Mrs Canavan and I did something jolly exciting at the weekend – we went to London and back in a day.
It’s the kind of thing I’d have previously dismissed as ludicrous and impossible, but Mrs C is a little more adventurous than me – indeed she once cut the grass without using the 3-pin safety power-breaker adaptor – and she had booked the tickets.
We departed from Preston at 9am and returned on the 6 o’clock train. I felt like Michael Palin and Marco Polo rolled into one.
I do enjoy visiting London and arriving at Euston is quite thrilling. There is always, to my eternal surprise, so many people around.
That may sound a foolish statement but you must remember I reside in an area so sleepy it causes major excitement when there’s a two-for-one offer on Regina Blitz kitchen roll at the local Tesco Express.
If I may digress for a moment, Regina Blitz, if you haven’t heard of it before, is the Premier League of kitchen roll. You can spill seven pints of water on the lounge floor, casually throw down one sheet, and it will absorb all the liquid, like magic. I daresay if you dipped a dozen sheets in Lake Windermere it would be completely drained within the hour.
Sad as it may seem – and my it does seem sad – I actually keep track of where and when the stuff is on special offer and once, when it was reduced to a quid per packet at Morrisons, drove seven miles to the nearest store where I purchased 30 rolls. The woman behind the till looked alarmed, as if she recognised me from a Crimewatch reconstruction. ‘That’s 30 rolls you’ve got there, are you sure that’s correct?’ she asked.
“Erm, yes,” I replied, suddenly embarrassed, before adding lamely, “we have a lot of kitchen spillages.”
I needed help from two store assistants to carry them to my car but arrived home delighted at how much money I’d saved – only for Mrs Canavan to react with fury rather than gratitude, complaining that they took up all the storage space in the coat cupboard. On the upside we didn’t need to buy kitchen roll again until the following November, so every cloud...
But back to Euston, which, though exciting, is, it must be noted, a terrifically ugly building. This wasn’t always the case. On its opening in 1837, it had a beautiful, distinctive arch over its entrance. But then in the 1960s it was demolished to create - and how depressing does this sound? - ‘the electrified West Coast main line’. Doesn’t that sum up modern life? We can get places faster, they just look worse when we arrive.
Despite this, Euston has a fantastic buzz about it, though I was a little miffed at having to pay 30p to go to the toilet, which is what they charge there to use the loo. I needed, if you’ll pardon me for being crude for a moment, a number two, so had to cough up or risk my trousers suffering permanent damage.
Though bitter at the cash outlay, I have to say the lavatories are in spectacularly resplendent condition. Then I saw why. The whole time I was in there, a bloke with a mop and some very thick Marigolds shuffled from cubicle to cubicle, urinal to urinal, meticulously cleaning. By the time he had finished one lap – and because of the very nature of a toilet and the job it does – the first one needed cleaning again, and so this chap’s day went on. The poor fella must spend his entire eight-hour shift in there. I hope he is well paid, though I fear not.
Our day in London, or more accurately a cheery little nearby district called Brockley where our friends live, turned out to be very pleasant.
An interesting thing happened when I went into a bar to order a glass of wine for Mrs Canavan and an ale for myself. The lad serving spent ages preparing our drinks, mainly because he fiddled around for a good five minutes folding two little napkins into the shape of what could have been ducks - or maybe elephants, hard to tell - all so we could place our drinks on them and it would look pretty.
When he finally finished his origami masterclass he turned and said ‘that’ll be £13.80 please’. After I had finished staggering backwards in the manner of someone suffering a fairly serious heart attack, he added, ‘are you paying cash or card?’
It so happened that I had a £20 note in my pocket and so replied, ‘cash’. I noticed him grimace ever-so-slightly. He fiddled in his till for quite some time - for a moment I thought he was folding another napkin - and then, somewhat reluctantly, said, ‘I’m afraid I’ve no change - I can either give you £10 or £5’.
I dwelled on this for a moment and then pointed out that if he gave me £5 I’d be paying more than the asking price and so, if it were Ok, I’d prefer the tenner please.
He looked at me with undisguised loathing and slapped, with some force, a £10 note into my hand.
That saving of £3.80 left me feeling strangely giddy and light-headed - basically, when you’ve not much of a life, like myself, those kind of small victories can really make your day. We made it back to Preston for 8pm, I urinated for free at the near deserted station, and then we headed home.
It’s the most excitement I’ve had in years.
Sunday lunch ... with a filthy twist
I learned a very valuable lesson at work the other day, namely don’t place in your rucksack a Tupperware box containing your lunch (in this case a generous portion of leftover Sunday roast, complete with a very rich and thick onion gravy) unless the lid on said Tupperware box is properly attached.
I arrived at work and unzipped my rucksack, to find the Tupperware box empty and, sloshing at the bottom of the bag, a selection of roast beef, broccoli, roast potatoes, parsnips and the gravy.
To say I was devastated at this turn of events is putting it mildly. I had spent much of Sunday night fantasising about dinner-time snack.
There was, however, no way it was going to waste. I’m a war baby (the Falklands - it was hell), so I don’t chuck things away easily.
Thus, using a spoon and a paper towel, I carefully scooped the spilt roast from the bottom of my rucksack – a rucksack I’ve had for the best part of 15 years, which has accompanied me on countless walking trips and has had my muddy hiking boots in on many an occasion – and plonked it back in the Tupperware box.
I must say that when I ate later after warming it in the microwave, it had a somewhat odd taste and, in parts, was suspiciously crunchy, almost like dry soil from a hiking boot.