Going Abroad

photoCentral Belt Shuffler has been away for the weekend, celebrating that very non-Central Belt Shuffling American tradition of Thanksgiving. The weekend was spent in Yorkshire, and as well as liberal doses of turkey, potatoes both roast and mashed, parsnips, carrots, stuffing, succotash, Yorkshire puddings (for a local twist), mashed sweet potato topped with marshmallow, pumpkin pie, wine, whisky, rum and coke, there was a lot of weather. Wind, rain. Rain, and rain. And then some more rain.

Undaunted, we headed out into the countryside for a big walk before tucking into our dinner, and then (for this group of celebrants) the obligatory game of ‘Who’s in the Bag?’ (aka The Name Game). (As a travelling aside, Philip Pullman was explained as a kind of railway carriage, rather than a children’s writer.)

The following day, Central Belt Shuffler boarded the train back from Gargrave to Glasgow. The route was not that taken on the way down (the Carlisle to Settle route), but on a local train through to Morecambe. As Central Belt Shuffler prepared to step out of the train, gazing apprehensively at the horizontal rain heading down the Lancaster platform, the following interchange took place:

Yorkshire train guard, to Central Belt Shuffler and another woman who is getting off: It doesn’t look very nice out there.

Central Belt Shuffler: No, it doesn’t.

Yorkshire train guard: That’s what happens, if you go abroad.

A warning indeed to travellers daring to go outside of God’s Own Country, Yorkshire.

The train guard’s warnings proved prophetic. At Lancaster, all the trains north were cancelled due to fallen trees on the track beyond Oxenholme. The likelihood of getting back to the Central Belt looked slim (confirmed by a later message on the National Rail website, to the effect that, ‘Buses have been requested to run between Preston and Carlisle however Virgin Trains are currently unable to source any.’). Using a bit of local Lake District knowledge I headed for the local bus service over to Kendal, where I bedded down for the night (and got my underwear speed-washed by my mother). The following conversation took place:

French mother: What I don’t understand is why they have trees so close to the train line anyway. You think they’d cut them down.

English daughter: This isn’t France, mum.

French mother: They do that when they built the TGV lines.

English daughter: As I said, this isn’t France, mum.

The next morning, I set off from Kendal to Edinburgh, for a morning meeting. Two middle-aged female passengers who boarded at Carlisle discussed the pressing matter of chips.

Cumbrian lady 1: I don’t mind oven chips.

Cumbrian lady 2: I really prefer them in fat.

Cumbrian lady 1: Yes. In lard.

As the train pulled through the snow-topped hills to Edinburgh, I reflected that travelling the North of England – be it Yorkshire, Lancashire, or Cumbria – is every bit as rewarding as Central Belt Shuffling.

Bikes go in the first carriage

VelosCentral Belt Shuffler has been on tour for the last few weeks, so there hasn’t been much plying of the normal commuter routes.

But ever mindful of possible train/bike combinations, Central Belt Shuffler’s eye was drawn to this marking on the platform of the Yellow line in Montreal’s Metro system, detailing that ‘Les velos vont dans la premiere voiture’ (Bikes go in the first carriage). As well as its bilingualism (and its excellent ice cream), yet another reason to love this city.

‘I’m half French, will that be a problem?’

GiniCentral Belt Shuffler, as you may or may not have gathered from the masthead of this blog, is half French and thus – naturellement – is partial to Orangina (even keener on Gini, but that’s less widely distributed. Odd, given that the legendary Serge Gainsbourg wrote an advertising jingle for it, and it’s the ‘hottest cold drink’, according to OranginaSchweppes’ own marketing copy).

So imagine the scenario, one evening, as Central Belt Shuffler stands on the platform awaiting the homeward train. It’s a warm evening, and I’m quenching my post-cycling thirst with Orangina. I look down the platform, and note several fellow passengers also holding orange-coloured fizzy drinks. Irn-Bru.

Central Belt Shuffler might never quite fit the norm – but at least it’s the right colour?