Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday's Spotlight - Doncaster or Bust


Pam and I had one of those days last Wednesday. Instead of taking a week's holiday away - we couldn't find any suitable place in north Norfolk that wasn't already booked - we decided to go out for day trips and spend the nights sleeping at home.

I had first visited Doncaster about 55 years ago. I had to change trains there on my way to college and one day I decided to spend a few hours there rather than go straight onto academia. In those days Doncaster was a large railway town and junction but today much of that railway base has disappeared.

A few years ago, we took Pam's sister, Ann, and her husband, Alan, to Doncaster on one of their visits here from Canada. We carefully chose a market day because this gives the visitor more to see. Even its most ardent supporters would hesitate to classify Doncaster as picturesque, however, the market is outstanding and it was to this that we took Ann and Alan. We had lunch, on that occasion, in a pub close to the market. The meals turned out to be  enormous, even though the prices were ridiculously low. Alan was so impressed by this that he took photographs of the meals. Some 18 months later Pam and I returned to Doncaster and sought out this pub but discovered that it had then closed down: more than likely due to the generous meals they were serving so cheaply.

We go back to Doncaster from time to time and always seem to go on market day. Earlier in the week I had checked on the Internet to find out what was the main market day. I was told that it was Wednesday so when Wednesday came we went down to our railway station nice and early to catch the fast train to Doncaster. The weather that day was perfect and we were hoping for another full and interesting time there.

However, things didn't quite turn out as we anticipated. The market was there and all the stores we would expect to see in the open market were present, but many of the stalls in the indoor markets were closed with only about 10% open. Pam looks forward to visiting the card making stalls at the market, but was most disappointed to find these were also closed.  It's been about 35 years since Wednesday stopped being a shopping half day in this country with stores closing for the afternoon,  but obviously Doncaster has not caught on because not only were many of the market stalls closed but quite a few of the individual shops were closed as well. I even found some charity shops were closed for the day. Oh well, we decided we'd just have to lump it and like it.

But then came lunch..... which we decided to have in one of the national departmental stores. Mistake! Pam's "all day breakfast" looked and tasted as though it had been on the hotplate "all day". My panini, when heated, resembled in both texture and taste an oblong piece of concrete. I must confess, though, in fairness to the unnamed national store that I am not an expert when it comes to the taste of concrete - at least I wasn't before this visit. Even the coffee offered a remarkable resemblance to washing-up water - in both taste and appearance.

We wandered around the many closed shops in town until the time to catch the train back to Lincoln. The train we were after was the equivalent of a fast connection that brought us from Lincoln to Doncaster in 50 minutes. We went to the correct platform and there was a train with "Lincoln Central" written on the front as its destination. Unfortunately, for us, the particular train that we caught was not the fast version express from Doncaster to Lincoln but a slow train  went via Sheffield and took the best part of 2 1/2 hours to arrive at our destination. We saw the train we should have caught as we were pulling out of the station and all we could do was wave to it and go on our way to the steel city. The train wasn't even comfortable. Northern Railway carriages resemble the old-fashioned type of double-decker bus seating, which wasn't renown for comfort. So by the time we arrived at Lincoln our "bums were numb".

There wasn't much we could do about the day except to determine that the next time we go to Doncaster it will not be on a Wednesday.

To cheer up the post - I include some photos from the Pinchbeck flower festival that I have worked on. Hope you like them.

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