Thursday, 22 May 2008

Going up to London

Why do we go 'up' to London, even though it is down from my northern home?

My day-trip to London was, travel-wise, largely uneventful.  I shared a table on the way down with a couple of ladies who clearly examine students for PE.  (I recognise that I am an inveterate eavesdropper on conversations in this manner.)  The train was merely 10 minutes late, but that resulted in mad dashes for us all to get to our meetings.  The journey back was even less eventful.

In the middle I attended a conference for chartered accountants who have had a career break and are considering returning to work.  This was interesting for a number of reasons.  Primarily, it was the first time I had been to the HQ of the ICAEW.  Quite a building!  Clearly full of Victorian architecture and no doubt thousands of pounds of my annual subscription is spent just keeping the building looking like it does.  Probably worth it, although I do sometimes question how much we, the great British public, uphold our inherited buildings at the cost of modern functionality.

The meetings themselves were excellent: all the speakers spoke well.  No-one offered me a job on the spot (not probable, but always hopeful...) Rather disheartening to hear that the best way to get a part-time job is to go full time for 6 months and then request a reduction in hours.  I guess I could do to find a CA here that would also like to work a few hours and job-share.

I then spent a delightful afternoon in the library in the building.  The free wireless internet allowed me to update the cricket score frequently on my laptop!  I did pretend to do some work: the tales from Zambia are coming along slowly... very, very slowly.

My greatest surprise of the day was how pleasant the underground was at 5.30, going back to King's Cross.  Surely this is rush hour, a mad rush as everyone clamours to get on the train back to the 'burbs?  But no: I even got a seat!  Perhaps it wouldn't be so appalling to live in London again ...

Friday, 9 May 2008

Old haunts, old friends (2)

The original purpose of the visit: Sunday.  It turned out that you cannot get to Edinburgh from Newcastle by train on a Sunday before 11am, so Saturday was added on as a way out of this problem.  Cannot even begin to understand the mindset that has no trains going north of the border until lunchtime, but heck - no-one has asked me to run Network Rail yet.  Perhaps if they did ...

Our venue at 11am was our church in Leith.  After many years of worship there, the Methodist Church as decided to combine four churches in the city into one City church and we were invited to the final Sunday morning service in the church.  I thought it would be emotional, teary, sad, but I should have known better. I am priviledged to have worked and worshipped there. I have never been to such a cheerful, enthusiastic, open church in the UK, full of innovative ideas, full of God's praise. 

Full of food too.  The buffet was a banquet and I suspect many church members will be eating ham sandwiches for weeks to come.

Of course, this also gave us the opportunity to meet up with friends whom we haven't seen for too long.  When we left Edinburgh our friends were married and just beginning to contemplate children.  On Sunday we ended up in the Botanical Gardens, eight children running around madly, making new friends as their parents tried to catch up on the missing years.  It did appear that it was only us who had changed jobs/life/country with any degree of regularity.  However, nothing matched up to the glories of Gareth's new A-reg Landrover.  I could see my husband drooling in envy, mentally reciting the 10th Commandment over and over again: Thou shalt not covet thy best friend's landrover.

The journey home was late and uneventful, although such a long walk along the platform at Waverley that we were back out in the open air.  Also a cross-country train despite booking through national express.   One day I'm determined I'll understand the world of big business but for now I'll just rejoice in the simple joys of meeting old friends and time together as a family.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Old haunts, old friends (1)

The long weekend gave opportunity to travel to Edinburgh for an overnight stay.

No1 child was studying Castles at school last term so we arranged our train journeys to give us time to see Edinburgh Castle on arrival on Saturday afternoon.  Journey uneventful.  Glorious sunshine in Edinburgh.

On departure from Waverley, beginning the long climb up to our destination at the head of the Royal Mile ('Mum! I'm tired! My legs hurt!'), my husband noticed someone waving madly at us from their car.  We haven't lived in Edinburgh for over 12 years so this was somewhat unexpected.  More surprising still was when we were greeted a couple of minutes later by friends who we thought were in New Zealand.  (They wish they still were.)  It was a former flat-mate of my husband, still living in his university town.

Our children were unimpressed.  No1 child simply wanted to get to the castle...

I believe that neither of us actually visited the castle when living in Edinburgh.  The queues to buy tickets was appalling - surely some better system could be devised?  Another three attendants would have been a good start.  Still, our children loved running around, discovering the different rooms, rushing past all the amazing history and showing only a modicum of interest in the Crown Jewels.  Thank goodness for tea and scones - recuperation medicine for exhausted parents.

We drifted down the Royal Mile in order to catch a bus to Leith.  I reminisced, thinking how beautiful the city of Edinburgh is, how lively and interesting.  We both pointed places out saying, 'Wasn't that a vegetarian cafe?' or 'That's where our friends got married.'  We smiled at the tourist guides giving foreigners a potted history of the sights.  We ambled along, disgusted that the central Post Office is no longer there, remembering lining pennies up along North Bridge in a fund-raising attempt when at University, marvelling that the city is going to get a tramline.

Eventually we plumped for a restaurant on the waterfront at Leith.  Given how posh it was they were remarkably accommodating for us with large, ungainly rucksacks and two exhausted and exhausting children.  A bottle of wine later and we adults at least felt sane again.

A final walk to our B&B for the night.  More reminiscing, as we remembered Easter sunrise services on the mounds on Leith Links.  The regeneration of Leith is quite amazing and a delight to behold.  We finally collapsed into bed - amazed that our children could still want to sit up and read - and slept like logs.
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