As I write, Tigger is in Birmingham, on the way to the drop. I have come to the station at Euston in plenty of time although I know that there is virtually no chance of the document turning up before the appointed hour. More likely, the cliff-hangers back at HQ will still be working on it when it is supposed to be with me. I have switched one of my “dolbies” (hearing aids) to the phone setting, just in case they do think to phone me. I am therefore half deaf in one ear, but that’s better than missing an important call.
Looking on the bright side, it’s a beautiful day for a trip, warm and sunny. You can’t help being in holiday mood.
As soon as I arrived I checked the departures board to see that the trains were running normally. Birmingham trains are at 3, 23 and 43 minutes past the hour. Then I went to the toilet because you don’t to be standing with your legs crossed not daring to leave your post because the courier may arrive at any second. It’s the little details that catch you out.
I don’t know whether they will give the courier my photo but if they have remembered to tell him I’m wearing a red jacket and a black Fedora, that should be good enough. It’s not as if I blend into the background. The meeting point is on the steps below Marks & Spencer’s at the Eversholt Street end of the station. People leave bicycles chained to the railings here so there are plenty of cyclists arriving but none has been a courier so far.
At 11:10 I receive a phone call. Just as well my dolby was switched to the phone setting as I would never have heard it with the noise of the street and the station. The call says that the courier – a cyclist, as I expected – has just left. From experience I know the wait now can be anything between 20 and 45 minutes depending on traffic.
Just when I want to keep a sharp look out, I am spotted by a seller of the Big Issue, who approaches and asks me to buy a copy. I do, but that doesn’t conclude our business and he starts recounting his whole sad history to me. I am not unsympathetic but I do have to make contact with the courier and keep glancing over my shoulder at the comings and goings.
The courier arrives and cheerily waves an A4 copy of myself at me. The Stanley-Livingstone moment. I sign-and-print-here-please, shout to the Big Issue seller that I have to catch a train and dash into the station.
Inside the station I look for the clock (I don’t have a watch) and see that it is 11:35. The next Birmingham train leaves at 11:43. I have 8 minutes and they have even announced the platform, so I can afford a leisurely stroll along the train to look for a good seat. I find an unoccupied Priority Seat with plenty of leg room.
The package is not thick or heavy but it is too long and wide to go into my bag. That’s not much of a problem, however, as I can carry it to the drop.
The wonders of modern technology allow us to keep in constant contact, so I know when Tigger completes the first drop and I send her the address on my document. I expect that by the time I reach Birmingham, Tigger will have worked out the route and the transport.
By the same means, I learn that we have another run tomorrow – Cardiff. You go for months without a gig then two come along together. Still, best not look a gift horse in the mouth and we enjoy going to Wales. More about that trip tomorrow.
I have brought a copy of National Geographic with me but for now I prefer to "read" the countryside as it streams past the window. In some fields, the harvest is done and in others the big machines are working their way along, chewing up the crops and spitting out the grain. The cows and sheep are contently grazing in the golden sunlight.
Despite the sunshine and the blue sky streaked with benign white clouds, there is an autumn feel to the land. Some trees and bushes are heavy with fruit or berries and others are beginning to change into their autumn motley.
We reached Birmingham just after 1 pm and Tigger waiting for me near Caffè Ritazza in the entrance hall. We took a taxi to the delivery address and within a few minutes, the job was done. Now we could think about lunch and took a bus back to town. Tigger’s cab driver had recommended the Maharaja Indian restaurant in Hurst Street, so, finding ourselves passing the town hall, we went in and asked for a street map and directions to Hurst Street.
Unfortunately, my late departure from London meant that it was now the Silly Hour for restaurants: the dead interval between lunchtime and the evening dinner period. We did find the Maharaja but we were too late and they declined to serve us.
We now went in search of food but all we could find was coffee bars and the like. No proper meals were to be had. We resorted finally to EAT (“the real food company”) where our food was elegantly served in cardboard boxes. This was not the swanky lunch I had been hoping for but it had to do.
We had planned to return to London around 4 pm and it was now 3. This didn’t leave enough time to visit a museum or an art gallery, so we lingered over coffee and then went out to take a few photos before going to the station.
We reached the station in time for the 15:50 but this train, unfortunately, never appeared. There may have been an announcement explaining the reasons but with the noise and the low volume of the announcement, we could not hear what was said.
The next train was at 16:10 and with two sets of passengers anxious to board, you can perhaps imagine the scene. Tigger has a special flair for direction finding and for locating seats on crowded trains. Somehow we ended up side by side at a table even though there were people left standing.
Even though the sun was bright, we could see that the sun was already lower at this time of day than in the summer. The cows were casting noticeably long shadows as they grazed.
The journey was uneventful as far as I know. I express it thus because I dozed off. I woke up just before our arrival at Euston was announced.
In front of the station two buses arrived together, the 73 bendybus and the 476 double-decker. For some reason, everyone else crowded onto the 73 and we had the 476 almost to ourselves. It would have taken us all the way home but for the fact that I remembered that we are going to Cardiff tomorrow and need to buy train tickets.
We got off again at Kings Cross and found that, luckily, there was no queue for advance tickets. Job done, we got the bus again and finally reached home. A little while later, the doorbell rang: the courier with tomorrow’s document.
We didn’t see much of Birmingham this time because of my necessary late arrival. On the other hand, that means there are plenty of things to see and do on another visit. Not that you can easily exhaust what a city like Birmingham has to offer a visitor.
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