..and also for Friday and the Final Day (for the moment).
I got up very early as the Election was yesterday and I wanted to see what state the country was in before I headed out. Turns out it was far more interesting than anyone had imagined. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the early morning coverage with a variety of MPs and political commentators saying that this was exactly what they expected to happen – despite the fact they had been predicting an electoral disaster for Labour only days before. I was confused that some found it odd that the UKIP voters seemed to have gone over to Labour. Seeing as most of them came from Labour 2 years ago, isn’t it logical they would head back to the same place?
It was extremely funny watching a Conservative politician state that Theresa May needs to “consider her position” and then deny that she had said it or meant that Mrs May was in any way weakened. Great what people will say when sleep-deprived at 04:30. I’m still unsure what’s going to happen and what will happen with Brexit. But well done Mr Corbyn. (Of course, I now know that Mrs May has shown that some people will do absolutely anything to stay in power including spending £1.6 billion of public money to do so. That tiny sound you can hear in the background is the remains of her credibility exiting stage left.)
But on to more light-hearted things and we return to me, sat on Slough station, early as ever and with the first cappuccino of the day. I have no idea how much I’ve spent on coffee in the last two weeks, but I have been receiving letters from a small plantation in Colombia where I am apparently helping to divert children from gang culture. Having assisted in the moral uplift of a Central American country I settle down with my coffee and my book because I am, surprise, surprise, early.
Todays book is still Night and Day by Virginia Woolf. Apparently this is a comedy. It’s a comedy in the same way Deadpool was a laugh out loud comedic extravaganza. (Yes, I know lots of people liked it. No, I am not one of them.)
I reflect on the last 2 weeks, the aching legs, the coffee highs, the chafing in somewhat intimate areas (solved by buying a pair of briefs from the delightfully named Runderwear), the frustrations of travelling and the drivel I am now foisting on the Internet. So far only a couple of people have been told about the blog – and so far no-one has been rude about it. So time to open it up to a wider audience. I’ll update it with D-H over the next couple of weeks (which has turned into a couple of months) and I plan to complete I-M in September. (That plan changed – I’ll explain more in I is for…) I’ve already decided where I, J and K are – L and M are a little more elusive.
It’s very noticeable that there are a lot fewer people around today and people are noticeably subdued. I can’t work out whether this is because they were up late watching the election or it’s just the usual Friday ennui. This was clear even when I was walking to the station and 4 police cars belted past me all on blue lights – and each with a single police officer in. Clearly the result of a new single-crewing policy which is excessively dumbarse and will result in someone getting killed.
Looking ahead, I have a complex journey today with changes at some odd sounding stations. The first train is to Reading (the people there are very odd) and then I head to North Camp and Ash Vale. For some reason the latter sound more like somewhere in Mordor. So I nervously finger the ring in my pocket, wrap up my lembas (actually flapjack) and head off on my lonely journey.
When the train gets into North Camp, I am greeted by appropriate weather. Or what would be appropriate if I were in India in monsoon season. I nip into the shelter on the platform to be joined by 3 other people who, like me, are rummaging in bags to get out suitable attire. Eschewing traditional weatherproof clothing, I slip on the age-appropriate hoodie in the knowledge that I have 25 minutes to walk the mile between the two stations. I am confident this will be enough as the clouds are broken by a patch of bright blue which is getting both closer and larger and already is big enough to make a pair of sailors trousers.
One of my fellow passengers is not happy. She, like me, booked her ticket through the Trainline. She, unlike me, didn’t bother to look at the breakdown and did not realise there was a bit of a walk involved. She is grumbling a lot and is not calmed when I inform her that the Trainline actually points out there is a walk between the two stations. She is also not too savvy and ignoring the explanation about the sailors trousers, she heads off into the torrential rain.
I, more wise and considerably more smug, wait 5 minutes. Then my natural impatience takes over and despite the fact that the rain hasn’t completely stopped I head off as well to traverse the Emyn Muil. The way is clear and straight – and completely unsullied by the grumpy woman. I am concerned that there are some deep puddles and half expect to hear a cry of “I’m melting! I’m melting!” from somewhere ahead. I hear nothing so I head off and soon reach Ash Vale, and she turns up about about 5 minutes later. I have no idea where she went, but clearly she managed to find a much longer route than the one I took. She treats me with a withering stare and I feel the paint on the wall behind me peeling off. I, of course, am immune as in my pocket is the One Ring, so I just smile & go back to Virginia Woolf.
The weather is timing things perfectly. As the train to Farnham arrives, the sun comes out completely drenching the area in light. Then as the train arrives at Farnham it buggers off and I just get drenched instead. Farnham Station is on the unoriginally named Station Hill and as I shelter in the station, I watch two small rivers running down the road. Luckily, it is just a heavy shower – but it’s not alone and as a result I spend much of my visit sheltering from the elements.
Farnham does not impress on a first viewing. Nowhere looks good in torrential rain, and the scenic crossing of a dual carriageway to get into the town itself does not help. But as I head into Farnham, I find myself liking the town. There is very little of the modern glass and steel buildings that are seen virtually everywhere else. Just walking down the main street there are some interesting buildings.
The approach to the castle is up Castle Hill (one thing Farnham clearly suffers from is a lack of imagination in the naming of thoroughfares). This is really attractive – and would be even better if it weren’t for the cars parked on both sides of the road and the constant stream of traffic. There are some buildings with a lot of character – notably the Almshouses and the Nelson Arms.
Farnham Castle Keep and the associated Bishops Palace loom over the town, but as I walk up towards it I can only get occasional glimpses. That’s because the roads are quite narrow and I only get the occasional look at the castle between them – and even then it’s not the Keep itself that is seen – it’s the Bishops Palace. The final climb is a great reveal, and I come out by the Palace itself.
The Palace has been built right beside the Keep which is considerably older and dates from Norman times.
The Keep is free to get into – the Bishops Palace has guided tours — which I have missed. So I head into the Keep and climb the stairs towards the main entrance.
Inside, the Keep has been filled in with earth so it’s difficult to appreciate how tall it is. There is an excavation in the middle of it which allows you to see right down to the bottom – and a pseudo -suspended staircase which guarantees jitters for anyone who is scared of heights (or depths).
The view from the ramparts is spectacular and it is easy to see how this Keep dominated the landscape around it.
It also gives a great view of the black storm clouds coming in for the next assault on the area. I head back down before the next one hits. I had planned to run down some Geocaches while I was here, but the weather is far too changeable and I have already run foul of numerous deep and exciting puddles. On the way back, I head off the main road and find a number of really attractive houses and cottages. All through Farnham are little examples of interesting architecture and statuary – this town may deserve a longer visit.
As I head back to the station and navigate my way across the exciting dual carriageway, I notice something I had missed previously: the start point of the North Downs Way.
Something to think about once A to Z is finished.
As I head back on the train, I am disturbed from Night and Day by the sound of two girls talking loudly further down the carriage. Every sentence starts of ends with “Ok, yah” and I smile as I recollect hearing that everywhere in the 1980s. It’s great to hear that some accents have not disappeared, even if it makes some things difficult to say. My favourite line was “Oh, OK, no, I couldn’t do that…ok, yah?”
The journey back is an easy one, made more entertaining by a blind womans guide dog trying to convince everyone in the carriage that she was refusing to give him food. A nice encounter for my journey home, which ended up with people talking and laughing — a highly unusual occurrence.
So, if you’re still with me, that’s the first 8 done and only 18 to go! Thank you for your kind attention and your polite comments (and for refraining from giving me your nasty comments of there were any.)
In keeping with the artificial nature of this blog, I thought I would also put some stats together. So, in the first 8 days I:
- used 34 trains;
- took 2 buses;
- completed 9 tubes journeys;
- walked 119.8 miles.
And with that final thought, adieu. I is for… beckons and will be with you soon