I did say I would tell you another story from the Welsh mountains... Well, not so much from the Welsh Mountains themselves, more something else which happened when we were on holidays there.
But first, here is the tale of my first night on UK soil...
It happened sometimes around the beginning of September 1969. I was 21 years old, and although brave enough to leave my country to take a post as a French assistant in England, I was still pretty naive and inexperienced in the ways of a traveller. (I have since made up for this in a big way!)
I arrived by ferryboat, then train to London. My destination was Biggleswade ( a wondeful name, you will agree!). Biggleswade is a small, very small town between Bedford and Cambridge. I was supposed to catch the train at 9pm or so, but missed the connection in London.
I felt like little Red Ridin Hood, Snow White and Cinderella turned into one: afraid of the Big Bad Wolf in London, terrified of the Trees in the forest and left behind by everyone else who had gone to the Ball on the Biggleswade train. I wandered around the panickey streets with traffic coming at me the wrong way...didn't know what to do.
Saw some Policemen: ask them
what to do, I thought! So I told them my story: how I had no money, just a train ticket to Biggleswade, and how I had missed my train...They suggested I should repair to the Salvation Army hostel. Can you imagine the shock! There I was, a nice girl from a small provincial French town, and I was going to have to go to the Salvation Army! No way Siree! Another way must be found! and this is how I ended up as the only passenger on the "mail train"-also known in those days as the"snail train" due no doubt to its slow progress as it stopped at every single station to deliver its booty of letters, parcels and newspapers. A strange journey that was. Eerie, drizzly, cold and unfamiliar, full of the dread of missing my stop...
The train reached Biggleswade at about three in the morning. I carried a small suitcase, and an address neatly printed on a piece of paper which I held nervously in my hand all the way there. The address was :C/O MRS DOBSON, THE SPAR SHOP, NUMBER 24(or something like that) MAIN STREET, BIGGLESWADE. I asked the postal worker receiving the mail sacks where it was, and I made my uncertain way to no 24, Main Street, comforted by some lights behind curtains still shining along the way: the milkman's? Local Insomniacs? In any case I thank them all to this day for having made the place less of a ghost town!
Arriving at the Spar shop, I knocked on the shop front door...No reply...Dark and deserted...Decided I would have to sleep rough! But where? I had passed a phone box on my way, so that would do as temporary accommodation. It was well lit, away from the drizzle which was threatening to chill me to the bone and public enough that I would see danger coming... Ok! Sitting on my little suitcase, I lean against the glass panes of the phonebox. I think I might be able to doze off here, tired as I am from my 24 hour trip...Ah! But what is that noise? My phone box and I, we are under attack! Thud, thud, thud, I can't see what is making the noise...Thud, thud, Twack...Panic! In case of emergency dial 999! Ok Dial 999...Police please!
- How can I help?
- Help! I am in a phone box!
- Where are you?
- I am in ze phone box ...(remember, my English was still in its infancy!)
- Yes, but where?
- In Biggleswade.
- What are you doing in the phone box in Biggleswade?
- I am trying to sleep..
- Why are you trying to sleep in a phone box in Biggleswade?...
Etc. Hilarious now, but quite dodgy at the time, I assure you!
- Stay put, we'll come and get you...
This is how, I ended up being escorted by two lovely policemen to the alley way between the shop and the house. Mrs Dobson was drawn from her slumber by the shining of a powerful torch light onto her window (impressive!), and welcomed me in her curlers and fluffy dressing gown, with a bowl of hot soup and much comforting...
So this is how I landed in the UK.
And what of the Welsh story I hear you ask...Well, it's not much really. Mrs Ainsworth, the owner of our Welsh holiday flat, was telling us that she originally came from Huntingdon...So I explained that I had lived in Biggleswade when I first came to England (Huntingdon being a neighbouring town -I'm pretty sure the night train had in fact stopped there on that first night...).. Yes, I lived in Biggleswade, in "digs" at Mrs Dobson's Spar shop. Mister Ainsworth was called to share this amazing piece of information...There is no way to let you down gently...the punch line will be a dispappointment, I know, but it wasn't to me: the Ainsworths had bought the Spar shop in Biggleswade after Mrs Dobson -may her spirit be content- left her mortal coil..
We thus exchanged fond memories of the old place, and reflected once more, that this IS a small world indeed.
May your coincidences please and amaze you, and may the links which unite us all bring good cheer to your heart,
Ps : The "thuds" and the "twacks" were caused by giant moths attracte by the light and smashing into the phone box -in case you were wondering...