7 Months, 15 days, still sober
UK trip – Day 4 and still sober
Yes it’s 4 sunny August days since I arrived at Heathrow and I’m still in one piece. This is my first trip back home to more temperate climes for 6 years, so there is much to be experienced.
I have to say that my long trek home started extremely well when I was picked up at my home near Mabprachan Lake in the middle of a thunderstorm by a beautiful young chauffeur driving a state of the art Toyota Camry.
It was obviously the ‘luck of the wicked’, as the last time I had booked a taxi, through this self-same company, I had been collected in an antique, rusty old Mercedes Benz, driven by an ancient geezer who looked as though he would drop dead at any moment. He had then proceeded to drive me all the way the Suvarnabhumi airport at about 50 kilometres an hour!
We had barely hit the Bangkok expressway, when the lovely young creature at the wheel informed me that there were two major accidents ahead and that she was going to divert across to the Bang Na Expressway as the motorway was blocked! Upon enquiry, she told me that her mother, who was also a taxi driver on the self-same road had received the information and that she too, was diverting to get around the accident black spot.
Sure enough, before long another white Camry appeared out of the stormy gloom in front of us flashing its emergency lights – it was my beauty’s mother, and the two of us made our way to the elevated Chon Buri / Bang Na Highway, our lights flashing, forging a trail to the airport to ensure that two VIP’s made their flights on time.
As you would expect, I had fanciful visions of my driver’s mother and wondered if there was any way I could cancel my trip home and have a weekend ‘two-some’ with them in Bangkok, (for that is where they hailed from).
In all, it took over two hours to make the 70 minute journey but I still arrived with plenty of time to spare and although I never got to see my driver’s mother, I was more than happy to discover that the entrance for Royal Silk Class passengers was right at the start of the departures terminal, and after much wai-ing, bowing and scraping, I was whisked through check-in, security and immigration ; and before I knew what was happening I found myself in the arms of a deeply piled armchair in the club class lounge. This was even better than a ‘mother and daughter chauffeur two-some’ with my erstwhile drivers. Believe me folks, club class is worth every stang to avoid that stress filled night mare of the regular check-in and the subsequent tortuous route through to the departure lounge.
This was the life, surrounded by free booze, (that I couldn’t drink!), but also by plenty of soft drinks, coffee, sandwiches and other snacks to fill my empty belly before embarking upon my long journey.
From the Royal Silk lounge it was but a short stroll to the departure gate where I was ushered straight to the front of the passenger queue, (eat your heart out – economy class plebs!), before being guided to the upper deck and my aisle seat a couple of rows down from the cockpit.
There may be better and more modern aircraft that ply this busy route from Bangkok to London, but I have to say I couldn’t have had a smoother or more comfortable flight – this despite the fact that my stewardess was a fat old goat, who insisted in embarrassing me by showing me how to incline my seat, even though I assured her I was fully conversant with such seating technology, (I was lying of course and she only came to my aid after seeing me going up and down like a yo yo!).
Anyway, if you’re over sixty and are starting to creak a bit at the joints, then club class is the only way to travel. It’s worth the extra bucks – or in my case the air miles….
My older brother, Sid, God bless him, was dutifully on hand to greet his errant brother at the unimaginably early hour of 7 a.m. and he soon had me ensconced in his car and was haring around the infamous M25, and thence to his lovely home of over 30 years, in Tonbridge, Kent, the garden of England.
Since I have been here, Sid and his wonderfully kind and generous wife, Jane, have been taking care of me and pampering me as if I truly was the prodigal son. I know that Sid and Jane’s marriage hasn’t always been a bed of roses – what marriage has? – but they have been together over 45 years and are a true testament as to how a marriage can really work and how it can last a lifetime, if you put your mind to it. Maybe I can learn a trick or two while I am here.
Anyway, the weather has been pretty good and on the day I arrived, Friday, we all had tea in their lovely little garden, along with house cat and all the in the world was calm and at peace.
Sid’s beautiful little garden
Sid’s garden, again…
Sid’s cat – an incredible 17 years of age…
On Saturday, Sid and Jane drove me down to Ferring, a little resort just down the coast from Worthing on the South Coast, where we were royally entertained by one of my cousins, Eric, who is a few years younger than me, the son of my mother’s younger sister.
I hadn’t seen Eric since 2003 so we had a bit to catch up on. So another pleasant, sunny day in the English south-eastern heartland and then back to Kent in time to watch ‘Match of the Day’ on the goggle box – a time honoured English, saturday night custom.
As if I needed any more Kentish, middle class culture, yesterday my brother suggested that we drive down to Tonbridge Castle, (I never even knew Tonbridge had a castle), and sit in the castle grounds and listen to a brass band performance. Not having anything better to do I agreed on the day’s programme and off we went.
It was yet another very pleasant afternoon. I do quite like brass bands, and as bands go I have heard a lot worse, but it didn’t exactly set the world alight, but I guess it was as good as I was going to get on a sunny Sunday afternoon in provincial Kent. I knew all the music they played and I would say that around 70% of it was more than 50 years old, with a couple of pieces from the early eighties – only 30 years old.
Tonbridge castle – or what’s left of it…
The good folk of Tonbridge gather with their chairs….
It was almost as if I was in a time warp. The music was of the last century, and most of the people attending were from at least the 20th and maybe even the 19th! A good old crowd had turned up, all toting their trusty, fold up, canvas armchairs.
Sitting on ground sheets or blankets seems to have gone with the passing of the last century, which is probably just as well as judging by the age of many, if they had managed to actually sit on the ground I doubt whether half of them would ever succeed in getting up again – including yours truly!!
Horror upon horror – two interlopers try to dance!
Peace is quickly restored.. the band continues it’s archaic repertoire…
Looking around, I was astonished to realise that I was the only person there wearing jeans, and many of the men even had long sleeved shirts and ties! Sid, my brother, ever a man of the people, was actually showing off his ancient knobbly knees in the baggiest pair of shorts I had seen since the heydays of Scouting for Boys. I had another look around – not only was I the only attendee wearing jeans, but Sid was the only one in shorts! My God will they throw us both out, I wondered?
As if to confirm my worst fears, a couple of giant sized ‘Bobbies’ suddenly appeared from the castle ramparts, but as luck would have it, their attention was diverted by a two year old girl who was doing her best to sit on the mouth of a huge brass euphonium just as the poor musician was trying to emit his loudest oomphah pah pah.
Sid and I sat on our canvas fold up chairs with our winter jackets covering our knees and hiding our criminal disregard of the dress code, but mercifully, the danger passed as the cops attention was totally diverted by the two year old Ompah suppressing little girl, who was subsequently arrested and carried away in manacles.
The concert finally drew to a close, despite an annoying encore which stretched my musical appreciation limits to their utmost, and we took a brief walk along the Medway tributary in down-town Tonbridge, before returning home in time to catch Dragons’ Den on the Telly.
A river Medway tributary – just off Tonbridge High street…
More views of the river…(above and below)
The nearby park….
Some period houses near the castle
Looking towards Tonbridge High road….
Today, my last day in Kent for now, has been a less energetic day, if you can call sitting in a car to Worthing or watching a brass band energetic. We drove into Tonbridge to pick up my train ticket for tomorrow’s journey to Peterborough, and to do a spot of shopping in Boots.
These errands having been successfully accomplished, we decided to have a latte in a local coffee shop, but the first one we entered was so busy that we couldn’t even find a seat. We walked along to highroad to the ubiquitous Starbucks and even that was packed to overflowing, but diligent Sid, managed to steal us three seats in a distant,dusty corner.
So in answer to the question: how is the recession hitting Britain? I can respond, that in this little sleepy little country town, not an hour’s journey from London – not a lot. Monday afternoon, expensive coffee and snacks by any standards and this place, and its rival down the road, were packed to the gunnels with locals supping their café lattes, Americanos frappes and their gut busting American muffins.
Tomorrow, I take the train from Tonbridge to Peterborough, via London Bridge and Kings Cross, and thence to Stamford to my youngest daughter’s house, (the bride to be), for a few days.
More later this week, and sorry if I am boring you, but some of you asked me to keep my blog going…….
Maybe these pics below are a bit more to your taste….
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT….I Don’t give a hoot…