Tuesday, 11th May, 2021

[Day 421]

Today has arrived at last and we knew that it was going to be quite a busy day as it was Mike’s birthday. After breakfast and a very pleasurable opening both of cards and presents, I popped the various plants that my family had bought for me on the plantstand outside my study window and then went down in the car to pick up our newspapers. This having been done (and learning, incidentally, that my newsagent’s wedding anniversary is exactly the same as ours), I then popped into our local Waitrose. I had already prepared a birthday card for the store (four years old!) and all of its associated staff and this I handed over, as well as a bottle of homemade Apple juice (i.e. non-alcoholic) which I hope that staff will be able to share whenever they have a mid-shift break. I then turned the car homewards and picked up Meg and my son and we made our way to Kidderminster station (or rather the preserved railway station of the Severn Valley Railway line). There we got plugged in to the well worked out procedures to cater for passengers in this almost post-pandemic situation. After our bar coded documentation is handed over, we are issued with a wrist band which we wear all day and which allocated us to our unique carriage compartment. This has evidently been cleaned for us and we were left with a plastic bag for own rubbish and a bottle of sanitiser for our use throughout the day.The train left on time at 11.00 am and takes an hour and a quarter to get to Bridgnorth in Worcestershire. Our son who knows every inch of the line (having undertaken Driver Experience Days driving Class 50 diesel locomotives several times up and down the line) was evidently on hand to give us expert commentary of different facets of the line. As the train passes over the West Midlands Safari park, we had more than a fair glimpse of some of the rhinos who roam there. In our own carriage, we finished off the bacon butties and coffee with which we had fuelled ourselves with in the refreshment rooms at Kidderminster station immediately before our departure.We arrived at Kidderminster, just about on time but with glowering skies and some spits of rain. We decided to walk up into the town in search of a watering hole that would serve us beer and some hot food and found a good place in one of the streets off the High Street which our son had remembered and which gave us good shelter from the drips of rain which were around us. We had to wait a fairly long time for our food but we did not really care as we had so many matters of mutual interest (generally on the subject of engineering matters and particular types of engines found in planes, ships and trains) We then wandered back down through the town and fortunately the sun had now come out to grace our day. We finished up in a beer tent (adjunct the usual ‘Railway Mens Arms‘ which may reopen again shortly) where we topped up the alcohol quotient in our blood before tumbling into our allocated carriage. There we treated ourselves to a drink of coffee (from our own flask), a slice of lemon drizzle cake (courtesy of one of our friends) and a box of delicious dark chocolate truffles (courtesy gift from Waitrose as of this morning). When we come to reflect upon the day, we have had an absolutely marvellous day out with family/friends and would certainly seek to repeat this again at an early opportunity.

This evening, we had a special Zoom meeting organised by one of my University of Winchester colleagues and involving three of my former colleagues as well as Meg and myself. Basically we all enjoy each other’s company so in normal times we tend to meet up once or twice a year (calling ourselves ‘The Old Fogies‘) and enjoy a good meal followed by a drink in a pub often in the Winchester area. We are trying to see if we can meet up again with each face-to-face and so we think that a date in July might be OK. Basically, having waited for 15 months, it shouldn’t be too hard for us to wait another two months which might fly by quite quickly now.

We are now making arrangements to meet with Meg’s cousin (ex-opera singer) and her daughter some time in the neat future. As it stands it looks as though a week on Sunday may be the best available date! Now that the lockdown is easing, I am sure we are all scrambling to meet with each other. I am saying to my friends that I am scouring the local bookshops for old encyclopaedias which may have a designation of ‘How‘ to ‘Hug‘ in case we have forgotten how to do this.