Today's shopping plans have been fulfilled.
I went first into Stamford, and although I found the cheese shop out of Stinking Bishop, Nelsons did have shop-made pork pies cooked to the proper 'Melton Mowbray' recipe - apparently only ten or so butchers/bakers in the Midlands have the required accreditation as makers of the genuine product. I bought three. I also bought a long length of Black Pudding. Believe me, you can't have too much of that.
I could have been lazy and left it there. Not me. I gave Fiona the scent, and we careered off to Melton Mowbray at breakneck speed. Arriving still fresh and unwinded at Oakham, a pleasant town halfway, I decided to tether Fiona and instead take the train into Melton Mowbray, reasoning that if it was market day there, the traffic on the way in could be very slow, and it also might be difficult to park. The traffic was almost gridlocked, as it turned out.
The train was packed. I've been travelling on trains quite a bit this year, and I've noticed that whether its Sussex, or Devon, or Leicestershire, trains seem to be carrying a lot more people than they did a few years back, no matter what time you travel. But I got a seat, and it was a very comfortable journey. The ticket man was very nice, but he somehow got the impression that I lived only to eat. It was my talk of pies and cheese, I suppose. Thank goodness I didn't mention the Black Pudding.
Melton Mowbray's market was still in full swing. I was single-minded, and looked first for Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe. It was amusing to see that this is so famous that the official council signposts had a metal finger pointing the way to it!
But it was a proper shop, not a tourist trap, and I bought three more 'genuine' pies, the shop owners, Dickinson & Morris, being another of those 'accredited' makers. So I now had three pies from one shop, and three from another, and all was ready for myself, K--- and V--- to conduct a Pie-Judging Contest once I was home again in Sussex. I also bought six slices of succulent Cumbrian ham, for personal consumption over the next day or so, in case malnutrition set in on the journey home. One mustn't risk getting skeletal.
I still wanted some Stinking Bishop, so I asked where Melton Mowbray's specialist cheese shop might be found. After all, that nice ticket man on the train had drawn my attention to an official Network Rail sign at the station which said 'Welcome to MELTON MOWBRAY - Rural Capital of Food - Home of Stilton Cheese - Melton Mowbray Pork Pies'.
Well, my hunch that the place was a good spot for tasty edibles obviously wasn't wrong. I felt there must surely be a good cheese shop tucked away. So there was, called The Melton Cheeseboard, up a sidestreet.
And they had half a Stinking Bishop cheese. And it was so expensive that, at £34 per kilo, that half-cheese would have cost me nearly £30! Way too much. But I bought £15 worth. Perfect for a meal for three, to include soup, pies, salad, bread, cheese, and of course red, red wine.
Chatting away in the cheese shop, I found I'd cut it too fine to catch the 2.34pm train back to Oakham, and so, to kill the hour before the next train, I went into the town Museum. This had recently been revamped to display not only Melton Mowbray's market town past, and its fashionable status in the 19th Century as the country's Foxhunting Capital, but to suggest to today's visitors that it was now a wonderful place to live. Well, they had a point, even if I still thought that Stamford was nicer, especially as it had a Waitrose. But actually, whatever their attractions, all these Midland places had - for me - a fatal drawback: they were not close to the sea. I couldn't live happily without easy access to the sea.
I did manage to catch the 3.34pm train back to Oakham. I made sure that I arrived at the station ten minutes before the train was due. Consequently, I was reminded of some things that I don't like about public transport. You do have to wait around. You do have to spin out the waiting time sitting in a very cold breeze. And there is no guarantee of a seat when the train comes. Driving everywhere in Fiona avoids all these things. In fact however the train was bang on time, and although once again it was almost full, I got a seat next to a pleasant young woman. We got talking, once I'd first apologised for the somewhat ripe smell of the cheese. It was a really good conversation starter. It's so new and fresh and original to say winningly: 'Oh, I'm so sorry for my niffy Bishop!' Or one could try: 'Can you guess why I always carry six Melton Mowbray pork pies around with me?' Or even, though riskier, 'Would you like to see my amazing Black Pudding?' Perhaps not.