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Distinct lack of pigeons

July 28, 2011

So under scudding grey skies and a with a hint of drizzle as we left Buckinghamshire, we boarded a train to Chester.

To begin with, it looked like the trip might be acceptable. There seemed to be sufficient seating, it was not too dirty, and there was a buffet car, albeit only serving revolting “fast food” options such as burgers and sausage sandwiches. My polite request for the menu, and if they had any fois gras terrine or perhaps a salad Niscoise was met with a blank expression and the response “do what?”, but things had started to go down hill before that when we discovered the forward facing seats we had reserved appeared to facing backwards. Perhaps it was meant to be some kind of cryptic message or warning? With the seats mostly facing south, is there some kind of underlying message here?  The south being the way towards civilisation, the north being the opposite, with the expectation that as most people prefer to face the direction in which they are traveling, were the designed to accommodate most of the clients who would be going from north to south?

In any event, I managed to deal with the journey by sleeping fitfully. After the skinful of beer and cholesterol laced food clotting one’s veins from the stay in Buckinghamshire still lying in one’s stomach, we plodded ever further north, under gradually lowering skies, the tell-tale signs of tundra increased and we eventually arrived at the quaint old Roman town of Chester.

With the Romans being the last civilised race to have inhabited the area, there has been little development since. On the food front, we were expecting to be offered something typical from the frozen north, and we were not disappointed as my picture today depicts. Road kill surprise. I think it is some kind of rodent, although the locals were convinced it was a suckling pig.

Spot the rodent

I wondered if the mobile phone might work, as a satellite does not have the physical terrain to cover to venture this far north, and then on the wall of an old mill (trouble up t’mill?) I saw a sign for t’mobile and my hopes rose. Occasionally a rogue satellite comes into range and for some ten minutes a day in some favoured areas, one can get a signal. This is not that important as I am on vacation and thus not promoting Currencies Direct.

Last night, after fighting our way through a surprising number of wild animals on the Duke of Westminster’s estate, where I imagine poachers are shot on sight, we dined at The Grovesnor Arms, a rare outpost of the reasonably modern world. I went for the lightest meal on the menu; traditional fish ‘n chips and mushy peas, the latter being of course one of my five a day.

Today we will be venturing into Chester itself, which according to the locals boast at least two shops and another pub. I am sceptical but do not want to dampen the infectious enthusiasm expressed for the area by Peachy Butterfield, who with his delicious wife Suzanne are our hosts for the next few days.

A range of “entertainment” has been set up for the next few days, but few details have been released. I think they want to surprise us. That nice lady decorator thought she heard wolves in the night, but I managed to convince her that it was probably some whippets being assembled for a dog show for our “benefit”. Also, we have noticed a singular lack of wild pigeons, and cannot help wondering what that fact presages.

Chris France

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