Tigger’s train is at 8:55 and mine an hour later, and as Sheffield trains leave from St Pancras just down the road from us, we could start the day in relaxed way.
Tiggy, the house spider, was up too and running along the cables on my desk. Then he disappeared again so when the time came for me to leave, I switched off the laptop but didn’t close the lid in case he was in the hinge.
Tigger left at 8:15 and I followed an hour later, taking the 214 to St Pancras station. Although I had had a small breakfast before leaving and didn’t intend to have anything more until lunchtime, once on the upper deck I found the Camden Food Co exercising an irresistible attraction. I went in, just for a cup of coffee, but saw that they were advertising porridge with “fruits of the forest”. Naturally, I gave in to temptation because, after all, porridge is a healthy dish and warming in chilly weather such as this!
At 9:45 our train was ready so I went aboard. It’s fairly crowded – usual for this time on a weekday – but I found a seat easily enough. It was raining when I set out and now, as we run through the countryside, the sky is still covered with clouds but there is a lot of movement up there and the light has brightened. Perhaps it will clear up for us.
Tigger, ahead of me, has sent a text saying she has seen sunlight and now, looking aloft, I see patches of blue between the clouds. I could read my book but for the moment, François Mauriac’s Le noeud de vipères is not enough to attract my gaze from the scenery.
Suddenly we run out from under the clouds and the landscape is bathed in a pale golden sunshine. I try to take a photo with my camera but, as usual, trees, blurred by the speed of the train keep throwing themselves into the picture and blocking the view.
At Derby (where we intended to come later) we once more ran into rain under a dull grey sky. Such are the fortunes of travel: you may pass through several weather zones on your journey and it is a matter of chance what the conditions are when you reach your destination.
The hope is that as it is sunny further south, the weather will clear here too. Not that there are any guaranties.
Our train reached Sheffield just after midday. Unusually, there was no message from Tigger so I made my way to the station’s Hallam Square exit. Tigger was waiting at the foot of the stairs. Her mobile was playing up and would no longer send text messages. She had called me and left a voicemail but in the noise of the station I was unaware of it.
No matter, we were together now and we caught the free bus, the FreeBee, to the Winter Garden, which is continuous with the museum and art gallery in whose cafe we hoped to have lunch.
We had come hoping they had their “Vegetarian fish & chips” on the menu and they did. (The “fish” is deep fried haloumi cheese.) While we were eating, it rained determinedly but it had eased off by the time we finished and we were able to walk to the station in the dry.
The London train we hoped to catch to go to Derby was cancelled, so all the passengers were advised to take the Reading train which was consequently packed and people were standing. Even so, Tigger managed to find us seats and the journey to Derby only takes half an hour or so.
It was still spitting with rain when we struck out from the station at Derby. Conditions were already dull because of the clouds and the light would soon fade anyway but, nothing daunted, we headed for the town centre.
In an area called the Quarter we found The Book Cafe and went in for tea and toasted tea cakes.
After this we continued our explorations and came upon the Guildhall, burnt in 1841 and rebuilt in 1842 (good going, wouldn’t you say?).
Going through the Guildhall entrance, you come to the Market Hall, a very striking building, already decorated for Christmas and housing some very fine stalls, ranging from the traditional, such as fruit and vegetables, to the modern, including computers and mobile phones.
It had been a dull day to start with and now the light began to fade in earnest so after a few more photos, we began to walk back to the station, not retracing our steps but trusting to Tigger’s inner pigeon which took us through a shopping centre before finally bringing us onto the road to the station.
We reached the station at 4:53 and found that a St Pancras train was due at 5:01. It could not have been more convenient.
The day was wet and a little chilly but that is only to be expected at this time of year, as is as the early fading of the light. We were spared the heavy rains of yesterday and therefore cannot grumble. A day out is always day out. I will admit I dozed off a couple of times as we rumbled along the rails back to London.