Monday 20 November 2023

Leicester Feels a Bit Closer Than It Did

A train trip we now do rather more often

The train operating companies, and indeed the Government, talk about "changed travel patterns" since the pandemic as a reason an excuse to adjust cut train services, but for me there are two reasons why my travel patterns have changed since the pandemic: one is that train services have been cut and I cannot travel on trains that don't run (!) so I have to travel at other times or even, if I cannot change my timing, drive my car (which makes them think I am not travelling and reinforces the cut). The other is that some shops did not reopen after the lockdowns, among them our nearest department store, John Lewis in Peterborough. There are now very few shops in Peterborough that are any use to me at all and for major comparison shopping I now have to look to Leicester, so my "changed travel pattern" now includes getting a train to Leicester and back for shopping rather than to Peterborough and back - a much longer journey at a higher fare, so the Cross Country train operating company does rather better from me than it did ... Fortunately the withdrawn train services do not affect a day trip to Leicester.

The starter!
Most recently my wife and I took the train to Leicester to visit John Lewis in order to research induction hobs in preparation for a kitchen refurbishment at home. We caught the 11:07 Cross Country train from Stamford to Leicester and walked straight through the city centre to the department store where we had some excellent advice from a young salesman and made some notes (basically photographing the information labels on the devices that interested us!). On previous shopping trips by train to Leicester we have had coffee and/or lunch at the Merchant of Venice restaurant opposite the station, but this time we discovered that they had opened another branch at the other side of the city centre, near to where we were shopping, so we tried that instead for our lunch. It had the same quirky atmosphere, an Italian restaurant and coffee shop with a Shakespeare theme, even down to having a table with swinging seats in the front window - which we just had to try after using them at the original branch.

Main courses
The walk back to the railway station was essential to walk off the lunch, the starter for which was as big as some main course: it was as well that we were sharing the starter.

And so to the train home. The train rides each way were unremarkable, which for a trip such as this is all we require, really. Cross Country have acquired more centre cars for the Turbostar trains they use on this route, so there is now usually plenty of space, and although the trains are beginning to show signs of wear after a busy life the seats are still comfortable, the heating and air conditioning still works well and the refreshment trolley service is still operating. Timekeeping could be a bit better but the trains are often on time and seldom more than a couple of minutes late, so it could not be a lot better.

And now today the kitchen refurbishment begins. We have not actually chosen the induction hob yet because we need to take advice from the kitchen fitter once he has the worktop removed and can see how much clearance he has above the built-in oven below where the hob is to be installed. But at least we know what the range is and where to order it once the decision is made. The gas fitter arrives this afternoon (pity: it should be on a Monday morning that the gas man comes to call ...) to disconnect the gas hob. Then as soon as we approach the end of our energy contract we can have the gas supply removed and stop paying the standing charge. This will be the first time in my life that I have been without a gas connection.

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