Monday, 30 September 2013

An Autumn Break. Part One: Troubles and Travels

Ma and I pretending to own a beach hut.
‘I’ve been in charge of this place for ten years now,’ says the manager of the shopping centre, staring glumly at a hand rail, ‘and I’ve never seen an accident like this before.’ Yes, it’s our first stop on a short break away from home with Ma and she’s already sliced her arm open. Her poor back means she has to hold on tight when climbing stairs and, as she grabs the bannister to haul herself up, she cries out in surprise. An insanely-designed metal joint juts out from under the rail at just the right height to slice the skin off Ma’s arm (or, possibly, to thwack a child’s cheek bone) and we have to seek the services of a first aider to clean and dress the wound. It’s not the best start to Ma’s holiday, but, hey, in week that’s seen three of our nearest and dearest hospitalized for various reasons, we’re simply relieved to have come this far.

For our whirlwind tour of East Anglia, we’ve booked to stay at Premier Inns; inexpensive, efficient and do what they say on the tin… ‘Sorry, guys,’ a frazzled-looking member of the restaurant staff tells us as we arrive for our evening meal, ‘you’re not going to like what I’m about to say.’ (Too late; Ma’s already not particularly thrilled to be addressed as a guy.) The kitchen grill is apparently billowing black smoke so most of the menu’s off. We cut our losses, find a Chinese restaurant a couple of miles away and settle down for a surprisingly delicious meal with beautifully balanced flavours and textures… until a wayward chilli hits the back of Ma’s throat.

‘Water?’ offers a concerned waiter.

‘No!’ Ma manages to gasp because no matter how many times we tell her water’s good for her, she just won’t drink enough of it.

‘Yes, please,’ I add quickly before one of us has to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre.

Disaster is, thank goodness, averted. By breakfast time, even the kitchen is restored to order. It’s a bright, beautiful morning and we’re off … to look at a boat!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Steamy Ride

On what is one of the most boilacious days Aberystwyth has to offer, Rose, Si, Tom and I decide to take one of the ‘Great Little Trains of Wales’, the Vale of Rheidol steam train from Aberystwyth to Devil’s Bridge.

Si, with great foresight, suggests we sit in an open carriage, an idea which I poo-poo, ‘because it might be cold’(hah!), besides the best seats are already occupied by canny Silver Steamers who seem to have staked out their territory hours in advance. But, never mind, we have comfortable seats by the open window and are looking forwards to our trip through the picturesque Rheidol Valley. Then, just as we are about to leave the station, two passengers climb aboard, sit behind us and suddenly the air is filled with the rank cheesy aroma of wet dog. ‘It’s a bit hot for her,’ her owners tell each other, ‘good job we gave her a thorough soak first!’

Him and Me before the wet dog arrived.
Wah! The dog is large, hairy and restlessly pants doggie breath at everyone. To add the mix, no sooner have we set off when the couple open glistening packs of stinky sandwiches. Behind Rose, a Silver Steamer has slipped off her sandals and is resting her gnarled feet on the seat, while at the other end of the carriage a group of folks old enough to know better are exchanging innuendos. Bad behaviour, it seems, isn’t ageist.

Fortunately the scenery is truly breath-taking (not that we’ve got much breath left as we’re trying not to inhale the fumes inside the carriage) and travelling on a steam train is really rather lovely – apart from the black smuts that fly in through the window covering us with fine dots of soot. 

At Devil’s Bridge we eschew the busy station café and cross the road to some tea rooms which offer a lamentably dire selection of tired old cakes and, after much digging round, an Earl Grey teabag which may once have been appeared on Time Team. I know they have a guaranteed captive audience twice a day, but does that really justify the lacklustre service, chunky old crockery and an utterly dreary, depressing atmosphere? I hate being critical, and I’m sorry if the café owners read this – but, for goodness sake, would it kill you to buy fresh teabags? Or make a sponge that wasn't iced with something tasting of fish paste?  With a bit more effort and a cheery smile or two, the place could be a gold mine!

Me, Rose and Si get ready to grab seats.

Ah well, I have plenty of time to cool off on the return journey. We know the system now, so rock up early to beat the competition (just) and secure our seats in the open carriage. It’s all very pleasant, a gentle unwinding simply enjoying the view… only this time without the stench of wet dog. 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Move Over Darling Book Trailer

In an anxious week with some worrying news about loved ones, I had a couple of light moments making a book trailer for Move Over Darling.  

In other news, we're off on a steam train trip today with Rose and Si on the Vale of Rheidol Railway so we're hoping the sunshine will last.

And finally here's a photo from what was a very restorative walk earlier this week showing the beautiful view from Foel Eryr