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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Shrewsbury Spewsbury

Took a trip to Shrewsbury on Thursday, via the Heart of Wales line. Nice town, vile train journey. Don't let Arriva Trains sweet-talk you into believing this is a lovely, scenic journey. It's H-I-D-E-O-U-S!!! They use ancient trains, which make the most horrendous racket you've ever heard, so loud you can't hear yourself speak. And as for the wonderful scenery - forget it, there's hardly any, because most of the Heart of Wales line runs through deep, tree-lined cuttings and forests. So all you see racing past the window, is mile upon mile of tree branches. You will see the occasional, nondescript small village or town, and some chicken coops along the tracks somewhere in mid-Wales, and the odd river, but mostly, it's miles and miles of trees. Even the Sugar Loaf was disappointing - it looked like an oversized, conical green hat, and gave me the impression I'd just been accidentally catapulted into prehistoric times. Oh, and did I mention the two precarious and scary viaducts, that suspend you about 150 feet in the air? Yuck. No thank you. Never again!

The journey started out pleasantly enough, even though the train arrived ten minutes late. It first made its way to Llanelli via Gowerton, then switched directions as it backed out of Llanelli, to join the Heart of Wales line. Somewhere near the marsh and Loughor Estuary, between Llangennech and Pontarddulais stations, I was amazed to see a young fox standing no more than fifteen feet from the line. I think he must have emerged from the bushes, ready to cross the line, when the train startled him. He stood frozen to the spot, utterly rigid. It's one of the best and closest views I've ever had of a fox, apart from when I had to chase two out of my garden when they were after my cat.

On the same stretch of line, I also spotted a heron flying over the water, and a small group of what I believe were little egret. I'm afraid the journey went a little downhill from there, because I started to feel travel-sick. To make matters even worse, I didn't just feel sick. I barfed quite spectacularly, twice. The first time was just before Llandeilo. The second time was a few minutes later, between Llanwrda and Llandovery.

By this time, the train was packed with pensioners armed with flasks of tea and coffee, so the toilets were in constant use. Had it not been for a guy giving me his dog's bowl, which he was waiting to fill from the tap in the train's loo, I would have barfed all over the train corridor. And even then, some silly old man tried to push into the loo ahead of me, with that tired old 'I'm a pensioner' excuse, that a certain type of elderly person always trots out, when trying to jump a queue or gain some other privilege. So I said, 'I don't think so, mate, I'm puking my guts up here', and dived in the loo ahead of him. When I say I dived in the loo, I don't mean literally, a la Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting.

Shortly afterwards, the train conked out. It made a strange spluttering sound at Llanwrda, when it stopped for passengers, and an engine died. They managed, after several attempts, to get it going again, on just one engine, but it crawled the next few miles to Llanwrtyd, where, by some miracle, another train was waiting for us. I think it had been diverted from another route, as it already had passengers on board. Thanks to a bunch of belligerent, barging pensioners, I ended up facing the wrong way, something I HATE on trains at the best of times. But as I was feeling ill and disorientated anyway, I spent most of the remainder of the journey with my eyes shut.

When I finally got to Shrewsbury, the first thing I did was locate the local branch of Boots. I bought some travel sickness pills which, thankfully, made the homeward journey a lot more pleasant, even if it was just miles and miles of trees.

I called for a taxi the instant I stepped off the train at Swansea, as it was after 10 pm, and the train station becomes a very hairy place to be at that time of night. I crossed the station forecourt and waited just outside the foyer of the Grand Hotel, rather than going around the back of the station to the official taxi rank, as that would simply be suicide. Within seconds, I got hassled by some kerb-crawling creep, who I told to eff off. Or at least, he would have been a kerb-crawler, had he had a car. Moments later, two prostitutes sauntered past me, one of whom barely had a tooth in her head. They carried on past the Grand Hotel and turned into the alleyway next to the Park Lane health club sign. Health club, my backside! Then another creep approached me, so I told him to eff off as well, just as my taxi pulled up. My train must have got in early. It was scheduled to arrive in Swansea at 10.13, but I was home by 10.17 - and it takes a good 5-7 minutes to get to my house by car from the station.

I knew the area around the station was ropey at night, but didn't realise that unaccompanied women trying to get home at night, are hassled by men looking for prostitutes. I was wearing hiking boots and carrying a rucksack, for pity's sake. I was hardly strutting up and down in stilettoes, swinging a sparkly handbag, shouting 'fancy a nice time, darlin'?' I think I'll do my future travelling by coach and bus. At least that way, by arriving at the Quadrant late at night, I know I'll only be hassled by the homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts, the mentally ill or aggressive beggars.

Anyway, I'll tell you more about Shrewsbury itself in another post. My pics need editing before I can do anything with them. I botched a lot of them because I felt so ill all day, I forgot to adjust any of the settings. I was also having manual difficulty with some of the camera controls. Don't know if I was just feeling feeble, or if the camera had a problem. Then, when I was walking along the Rover Severn, the lens got covered in some weird, greasy dust. Even though I had some optical lens wipes with me, it still took ages to clean the stuff off, so that botched a lot of my pics, too. All in all, even though I quite liked Shrewsbury itself, due to my illness and the train's very late arrival, I didn't have enough time to do everything I wanted to do. And it was definitely a Murphy's Law kind of day, from the travel sickness, to the train breakdown, to the camera playing up. My next planned trip is either to the Cotswolds or Glastonbury.

1 comment:

The Pig's Lip said...

Looking forward to seeing your pics of the day. Didn't realise Swansea at night was that dodgy myself. You can probably guess my choice of the two locations you fancy giving a try - Glastonbury. If you are just going to the town thogh you have to be really into new Age stuff as nine out of ten shops there cater to this market. You do get amazing views of the Tor from the village though (but it is a trek and a half getting to the thing) or you could just chill in the sublime Chalice Gardens.