I don’t like to book train journeys in advance. I could say it was because of my health, but it isn’t really, it’s more because I dislike the stricture. And just as well, this trip, because if a plan could be changed it would be – pretty much everything changed except the time of the funeral. Originally, my brother was coming over from Holland but he got ill and couldn’t travel. I live right on the train line to Cambridge, so I would have otherwise done a day trip, but he’d paid for us to stay over, and told me to find somewhere. Cambridge is a bit of a dump apart from the fancy bits, and I don’t know it well, and the wake, in any case, was going to be several miles away, so I chose rooms in Ely, which I know quite well. Roland had given me a heeeuuuge budget for the rooms, so I did look at Ely’s one actual hotel, The Lamb, but I thought it wasn’t all that for the price. Reader, IMAGINE if you will, my excitement, when I discover a building I’d always liked the look of, Cathedral House was in fact a bed and breakfast?
But what was even more amazebobs was that the double room I had reserved for myself turned out to be a tiny pretend apartment! I didn’t have my camera with me, but I’ve taken some pictures with my phone.
My pretend apartment even had a tiny hall OF MY OWN
Although it was actually rather cold, it was furnished and decorated in rather a lovely way.
I didn’t think I would need to take any chargers with me, so my visit was characterized by a series of power failures as my various devices died. The “smart” phone was the first to go, but luckily I had my old phone with me (with an audiobook on it) so I swapped out the sim cards. The B&B was advertised as “having” WIFI. In as much as I got a signal for a few seconds every hour or so, it did indeed “have” WIFI. I did have a bit of telly on my netbook, so it wasn’t a total waste of time bringing it, but I was rather surprised to see that die fairly swiftly, too. I was left, then, with my ebook (with Back Story by David Mitchell on it) my old phone, and the telly and radio in the bedroom. For lots of reasons I don’t really like watching tv when I am traveling – in any case, I don’t watch it live when I am at home, either. I did, however listen to the radio.
It’s such a pleasure to listen to Radio 4 on an old timey radio. Given that R4 is stuck in a time warp anyway, it seems most fitting to listen to it on a device such as this.
If I was staying longer, or if I had run out of reading I could have chosen from any of these orange spined Penguin books.
They struck me as being like an artwork Robert Rauschenberg might have made in tribute to Mark Rothko while visiting Piet Mondrian. Except it’s full of books, most of which I either have read or would happily read.
The ‘apartment’ had a little sitting room, but I didn’t really use it. I spent most of my time indoors in bed drinking various teas, and, of an evening, sachets of miso soup.
While I was packing for the trip it started snowing, so I chucked out my smart clothes and bundled dark coloured jumpers and trousers into my suitcase. I even wore my Yaktrax, which are coiled metal grips for walking in snow. Although it was really cold when I got there and it did snow a little, there was no need for ice trudging gear.
Having a room for two nights did seem a bit excessive just to go to a funeral I could have done in a day, but I did like the sensation of being cosseted in my own little world with no DORGS jumping all over me. When traveling abroad, there is usually a little form for you to fill in where you have to write the ‘purpose’ of your trip. This has always confused me, but I did have a little moment of existential angst, which was allayed entirely by the trip indeed HAVING a purpose. I arrived mid afternoon, and went out and bought soup, chocolate, and a hot water bottle, and basically went to bed at 6. Considering I’d woken up at 3.30 the previous morning and not got back to sleep, this was pretty useful. I listened to an entire audio book about Elizabeth I. It was rather dull, but there was one stand out moment in her life which I’d not read or heard of before. Once, when a lady’s maid botched serving her food she took revenge for the slight by STABBING HER IN THE HAND!
So, the next day I was fairly bright, and after scoffing the “breakfast” of the B&B package – a plate of egg, bacon, sausage, mushroom and tomato I was fit to face the day. I went back to Cambridge to meet my dad at the station, and we got a cab to the crematorium. We had both been super early and we ended up getting there far too early, so we sat and chatted. I thought I would be all stoic, since Pat’s death could hardly be described as tragic, but as soon as I saw my cousins, her daughters I started to weep, and I really didn’t stop until afterwards. My dad, being the codger that he is, declined to come to the wake, and got a cab back to the station. It’s kind of weird seeing my family en masse since we don’t normally meet up, but it was actually pretty nice. My cousin Diana had just been on Radio 4 on a show called Saturday Live which is a long, magazine style programme. It features something they call ‘sound sculpture’ and my cousin Diana was on it talking about the noise our Nana’s shears made as she cut out a pattern. It’s awfully good. You might be able to listen to it here since the BBC seem less parsimonious about radio programmes than tv online. She’s on from 15.27 to 20.09.
At some point I was offered a lift back to Ely, which I gratefully accepted, and although I had eaten all the chocolate I did have my miso soup and an apple so didn’t have to leave my room once I’d got back, and I again put myself to bed more or less immediately. The first night I was very keen to shut myself in with as much warmth as possible, so I’d shut the shutters and the curtain, but this time I left it all open and woke to the sunrise which was pretty.
My morning baths were hot and deep. Here’s my fancy little bathroom.
I got up at farmer o’clock again, and ran my bath, listening to a programme I like to call “Men Arguing” but which is in fact called “The Today Programme” (wait – it isn’t – it’s called “Today” but apparently people call it The Today Programme. Bloody PEOPLE! Always messing things up). I don’t usually listen to it because it does that thing of telling you the same news over and over again in a panic inducing way, but I quite liked doing it that morning just for the oddity of it.
I’d been asked over in the morning to spend some time with the girls, but I’d thought that sounded rather ambitious, and when it was chucking out time at the B&B I rang but my cousin’s phone was off. She phoned me back, but I was already on the train home – they had indeed stayed up til 3 in the morning drinking and reminiscing.
Pat’s ashes are going to be dug into my uncle’s grave with a rosebush on her birthday in August. He was buried with a bottle of good red and a Jane Austin book. I like to think he read the book while he was waiting and saved the wine to share with Pattie Poos. Mind you, a theory was mooted that she might have smuggled a crate of Baileys in with her in her coffin, so perhaps he woudn’t have to share.