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October 24, 2007 > Across the Pond

Across the Pond

Fall colour in England

I boarded the London bound train at Newark station. Two hours later I was still on the train. One may think that there's nothing strange about that, except that I was still at Newark station. A signalling failure was the apparent cause; that and waiting for a man with a flag to arrive, which all seemed a little primitive and hardly warranting a two hour wait. So when I finally met daughter Lucy at London's Kings Cross station, I felt as if I'd travelled down from Scotland, having been on the train for nearly four hours. I clutched the form given to me and all passengers by the complaints manager, which in my case resulted in the princely compensation of seven pounds. Ho hum, at least they made the effort I suppose.

Fortunately there was still plenty of time to enjoy the colourful annual Thames side Festival. Good weather permitted an enormous crowd, which jostled its way between the stalls and street theatre while passing the brilliantly reproduced Shakespearean Globe Theatre en route to the thought provoking Tate Modern art gallery and the infamous "Wobbly Bridge." The latter being the rather embarrassing result of modern engineering. Not until hundreds of people walked across the bridge at the prestigious opening ceremony was anyone aware of the wobble factor. The "Wobbly Bridge" is much more fun and a greater tourist attraction than the stable and boring improved version.

Suddenly aware of a large amount of Storm troopers and Jedi warriors around us, Lucy and I were not surprised when we stumbled across the Star Wars Exhibition that's been touring the country. As we gazed at the hugely impressive and ominous figure of Darth Vader in a dimly lit and strangely silent room, Lucy reminded me how she was traumatised as a very young child when she went with her brothers to see Darth Vader open our new Kwik Save store. Which just goes to show you should always consider very carefully what you take your children to see.

I was taken back in time last weekend when I caught up with two old school friends who I hadn't seen since we were all 18. It's always fascinating to discover how people turn out from school days after so many years. Sometimes there are surprises, and sometimes not. Mary, who'd been an angelic and completely unopposed Head Girl, is now a real life "Major Barbara" in the Salvation Army, covering the whole North West of England and Wales. No surprise there then. Unlike Avril, who had been a rather wild and "racy" member of the class with skipping school and getting secretly engaged at 15 to a boy who DROVE A VAN (very impressive to our teenage minds) and then reappeared as an unrecognisable middle aged government office worker with the best collection of school cuttings and articles ever... all perfectly filed and catalogued of course.

A final end of season visit to nearby Belvoir Castle brought an unexpected bonus. As we arrived, we were confronted by a vast array of enormous white trailers, looking strangely out of place in the little car park. All was explained as we entered the castle and found ourselves in the middle of the film set for "Young Victoria" starring Emily Blunt. Filming was due to start the following day, so we were able to enter Victoria's wedding chamber and the rooms that will become Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. The following week, the nearby Lincoln Cathedral became Westminster Abbey. I can't wait for the film!

Tragedy struck in Newark this week, accompanied by acts of extreme bravery. In the early hours a man in distress was heard shouting from the fast flowing waters of the River Trent. Two courageous Newarkers, one a grandfather, jumped in to save him. Unfortunately in vain; the man died later in the hospital. The heroes were gently reprimanded for not following procedure and waiting for properly trained staff to arrive (by which time the victim would certainly have been dead). However, we all admire the two selfless men who risked their lives to save that of a stranger without a second thought. Thank God that such people still exist in today's materialistic and increasingly self centred society.

As the leaves turn gold and the "conkers" fall off the trees, I wish you all well in Newark Across the Pond.
Until next time,
Best wishes from Frances.

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