Tuesday 16 January 2024

Three New Homes to Visit - and a Couple of Great Exhibitions

Well, R2D2, fancy seeing you here!

Trains here, trains there ...

As I mentioned in This Could Be the  Last Time ..., my friends who lived for years in Croydon have moved to Chichester. My wife and I had an invitation to visit them and see their now home, and we arranged a mutually convenient date for the diary. Meanwhile, our son in west London had moved with his family to a house just a few streets away from where they used to live, and we had, of course, an invitation to come and see their new home, too. By bringing forward by one day our trip to Chichester we were able to call on them in London on our way home! Great. Time to look at some train times and book some tickets.

The fastest way to Chichester remains Cross Country to Peterborough, LNER to London Kings Cross, Underground to Victoria then fast Southern train to Chichester, but much the easier way, and the way we chose because we were not in a hurry, was to take Cross Country to Peterborough and then Thameslink straight through to East Croydon from where a Southern train would take us to Chichester. It was a smooth, easy journey and we travelled Standard Class on through Super Off-Peak Single tickets, but we had a “cunning plan” for an even better journey! On the other hand, because these included Southern, electronic tickets were not available and we had to pick them up at the station: I did not risk buying them at the station because so often our local ticket office is closed

We left Stamford on the train to Peterborough just before noon, taking a packed lunch with us. Connecting with Thameslink at Peterborough is simple, and because trains are half-hourly there is not a problem even if there are delays, unless they are very substantial, because there will always be one soon. As it happened we caught a train earlier than we anticipated because a late one was standing there about to depart when we got to its platform, so on the "bird in the hand" principle we boarded it. When we take these trains we always travel in the rear coach from Peterborough, because there is a First Class section there which is always (well, whenever I've been there, anyway) declassified for Standard Class ticket holders, and our cunning plan was to move to that section as soon as the notice went up on the information display to show that it was so. And there we sat in First Class comfort on our dead cheap tickets and enjoyed our packed lunch, there being no catering at all on these trains in spite of the long distance they cover (all the way to Horsham!). a corollary of this dodge is that if you have paint for a First Class ticket on Thameslink, go to the front of the train southbound because if you travel in the rear you'll have to mix with hoi polloi like me on super off-peak standard dead cheap tickets!

So we rushed down to London. Even these stopping trains have fast top speeds and do miss the suburban stations in London. Then the train takes the new tunnel across to the "basement" platforms at St Pancras International and crawls through central London stopping everywhere until London Bridge, affording some great views along the River Thames from Blackfriars, where the station now stretches right across the bridge. After London Bridge the next stop is East Croydon where we were to change trains. The friends we were visiting in Chichester used to live in Croydon and here is where we used to transfer to the tram for the last couple of miles to their former home. Now we did not even have to change platforms because the train to Chichester followed ours into the same platform. At least, it would have done but for the signal failures that had caused our train to be late and were leading to congestion at such a busy junction. In the event a few other late trains had to squeeze through before our connection could get in, but it was only three minutes late in the end and hardly a big deal. The wait for it gave us time for coffee in a platform coffee bar, which had been a factor in the plans, but what I hadn't bargained-fr was the 50p surcharge for decaffeinated coffee, on top of the expensive London price. In many cafés there is no surcharge at all, and where there is it is usually only 10p. Still, it was good coffee, freshly made and we sat and enjoyed it until our train came in. The trip down to the south coast is always a pleasure, very different scenery from our home area, and as we pass Arundel and see the castle and cathedral on the hill we know we are somewhere very different: indeed, Arundel Cathedral looks more like those across the English Channel in France than any other English cathedral, Anglican or Roman Catholic. Then along the flat coastal plain to Chichester where our friends met us at the station and took us to their new home, much the size of our own, into which we moved five years ago when I retired.

At Chichester Cathedral there was an interesting art installation, Peace Doves by Peter Walker, made up of fifteen thousand individually handmade paper doves which are suspended above the Cathedral’s historic Nave. Each dove contains a message of peace, love and hope, written by local community groups, schools and members of the public. All white, they are uplit by violet lamps and are quite captivating as they hover over the nave.

We enjoyed our friends' new home, meals out and drinks by the sea at Felpham (a bit breezy even in the south in October, so the visit to the beach was short!), and we also visited their daughter's new home at Havant. Everyone seems to be on the move. 

On our last day in Chichester I visited an exhibition at the Novium Museum which displayed the toys, books and posters which were associated with the Star Wars films. This made an interesting addition to the Star Wars costume and merchandise exhibition I had seen at Peterborough Cathedral just a few months before.

Soon the time had come to wend our way home from Chichester, but first, the too-long delayed visit to our son's new family home in west London!

We were driven back to Chichester station on our last morning and caught a train to London Victoria, beginning much the way we had come - this is probably the service we had used between East Croydon and Chichester on our way down - but there was no need to change trains to get north of London this time. It was Saturday morning and you can never be sure what Underground lines are working at weekends, but all was well in the direction we were going, and by changing stations at Hammersmith we were soon in the familiar streets of Shepherd's Bush for they had not moved far and their nearest Underground station was still the same one, the children at the same school, but a lot of work to be done to get the house into the great condition that they'd left the previous one. To get a house with a garden in London, though, some compromise is necessary.

After lunch with the family we left by our familiar route (albeit with a longer walk to the Underground) of Hammersmith and City Line to Kings Cross, LNER First Class to London and the Cross Country Trains connection home to Stamford. Not the most exciting trip to write about, but exciting for us to see our friends' new home and our son's new home, with Chichester Cathedral's Peace Doves and the Novium's Star Wars thrown in for good measure, together with some very pleasant train rides.