“It’s about time we met up for that coffee?’ a friend said several months ago.
All well and good, I do enjoy my coffee, but when the friend in question lives over 200 miles away, not so easy.
But who am I to let a 4 hour train journey stand in the way of catching up with an old friend and drinking coffee?
So, the planning began !!
Having spoken about it with friends (this end of the country) they suggested making a break of it, make it a city break to somewhere I haven’t been before, somewhere close to my friend. So Manchester was decided upon.
Train from Southampton direct to Mancester Piccadilly. Premier inn right in the heart of the city, booked. My children were excited about the mini-break they would be having with the dad too… So, with times and dates put in place, me and google spent many hours together planning the time. What to do, see, how to travel around and where to eat.
I can bore you with the details about me and technology, but that’s for a different post!
So, the day arrived. A good friend agreed to get up rediculously early to drive me to the train station, my suitcase was packed along with the pooches essentials.
And off we went!
The train journey was made even more comfortable when a guard moved us to First Class so that he could make me a decent coffee.
By the time me and Vicky arrived in Manchester our plans had changed. The ‘friend’ we were meeting wasn’t available on Saturday.
So, we were in this big, noisy, smelly city and no idea of what to do.
Firstly, we had to negotiate the trams…. Not using them, rather, walking on the path without being ran over by them…. Even Vicky struggled with the metal lines embedded in the concrete, her step was so gentle, like a small child trying not to step on the cracks. It wasn’t easy. But within a few attempts, she had the hang of it, sitting back from them as if they were a curb edge. Then waiting for my command before walking on.
She was a star, an absolute star.
The hotel, being a premier inn, was very well concealed in a building line, with just a small sign and a single glass door with intercom to enter. But with the helping arm or a stranger, we found it.
It was nice enough, exactly the same as any other premier inn and therefore perfectly familiar for me, regardless of the distance from home.
The first walk after checking in was nerve-wrecking, where to go, what to do and where the hell was there some grass for Miss Vicky to do what she needed to do.
In went the headphones (just one ear) on went the Google map app and soon we were in Piccadilly Gardens sat in starbucks and watching the world go past.
By this point I was already tired out, especially my eyes. I could feel the strain in them, but I didn’t travel all this way just to sit in a hotel room and ignore the city around me, so I started to plan!
Plan what I could do, where I could go and think of how I would cope if the coffee and catch up never happened.
Exhausted. Pained and feeling very vulnerable a dear friend answered their phone on the second ring, they calmed me down, they picked me up and they made me feel proud of what I had done so far, so if I did decide to spend the next three days in the hotel room, I hadn’t wasted my time, I hadn’t been stupid and I had faced a major hurdle for me. After the pep talk, I decided it was time to do this, to be strong and enjoy my time, enjoythe being with me, enjoy knowing that regardless of where we were I was safe with my guiding girl by my side. She wouldn’t let me down, no matter what.
The coffee never did happen, but… The visit to The Lowry, The Imperial War Museum, The Blue Peter Garden, The big wheel and many more places did.
The downside of independance mixed with stubbornness like this, Is that when I did arrive back in southampton late on the Tuesday night I was so physically and mentally drained that I could hardly speak, let alone eat or even sleep.
It took five days for the eye strain to ease. For the headache to go and for the emotional wreck that was me to go away.
… … Now though, several months later as I write this (not feeling so raw) I realise that it was a massive thing for me and one that I can never forget. In fact, it is a trip I hope to repeat, with my two wonderful children this time. And we shall enjoy plenty of cake !!