Monday, August 24, 2009

The Great North Road

To Nottingham, for a family wedding party. Although the direct route is up the M1, we took the A1 going north, so as to detour to a distinctly strange National Trust site at Lytham New Bield, and then back again because I had a little business to transact in Biggleswade.

I love the A1. For much of the way it is as fast as the motorway, and the odd slowdowns and traffic queues at the few major junctions on the way are forgiven by the views and the wayside distractions of the little towns and the old coaching inns by the side of the road. There are fewer Little Chefs than there used to be (no great loss) but the Fox Inn and the Sibson Inn and our favourite, the Ram Jam Inn, continue to lure in the weary traveller who can easily imagine himself taking refreshment in a room that Dick Turpin might have put his muddy boots up in.

The Ram Jam, lurking on a deceptively empty stretch of road near Oakham, used to put up signs on the approach - "1 mile to the Ram Jam Inn" and when you had gone past - "You have just missed the Ram Jam Inn". Like the Little Chefs, the signs are fewer in number though this seems to increase the pleasure of actually spotting the Inn after the long miles up from London. One day we really ought to stop there.

If that was not enough, the Inn is in Rutland, a county so small it has "Welcome to Rutland" written on both sides of the sign*. Like Middlesex, the planners tried to kill it but it refuses to die. It is another element in the romance of the Great North Road.

*Just my little joke, Rutlanders, no need to start slagging me off on Facebook.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The great heatwave of '09

Temperatures in London hit 30c yesterday. Nothing special about that, except that this followed several weeks of dull and cool weather, and today we are back to wind. rain and cloud. So it seems that yesterday will be fondly remembered as the great heatwave of 2009, and children yet unborn will marvel when their grandparents tell them how we endured the awful conditions and the sleepless nights [I think you mean 'night': Ed].

Naturally I chose this night of all nights to be in the sweltering Royal Albert Hall for a Prom.

But I have to hand it to LU - the timetable for the Piccadilly back to beautiful Ruislip said there would be a train leaving South Kensington at 22:21 and there was. And had it not been for the young man with the leaky earphones listening to the inevitable high-pitched thud of "dance" noise [he means music: Ed] all would have been well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sneezes and security

After the tube bombings in 2005, we all became suspicious of packages and bags on the tube. For a while. After the first wave of swine flu earlier this year we all eyed with hostility anyone coughing or sneezing. This is wearing off. The atmosphere on the tube seems to be closer to those innocent days of yesteryear. We naturally want to be able to trust our fellow passengers and, though the threats remain, that level of trust always finds a way of rising back up.

It is of course hard to know just what the real threats may be. All risks are a matter of probability, but most people don't understand the nature of probability (which is why so many play the National Lottery). Based on experience, the likelihood of being caught in a terrorist attack is amazingly low, way lower than the chances of being in a car crash or a street fight. But whilst we are still warned about unattended packages, nobody warns us to be careful on the road when leaving the Tube.

As for flu, some people are getting it all the time and swine flu is not the only nasty strain we might encounter. I don't know if I should worry about it or not. The nurse at my local GP tells me they are not particularly bothered about it. I don't know anyone who has had it, or who knows someone who has it. Even if you get it, it is not clear what the probability of it turning into a life-threatening condition may be. So on the whole, best to ignore it for the moment. What with a vital decider coming up in the Ashes series, we have more important things to strain the old adrenaline glands.