Silly Saturday – Transport Trials and Tribulations

Everyone is worrying about transport; panic buying at petrol stations because of a shortage of petrol tank drivers, what alternative transport would you use…

Panic about empty shelves because of a shortage of HGV drivers; turns out the food does not appear in shops by magic, perhaps other means of delivery should be considered…

But it is no fun being a delivery driver; nowhere to park and rest in big cities…

…and poor facilities at driver stopovers…

They can only dream of better.

Why not continue to escape reality with one of my short story collections…

What’s the Point?

Being in lockdown, isolation, shielding, what ever you like to call it, life has been different for all of us, some more than others; suddenly working from home, or not working at all. Even those who already worked from home, were stay at home parents or retired, still went out and about. How many of us are asking ourselves what’s the point of going out to work, what’s the point of ever leaving home at all? Will there be people who join the true agoraphobics and never leave home again?

If you live on a country estate or an outback station in Australia you probably rarely leave home; it’s a very long way to your front gate. If you live in a city centre with all life on your doorstep in normal times, you did not need to go far. But if you are among the millions and millions who live in suburbs, going out and coming home again is the natural order of things. For generations people have been getting on the train to go ‘up to town’ to the office. Cities are full of offices, new towers of offices are still being built, but why?  When I was very young I asked my father what he did at work and he said ‘write letters’. That sounded very boring so I vowed to avoid an office job and I have, apart from a temporary job when I did commute up to Waterloo station for a few months. I’m sure lots of important things go on in offices, but my little temping job involved chasing up orders that were never ready and seemed unlikely to ever get to where they were supposed to and apologising on the phone to the people that were not going to get them.

Whether you are a big or little cog in your company, we now know you can contribute from a lap top on the kitchen table. All those office blocks could be used to house key workers who at present cannot afford to live near their work and also waste hours commuting.

If the world of work has changed what about leisure and shopping? Will shopping have altered so much there will be no point? I haven’t actually been near a shop except the tiny pharmacy attached to our doctors to collect prescriptions. In our new restricted life even that has taken on an allure of adventure. But will shopping be an adventure or an ordeal now?

When our well known chain BHS, British Home Stores, collapsed, one commentator suggested it did not offer a focussed shopping experience, which is probably why I used to go there, I am an unfocussed shopper. The best buys are when you stop for lunch at a garden centre to break a long journey and end up buying a coat, new trainers and colourful kitchen items you didn’t know you needed. We did have a lovely shop in town that sold an array of colourful and very expensive items that made you want to throw out everything in your kitchen and start all over again. I only looked and didn’t actually buy anything, but they had a nice coffee shop upstairs, strewn with unhygienic cushions, where you could relax and check your social media or write. Where do writers go now?

Whether you enjoyed trying on endless clothes and sampling makeup, or browsing in the book shop before going to your knit and knatter group in that trendy LITTLE yarn shop, the shopping future looks bleak. I imagine only focussed shoppers will be allowed in, two at a time, no browsing, one way system, no turning back, straight to what they need and out again, no idling, no coffee and cake. Jumping casually on the bus, laden with bags of shopping, squashed in by people standing in the aisle, listening in to people’s conversations, observing strange people for your next short story? All that real life is gone; six people on board, strictly spaced out, wait for the next bus. You will be glad to get home and maybe never leave again, glad you have mastered on line shopping.

And what of the great tradition of visiting garden centres?  As well as our travel adventures, we did visit our local centre regularly to actually buy plants, browsing through the reduced stands for ‘rescue plants’, wandering round the water features and overpriced gift section. Then there were the very popular two for one dinners on Thursday evening, masses of people, leaving Cyberspouse with his coffee while I made my final choice of plants. Yesterday’s email outlined the latest rules. Every adult must take a trolley so they keep track of numbers and the strange line ‘We prefer one child per adult and trolley’ … what if you haven’t got  a child, do they hand them out along with gloves and gel or might you have to fit your six foot 35year old son in the trolley? I have had plants delivered by the greengrocer and have ordered some on line, but it’s not quite the same…

Are you planning to leave home any time soon? Can you see any point in going shopping?

Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Travel

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Visitors from all over the world come to visit this place, Windsor, Royal Berkshire. What to some is the holiday of a lifetime is a train trip of six minutes – if you happen to live near Slough railway station. You cannot get lost because there is only one stop, the train travels all day long between Slough and Windsor and Eaton Central, curving round to cross the River Thames. The elegant station was built so Queen Victoria could come by train to Windsor Castle.

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The station is busy with tourists and has plenty of restaurants and designer shops, so you will feel as if you are on holiday. Windsor Castle lies before you as you step outside, but perhaps you will be having so much fun on holiday in the station you won’t bother.

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But if you consider it is not a proper holiday unless you cross the sea, why not sail to Southampton.

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Take the ferry from the little town of Hythe in Hampshire. Check first on line to see if there are any ocean liners in dock, you will get a great view from the little ferry and it is much cheaper than going on a cruise.

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Hythe Pier, 1881 A strong, light iron pier, 2,100 feet in length…

The railway is the oldest continuously operating public pier train in the world. You can walk, cycle or take the train to the end of the pier and the ferry takes only ten minutes. Stroll out of the ferry terminal and you can explore parts of the old city wall or walk up the road into the centre of Southampton. If you want to shop or go to the cinema there is the Westquay centre with Ikea close by. There are large parks, museums, a university, the lovely Mayflower theatre and a concert hall.

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But if you want to feel as if you are abroad ( and you are not lucky enough to already be Swedish ) just stay all day in Ikea and stroll amongst the wonderful ‘rooms’ pretending you are visiting your Scandinavian friends. Buy all sorts of things you didn’t know you needed and have no idea what they are, but just like reading the interesting Swedish labels. When you tire, visit the restaurant which also has views over Southampon Water and the ocean liners. Soon it will be time to embark for the return trip across the waves.

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Enjoy more travels at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

Friday Flash Fiction – Jack’s on a Mission.

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‘Don’t let the cold air in Jack.’

‘Sorry, did I wake you?’

‘No, the three alarms woke me.’

‘I didn’t want to be late picking up the other three. I’ll creep out now and let you get back to sleep.’

‘Fat chance of that with you clumping around, anyway you know I’ll be worried till I hear you’ve arrived safely.’

‘No need to worry if you don’t hear, not likely to get reception up there.’

Jo yawned. ‘Is it foggy out there like the weatherman said?’

‘Yup can’t see a thing.’

‘Do be careful out on those winding lanes, thank goodness Phil’s not driving… have you got everything, flask, long johns on, all your gear?’

‘Yes… yes, look I’ve got to go, I want to be right clear of the city before the rush hour.’

 

Phil was waiting by his garden gate for Jack.

‘Hope this fog lifts or we’ll never see it. Did you remember to fill up the petrol this time?’

‘Yeah, ready to go, hope the other two set their alarms.’

 

‘You are now entering the Red Rose County…  at last’ said Phil.

‘Still a way to go yet, keep an eye out for the road signs, I don’t want to miss that turning this time.’

‘Sun’s up and I think that mist is clearing.’

 

Jack felt a thrill as the road climbed and the number of sheep multiplied. Once they were in the car park he jumped out and took in the cold damp air of the moors. After a quick sup from their flasks they started getting the camera gear out; it was time to split up. The four men had planned their positions several days ago, every vantage point had to be covered. Later there would be time to warm up at the inn, get a hot lunch, a few beers and most importantly have a debriefing. Jack strode away from the gritted car park and on to the spongy moor. The sheep took no notice of him, they were used to walkers and sightseers. After ten minutes he was happy with his spot and checked his watch, half an hour to go. He took out a sandwich and the flask and sat on a hillock taking in the silence; nothing but the occasional bleating of a sheep. He had a good team, but he needed to be alone for this part. It was quite a miracle when the sun came out, it didn’t happen often up here. Though the warmth and light was welcome, low in the sky, the sun could cause problems for his shots.

 

It was the same as before, he merely sensed it at first. Still out of sight when he heard it, like a heartbeat, like the blood pulsing in your ears at night. When he was a child he thought it was a train in his head.

Then he saw the white plumes of smoke, switched on the video camera and started clicking away with the camera, following the graceful curve of the rail. The sky was clear as the train crossed the viaduct, he was going to get his best shots ever.

All too soon it was out of sight, Phil would be getting a perfect view from Ribblehead Station platform. The sheep carried on grazing, oblivious to the marvels of Victorian engineering.

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https://www.settle-carlisle.co.uk/heritage/history

Read more flash fiction and longer stories in Someone Somewhere.

Lines On The Washing

Winter has the advantage of long dark evenings, but the risk of tripping over on the pavement – if you are nosey and walk with your head turned sideways to see into the windows of homes where they have not closed the curtains. I love seeing choice of colour schemes and furniture, signs of lifestyles; room full of toys, a cello and music stand or a wide screen television hung over the fireplace revealing to the whole street what they are watching.

Being on a train, coach on the motorway or upstairs on a double-decker bus has the extra advantage we can’t be seen spying on the lives of others; peering into their back gardens, watching a farmer walk his cows over a motorway bridge or busy shoppers ignoring a homeless person in a doorway.

When I was 21 and officially on my working holiday, with destination, career path and accommodation vague, I would look down from train or coach windows fascinated, sometimes envious of other people with their real lives. Going to work, pushing prams, shopping, gardening and hanging out the washing; putting washing on the line is one of the few domestic tasks we can observe, from the person leaning over their tiny balcony in a block of flats to a lone cottage on a hill, the wind ready to tear the sheets from their hands.

Hanging the washing up is my favourite domestic task. This is not a discussion about housework and who should do what. Clothes and bedding need to be washed, meals prepared and homes large and small cleaned; somewhere along the line someone has to do it and my favourite job is hanging out the washing. Yes I know towels come out of the tumble drier lovely and fluffy, but it’s hardly a spiritual experience.

When I am in my little garden hanging out the washing this is the real life I observed so long ago. The fact that I am out there means either I’m basking in the sun or being whipped by an exhilarating wind, either way enjoying nature. Looking up at the sky, observing the birds and tidying up the flowers are all part of the experience and an antidote to the internet; though I often grab my phone to take a picture of birds, flowers or clouds to put on Facebook or Instagram.

Of course you will know from books, films and television dramas that secret agents, detectives and important politicians never need to do the washing. But in my novel Brief Encounters of the Third Kind, Susan is a very ordinary woman in an ordinary London suburb. It is when she is in the garden hanging out the washing that something strange happens that will change her life.