On the 1.06 Arriva train to Shrewsbury, when the guard came around, I held up a handful of tickets. 'Excuse me. I think I might have to change trains. Can you tell me in where please?
Yes. Certainly. The guard took my tickets and started shuffling through them. I saw his eyes widen, the nervous swallow of his throat. 'It looks like you're on the 1.06 from Machynlleth to Shrewsbury, the 2.33 from Shrewsbury to Wolverhampton, the 3.20 from Wolverhampton to Stafford, and then the 3.42 from Stafford to London Euston.'
'Ahh…that's why the tickets were so cheap?'
'Yes. But look, I've put them in order for you.
Following Google maps from London Euston Station to the St Pancras Renaisance Hotel with my handful of return train tickets, a borrowed suitcase, my cheap blue Kmart backpack, and slightly muddy Blundstone boots, I stopped in front of an impressive red-brick, turreted edifice: St Pancras Renaisance Hotel. I checked the email itinerary. It seemed to be the right place. I looked down at my boots. Hmm…maybe I wasn't dressed for this occasion? As I approached the glittering glass doors the concierge was clearly of the same opinion. He swooped down on me.
'Good evening, madam. Can I help you?'
'Yes. I think, I'm meeting my husband here.'
Approaching Drury Lane Theatre to a Saturday night performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I briefed Andrew on our seats.
'I booked them at the last minute. I couldn't stomach £95 a ticket. We're in the top balcony. RESTRICTED VIEWING. The website said we might have to lean forward occasionally.'
We climbed up and up to our seats. After we had finished staunching our nose bleeds, I said: 'Well this is nice. If we lean forward, we can almost see everything. But…I'm glad I didn't choose the seats that said: RESTRICTED VIEWING – POLE.'
The young couple who had chosen POLE were clearly of the same mind. As soon as the lights went down they scooted across to a better position. We joined them. After that, we really could see almost everything.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny. I said: 'Why don't we hire one of those Santander Bikes and ride along the Regent's Canal?'
'Good idea.' Andrew agreed.
So did most of Greater London. Those who weren't cycling were walking – along the same tow path. It was narrow. I had visions of myself shooting off the edge and sinking to the bottom of the canal with my iPad and iPhone (do I hear a collective shudder). We got to Regent's Park. I said:
'Perhaps, it's time for lunch?'
'We just have to park these bikes.'
But here's the thing about London bikes. They don't come with a temporary bike lock like in Paris. You have to find an empty bike dock. In our case, two empty bike docks. But it was bright and sunny and most of Greater London also thought lunch in Regent's Park was a good idea. Google told us we should have downloaded a Santander App. But I'm on a pay-as-you-go phone plan and Andrew is on an Australian phone plan. So, this wasn't an option. We decided to cycle back to our hotel.
'We can ride in the bus lanes,' Andrew said.
'Are you sure?'
We rode in the bike lanes. I think it was allowed. I think London Cabs might also have permission to use the bus lanes. There were quite a few of them. It seemed everyone in Greater London had now left Regent's Park and were whipping past us in cabs. Those who couldn't get a cab, were thundering past on huge red double decker buses. As I pedalled along Marleybone Road with with my cheap blue Kmart back pack and my Blundtsone boots churning like windmills, I thought: it's possible I'm going to die here in London.
I didn't die. I'm now safely back in Corris. I had a lovely time in London. Thanks for coming Andrew Corbett.