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17 August 2005 @ 11:31 am
The Rest of the Trip  
We're home safe and sound, so I'll try to put in a few more lines about the last couple of days of the trip.

Sunday - Grantham

Sunday was a very rainy day, so after the lovely lie-in (even with no alarm clock I woke up fairly early, but it was the principle of the thing!) we slowly gathered together for micktim and stevieannie's concert at Sleaford. Minstrel arrived just before noon and was able to attend for the day. As mine and ladyat's guitars had now arrived, micktim gathered in some straps that were used to make one manageable bundle out of the two cases, so that I'd be able to haul them off the train at Manchester on Monday.

The concert went fairly well (in spite of an unrehearsed guest artist managing to mung at least three verses of "Barrett's Privateers", inspiring micktim's impromptu guitar-back drum solo. For those playing at home, said guest artist was not Minstrel...) and it is a shame that the weather prevented more folks from being around to hear it.

I wandered the craft and sales booths for a bit with Minstrel while micktim and stevieannie packed their guitars away. I resisted a temptation to buy a Liberal Democrat at the booth that seemed to be selling same, as I probably would not have been allowed to import it into the US.

We then decided to take a bit of a walk before getting something quick to eat (well, we agreed to check out a few pubs to see if we could find one that allowed kids and was serving food and had decent beer). Unfortunately, the ones we checked either didn't allow kids or weren't serving food.

While walking up the road, stevieannie disappeared into some kind of frightening gift shop while I walked the rest of the way up to the corner to check suitability of the pub there. When I returned, I was presented with a birthday gift for ladyat and me - a scary little dog called "Humping Humphrey". Humphrey (now christened "Gomez") is a chihuahua-like creature with a rather ... um ... determined facial expression. When you press his ear he .. er ... humps. Loudly. So it looks like we have a new prop for a certain song we've stolen from one Eric Bogle.

As we were having trouble finding a pub that met all necessary criteria, stevieannie proposed it might be best if micktim ran her and J and E home so that E could get her nap and so that dinner cooking things could be commenced. While this occurred Minstrel and I supped a nice pint of Bateman's XB before wandering up to the Wetherspoons...

...where we should have gone in the first place. Yes, the decor is the same as pretty much all the Wetherspoons in the UK, but the food is always good, it was non-smoking, kids are allowed, and the beer selection was excellent. micktim joined us and we had another pint (well, OK - I wasn't driving so I had 2) and a bit of an appetizer to tide us over until dinner.

The evening continued and concluded amidst an exceptional Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding dinner and conversation. We deferred a trip to the local for another day, having been fairly worn out by the activities so far and aware that Monday would be an early morning so I could make the 06.58 train to Manchester. Minstrel took his leave and the rest of us went to bed.

Monday - Manchester

In the early morning hours we got tea into micktim and me and set off for the Grantham station. micktim helped me get the guitars on the train - after we made sure I could in fact carry them when I got to Manchester - and I was off on the 2-1/2 hour ride.

Arriving at Manchester (after a very pleasant time spent discussing cricket and plans to attend the Monday sessions with a gentleman who boarded at Nottingham) I was able to haul all the instruments to the taxi rank and be whisked to the hotel where ladyat and I were staying for our last night. They did not have the room ready (no surprise as it was only 09.45) but were willing to store all my stuff until ladyat arrived and checked in. I left her a note and some extra cash for tips, then sped back out to catch the tram for Old Trafford.

When I reached Old Trafford, they were just making the announcement that the entire day was sold out. "Never mind," sez I to meself, "there will be touts and persons with extra tickets who will be willing to sell a poor American a seat."

Wrong.

There were hordes of people trying to do the same thing. There were no people with extra tickets. The day had started early, so most people were inside by this point. A walk around the ground netted exactly 0 extra tickets and the realization that I might be spending the day listening to the match instead. I also could not find a cashpoint - the one across from the ground had been torn out. I knew I'd need catch to buy a ticket, so I walked many blocks north and east of the ground only to find a single broken one.

So, of course, when I got back to the ground I happened to catch a guy selling a single ticket for 60 pounds. I only had 25 in cash on me and he wasn't willing to wait for me to find a cashpoint. Another guy came up who only had 40 on him, and the guy with the ticket (after checking with a friend) sold it to him. Well, there goes my only chance of the day, I thought.

I walked west of the ground after directions from a policeman ("It's about a mile and a half to the banks," he said. "And what else do I have to do today?" I said, and he gave a bit of a smile). I found an in-store cashpoint about 4 blocks away and fortified myself with some money (split between pockets so perhaps I could claim to only have 50 pounds for a ticket ... might work ...). I returned to the ground, as I had overheard some folks discussing earlier that there would be people leaving who had to go to work and they might be willing to sell their ticket and pass-out to those waiting outside.

To make a long wait short, after the start of the lunch break I found myself standing near the gates when some teenagers were given ticket/pass-out combinations for free. Striking up a conversation with some other guys standing around, we talked about how unusual that was and how nice it was that those kids were going to get in. The discussion turned to how much I had paid for my ticket for Saturday (50 pounds for 38 face seemed very reasonable to me) and how much the guy had wanted earlier for a 28 pound ticket. Suddenly, one of the fellows I was talking to said he really was rather disgusted with the premiums people were charging and asked me how much I was willing to pay for a 44 pound member's enclosure non-reserved ticket. By reflex, I turned the question around - how much do you need for it? He said 50 pounds, that'd cover his gas as well, and I said SOLD!

He needed to go in and get his things and tell the folks sitting near him that an American mate of his would be taking his seat and so not to let anyone else get it. He did so and returned, and we exchanged money for the ticket, a pass-out (he had snared an andditional pass-out for one of the other guys we were talking to), and the seat number - row 4 seat 213. I was in. I called ladyat to let her know I wasn't going to be able to get her in, but that was OK as it gave her a chance to get caught up on the notes she took in Cork. After some confusion (very carefully mumbled, as I didn't want to make it too clear I didn't belong there) I got to the seat mentioned.

There is no question that this made up for the rainout on Saturday. I was 3 rows from the field and in the aisle seat where the players come in and out of the clubhouse. I had access to the member lounge (which sold REAL Thwaites, not the fizzy stuff sold everywhere else) and a much nicer gents. The view, being directly side on, was harder to get used to (it was very had for me to see where the ball was going), but it was easy to see the reaction of the players and I was soon able to get the clues like the bat angle and puffs of dust.

If you were watching the TV coverage at the end of the day - as ladyat was - you might have seen me in the crowd reaction shots or the entrance-exit shots of the last few wickets. I was wearing my Nottinghamshire cap and a green Old Trafford Test polo shirt. ladyat recognized me, anyway, and said later that I did not look confused or lost in any way (*grin*).

As were all those around me, I was disappointed in the result (just one more wicket, Freddy!). I attribute it to waiting too long to declare on Sunday evening - one wicket Sunday and a lower target for Australia might have made the difference. On the whole, though, an acceptable result as Australia should know that England won't be a pushover for the last two tests either. I have to say that I couldn't believe the height of the Australian fans celebration of the draw - you'd have thought they'd clinched the Ashes or something.

All in all, a very enjoyable experience and well worth the money paid. I have a shirt to send out to my Aussie-in-the-USA work colleague, so one more wind-up is assured.

After waiting to be released from the Member Enclosure after the presentations (one wag said this was the price you paid for those good seats ...) it was on to the seemingly interminable queues for the return tram (wouldn't you figure they'd have put on extra transport for the end of the day?) While in line I was amused to find myself next to a rather inebriated Liverpudlian, who proceeded to tell me all about his day, his cat (whose picture he produced and mooned over), his meeting of some Georgians in Doolin (Ireland) two years previously, and all manner of other things. We were finally separated at the gate to the tram. In that queue I found myself next to two gentlemen discussing the match and next year's fixtures with a blind gentleman they were helping to the tram from the ground. I enjoyed their discussion and descriptions very much.

A sardine-can trip later and I was able to walk the few blocks to the hotel to finally meet up with ladyat. She had barely made a dent in her notes but was also feeling a bit hungry. She agreed to go look at one pub on my list that might still be serving food. As expected, no joy there - doesn't ANYONE in this country eat after 6 pm? - so we headed up the same street to the other end to the ubiquitous Wetherspoons. As usual, decent food and good beer were to be had. A waddle back to the hotel and beddy-bye for our final night.

Tuesday - Home Again

We decided to take a cab to the airport because the quoted price (17 pounds) was only a few pounds more than a cab to the train and the train to the airport would be. Unfortunately, when we got to the airport the price given was a bit more (25 pounds), so I simply didn't tip anything extra and called it even (the luggage handling required was enormous).

When I had booked ladyat's trip, I used Delta Frequent Flier miles and had to book her on a partner connecting flight via Newark. Delta said they would put her on the waiting list for the main non-stop flight from Manchester to Atlanta that I was on. They were able to do so, and that meant we were able to travel together (which made logistics a lot easier). They weren't able to seat us together, but they were able to give ladyat a bulkhead seat. As we told them, at this stage of traveling together so often, sitting together is less important than both of us being comfortable - especially for a 7 hour trip.

The flight itself went without incident, but once we landed (a little late due to traffic diversions around New York City) we had to wait almost 30 minutes for a gate. Once we got into the airport and through passport control, we waited an additional 40 minutes for our luggage. Then, of course, we had to re-check our luggage and go to the main terminal where we needed to pick it up again. I can't wait until they get the new international terminal built at the other end of the concourses - we can finally get out without the stupid luggage re-check. K met us (having been waiting for 90 minutes) and we came home to an all-american Kentucky Fried Chicken dinner.

Amazingly enough, I gained no weight at all on this trip and seem to have lost a bit of distance around my waist in spite of the carb consumption. I chalk it up to having walked a minimum of 5 miles a day, and hope to continue the walking portion by getting up earlier every morning to do treadmill. I'm also planning to head over to the YMCA they built down the street and see about getting a membership in order to try to do some toning work (see if I can change this "beer muscle" into a more lean muscle mass) as well. If I want to live a long life that includes beer drinking, I guess I need to put up with the torture.

That's all for the detailed daily reports, now I expect that I'll go back to my usual indolence ...
 
 
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Current Music: The good old (HA) hum of work computers
 
 
 
Marybraider on August 17th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC)
Happy belated birthday, by the way! I've been a bit preoccupied and missed the day itself.