Friday, 18 December 2009

It's a Small World!

I had one of those really surreal moments today; something totally unexpected happened, but at the same time it was something that was perhaps bound to happen sooner or later, as I will shortly reveal..

The expected, and accurately forecast snow arrived last night. Almost right on cue it started snowing heavily around ten o'clock. By the time I went to bed there were a good couple of inches or more covering the ground. I set the alarm earlier than normal, prepared for a slightly longer journey into work, but when I looked out the window, just after six this morning, it was pretty obvious that I wouldn't be driving in. On top of that it was still snowing heavily. I turned on the radio and tuned in to BBC Radio Kent for an update on the travel situation. I was surprised to learn that South Eastern were planning to run trains into London, so I listened for further details, only to find my plans to let the train take the strain were thwarted by a broken down train blocking services between Tonbridge and Redhill. What made it worse was the stranded train had actually broken down at Penshurst - the exact same station I wished to journey to! I phoned a colleague who regularly travels into work by train. He had just returned from the station and related the same story. In fact he had been told that it could take several hours before the stranded train could be shifted.

After some toast I donned my winter attire (the same attire I am planing to take to Prague with me at the end of next week), and stepped outside to see what, if anything , was occurring. It was abundantly clear that I wouldn't be able to move the car off the drive. We live on a hill and so far as I could make out no motorised traffic had been either up, or down the road that morning. For want of a better plan I decided to walk down to the station and see for myself what was occurring.

Some traffic was moving out on the main road, but at a snail's pace, with most people choosing to make the journey on foot. En route to the station I made and received various phone calls to work colleagues, including my boss. It transpired that only those people living in the immediate vicinity had made it into work, which meant I would not be in the minority by failing to make it in. Conscience cleared, I did a bit of shopping (I don't think I have ever seen Sainsbury's so quiet on a Friday morning - certainly no the last one before Christmas). Having picked up suitable supplies I made my way home, in time to catch the last 5 minutes of Sir Terry Wogan's final breakfast show - a poignant moment if ever there was one.

Later on, after I had got a few bits down from the loft for my wife, I decided to go out again. The snow clouds had cleared leaving a beautiful bright and crisp sunny morning. so off I went with no clear cut plan, apart from picking up some Czech currency for my forthcoming trip. This accomplished, I made my way to Tonbridge's only independent book shop, MR Books, for a chat with owner Mark Richardson, and also to see if I could pick up a copy of Jaroslav Hasek's, satirical classic, The Good Soldier Svejk, ahead of my visit to Prague.

"You're not the first beer blogger in today", Mark informed me. "Oh", I replied, "who was the other?" "The Pencil & Spoon" blogger, I was told and he said he wants to meet you. "Mark Dredge" I said, slightly surprised, "in here? "Why not" said MR Books' proprietor, "he only lives across the road in one of the new flats". I responded that I too would like to meet Mark, so following a quick phone, call the winner of the British Guild of Beer Writers New Media Writer of the Year 2009 duly appeared in the shop.

I hadn't realised that Marl lived in Tonbridge; for some reason I assumed he lived in North Kent. It turned out that him and his girlfriend Lauren had recently moved into one of the newly-built flats that occupy the old market site, opposite MR Books shop. Of course, had I begun following Mark's blog earlier in the year, I would have known this, but there's nothing like the benefit of hindsight!

Mark couldn't stay long, as he was in the middle of preparing dinner, but we had a pleasant chat nonetheless. We both griped about the lack of a decent boozer in Tonbridge, and certainly the lack of anywhere selling the darker ales which ought to be about this time of year. MR Books suggested that I open a pub, but having run the Cask & Glass off-licence for five and a half years, I'd had more than enough of the licensed trade!

We parted company, promising to meet up soon for a drink. Before leaving the bookshop I had a strike of luck in finding a copy of the "Guide to the Wealdway". My friend Eric and I are considering this long distance footpath as our next venture, following the successful completion of the South Downs Way earlier this year. Guide books to the Wealdway are hard to come by; most being out of print, so picking up a copy of this hard-backed, Constable Guide was a further bonus for popping into MR Books.

On the way home I called into Wetherspoons. Mark had told me that he'd spotted a clip for Thornbridge Pioneer on the pumps, with one of JDW's "Available Soon" tags attached. My hopes that it might have been on were dashed, but were soon compensated by the sight of Hook Norton's Twelve Days. Now this is what I call a true Christmas beer, rich and dark with a reasonable strength of 5.5%. The first pint slipped down a treat, and I managed a couple more after being joined my son Matt, who'd just finished work, and by the aforementioned Eric.

It was getting dark by the time we left the pub, and the pavements had become treacherously icy. Still we made it home in one piece where a welcoming stew awaited us. All in all it was a most productive day, and certainly one worth missing work for.


Tandleman said...

Nice post Paul. It's a small world eh?

PS It's snowing here right now.

Paul Bailey said...

Thank's Tandleman. After an extremely icy start this morning, it started raining and the snow is slowly vanishing. Just as well, as a colleague and I had to go over to Larkins Brewery at lunchtime to collect some polypins. We even managed a visit to the Rock; something that would have been impossible earlier in the week.