Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Disastrous Colchester

I watched a bit of a Time Team documentary last night. They were searching (rather unsuccessfully) for an ancient palace belonging to King Canute. There's obviously been some sort of top-down reappraisal of the way we're expected to spell Canute. Apparently he's henceforth to be known exclusively as Cnut. CNUT! Now I'm all for a bit of historical accuracy, and am the first to refer to Boadicea as Boudicca, but I reckon you've got to draw the line at calling someone by a name which could become an auto-correct catastrophe on your computer!

My mate went to school with a girl called Fuquenisha. I think she was a young Muslim girl. The teachers actually insisted that everyone call her Nisha. Imagine having your actual name banned from the playground?

I went to school with a Chinese girl called Hoo Flung Dung, and someone whose middle name was rumoured to be Cuckoo. That may have been casual racism, though...

I have seldom seen so many people descending on Highgate tube this morning. They were actually queuing to get into the little causeway which runs down the hill to the station's back entrance. I felt like I was in a Lowry painting.

There were more ferocious queues just to get out of Moorgate Station. At one point we were all funnelled into a tiny corridor where the queue came to a stand still for the best part of five minutes. I can't imagine what would have happened had someone shouted "fire." London is surely bursting at the seams in a way which has to be remedied before there's an event which causes an unimaginable loss of life.

I took the train from Liverpool Street to Colchester this morning for a meeting at the beautiful Mercury Theatre. I'd always thought Colchester was meant to be a rather charming city filled with impressive Roman remains. Not so if you arrive by train...

The train station is a mile or so out of town and the walk into the city is uninviting, un-signposted and covered in concrete. This is plainly not a place which wants to invite people in. I ended up walking along a horrifying dual carriageway with no pathways. One slip and I would have cascaded under a lorry. On the outskirts of the city centre sits the most beautiful former cinema building which has been boarded over. The place feels bleak. Unloved.

After my meeting, I sat in a cafe and listened as someone asking for directions to the station was told, "you wouldn't want to walk it, mate..." Well at least it's not just me! I tweeted the town council and they said they were working on "improving this route." You'd think it was the first thing any self-respecting council would have worked on.

I got the bus back. The sign said "all busses stopping here go to the train station." As I got on I double checked and the driver said he was indeed going to the station. Imagine my horror therefore when he didn't actually stop there! Busses go near to the station but not actually to it! If anyone from Colchester is reading this, and you value outside visitors, I suggest you get onto the council and urge them to sort this nonsense out!

I came home, working on the train and back at the ranch, before heading to my dear friend Daniel's house in Belsize Park. Daniel has recently had twins with his partner, Matthew, and I got there early enough to hang out with the babies, who are delightful. Masculine parenting is quite fascinating to watch. The kids were having their feed when I arrived and after they were done and burped and things, Daniel said "I think it's time isn't it?" Within a minute, both kids were in their cots, the lights were out and there wasn't another peep out of them!

I'm afraid I've become all too used to bed time being quite a drama with my friends' children. Seeing it happening so casually and effortlessly was striking, almost brutal.

Michelle of the Turkie joined us for an evening meal. I'll confess to being rather chuffed that Daniel and Michelle (though both contemporary alumni from York University) only met properly at our wedding where they got on like ancient friends.

We ate an amazing pie with eggs and onions and tomatoes and a crispy topping which is apparently an old Burbidge family recipe. I remember Daniel making it for me twenty two years ago. Twenty two years! Where do those pesky years go?

Michelle came to stay with us tonight and is presently asleep in the loft. Nathan is totting up the sales from his new knitting pattern, which is a glorious scarf based on Peano's space-filling curve. He released it yesterday and it's already sold more than twenty copies. He's understandably fairly chuffed.

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