The First Trans-Pennine Express 11.06 from Manchester Airport station to Newcastle rolled gently northwards at 11.06 and 20 seconds on Monday morning. We were comfortably housed in our reserved seats. We knew they were our reserved seats because - well, they had numbers which corresponded with those on our tickets - but, more interestingly, they had a little place card inserted in the top of the seat saying, "Reserved Manchester A. to Darlington". We (read Kleppy) figured out that the little card is to advise passengers without a seat reservation that that particular seat is open to anyone except for the part of the trip between Manchester Airport and Darlington. It's a small idea, but a good one in terms of making the most of the available seats.
What's that you say? Who is Kleppy?
Earlier in the day, prior to leaving our overnight accommodation, Moggy had elected to retain a couple of the complimentary small jars of condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard) which she thought, quite rightly, might come handy for us over the next few days. Then at breakfast, she made the mistake of suggesting that, if there was any fresh fruit in the breakfast buffet, we grab a couple of apples or bananas for the train trip. Well, the girls and I couldn't resist launching into a detailed and fanciful, but very funny, exploration of their mother's criminal tendencies. Hence her being anointed the title of "Kleppy".
The trip north on the train was pleasant. It was interesting to see the pockets of what we guessed had been originally built as housing estates. Every house contained in them was exactly the same as the one next door to it, and set out on a geometric grid. They looked like little Monopoly houses which someone with a serious case of OCD had painstakingly laid out on a board. The glimpses we got of Manchester and Leeds were interesting for their differentness, particularly as the train line often runs past the rear of apartments and business premises. I'm still a bit intrigued by the "LIVE DRAG SHOWS" sign that I saw. Display races between toy cars perhaps?
The journey through York provided only tempting glimpses of the Minster I'm so keen to visit in coming days.
Then there was sameness. The countryside between York and Darlington could have been the southern midlands of Tasmania. I kept expecting to see the Oatlands flour mill in the near distance.
Arriving in Market Square in Richmond was a surreal experience for me. For the last six months I've had a picture of that place as my desktop wallpaper. Stepping into the middle of it had something of a sense of achievement about it. More about Richmond and surrounds over the next few days, but I wanted to finish this post with a story of serendipity.
For months now I've been annoying Ella with my semi-serious suggestion that as soon as we step off the bus in Market Square, I intend to choose one of the many Ye Olde Pubs in the area for my first Ye Olde Pint and that she can wait outside for me - a plan I immediately implemented on arrival. Well, to be fair, we modified it a little. Kleppy and the girls went for a stroll to check the lay of the land, while I guarded our bags in the lounge of Y.O.P. The only issue was which Y.O.P. to choose - there we at least 11 within line of site of the bus stop. Eventually I settled on The Kings Head, for no reason other than it was close, and it looked large enough for me to enter with 4 large items of luggage and not feel overly self-conscious. So, happily I settled in the dining room of The Kings Head with a pint of Theakston's Best Bitter and a plate of bangers & mash. I grabbed the Kindle and opened the contemporary novel I have been reading, but the reading material did not match my Y.O.P-induced nostalgia, so I scanned the available texts (the TRUE wonder of Kindle is that you can keep a library in your pocket), and settled on Gordon Home's 1908 edition of Yorkshire, which includes a chapter on Richmond, which was perfect for the occasion. About 4 pages into that chapter, Mr Home speaks in favourable terms of one of the many hotels in the vicinity of Market Square: and it was the very pub in which I was sitting!
All in all, a perfect welcome to Richmond.