Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Traveller's Tale

 As the names Sheffield & Leeds appeared on the motorway signs I felt able to breathe freely once more. There really is no other place on earth quite like God’s own county and, having just travelled up from deepest Hertfordshire, the thought of soon being able to set foot once again on Yorkshire’s sacred ground proved truly heart-warming! To be totally honest, the ‘heart-warming’ was probably in response to the prospect of arriving home on the third day. Although born a “man of Kent”, and having inhabited points North, South, East & West of England, I am proud to be a Northerner and born-again Yorkshire man.

Our outbound journey, on Thursday, was not without its little hiccups as (what should have been) a three and a half hour journey turned into a more tortuous five hours of intermittent frustration. I’m not a good traveller at the best of times and this was most certainly not the best!

We received a most friendly welcome when we finally arrived at the Red Lion Hotel, in Radlett. The purpose of our venture southwards was to attend the wedding of one of Helen’s nieces; the wedding service was being held at St Paul’s Church in St Albans and the reception at Shenley Cricket Centre, the Church approximately seven miles and the reception venue just over one mile from the hotel we’d booked into.

The meal we had in the hotel’s restaurant was really excellent, at the time I thought it almost made the journey worthwhile. A most obliging waitress came back with the recipe for the sauce served with our main course as I’d been so enthusiastic about it and, she also printed out the route to be taken from the hotel to St Pauls.

After a most restless night, I managed to make it down for breakfast even though sundry muscular and joint pains had begun to kick in. The rest of the morning was spent lying down, attempting to get some rest before we set off for the wedding. Come the time we were due for departure to St Albans I knew there was no way I’d be able to cope with neither the journey to nor the ceremony itself.

My attempts to rest and relax whilst ma belle had headed off to the wedding were thwarted by the blaring/beeping of car horns (by the aggressive southern motorists as they approached the mini-roundabout in close proximity to the hotel). By this time a pounding headache and a disorientating spinning sensation, closely akin to that experienced when I suffered with labyrinthitis, joined the by now familiar aches and pains searing through my limbs whilst the ribcage was feeling rather bruised.

I should add that by this time I’d begun to be overwhelmed by a sense of despairing self-pity, after all this same Friday was also my birthday and here I was in an alien land feeling quite alone and desolate. When my beloved returned from the wedding service I reluctantly agreed to take a taxi to the reception. That decision proved totally disastrous as I was unable to cope with the babble of conversation and (joyous?) laughter – a total sensory overload. Within fifteen minutes we were in a taxi back to the hotel.

Later in the evening I felt almost ready to eat so, Helen and I ventured down through the bar to the restaurant only to be informed that the restaurant was closed (due to the extra bar business where the televised soccer seemed to be a major attraction and shortage of staff). I muttered to ma belle, “typical, it’s just not my f…ing day; it’s the most f…ing wretched birthday I’ve ever experienced, a bloody nightmare”.

Suddenly a degree of sanity overwhelmed me; I went to the Hotel Reception Desk to make an official complaint that we, as paying guests, had not been informed that the restaurant would be closed on a Friday evening. A few minutes later we were taken to the restaurant where a waitress took our order and the chef came to check whether and when we needed anything. This is what I consider service beyond the call of duty. I’d mentioned to the waitress that part of the reason I couldn’t cope with the noisy environment (of the bar) was because of my moderate M.E. As we finished our desserts the waitress volunteered that we could exit the restaurant via the kitchen, thus avoiding the bustling activity of the bar.

Although I didn’t manage to attend either the ceremony or the reception, for which we’d made the journey down, it was a delight to experience such real hospitality proffered by the Red Lion, Radlett, Herts.

Our return journey, on Saturday morning, passed without a hitch – the exact reverse of the route we’d intended to take on the outward journey – and we reached home in just three and a quarter hours. Recuperation from the adventure may take quite some time but, it’s slightly easier to cope with sundry ailments when at home in familiar territory.

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