Well, I’m back.*
Specifically, I’m back in Wallingford. It turns out I’ve been missing the place.
Slipped out of Aber Station on Wednesday afternoon, to go back to Shropshire ahead of Joan’s funeral (she was 88, it turns out), and did the usual round of Domestic Tasks whilst I was there, in this instance re-tightening the washing machine’s intake pipe so it doesn’t leak water (because, yes, my mother has actually spent the past month or so calling me to say that her washing machine is broken) and also fixed the printer, by cunningly connecting the USB cable into the back of it (to be fair, it took me about ten minutes to work out that was wrong; I checked the connection at the back of the tower, and the plug/extension and things, and then jumped direct to re-installing drivers. Only realised something more basic was amiss when the machine started insisting that there wasn’t a printer on the end of the USB cable after all).
Also I was able to find the only remaining copy of an interview I did with Joan, way, way, back in October 2000, as part of some nebulous tri-schools project on local history. (I don’t really remember much of what happened; I think I had to stop going when we started moving house in earnest, but I seem to recall helping to come up with a ‘Ten Little $CorrectName‘ style plot involving evacuees, and someone pretending to have been fatally drowned in the canal at Longford (but actually having been able to breathe by means of a stolen rubber hose, or something).
Hm. Anyway, having lost all the electronic copies I re-typed that for Pam and Caroline, who are by way of being Joan’s daughters, and found, in the process, all manner of intersting things (like Uncle Alf having had the first electricity in Newport, by means of a parafin generator, sometime in the probably-1920s [well, the man died in 1930]). Was pretty cool!
Funeral was yesterday (Thursday) morning up at Lilleshall. Nice church, actually, and a good service. Vicar appeared to be a nice chap, although I found myself bracketing him in the ‘Damp handshake’ category that one seems to find amongst the CoE sometimes. Actually he was from Wombridge, rather than Lilleshall, there having been Complicated Re-Jiggering as to Where To Do The Burying, which I think I’ve mentioned before.
Not many people there; Uncle George couldn’t make it, because he was having a bad day for the shakes, poor bugger, but Jim was wheeled in, looking really rather frail. Perfectly compos, mind you, because he knew who I was without asking, and I’ve not seen the man since I gave up on doing Moonface impressions and went in for beards instead. On the other hand it turns out I’ve got a second cousin called Martin, a very friendly chap who lives somewhere in Stoke-On-Trent (I assume, unless he meant that he actually does live in Stoke, which I suppose is also possible). Nice guy, I liked him. O, and we got ‘Dear Lord and Father,’ which was pleasing, because it’s always fun to get the merry little shivers of what Ruth would describe as Smug Puritanism when people trot out the Quaker ones.
Incidentally, it’s just struck me that if I ever run a pub I shall have to call it the Smug Puritan. I can see the sign now…
Anyway, after the wake, or what-have-you, which involved some rather interesting reminisences, and the digging out of my great-grandfather’s War Record (the man drove drays to the Western Front; it turns out), I cadged a lift up to Telford with Cousin Celia.
Trains were, predicably, abominable, although the BCN was very busy yesterday, which at least gave me something to look at from my perch on the luggage rack.
Managed a backwards-facing seat from Birmingham New Street to Oxford, with a very nice announcer repeatedly apologising to everyone stuck standing up, and expressing the hope that things might thin out a little after Leamington. They didn’t, however, and she was reduced to offering another train due to go through Banbury some twenty minutes behind us, an offer which she concluded, rather sadly, with the words “Somehow this service seems to hit all the big places bang on peak travelling hours. It’s always like this…” which made me feel rather sorry for her.
Met Ruth at Oxford station, huzzah! and got another train down to Cholsey, which, from the little I saw of it, is a funny little place.
Catching a bus into Oxford this afternoon, and I’m due to hook up with Statto, then.
Meanwhile, it’s high time I went and re-filled my coffee mug.
*Cite the (stupidly obvious) source to win a virtual pat on the back, and a vague offer of me buying you a drink, at some point.