Sunday, 13 May 2012

Arrived in England

Friend Colin, who has been looking after the bike for us since we used it last year to go to the Isle of Man TT and to tour Ireland and Scotland, has done a great job, it’s registered and polished and raring to go. I had it serviced before it was put away and Colin has had the battery on a trickle charger and ran the engine until it was hot every now and then. Today, our first day in England, I have been sorting out our motorcycling gear and fitting the bluetooth communication system into our helmets.
For a test ride I rode the bike into Milton Keynes town centre to buy a money travel card from the post office on to which I can load cash rather than carrying loads of paper money on the trip. There are other cards that give a better exchange rate than the Post Office but this one is almost unique in that it can be purchased over the counter instead of having to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive in the post.

Saturday 13 May
We went for a ride to Birmingham to visit my old university which I attended from 1968 until 1972. Some years ago I met a young guy at a Hash House Harriers meet  in Tanzania who was wearing an Aston University t-shirt. He was the son of the vice-Chancellor and told me the University had expanded to cover much of the neighbouring area that had been terraces of back-to-back slum housing and that the Sack of Potatoes pub where I had drunk many a pint was still there but was now on the campus. Had to go and have a look.

We blasted up the M1 and had no trouble finding it at all. That part of Birmingham has changed mostly beyond recognition, but Aston University is still recognisable by the main lecture building, the students guild (which used to be called the students union) and the pub which is called the Sacks of Potatoes, though I remember it  being the singular "Sack", though it was a long time ago and my faculties at the time were no doubt addled by the vast quantities of beer.

A security guard, when I explained why I was there - a nostaligia trip - let us in to the main building which now has swipe card entry on every door to keep people like us out. Most of it was recognisable but there is a new flash foyer and the old lino floors are now carpeted and there are artworks on what had been stark walls. The Sack of Spuds was much the same inside. The stinky beer soaked carpets have gone and it now has varnished floorboards. The street outside has gone and there's a lawn giving it a village green look to it.

 Then we headed back via Royal Leamington Spa. It got the Royal tag because 11 year old Princess Victoria once stayed there overnight on her way to Birmingham. On that basis I’d have thought almost every town in the country could claim to be royal, as sometime over the millennia a king, queen, prince or princess must have eaten, slept or been to the toilet there.
We had lunch in the old spa pump house. The town used to be famous because of its saline springs. The drinking water in the café tasted as if it still comes from the same source!

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