I am enjoying our latest attempt at being snowed in. This however is fine by me after the trip into the Midlands I am happy to watch small, slushy flakes of snow littering the world. Yet another brief interlude of snow for a day or two, not unusual for March.
So I sit here writing emails regarding the events in the Midlands. Funerals are strange events, this one involved a burial, quite why my brother wished this I am not sure, maybe he just wishes us to take long trips out of our way to stand in the rain and wind remembering him, it would be his type of humour! As it was the day was bright, the sun shone and took the edge of the chill wind arriving from the east.
The travel included passing through St Pancras station. The last time I was there was about 30 years ago and how it has changed. Having struggled through the underground I now walked about a mile or more past these grossly overpriced shops in this brightly lit tourist filled mall. Not only was this not here 30 years ago I did not realise where the platforms were! "Upstairs!" he said knowing I didn't believe him. However after walking back the way I came clutching my ticket I found an escalator going upwards. The nearest one much to my by now tired bodies dismay came downwards. Only upstairs did I understand the layout of the station here under the huge cavernous space I realised the platforms had moved bar the ones on the far side now used by the Eurostar trains, the reuse of the undercroft, once used to hold major beer haulage as it was transported around the country, for the mall is a sensible way to gather money.
St Pancras apparently was a 14 year old Christian who Diocletian had executed for his faith. No, I had not heard of him either. Pancras means 'The one that holds everything' whatever that means.
During 1868 the first train, the overnight mail from Leeds, arrived at St Pancras Station stopping under the vast metal and glass roof designed by Barlow & Ordish that has the largest span in the world.
The 'Midland Railway' built the line and in 1923 joined with the 'London and North Western Railway' plus the 'Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway' to form the famous 'London, Midland & Scottish' Railway Company (LMS). These maroon coloured engines hauled their fare through the middle of the country. This came to an end with welcome nationalisation in 1948 when 'British Railways' came into being. Only nationalised railways can serve the nation as privatised ones merely take the money out of the governments generous purse and keep it to the few at the top.
To hide the train shed the Midland railway opened the fabulous station hotel built across the from of the entrance. This is a tourist site in itself! It has been said that Sir George Gilbert Scott originally had this design for the Foreign Office but the then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston would not accept any 'Gothic' design. In stead he insisted on a 'Greek' model and this indeed is what Scott built for him. However when asked to create a hotel for the Midland Railway he merely took his design, moved the centre tower to a position to the end of the building and created this masterpiece. Today just walking through the station now it has been renovated takes the breathe away. I have been inside the building many years ago when it was being used by BT among others. Even among the accumulated crud of years it was possible to see the fantastic quality of this building. The hotel failed in 1935 and became LMS railway offices remaining in lean condition until reopened recently as the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. Of course I cannot afford to stay there!
The Hind Hotel in Wellingborough has recently been given a new owner, this is good as it is in much need of refurbishment. Meeting the rest of the family who managed to make it we found the staff very friendly, helpful and capable on the late shift. This was the hotels strongest point in my view. As a three star hotel it was acceptable, everything worked, effort had been made to keep it clean and usable and my knees were delighted to climb the ancient wooden stairs to the second floor. The lassie on the desk helpfully offered to carry my bag 'if I needed help!' Grump!
The 'Hind Hotel' was built by Lord Hatton a courtier of Queen Elizabeth who had a hind on his coat of arms. He became a loyal courtier of Elizabeth and was granted much by her and in time reached as high a position as Lord Chancellor. It did not stop him dying with great debts, these folks knew how to lose money. The Hind was built in 'Jacobean style' at a time when Lizzie was trying to ensure Catholics did not return to power yet Hatton remained one of her favourites. Originally the building offered hospitality possibly to those visiting the nearby abbey and they claim evidence Cromwell slept here before the Battle of Naseby. Cromwell, like Elizabeth, slept in many more places than he actually visited of course.
The wooden doors, stairs, bannisters alongside the remains of the coloured glass in the windows indicates something of the quality of the original building. Once the refurbishment is complete this will be an outstanding building.
This was one of the fireplaces this time referencing Victoria though it is not possible to say when it was installed. Now used as a breakfast room and as you can see polished often!
I thought the rooms decent enough though in one or two places the paper was beginning to come away. This made the place feel just like home! TV at the far end where my eyes could not reach was irrelevant as I never watch it anyway however I did consider installing a radio by the bed would have been a good idea as I listen to that.
The weather remained fine for the funeral, the wind eased by the sunshine and the short service led by a man who was not a 'Humanist' as one thought but a 'Spiritual Atheist.' A what? Yes I wondered also however he was raised in a proper evangelical background and now (I think having retired) he had begun to doubt his faith and the biblical view. Listening to him as we talked at the buffet (wake to you) in the 'Stags Head,' a lovely pub, I got the impression it was not a lack of belief but the fact he may have been gay and was attempting to fit that with reality, it will however not work. I could not help but like this man who took trouble to understand my brother and thoughtfully led the service.
A handful of people from my brothers past attended and it was good to hear stories untold by him. I was not aware that at his work on your birthday you brought n a bottle of whisky which was empty by closing time. Nor was I aware that he stood the bottle upside down just to ensure he got the dregs from the bottle and obtained his monies worth. This is not a family habit...
I journeyed back with two soprano's, friends of my talented niece who she often does concerts with, and once again visited St Pancras. This time I wandered around the station and at the base of the needless slushy statue of a couple kissing hello or goodbye found these carvings at the bottom. All round the base several carvings in what looks like brass appear telling stories of those who have passed through. The pictures a re lighter than reality.
Troop trains must have carried thousands of men from this station, not all going abroad of course, many training in various parts of the land. Others were returning from far off, some wounded, and on both occasions relatives may well have watched the comings and goings with worried thoughts.
This looks like a 'tramp,' or 'homeless' as we must call them today, it could indeed be a 'bag lady' but I do not know the story connected. This is a shame as the dog alongside has been well loved by kids and others passing by.
The photo does not do this justice but I plead tiredness and desperation to get to the Tube for my next train. Clearly this one is popular and the head well rubbed. I suppose it was a local who lived near, in or under the station at one time, possibly someone will know.
It is just not possible to picture this magnificent building from the ground. You must get high up and find a decent position. Standing on a Friday afternoon with around a million people roaming around is not the ideal way to take photographs.
It is even harder with a man asking for money for food and failing to get some as he was in my view influenced by drugs/drink and just not getting any from anyone. It is easy to feel guilty by not helping but easing your conscience will not help him and if you really wish to help I say give to one of the many organisations that work among sch folks, then those in need will get help.
Then it was home with one more change arriving in time for tea. However I could not get my knees interested in heading to the shops so made do with anything lying around. Luckily I had thought cleverly enough to get something in and leave it for my return, it did not feel anything like enough.
I keep trying to get fit and keep failing, this journey revealed just how unfit I am and I must do something about this and will start this possibly on Wednesday, if I have the energy...