Rubbish! That whole “let’s plan something” caper is complete rubbish.
Y’know that saying about “the best laid plans”? Well, I can personally testify how absolutely true it is. Not that I ever have any best laid plans, my plans being somewhat more along the lines of vague intentions. But even so, the sentiment’s the same.
T’other day it was, Norfolk Oaf and I have this
vague intention plan to scoot off out to a town in the neighbouring county of Buckinghamshire. It’s a pleasant enough little town and there’s certain to be stuff there to exercise our cameras. Surely. Plus it’ll be a much-needed change from our usual haunts.
Bit of a murky morning kicks the day off, so a quick ’phone call ’twixt Oaf and I to decide whether we want to risk the weather (“Oh it’ll be all right, let’s do it” said with unbridled optimism, despite the soaking wet ground and colourless sky) and we’re good to go.
Meeting early (even earlier than last week… though Oaf still managed to turn up later than the time we’d agreed only 90 minutes previously!) at the local bus station first thing is to ensure we’re equipped with some provisions for the day… snacky type stuff and bottles of pop or something. There’s bound to be some sort of noshery at this town we’re heading for, but what about the in-between times eh? Always have to think about the in-between times, especially where food and drink’s concerned.
Of course, being the clever little sod that I am I’d already secured my provisions, now nestling safely in the old backpack. But he hadn’t thought of getting anything beforehand, had he? Typical. So Oaf wanders into a nearby shop and gets a few munchies for himself. And gets ripped off over some chocolate into the bargain. But that’s another story. Though it was a bit funny.
Back into the bus station then and surprise surprise! In answer to my “I wonder when the bus leaves?” (hey, I don’t believe in carrying this planning lark too far) he produces with a flourish some sort of timetable, clearly printed out from the Web. Wow! Even more wow is when I see that certain entries thereon have been highlighted with marker pen! What on earth’s going on? He’s actually organised for a change.
This is just too much. Its… not right. Quick double-check then to make sure I’ve actually hooked up with the right person. (I get a bit absent-minded at times. And the old eyesight ain’t what it used to be either.) Yep. Its him sure enough. This is just scary.
Later in the day, after we’d returned from our little jaunt, I discovered that someone else had printed the thing out and highlighted relevant entries for him. And there he’d been letting me think he’d actually exercised some forethought for a change. Cheeky little sod.
Anyway, consulting said timetable we see there’s one due in about 15 minutes or so. That’ll do us thinks I. Apparently not. Cos whilst I’m thinking that Oaf, scrutinising the timetable rather more closely, happens to notice that the particular bus he’d been checking doesn’t actually stop at the town we’d wanted to visit. Not as such. It sort of, well, bypasses it completely.
“Plonker!” utters I. “So when’s the next bus that does stop there due?”
Hmm. Seems there’s about another 40 minutes’ wait for that one. Too long. Far far too long. And they only run once an hour so getting back in time for Oaf to get to work could be a bit of an issue. Well, that’s the
vague intention plan scuppered then.
So we mooch around the bus station a bit indecisively, looking at the various destination boards and departure times rather forlornly, rediscovering something we’d learned a long time ago… that the Bedford bus service absolutely sucks! All the uninviting places seem to be awash with buses, whilst all the even remotely interesting places appear to have to wait hours and hours for a bus.
Ampthill’s a possibility… but we’ve been there a couple of times already and we fancy going somewhere different. And I seem to recollect we had issues with buses the last time we went there as well. Oh well, there’s always the river I s’pose… again. Looks as though it’s all shaping up to be one of our typical little sessions.
“What about Willington?” sez I in a most unusual flash of inspiration.
Willington’s a little village about three or four miles east of Bedford. I’ve travelled through it numerous times and often been impressed by the picturesque cottages there. And I know there’s a church there (churches are always good for a few pics). And its near the river, where there’s something called a “Danish Camp”. Could be worth investigating. More to the point, the buses appear to run there fairly frequently. So, after a bit of a hasty mull we decide that’ll do us and, lo and behold, a Willington-bound bus arrives within minutes… almost on cue you could say. We’re off!
Alight the bus at the start of the village loop, otherwise known as Balls Lane… had to do that to celebrate what a right balls-up the morning’s been so far.
Walk the length of the lane then to reach the church at the far end where we get into pic-taking mode proper. Shame that the church proved to be, well, just another church really. Nothing particularly exciting about it at all.
But there, over beyond the church, we spot two rather interesting looking buildings. So we make our way over there and whilst sniffing around the outside of one of them we see two ladies accompanied by a gent who, we later discover, is a local resident who provides impromptu guided tours around these buildings. And he has keys!
After exchanging a few pleasantries with this little party (that consisted mainly of them commenting on one of my “laying down on the wet grass to take pics bloody fool that I am” antics) he asks if we’d like to have a look inside this building, which seems to be known as Willington Stables.
Oh boy! What a treat! Amazingly atmospheric, our only regret was that we hadn’t brought a tripod with us cos it was a bit… er… dark inside. But nevertheless we coped, wandering around in complete freedom doing our clicky thing whilst gent treated ladies to the proper “guided tour” lark.
That done gent asks whether we’d all like to see inside the other interesting looking building across the way, which is apparently the Willington Dovecote. A quite fascinating building… and huge! For a dovecote at least.
Guided tour over or so we think, gent enquires whether (as his little party seems to have doubled in size… i.e., us two having somehow tagged along) we’d all like to look inside the church too. Well, that’s not the sort of offer you can refuse, is it? So we don’t. Refuse it that is.
Walking there from the Dovecote Oaf and I get to chatting with the ladies and we discover that this whole guided tour lark hadn’t been planned at all (there was me thinking they must have made an appointment with the local gent or something). Apparently they’d just been walking around the village and by the river on a sort of sightseeing hike when they’d come across gent about to do something near the Dovecote and, in the course of their conversation, he’d offered to give them the tour. Talk about serendipity eh?
Having enjoyed the delights of all three buildings we part company with the ladies and our friendly guide and, sitting ourselves on a handy bench, decide its time for some refreshment. Oaf rummages around in his backpack for the ham roll he’d bought and, biting into it, declares it to be “not very nice”. Stale in fact, not to put too fine a point on it.
Heh heh chortles I, ever delighted by the misfortunes that befall him. Which was a stupid thing to do really, cos I then discover that the ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches I’d bought from the same establishment only earlier than he were also unacceptably stale. Yucch!
So roll and sandwiches get thrust back into respective backpacks in something bordering disgust but all is not lost for I happen to know that the village possesses a pub. The Crown pub in fact. And I also happen to know how to get there too! So off we trot, pubwards.
Which turned out to be the second treat of the day. Although its nothing special to look at from the outside our entry was greeted by what proved to be a very obliging and friendly landlord, from whom we ordered a pint of ale apiece to quaff whilst we’re deciding on grub. And I have to say, the ale was superb. Myself knowing a little something about the keeping of ale, and Oaf being currently involved in the licensed trade, when we say an ale’s superb you can take it as gospel.
Then we get to the food. A baked spud apiece, with all the trimmings. Simply marvellous. Presented nicely, piping hot, tasted gorgeous, and loads of it. And served with little packets of real butter… not that rubbishy “spread” muck.
There was only one snag with this entire little jaunt. For the day to have developed so amazingly well after such a messed-up start obviously means that the Fates are lulling us into a false sense of security before dumping something really nasty on us!
[Edit 02.10.2010 – Oaf’s rather garbled version, in which he’s suspiciously less insulting to me than normal, is here.]