivering the tender with her. Unfortunately, the bus never showed up and I foolishly let a 30 go by while waiting for it…
In the end, I took the next 30 and arrived on the station at 9:50 – Tigger was by now 10 minutes on her way. There was nothing for it but to await the next train at 10:10 and, fortified with coffee from Millie’s Cookies, I did just that.
There is something strange about waiting for a train at Euston. You join the throng in the main hall, standing looking up at the departure boards. There are no seats there, which I think is very unkind. Every so often there is an announcement of the platform for one of the trains and a section of the throng rushes off, dragging their luggage, in the direction of the announced platform.
The rest of us go on standing there, our numbers steadily increasing with new arrivals. There is some accidental nudging and shoving, muttered apologies, shifting of feet, one-sided conversations from mobile users…
If you do this every day, I imagine it is rather irritating but to the occasional traveller, it is interesting and amusing to observe the people and their mannerisms. Probably, others observe me too and draw their conclusions. What these are I shall never know.
At 10:00, we had an “Inspector Sands” announcement. Uh-oh, will this interfere with my journey? This announcement, with variations goes something like this: “Will Inspector Sands please report to the control centre” (or some other defined location). This is of course a code. There is no Inspector Sands or, if there is, he rivals God for omnipresence as I have heard him summoned on many stations throughout the country.
If you don’t know what an Inspector Sands call means, I should perhaps not tell you, as the code is used to avoid alerting the public. Maybe you know or can guess. Nobody in the Throng seemed bothered by it.
Happily, my platform was announced and the train left more or less on schedule. I rushed to the front and had a choice of seats in the quiet carriage.
Meanwhile, the day, which started grey, has brightened and the sun is shining in a summer-blue sky mottled with white clouds. Because I felt a little chilly yesterday, I have dressed warmly for this expedition. I may have overdone it.
We speed through fields where cows are grazing, seemingly contently. I often wonder what cows and sheep think about in the fields all day long. I don’t doubt that they do think as there have been enough studies to show that their reactions are often similar to ours. Sheep, for example, recognize other members of their flock, even in photographs, and feel calmer when they are in their company.
At 11:00 I receive a call from Tigger. She has completed the drop and will go back to the station to await my arrival. Team Tig(g)er triumphs again! Although I had only a minor part to play this time.
Meeting up with Tigger in the station booking hall is a good moment. She delivered the tender on foot as the client’s premises are near the station. We go out into the sunlight and I regret my warm clothes. It is not long before I roll up my jacket and stuff it in my backpack. Soon after, my pullover comes off and is tied around my waist…
We now start to explore Coventry. One of our first stops is the Council House. Built during the First World War, this is a beautiful building. We enter and ask if we may look around. “But of course!” Photographs? “Feel free!” So we wander around; look and admire; take photographs. A good experience with which to make the acquaintance of Coventry.
Moving on, we came to the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, which we entered, not so much out of a passion for art as out of a desire for refreshment. We have found that museum and art gallery cafes are often good places to go for food or drink. They may have unusual wares and charge reasonable prices. It is also a pleasant way to contribute to their upkeep.
Following on from this, we ventured out again into the pleasantly warm sunlight and continued rambling here and there, photographing as the mood and opportunity dictated, until we spotted a sign for Coventry Transport Museum.
This turned out to be a very fine museum indeed and very big. Vehicles of every kind are exhibited from private and commercial cars, vans, buses, coaches and tractors, through horse-drawn conveyances to bicycles and motorcycles. As well as real-life vehicles there are also models and displays of various kinds.
Certain manufacturers, such as Standard, receive special treatment and there is a huge section on speed, showing landmarks in the development of racing cars and land-speed record attempts.
During WWII, Coventry was an important centre in the War Effort owing to its sturdy engineering establishment. This naturally attracted the attentions of Hitler’s strategists and on November 15th 1940, Coventry suffered a massive air strike that devastated large areas of the city. The Cathedral was almost completely destroyed and was never rebuilt. It has been replaced by a modern building but the remains of the old cathedral are allowed to remain as a monument to the city and her dead.
Towards 5pm, we were beginning to feel peckish and a late lunch and early supper had its appeal. Tigger remembered seeing an Indian restaurant near the station, so we caught a bus thither. Would it be open this early? Hurrah! Yes, it would.
We enjoyed a pleasant and filling meal at the Shimla Spice Indian Restaurant and by the time we had finished, it seemed reasonable to think about returning to London. Tigger had the rail timetable on her phone (would you have expected any less?) and we studied possibilities. We decided we couldn’t make the 18:50 so chose the 19:20.
We ambled back to the station, reaching it at 19:00 on the dot. We there coincided with the 18:50 Euston train which was 10 minutes late. How handy was that?
Aboard that train as it rumbles through a darkling countryside (no more cows contentedly grazing), with Tigger watching a DVD on her portable viewer, I am writing these final words on our courier run and day out in Coventry.
We liked what we saw and will return again one day soon.