Thursday, 10 August 2017

A day trip to Newcastle 3

Breaking off to discuss my Prada bag provoked a howl of protest from one friend, who wanted to know whether I made it back to the centre of Newcastle in time to catch the train I needed. This post gives the answer.

Meanwhile I was waiting for a Metro train at Cullercoats, miles away from the city centre, and I intended to see Tynemouth next, be that ever so brief a visit. Well, a train came along and one stop later I got off at Tynemouth station.

It was vast. Clearly it times long ago this was a very popular destination, with many platforms required, not just the two still in use.

A large footbridge spanned the extra-wide platforms of the station, clearly designed to cope with the hundreds - thousands - of people getting on and off the crowded trains on summer weekends in years long ago. And a beautifully-preserved glass canopy would have kept the rain and wind off them. The sunshine streaming through this glass canopy created herringbone shadows on the platforms. Tynemouth must be one of the most attractive stations I've ever seen. It was so unexpected. 

I guessed that some of the old bay platforms had been filled in, to make such an expanse of empty platform. A notice mentioned a regular market, and it was easy to imagine the place filled with stalls selling antique jewellery and crafts. 

But I couldn't dilly-dally. I'd already worked out my see-as-much-as-feasible-in-a-short-time walking route, and set off at the most cracking pace I could muster after hours on my feet. This basically involved walking down the main street to the seafront, a quick look at that, and then retracing my steps back to the station. It was obvious from the start that Tynemouth was considerably more upmarket than Whitley Bay. There was no tat in the shops. The place was for style-conscious types with a bit of real cash. The houses were substantial. There were decent bistros and restaurants in quantity. You'd be able to eat well here. 

This was the main beach, in King Edward's Bay. The building at the bottom of the shot was home to a beach restaurant I'd seen on TV. It offered superior fast sea food. Were this lunchtime, I might have gone down to try it. As it was, I just took a few quick shots and left. In the direction of the Tyne was this big castle.

All very impressive, but I had to go. I hurried back to the station, but must have just missed a train. So I had to wait. A woman asked me if I knew where she could go to the loo. I said there was a decent loo on the seafront, which I'd used, but otherwise I couldn't say. She went off, but soon came back. 'Any luck...?' I enquired. 'No, I'll manage. I'll wait till I get to Newcastle.' Like me, she was getting tight for time. She and her husband were visitors, though not on holiday as such. He was working away from home in Newcastle for a few weeks, and to make life convenient they were renting a flat for that time. She did whatever she pleased during the day, but of course needed to get back to cook their evening meal. She was running a little late. I explained my own predicament, needing to get back to catch a train to Alnmouth, and then drive to Alnwick for the Slimming World group meeting.

A train came along, and we got onto it and sat together. And we chatted all the way to Monument station in the city centre, where I had to change trains - and platforms - in order to go one stop further, to the central railway station. Talking to her prevented me seeing what places like North Shelds, Wallsend and Byker were like, but it made the journey go swiftly. She was a nice person, and I was sorry to say goodbye.

Getting out at Monument, I couldn't see where to go. I asked a girl, who said 'take the stairs at the end of the platform'. I dashed off - up the wrong platform - wasting a good two or three minutes. And by now minutes mattered. I saw the proper way to go, reached the right platform, got on the train - at least they were very frequent in the rush hour - and started running as soon as I got off at the central station. I weaved in and out of shuffling commuters like a demented rugby fly half - and dashed up escalators and steps as if the police were after me. I wondered where I was getting the energy from!

I knew there were two trains leaving for Edinburgh within five minutes of each other, on adjacent platforms, both stopping at Alnmouth. The first of these must have left by now, but if the other was slightly delayed there was a sporting chance of catching it...

But luck wasn't with me. I'd missed them both. The second one by only two minutes at most. Damn.

The next train to Alnmouth didn't leave for another hour. I sat down, panting, and wondered what best to do. Even if there were no Slimmimg World meeting at Alnwick that evening, having to hang around was terribly annoying. I was by now tired, hungry and thirsty. I really wanted to get back to the caravan and have a jolly good meal. But if there was any possibility of getting weighed at Slimming World, I couldn't resort to coffee and a cake to keep me going. And it was a hard metal seat.

I decided to kill time by taking another look at the city centre. I almost groaned with the effort, but I couldn't abide sitting still for an hour. But the city centre had that end-of-afternoon atmosphere, with many shops closing or closed, and people going home. It didn't help that my usual zest for sightseeing had temporarily evaporated. After only half an hour, I went back to the station to wait for the train.

What's this? It was going to be late? By ten minutes? Grrr. Then it was twelve minutes, then fifteen. Grrr. The Slimming World meeting began at 7.00pm. but I wouldn't now arrive at Alnmouth before 6.50pm. Ten minutes to extract Fiona from the station car park, drive to Alnwick, and park? Not possible.

Finally on board the train, I took this picture, which plainly reveals how tired and frustrated I felt:

Still, the train went fast and there were no more delays. Hope grew again. At Alnmouth I wasted no time in getting Fiona onto the main road. Of course, there were the inevitable slowcoaches pootling along in front of me. I overtook them ruthlessly as soon as the speed limit allowed. At 7.10pm I hit the outskirts of Alnwick. Thank goodness I'd already reconnoitred the way. At 7.15pm I reached the school where Slimming World met in the evenings. I said hello at 7.20pm, a total stranger arriving very late, but made very welcome.

I got weighed at the end. I'd lost one and a half pounds since the week before. Not bad - but I'd expected more. Oh well.

I was mentally and physically limping by the time I did get back to the caravan. Long days out do that to me. I would have been a lot less tired if I'd driven. If you said to me, 'Can you come up to Newcastle tomorrow? What train will you catch?' I will say to you, 'No train. I'll drive.' It would be more comfortable, more interesting, and probably cheaper. It would no doubt take longer, but I could take a break whenever I liked, and I wouldn't get bored or nearly so tired. And I'd have my car at the other end.

I really don't like public transport.

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