Ah, the challenges of travel! I have arrived in Durham, but it was really lucky I never got to Leeds.

Since Wetherby no longer has a rail station, bus or taxi are the only ways in or out without your own car. I have, of course, this awful bag to deal with. The best way by bus seemed to be to go to Leeds (the stop for Bus 7 being right outside my flat door). But strangely, that bus does not go to the Leeds Rail Station, only the bus station, and I’d have to pull my bag quite a ways in a big city. At least I assume it’s a big city, since I never got there.

Instead, I happened to see the night before, by looking up buses online, that it might be possible to get to York without changing buses. I had thought I’d need to pull the bag five blocks to Wetherby bus station, possibly in rain and cold (so much for the post office queue predictions). But they had a new service, and since I happened to be ready to go early, I went outside and waited. Amazingly, it all worked and I got to York early, so I put my bag in the Left Luggage (the sun was out — the young man taking the luggage was grumbling continually that the sun meant more work for him). Of course I went to my favorite place in York: The York Castle Museum. And my favorite place in the York Castle Museum: The Victorian Street.


When I was done, I had some lunch (can’t get enough cheese and chutney sandwiches), then went to the station to buy a ticket to Durham. There were notices and announcements that trains from Leeds were all cancelled, due to a “trespassing” problem. So if I’d gone to Leeds as planned, I would have been stuck. As it was, there was only one train, due to leave in 15 minutes, and the man at the ticket desk said it would be £37, which is really high, and no seat reserved (I had to stand up last time from Leeds to Durham). He told me, “to be honest, you could probably get a better price using the app”. The app? Oh, you mean Trainline? Yes, he said. I thanked him, pulled my awful luggage over, and engaged in panicky work on my phone (I’m not fast on phones). He was right: £16.95 and a seat reservation!

But you see, everyone who couldn’t get a train thanks to the Leeds issue was either waiting on the platform, or had gotten on the train further south. The train had only four carriages (one was first class) and there was no space in baggage sections for my bag, so I dragged it down the aisle. Someone was in the seat I had reserved, and she told me none of the reservations were working today so forget it. The people behind me were getting unhappy, so I maneuvered my bag to the far end of the carriage, and left it in the aisle in a way that people could step over the wheels, and took the last remaining seat (much to the consternation of the gentleman with the cane seated on the aisle).

A strictly uniformed analysis: I will blame (loudly!) the privatisation of British Rail. It makes the railways unresponsive to any urgency. To add more cars in response to the Leeds closure, that particularly railway (CrossCountry) would have needed to have cars in the right place. They can’t, because all the competing companies need space too, and there wouldn’t be enough storage for anything along the lines for all the different carriers.

But it’s all worth it because…Durham.

The pictures give an idea of why I come here. I love it, even though it has nothing to do with my research. When I popped into the Victorian Street sweet shop at the museum in York, I chatted with the proprietess. Mentioning I was working on a project about H.G. Wells, she frowned and said, “but he’s from the south”. I get that reaction up here a lot. Everyone seems to know where H.G. Wells is from, and that it isn’t here.

But, wait. What’s up with the cathedral tower? I usually go to the cathedral as soon as I get into town, and for the past several years the tower has been covered up for repairs. I noticed the lack of coverings as I came upon the cathedral from the river path.

I love the services at Durham Cathedral, but I’m ignorant. I had no idea I was there on Ascension Day, or that because of this the service would be different (I had to walk in a procession down the nave, and inhaled vast quantities of incense). I also had no idea that the celebration was special for another reason, because the tower was being reopened, right after the service. They invited everyone to go outside on Palace Green after the service and listen because the choir, climbing all the way up to the tower, would sing out over the city, followed by bell ringing.

What a wonderful welcome to Durham.


More on Durham: posts from 1 July 2017, 18 September 2018

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