Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lincoln and Burns Night

Why is it, whenever I try to catch a train, the buses and tubes unite against me and deliver me to the train station with breathless seconds to spare? I have not yet missed a train (touch wood), but pretty much all of them I've almost missed.

Today I am off to Lincoln. I've only got a few more weeks in the UK (I will return in September, if all goes well) and I've been squeezing as much as I can into them. This morning I was trying to make my room presentable for potential new flatmates, but I still left in good-ish time.

If only the bus had come when it said it was going to, not ten minutes later (they're supposed to come every five to eight minutes). If only I hadn't just missed the Jubilee train and had to wait four minutes for the next one (I've got used to tube trains every 1-2 minutes). If only the train hadn't been held at Canary Wharf to 'regulate the service'. If only I hadn't chosen the wrong door, adding precious seconds to my change at London Bridge. If only I hadn't missed the Northern Line train by five seconds, and had to wait five minutes for the next one. If only the driver of the Northern Line train hadn't decided to wait stupidly long at every station. By the time I got to Angel, I was convinced I was going to miss the train, so much so that I was a bit relieved I wouldn't have to run through the warren of King's Cross at high speed in my coat and backpack. There were four minutes until the train left, and I still had Euston to go before we got to King's Cross.

Or... not.

I'd mixed up King's Cross and Euston. King's Cross comes first. I sprinted off the train, trying not to collide with too many people, up the escalators, and the next escalators, and the next escalators. As I was reaching the top, the lady on the loudspeaker said that the next train to leave from platform 3 would be the 10.08 East Coast Service to Newark North Gate. My train! At least now I knew which platform, which is one of the things that takes up time to figure out.

I still only had about a minute left, and hadn't collected my tickets. I ran for a ticket machine, stabbed in my code and almost ran off with half my tickets before I remembered there were more to come. I followed the signs to platform 3, ran through the barriers (they were open, no need to figure out which ticket I had to stick in them! Hallelujah!) and skidded down the platform to the first open door (first class). I was on the train!

I was only 30s late, but the train was later. If it had been on time, I wouldn't have been able to catch it. Now we're speeding through snowy countryside with fields blanketed in white. In central London the snow has disappeared, but out here it's still a way from melting. Very pretty. And there are bunnies in the snowy white fields!

I stayed with my lovely hosts in a village a little outside Lincoln, beside a Roman archaeological dig. The smaller roads were very icy and we slid a bit at one point. Someone had tried to build an igloo using an umbrella as scaffolding, though it was only half-done.

Friday was Burns Night, when much of Scotland celebrates the life of Rabbie Burns and eats haggis. Though Lincoln is in England, my hosts have Scottish connections and were celebrating too. I had a great night, with Scottish smoked salmon, proper sheep's stomach haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). Though we didn't have a bagpiper, we had an iPod to pipe the haggis in, and the Ode to a Haggis (great chieftan o' the Puddin-race). To finish, there was cranachan and clootie pudding, and whisky, of course.

On Saturday we went for a turn around Lincoln. Lincoln Cathedral is one of the largest (if not the largest?) Norman cathedrals, and is set high on a hill looking over everything. It's fantastic coming across the low hills towards it in a car, and it must have been incredible to be a pilgrim in the medieval times, approaching this colossal building on foot. The inside of the cathedral has beautiful vaulted ceilings and high windows. Footsteps echo and you can hear the stillness.

Right outside the cathedral is the castle, which was once used as a prison, and is in fact where the court house still is. It's having renovations at the moment, but when it's not you can walk all the way around the tops of the walls. Instead we walked some of the way down Steep Hill, an old medieval street with original buildings stepping down the hill. The shops along here are wonderful little boutiquey things with crafty jewellery and clothes and knickknacks that you could spend hours and hours in. We peered in a few, then went down into the main town for coffee in a half-timbered café on a bridge that has been open for business for about five hundred years. The beamed ceilings were low, the casement windows glinting in the light, and if you squinted a bit and imagined folk in doublets and hose you could almost believe you were in the sixteenth century.

There was a lovely winter barbeque for dinner, and soon it was time to get the train back to London. The rain had come in the night, and the fields were a patchwork of greens and browns, very different from the white landscape of Friday.


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