Mrs Canavan and I did something jolly exciting at the weekend – we went to London and back in a day.
It’s the kind of thing I’d have previously dismissed as ludicrous and impossible, but Mrs C is a little more adventurous than me – indeed she once cut the grass without using the three-pin safety power-breaker adaptor – and she had booked the tickets.
We departed at 9am and returned on the 6pm train. I felt like Michael Palin and Marco Polo rolled into one. I do enjoy visiting London and arriving at Euston is quite thrilling. There are always, to my eternal surprise, so many people around.
That may sound a foolish statement but remember I reside in an area so sleepy it causes major excitement when there’s a two-for-one offer on Regina Blitz kitchen roll at the local Tesco.
If I may digress, Regina Blitz, if you haven’t heard of it before, is the Premier League of kitchen roll. You can spill seven pints of water on the floor, casually throw down one sheet, and it will absorb all the liquid, like magic.
Sad as it may seem – and my, it does seem sad – I keep track of where and when the stuff is on special offer and once, when it was reduced to a quid per packet at Morrisons, drove seven miles to the nearest store where I purchased 30 rolls.
The woman behind the till looked alarmed, as if she recognised me from a Crimewatch reconstruction.
I arrived home delighted at how much money I’d saved – only for Mrs Canavan to react with fury rather than gratitude, complaining that they took up all the storage space in the coat cupboard.
On the upside, we didn’t need to buy kitchen roll again until the following November, so every cloud...
But back to Euston, which, though exciting, is a terrifically ugly building. This wasn’t always the case.
On its opening in 1837, it had a beautiful, distinctive arch over its entrance. But then in the 1960s it was demolished to create ‘the electrified West Coast main line’. Doesn’t that sum up modern life? We can get places faster, they just look worse when we arrive.
Despite this, Euston has a fantastic buzz about it, though I was a little miffed at having to pay 30p to go to the toilet.
I had, if you’ll pardon me for being crude for a moment, to cough up or risk my trousers suffering permanent damage.
Though bitter at the cash outlay, I have to say the lavatories are in a spectacularly resplendent condition. Then I saw why.
The whole time I was in there, a bloke with a mop and some very thick Marigolds shuffled from cubicle to cubicle, urinal to urinal, meticulously cleaning. By the time he had finished one lap, the first one needed cleaning again, and so this chap’s day went on. The poor fella must spend his entire eight hours in there. I hope he is well paid, though I fear not.
Our day in London, or more accurately a cheery little nearby district called Brockley where our friends live, turned out to be very pleasant.
An interesting thing happened when I went into a bar to order a glass of wine for Mrs Canavan and an ale for myself.
The lad serving spent ages preparing our drinks, mainly because he fiddled around for a good five minutes folding two little napkins into the shape of what could have been ducks – or maybe elephants, hard to tell – all so we could place our drinks on them and it would look pretty.
When he finally finished his origami masterclass he turned and said: ‘That’ll be £13.80 please’. After I had finished staggering backwards in the manner of someone suffering a fairly serious heart attack, he added: ‘Are you paying cash or card?’
It so happened that I had a £20 note in my pocket and so replied, ‘cash’. I noticed him grimace ever so slightly. He fiddled in his till for quite some time – for a moment I thought he was folding another napkin – and then somewhat reluctantly said: ‘I’m afraid I’ve no change – I can either give you £10 or £5’.
I dwelled on this for a moment and then pointed out that if he gave me £5 I’d be paying more than the asking price and so, if it were okay, I’d ‘prefer the tenner please’.
He looked at me with undisguised loathing and slapped, with some force, the £10 note into my hand.
That saving of £3.80 left me feeling strangely giddy and light-headed. Basically, when you’ve not much of a life, like myself, those kind of small victories can really make your day.
We made it back home for 8pm, I urinated for free at the near-deserted station, and then we headed home.
It’s the most excitement I’ve had in years.