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Day Out in Cambridge
So we have finally made it onto a train. Not the most exciting train, nor in itself the most exciting destination, but it has been good to celebrate with friends the marriage of mutual young friends, even though it was via the internet from a ceremony several miles away with just a few guests actually present, rather than the full church we would all have attended in person last spring. At least being together we could make more of it than sitting at home alone in sunny Stamford. It is also a delayed New Year celebration since our friends usually stay with us at New Year but, of course, that did not happen either.
It is important for socks to match face-covering ...
Booking this trip was a bit of a trial until I hit on using the LNER website to do it, for that site arranged all the required seat reservations, but it was not the most obvious company to use for the booking since we were travelling with Thameslink for the trunk haul from Peterborough to East Croydon, since that offers a through service (not quick, but simple, avoiding a change in London). Once the tickets were bought, everything was simple, though. Thameslink does not offer electronic ticketing, so although I bought the tickets from LNER I still had to collect paper tickets from the station before leaving - not a problem as the paper tickets are neat and easy to use, with no fiddling with a smartphone at ticket barriers or printing huge tickets at home and finding somewhere to carry them safely. I bought Standard Class tickets this time, which meant that we could have flexible arrangements (subject to the requisite seat reservations) at a good price, the return fare being only £1 more than the single. The weather was hot and sunny and we needed minimal luggage. Even though attendance at the wedding was to be remote, we had decided to dress as for a wedding, so I packed a tie (although with a short-sleeved shirt) and took an unlined linen suit, which in order to avoid crushing it in the luggage I wore on the journey. With a Panama hat as well, I felt like an extra from a Poirot episode, but it did keep me cool and meant that I'd be properly dressed for the main event.We were due to arrive in time for dinner on Friday evening and so left Stamford on the 15:54 train for Peterborough which, like several other trains on this route on that day, seemed to have left Birmingham eight minutes late and never managed to recover the time, but we still managed to catch our Thameslink connection to East Croydon, due to arrive at 18:14. It would have been possible to do it 30 minutes quicker within the ticket validity by taking a fast LNER train from Peterborough and changing at Stevenage into the previous Thameslink train which the LNER one would overtake on the way there - but we opted for the slower and simpler way of using one train right through. It did feel a bit slow as we stopped at all the stations as far as Stevenage, but then the train ran fast to Finsbury Park before taking the link to St Pancras International and then the Thameslink route through central London, with views of St Paul's Cathedral and the City skyscrapers from the stop at Blackfriars station, then of Southwark Cathedral and The Shard on the approach to London Bridge station. After London Bridge we ran fast straight to East Croydon where we left the train and made our way to the tram stop. For some reason the automatic ticket barrier was not happy with our tickets but the human ticket collector looked at them and let us through. This was our first use of the Croydon tram system for a very long time and we had to remember to touch in with our Oyster cards before boarding the tram - which was just about socially-distanced enough - and then remember whether or not it was necessary to touch out on arrival (it isn't). By now it was peak travel time on a Friday afternoon, and yet the transport system was not crowded, such has been the effect of the pandemic.We walked the short distance to our friends from their local tram stop and over and after dinner caught up with almost a year's news before retiring (later than usual) to bed ready for the wedding the next day.
The couple had sent us all the link to the wedding and so we arranged chairs round a desk with a large desktop monitor, changed into our wedding clothes and waited for the ceremony to begin. Just like those really present in church we saw the bridegroom and best man take their places and have a last-minute chat with the priest, and the camera turned so that we could watch the bride enter. We cannot pretend that it was like being there but given that we could not be there it was a pretty good substitute - a good deal better than having nothing to do with it at all, which might well have been the case ten years ago when the internet was slower and software less well-developed. The sound quality was probably the least satisfactory issue, but still pretty good in the circumstances - desktop computers were not made for this!
We enjoyed sparkling wine and canapés after the wedding, no waiting for photographers for us! The afternoon was then spent strolling in a park a short tram-ride away.
Sunday morning we attended church: the service was also live-streamed on YouTube, and for those who are interested I copy the video link below:
After lunch we took a tram back to East Croydon station for a train to London, slightly earlier than we needed for our connections home. The trip home was slightly more complex because there are no through Thameslink trains on Sundays, so our first train was to London Victoria from where we caught the Victoria Line to Kings Cross St Pancras. With a little effort it was quite simple to maintain social distancing on the tram and on the train and Underground. At St Pancras we used some of the time we had gained by visiting Fortnum & Mason's branch at the station to replenish our supplies of St Pancras Blend tea which ran out a couple of months ago and cannot be bought anywhere else, even on line.
Over at Kings Cross we had a rather more prosaic take-away tea on the balcony while we awaited the boarding of our LNER train to Peterborough. Reserved seating is compulsory at present on LNER trains to ensure social distancing, but we found ourselves sitting among a lot of other people so I do not know what went wrong with the system, but it was easier to keep a distance on the trains where we had a free choice of seats. No matter, we had a timely and smooth run back to Peterborough for our connection home to Stamford, also on time. On a baking hot day we were grateful that all our trains (apart from the Underground) were air-conditioned, and that we had minimised our luggage - although, of course, it was the predictable hot weather which had enabled us to reduce the luggage we needed!
Soon we were walking home among the people enjoying the hot weather in Stamford at the many outside bars which have sprung up during the pandemic, and then throwing open our windows to cool the house before bedtime. It had been a good way to resume our travels: short and simple, and with a visit to great friends we had not seen for ages, and the joy of a wedding, too! Now that we are back in the habit, we can travel with confidence on the trips we have booked over the next few months. It remains to be seen whether the international trips planned for the autumn and winter will happen as scheduled, but they are currently still in the diary.
This article first appeared on www.mwtrips.co.uk
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