We arrived home from our trip yesterday evening and our first reaction on leaving the train in London was “How hot it is!” While we were away, it seems, the meteorological mice came out to play and London has been sweltering whereas we were experiencing a very different scenario: it rained nearly every day and if the sun appeared at all, it was to perform the Dance of the Seven Veils. The temperature was decidedly cool too. So stepping out of the train at Euston was like stepping into an oven.
Having unpacked, sorted through the mail and made tea, we faced a chore: that of the weekly shopping. We usually do this on Saturday or Sunday morning but, as this Sunday was going to be a busy one, we had to do it straightaway. As I pushed the trolley along the aisles of the supermarket, familiarity confronted the strangeness of the fact that only a few hours before, we had been wandering in leisurely fashion through the Manchester Art Gallery and now, owing to the wonders of modern transport, we were wandering, albeit less leisurely, through Sainsbury’s in Islington.
Today we had two jobs to do, one pleasant, the other not so pleasant. The pleasant one was to fetch Freya home from her “holiday camp” in Chingford. This is where things went annoyingly wrong.
The usual procedure is for me to take the bus to Liverpool Street station and there catch a train for the 25-minute trip to Chingford. At Wood Street, I phone ahead to the cattery that I am coming, and they drive with Freya to Chingford station where I pick her up and then repeat the same journey in reverse order. On a good day, this takes about two and a half hours, all told. Not today.
There were road works in the area of Liverpool Street station and so the bus stopped short, meaning I had to walk about half a mile. No big deal, I agree, except that I would have to do the same thing on the way back carrying Freya in a basket and I can tell you that she is no lightweight! One piece of good news was that the 153 bus was running from Liverpool Street to Islington, so I decided I would catch that on my return.
The chain to Chingford is a no-frills service – there isn’t even a toilet on the train, something I think ought to be illegal. At least the train ran without mishaps and I arrived at Chingford in timely fashion.
When the cattery car arrived, Freya was not aboard. This is something that happens on roughly two occasions out of five: my sweet-tempered timid Freya apparently becomes an aggressive savage beast at the cattery and has to be handled with caution. This means that they sometimes cannot get her into the basket without a fight and it makes sense instead to take me to the house instead. Freya, was of course as docile as a kitten with me and allowed herself to be popped into the basket without a murmur of protest.
On a crowded train, you always get some idiot who, despite knowing little about animals in general and even less about cats in particular, wants to pass himself of as Dr Dolittle and starts poking his fingers through the bars of the cage. Scowls and abrupt replies put all but the most hardy to flight but sometimes the situation becomes tense. For this reason, I chose the very last carriage as the train usually fills up from the front and middle on the way back to London.
The journey went well until we arrived at Walthamstow Central and then the train just sat in the station. There was an announcement by the driver but I could not hear it, and this obviously left me in a quandary.
In the end I approached a young couple, explained that I did not hear very well and asked whether they would tell me what the announcement had been. They kindly obliged: there were (unspecified) problems on the line ahead of us and it was not known how long we would have to wait for them to be resolved. What should I do now? How long would we stuck? Should I switch to the tube?
After a while, I decided to leave the train and make for the tube. You can guess what happened next: as I walked away from the train, the doors began to close! I managed to jump aboard and off we went, only to come to a halt again outside Clapton. After this, however, the train resumed its course and travelled at its usual speed back to Liverpool Street, albeit arriving late.
The 153 “terminates” at Liverpool Street. That means that the driver empties the bus and takes a 15 minute break. If the bus is there, you can see it in a parking bay. When we reached the bus stop, there was no 153 in sight. This meant waiting up to 15 minutes or longer for a bus to arrived and a further 15 minutes while the driver took his break. I decided to walk to the City Road where I would have a choice of buses. This is where I made my silly mistake.
I took the wrong exit from the station but, on realizing this, I kept going because I was sure this route would also lead to the City Road. I walked and I walked, and the cage became heavier and heavier, and still I did not reach the City Road. To add to my discomfort, I was dressed as I had been while away, meaning I was wearing about three layers of clothing too many and was soon suffering from the heat.
Eventually, I had to swallow my pride and ask a passer-by for the way to the City Road. Some more hot, sweaty and angry walking finally got me to the Old Street roundabout. Here I waited for a bus. I had to wait a long time, but eventually a bus came and we rode the rest of the way home.
Freya’s evident pleasure at being home again almost made up for the annoyance of the journey. She has followed me around since and, as I write this, is curled up on the carpet beside my feet.
This left the second chore of the day: the laundry! This was unavoidable and had to be done whatever the weather or any other inconveniences. We needed to get started as soon as possible too because there is usually something of a lull at the launderette between midday and 1 pm and outside that period, you may have to queue for washing machines and dryers.
We were fortunate. Perhaps the heat discouraged people from going to a hot and steamy launderette. Whatever the reason, we had no difficulty obtaining the machines we needed and completing the task. We could go home and – finally – relax and try to recover what remains of the holiday mood.