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Date: 12/09/07

It's Better To Travel (Hopefully...)

Off to Chester this morning. I had thought about going on Tuesday, but decided that a day of 'kicking back', 'chilling out' and all the other uncouth phrases of the day would be in order. I am on my two-week September break, after all.

I used to go to Chester five or six times a year, often to the record fairs in the Guild Hall, or to buy records or books I couldn't get in Wrexham, or just to stroll around, but - apart from changing trains there to go to a meeting in Bootle nearly a year ago - hadn't been there for about five years.

(Yes, I know it's only about a dozen miles away, but I don't care much for travelling. I'm waiting for teleportation to come along.)

My intention was to catch the 09:05 train from Wrexham General, so I went out and waited for the 08:33 bus...

Which, of course, didn't turn up. Thanks again, Arriva, you bunch of wankers!

(I've given up even complaining to them now - I've had no response to my last complaint. Instead, I intend from now on putting on the Rants page every single episode of non-arrival and serious lateness...then e-mailing a link to the twerps).

The next bus wasn't until 08:48 (in theory), so wouldn't get me to the station on time. Indeed, that one wouldn't even go past the station, and I'd have to walk from the town centre.

I stormed back into the house and shouted at the walls for a bit, but I wasn't going to let Non-Arrival get the upper hand. There was another train at 10:07. It would mean I'd have less than four hours there, but that would be enough.

So I went back out for the 09:18...which turned up about five minutes late, but would still give me enough time to get to the station.

Anyway, I got there in good time and caught the train, arriving in Chester just on 10:30. I walked into the city centre and started doing what I'd gone there to do, namely to take photographs. This was the first time I'd taken my trusty BenQ there, and I wanted to get some shots of the more interesting parts of the city centre itself, before going round the city's old walls.

(Way back in the when, I used to 'do' The Walls in about an hour. Stupid, really, because that gave me no time to take much notice of anything about them. I'm not competitive in that way anymore).

It was also a sort of light-hearted contest with my old chum Alex (aka 'fiat_knox', aka 'The Plain Clothes Clown' after his recent little snapathon up there.

I went up Foregate to The Cross, then up to the Market Square, taking a few judicious pics on the way, but still hampered by the self-consciousness I referred to in the last entry. All the same, I got one or two useful ones, then headed through Abbey Square (where I got a shot of the 'Norah Batty' plaque, which will replace the mock-up I put in the A Plaque On Their House post) and onto the Walls.

There were still plenty of tourists about (and it occurs to me that they might have thought that I was one as well: I should have had a badge saying "Actually, I live quite near here"). As I went up onto the Walls, for example, there was a party of a dozen elderly Americans, and further along, under the Foregate clock, there was a sizeable group of Russians. I also came across a trio of mature Australians further down.

I made a few diversions from the Walls, though. Firstly through the mock Roman Gardens (where some poor bugger whose working day involves him dressing up as a centurion was regaling a class of eight- or nine-year-olds with stories about the Roman bath-houses), then down onto The Groves and into Grosvenor Gardens. This is a delightful area, except for the fact that the pigeons have grown so fat and arrogant that they wouldn't move out of your way unless you approached them at speed on a Harley with knives on the hubs; and you must also be prepared to be propositioned by the most shamelessly forward grey squirrels I've ever come across. They'd certainly see off the ones in my oak tree.

Then, it was time to cross the suspension footbridge and walk along the south bank of the Dee to the Old Bridge at Handbridge. This would be a nicer walk if they demolished the hideous 1970s block of flats at the western end of the path. What is worse still, this monstrosity is painted surgical-appliance pink. From there, I crossed the bridge back to the north side and walked along past the castle to by the Grosvenor Bridge, then onto the racecourse at The Roodee. This is where I nearly came to grief, because I couldn't find a way back onto the road again. I had visions of being found some weeks hence as a bleached skeleton somewhere around the back of Tattersall's.

I found my way back onto the Walls and, pausing only to eye suspiciously a man scarcely younger than myself who was watching the pupils of the nearby girls' school practising hockey, and dodging a smacked-up arsehole who was shouting and swearing fiercely at his tart, I headed for the south-west corner of the Walls, where I went down into the delightful Water Tower Gardens for a few minutes rest before setting off again up towards Northgate.

There's a bookshop right on the Walls on the cathedral side of the gate which I used to call in to every time I went to Chester. Thanks to Arriva (grrrr!), I had no time to stop, because I had only about forty minutes before my train. The same applied to Grey & Pink Records in Brook Street, where I've picked up a lot of stuff down the years.

I can, incidentally, heartily recommend Steve Howe's site Chester, A Virtual Stroll for everything you could ever wish to know about the Walls of Chester and much more besides.

The train (on the Holyhead - Cardiff run, like the one I'd caught that morning) was very slightly late, but no matter. I got back into Wrexham on time, and went to wait for the bus home....

...Which was six minutes late. They must see me coming.

I got home about 3:10, and started uplooading the 121 photographs I'd taken. Oh, balls! I'm doing something wrong. I must be. Just about every photograph which featured stonework or foliage was way too dark, and I've spent the whole evening fiddling with them in Paint Shop Pro to get them looking anything like right.

Others, I'm glad to say, came out pretty good. They'll be appearing in The Gallery at some stage in the next few days, I'm sure.

I'm half thinking about going up to Liverpool next week, to see the Josh Kirby retrospective at the Walker Gallery, but if I'm going to do that, I think I'd better start waiting for a bus right now... an arrow to click on to take you to a follow-up item