Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Christmas in Cranford

Deer at Dunham Massey

I went to Cheshire for Christmas. You can tell how hard the recession is biting in Knutsford, one of the two Rolls Royce garages has closed. In the posh little shops shoes are in the sale at a hundred pounds and most places were closed for four days, something unheard of where I live in Durham.

Knutsford, the Moor. All the poor ducks, swans and geese were sitting on the frozen ice

I can remember walking down Oxford Street years ago and being astonished that nothing was open on a Sunday. In Durham we live to shop. Conspicuous consumption is everything. Not that you don't get that in Knutsford. As you wander up the two main streets, King Street and Princess Street, the narrow road is full of enormous black cars which would look okay in a funeral procession, four by fours which have never seen a muddy country track and sports cars which would give my old Mazda a serious self confidence trauma if I had taken it with me.

No, no, I went on cross country trains.  Pause here for horror and shock.
The Monday before Christmas I ventured forth. I'm a nervous traveller, I don't like other people driving, I don't care that it's an aeroplane or a train, I don't trust anybody else, I'm not in control.
I dropped and momentarily lost my ticket, I dropped two of my three suitcases before I got on the train, the ticket guy looked sympathetically at me, obviously recognising that I was already a wreck and let me through the barrier. The suitcases were not full of gorgeous clothes, they were filled with the blessed Christmas presents which seem to get bigger and heavier every year.

The standard class was crowded and of course there were three first class carriages almost empty. I could moan on about this but it's enough to state it. That and my frustration.

Everywhere I go enormous people sit next to me. I'm the woman who attracts men of eighteen stone with backpacks. You could be killed when somebody turns around in the tiny space of a standard carriage. There was no food of course, just before I got off two hours later in Manchester Piccadilly a trolley reached me. It doesn't really matter, I don't eat any more on trains I sit there and worry my way across country.

The tickets, which you had to go through a barrier with before you got on were checked twice more on the train. There was nowhere to put one suitcase, never mind three. The only good thing about my suitcases is that they are a rather delicate shade of pink,can be seen at half a mile and I can't see why anybody would want to steal one.I did see a woman once getting off with what looked like my suitcase and I panicked but the poor soul just had the same awful taste as me.

The change at Manchester wasn't too bad, only fifteen minutes wait. It was bitterly cold but I got to Knutsford on time only to discover that my daughter who was picking me up from the station was caught in a traffic jam on the M6 and would be at least an hour. I struggled over the blasted bridge, stairs at both sides and eventually reached the ticket office and begged the man for a warm waiting room or a hot drink. Alas, there was neither but he must have caught the look in my eyes because he provided hot tea and biscuits and the heater from his office for me and another woman who had spent two hours in an unheated train getting the few miles from Chester.

So this week's Hero Award goes to the station master at Knutsford whose name I do not know. I hope he had a good Christmas.

Knutsford has a Booth's.  Booth's is like a better Waitrose, a small family company based in the north west and almost a good enough reason to move. Booth's is just that little bit posh, in a sort of apologetic way, as though it means to be down to earth but can't quite help being slightly up its own backside. One of its joys is that the staff are proper north western people and call a spade a spade, not quite like in Durham where we usually call it a bloody shovel.

The streets are filled with old ladies who wear Barbour clothes and expensive walking boots and gentlemen who wear brogues, and the park, actually its called the Moor for some reason, is filled with lots of other old people walking recognisable dogs like spaniels and Scotties.

In the bank some man thought I was from Workington. I'm not sure whether it's a compliment or not but different than usual where people think I'm Irish. The girls in the bank were dead chuffed as Barclays had awarded them four days off. Almost a holiday. The library was closed as well and while I don't begrudge the librarians time off I did miss the library being open. I feel rather lost without it as here it's open on Sundays.

Dunham Massey

My daughter works in retail so she didn't get much time off for Christmas. Up to Christmas Eve she was selling turkeys, sprouts and lots of chocolate desserts. Two days after Christmas she went into sale so that people who had been buying presents for their loved ones were now trampling such like underfoot. I thought nobody had any money. It doesn't show. Me, I'm worried about my gas bill since the heating has been on constantly for six weeks. My first letter on coming home was from the electric people to tell me that they are putting up the bills by over 5%.  Happy New Year to you too, you greedy  bastards.

This time next year, not being able to afford heat or light, I will be sitting by a candle eating my gruel. I can see where Scrooge got it from now, so many people with their hands outstretched towards my meagre income. I won't be able to afford Christmas, so there.

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