We went down to St Pancras for about 9:30. This is a good place to wait for the courier as he can come to the entrance at the far end and doesn’t get hassled for stopping a few minutes. Another advantage is that we can have a coffee and porridge breakfast at the Camden Food Co while waiting.
During breakfast Tigger got a call from base saying that the team working on the proposal had revised the completion time upwards to midday. Add to this at least 45 minutes for a motorbike to reach us and the day is slipping away. We should still make it as the deadline is 5 pm and the drop address is in York itself, just a few minutes away from the station by taxi.
So now, having finished breakfast, we had over two hours to wait and, while St Pancras is one of our pleasanter stations, there is still not a lot to do there. So we set out to have a look at the Camley Street Natural Park.
Camley Street runs behind St Pancras, between the station and the last Victorian gasometer left standing. Its companions have been taken down and stored until a site can be found where they can be reconstructed and put on show. (You can see their dismantled parts in the above photo.)
Along here too, there used to be what is referred to as a coal dump, an area where coal was left before being distributed to other destinations. Despite falling into disuse, the old dump has survived as an unusual open area in a part of the city that is already built up and continually undergoing building works. It is this coal yard that, having been cleared, has been turned into a nature reserve.
The park is a pleasant spot for a stroll, having a varied scenery within its relatively small area. It also plays an important educational role and provides habitats for birds, insects and small mammals. Everything is labelled with brief explanatory notes.
It is closely hemmed in by the road, the railway and the canal (in fact, the indiscreet eye can peer into the houseboats moored alongside) but the park has been landscaped and planted skilfully to minimize their visual impact. The canal indeed comes to seem almost a feature within the park which has bodies of water of its own.
Entry to the park is free. There is a discreet invitation to leave a contribution (we did so) but no one presses you. The staff seem relaxed, friendly and ready to answer questions.
We made our way slowly back to the station and up the escalator to have a look at the platforms which serve Kent. Beside these, but not accessible from them, are the Eurostar platforms. There is also a splendid view through the big window.
At midday we strolled across to Sourced Market for a bowl of wild mushroom soup served with bread. While we were being served a call came in: the document was on its way down to the print room and a courier had been booked. At 12:30 we heard that the courier had just left and – get this – it was a bicycle courier. A bicycle to carry an important document across London…
I walked across to Kings Cross to check on train times. There were trains for York at 1300 and 1330. 1 pm came and went. We saw several cyclists but none looked like couriers or showed any interest in us. At 1:05 Tigger’s phone rang. It was the courier: he had gone to the wrong entrance and was calling to ask where we were. We took delivery at 1:10 and then hurried across to Kings Cross. Our train was boarding on platform 5 and there was a crush of people because inspectors were checking tickets on the platform.
As far as I could see, all seats were reserved and of course, as we hadn’t known which train we would catch we didn’t have reservations. We rushed down to the front carriage hoping to get ahead of the crowd but it made no difference as all the seats had reservations on them. I got lucky, however, and found two seats that were reserved from York onwards. Owned! But for that we might had to stand all the way to York.
On arrival at York we took a taxi to the client’s address and by 3:36 the job was done. We crossed the road and took the bus back to town and started exploring. Tigger wanted to walk on the town walls. I agreed but felt uncomfortable because in places the walkway is unfenced on one side.
A highlight of this trip was taking tea at Betty’s Tea Rooms. We had tea and sampled the delicious “warm fat rascals”. For style and service, Betty’s would be hard to beat.
At this time of year, the light soon begins to fade in the afternoon. We did our best to catch a few scenes before it became too dark.
By 5 pm the shops were closing and the light was fading. We even felt the odd spot of rain. What should we do, wait for our tea and rascals to settle and then look for somewhere to have dinner? Or simply return to London? We had been able to spend very little time in York because of the late start but, on the other hand, there was no point in hanging around in a cold, dark town with nowhere to go. In the end we plumped for the train and walked to the station.
We were just in time for the 17.55 Kings Cross train. There were a lot of people waiting and the train was pretty full. All seats were again reserved. In the flurry to board we found two seats reserved from Doncaster and sat in them. There was always a chance that their owners would not turn up.
Unfortunately, our seats were claimed at Doncaster and we had to move. We found other seats, these reserved from Retford. At that station, it was the same story and we were once again seatless. Tigger set off along the train. I didn’t see the point as there were people standing but I followed on as I have learnt to trust Tigger’s instincts. Sure enough, she found us two unoccupied seats, one behind the other. In the circumstances, that was good enough. My seat companion disembarked at Peterborough and Tigger came to join me for the remainder of the journey.
At Kings Cross we caught the 214 bus, and as it carried us up the hill, phoned ahead to Spices to see whether they could fit us in. Of course they could. So we rounded off another successful courier run with an Indian dinner at one of our favourite eating places.