diamond geezer

 Thursday, October 24, 2019

05:12  I have woken up three minutes before my alarm, because bodies are strange like that.
05:50  I am wearing my winter coat for the first time this autumn. The stars are out.
05:59  Bow Road station is very quiet. The timetabled tube train does not arrive.
06:35  Someone is sitting in my reserved seat stuffing a croissant into their mouth. They pick up their bag of crumbs and move into the aisle seat, then spend 15 minutes brushing their face.
07:26  One of the best things about an early morning window seat is watching a smear of dawn burning pink and gold through a gap in the clouds.
07:30  I wish I hadn't forgotten my headphones.
08:03  The three civil servants at the table opposite have been talking about work for over an hour, including what the new SpAds are like, how positive the Secretary of State was at her last meeting and why it's important today's key speaker has more than one slide in their presentation. One has spent the trip sticking together little red cardboard boxes for use at today's two sessions. The trio have been impressively diplomatic in revealing nothing of national importance, but I am now party to a considerable amount of departmental gossip.
08:49  Train two is late and standing room only, so I'm stuck in the vestibule where I can barely see out of the window, but that's OK because it's quite foggy.
09:11  This town seems to be mostly shopping centre. A screen in Thomas Cook's window is still playing adverts for holidays nobody will ever take.
09:28  "No, you get on first, our free bus passes aren't valid until half past."
09:43  My bus is being diverted because of roadworks ahead, so I have to get off to catch a free shuttlebus, but that left two minutes ago because we were delayed by earlier roadworks.
10:11  I have spent the last half hour at a bus stop outside a row of public conveniences, opposite a fancy goods shop that can't spell "stationery".

10:20  I've wanted to come here for ages. I have technically been here before, but I didn't get off the bus.
10:27  Sitting alone in the theatre, waiting for the film loop to restart.
11:00  A clock strikes and the museum opens. Before I go inside I want to go and stand on the iconic structure at the end of the lawn. The cafe smells of bacon.
11:23  It may be half term in London but it isn't around here, because I timed my trip carefully.
11:54  The fog's finally lifted.
12:02  I am underneath the thing I have mainly come to see. Several retired people with big zoom lenses are here too. We all patiently wait to take our turns in the optimal snapping locations.
12:06  I am on top of the thing I have mainly come to see. It's mostly empty, so my lone silhouette must be really annoying the photographers down below.
12:20  Well that was lovely. Now, onwards along the disused railway.
12:42  The local brass band rehearses for two hours every Tuesday and Friday evening in the former Wesleyan Chapel.
13:19  John's collection is absolutely fabulous. I particularly like the Pipers and the WHSmith quartet.
13:48  I hoped I'd arrived too early for the workshop tour, because I simply don't have the time, but the bow-tied volunteer is just back from lunch (where he had a jacket potato with tuna) and proceeds to run me through the finer points of manufacture anyway.
14:13  Wow. I don't know if I'm more impressed that they built that or that it's still here.
14:21  Should have followed the sign. Should not have tried to walk up the hill along the road. For the first time today I am regretting the winter coat.
14:39  That is quite the big reveal (and all the better for not being full of schoolkids).
14:54  The Wow is even more impressive from the top of the incline than from the bottom. A retired couple on the way up are muttering about the steps being 'quite uneven'.
15:22  I recognise that mineshaft from Doctor Who.
15:28  The undertaker is mending a violin. The postmistress is explaining Morse Code. The pharmacist seems glad of some company. I'm already thinking about leaving, whereas I had been expecting to stay another hour.
15:55  I doubt that anybody else is leaving on foot.

16:08  Oh great, I'm back at the bus stop by the misspelled 'stationary' sign, which has no timetable. While I wait, a local resident spots a cigarette butt on the pavement, picks it up and lights it.
16:33  My meandering bus is affording me a lengthy tour of provincial suburban estates, which I'm choosing to see as a fascinating insight into Middle English society rather than a prolonged waste of time.
16:51  The two teenage passengers with the matching dyed blue hair are off to Subway to kickstart their evening on the town.
17:11  The screen in Thomas Cook's window has been turned off, and a handwritten welcome message from Hays Travel stuck up instead.
17:35  My first homeward train has plenty of seats. Time to finish off my thermos of tea.
17:54  I have almost an hour before my next train departs, which is the downside of a sub-£10 Advance ticket. This does at least leave time to walk the city streets at dusk, which is briefly pretty, but then it gets dark and all the shops are closed and I've already walked ten miles today and in truth I just want to go home.
18:16  The police have removed their knife arch from the station entrance.
18:34  It's started raining, so I'm glad the train is early.
19:07  I cannot for the life of me get 1 across in today's quick crossword.
19:45  The heating's turned up so high in this carriage that my fledgling cold suddenly evolves into full-on nose-dribbling mode. The lady in the seat opposite is similarly triggered and ends up blowing noisily into her handkerchief for an entire minute. She cannot see the Daily Mail reader sat behind her repeatedly raising her eyeballs to the ceiling, but I can.
20:39  Oh the joy of walking out onto an unheated platform.
20:40  Nobody has checked my ticket at any point on the rail journey south.
21:25  Home. Phew. Fabulous.

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