We awoke to a dull and damp-looking day. Tigger breakfasted and went off to catch the 6:10 while I had a lie-in until 5:55. Well, there’s no point in overdoing it if you don’t have to!
I breakfasted, got ready in leisurely fashion and left the house at 8:50. We live half-way between bus stops which means if your bus is at the lower stop, you can often make it to the upper stop in time to catch it. So it was this morning with the 73 bendybus which carried me to King’s Cross.
I walked through King’s Cross station to St Pancras. Only a street separates them. After refurbishment, St Pancras is the pleasanter of the two, even if it does somewhat resemble a shopping precinct because of its rows of shops and eateries. I cannot imagine passengers disembarking from the Eurostar and piling into Marks & Spencers, but I suppose I could be wrong.
The trains for northern destinations are on the upper level. There are four platforms and a big departures board advising travellers which platform their train departs from. On a good day, you get plenty of warning but today wasn’t a good day. We had about 5 minutes to board and find our seats.
Tigger tried to call me but the call failed because of patchy signal coverage. She left me a voice message but each time I tried to listen to it, the signal died after the first few syllables, so I gave up. I assumed she was telling me that she had delivered the package safely.
As we left Derby, the sun began to shine although the sky was still somewhat overcast. Maybe we shall have clear weather for our day in Sheffield after all. The countryside is dressed in its autumn colours and looks beautiful in the timid sunshine. A delicate mist veils the further reaches, adding a nuance to the scene. The sheep-strewn land is a healthy green and it nicely contrasts the stone-built cottages and farm buildings like the velvet of a jewel box.
The mobile phone signal remains poor. Even in Derby and Chesterfield stations there was no signal. I have never known it so bad. There are brief flashes of coverage here and there, just enough to send a text if you are lucky. Tigger and I will meet at the Ritazza cafe in the main entrance of Sheffield station.
Passing back through the station, we took the Supertram to Meadowhall. One of our first concerns on arriving was to have lunch. We found a branch of La Tasca, the tapas bar chain, and had an adequate, though not brilliant, meal.
Meadowhall is certainly impressive, in size if in nothing else. It would take more time to explore it all than we were willing to spend doing so. When all’s said and done, see one shopping centre, see them all, I suppose.
We now took the Supertram back towards town but stayed aboard until in reached its terminus at Middlewood. The promise of sunshine at Derby had not been honoured in Sheffield so we stayed on the tram and returned to town.
We thought we might go to the Winter Garden but on the way came across the market and went inside to explore. This is a lovely old market, selling a wide range of goods, and must have been spectacular in its heyday but was now showing signs of decline.
Tigger wanted to show me an old pub she had seen earlier before I arrived, so we walked down to the Queen’s Head and had hot chocolate there.
It is a strangely shaped place inside, showing signs of many episodes of changes and refurbishments. Much of the decor is of good quality and genuinely old though it’s difficult to know whether it’s original to the building or added later.
On our way to the Winter Garden, we encountered City Hall and went in to ask whether we were allowed to visit and and take photos. Only the entrance hall is accessible to visitors and a short corridor which houses a rich collection of historic silverware. The building is certainly splendid and was designed to enhance the reputation of the city and show off its wealth.
We discovered this old police box. It is apparently still used. I had never seen a green one before. As fans of Doctor Who will know, police boxes are normally blue. Or, rather, were: most went out of use after the 1950s when improvements in communications rendered them largely redundant. Where they still exist, they have mostly been put to other uses, such as coffee stalls.
The Winter Garden is a pleasant spot to spend some time, especially in inclement weather. You might think of it as an indoor park with art exhibitions.
Feeling that we had packed enough into our day in Sheffield, we now walked slowly towards the station. We had tickets for the 18:18 train to St Pancras and had to take that train as our tickets were not valid on any other. We arrived at the station about an hour before but as it was now dark outside and cold, we decided to wait and went to the Ritazza cafe.
Some minutes before our train was due, we went to the platform, only to find that the train had been cancelled. The excuse was that lamest of lame excuses, used by transport companies when they can’t think of any other way to screw up your travelling pleasure: because of late running, the train had been removed from service. Not only do they inconvenience the people aboard the train by delivering them late to their destination but they then add insult to injury by depriving later passengers of a means of transport.
We were advised to take the 18:31 to Derby and change there. This we have done. Aboard a train for St Pancras at last, we rumble through the darkness towards London. All in all, it was a good day out, though the train cancellation leaves an annoying after-taste.