Silly Saturday – How to Cheat at Travel

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Visitors from all over the world come to visit this place, Windsor, Royal Berkshire. What to some is the holiday of a lifetime is a train trip of six minutes – if you happen to live near Slough railway station. You cannot get lost because there is only one stop, the train travels all day long between Slough and Windsor and Eaton Central, curving round to cross the River Thames. The elegant station was built so Queen Victoria could come by train to Windsor Castle.

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The station is busy with tourists and has plenty of restaurants and designer shops, so you will feel as if you are on holiday. Windsor Castle lies before you as you step outside, but perhaps you will be having so much fun on holiday in the station you won’t bother.

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But if you consider it is not a proper holiday unless you cross the sea, why not sail to Southampton.

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Take the ferry from the little town of Hythe in Hampshire. Check first on line to see if there are any ocean liners in dock, you will get a great view from the little ferry and it is much cheaper than going on a cruise.

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Hythe Pier, 1881 A strong, light iron pier, 2,100 feet in length…

The railway is the oldest continuously operating public pier train in the world. You can walk, cycle or take the train to the end of the pier and the ferry takes only ten minutes. Stroll out of the ferry terminal and you can explore parts of the old city wall or walk up the road into the centre of Southampton. If you want to shop or go to the cinema there is the Westquay centre with Ikea close by. There are large parks, museums, a university, the lovely Mayflower theatre and a concert hall.

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But if you want to feel as if you are abroad ( and you are not lucky enough to already be Swedish ) just stay all day in Ikea and stroll amongst the wonderful ‘rooms’ pretending you are visiting your Scandinavian friends. Buy all sorts of things you didn’t know you needed and have no idea what they are, but just like reading the interesting Swedish labels. When you tire, visit the restaurant which also has views over Southampon Water and the ocean liners. Soon it will be time to embark for the return trip across the waves.

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Enjoy more travels at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

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Flash Fiction Friday – Fact or Fiction?

In Charge

 You will be working as part of a team, ensuring our guests have a relaxing holiday experience. Full training will be given. Other languages will be an advantage, but people skills and personality are more important.

A job that was a holiday sounded easy and working as part of a team was just what Sandra needed, no responsibility. She had no languages and her people skills depended on the people, but how did they define personality? In her last job, promoted to team leader, she only had two people to supervise, but motivating Kevin the cleaner proved to be an impossible task.

Well it wasn’t an interview to be a television presenter, so Sandra decided to go for it; she was not cut out for stressful work so the relaxed atmosphere of Uncoached Tours – holidays for the discerning traveller with the good company that provides good company, sounded just up her street and the travelling would get her out of  a rut.

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The first holiday was wonderful and she could not believe she was being paid to go on steam train rides, visit cathedral cities and stay at smart hotels. Andrew the tour guide could have been on television, his wonderful personality made up for Sandra’s lack of it. Helen, the PCO ( pastoral care officer ) was made for the job, the guests loved her and she listened to all their problems; rather too avidly Sandra thought, but dismissed such disloyal thoughts. Employees, or rather colleagues of Uncoached Tours were always loyal, that’s what made the company great. Sandra had absorbed all the words of wisdom on induction day.

Bringing up the rear, that was her job and she had acquired her own little group of fans by the end of the first day. They teased her as she urged them to keep up, but enjoyed chatting with Sandra more than listening to Andrew’s commentary through their earphones. As long as she kept the parrot on a stick in sight all was well. Andrew carried it aloft, so he was easily identified when they found themselves with other tour groups.

‘I only came for the steam trains’ confided John, the lovely old widower.

‘This holiday is a birthday present from my children,’ explained Hannah the quiet divorcee ‘they expect me to be out and about meeting interesting people.’

The last day of the holiday was spent watching the royal wedding on the hotel’s big screen, followed by a champagne lunch. Sandra felt bereft as they waved goodbye to the guests, but there was the next assignment to look forward to, five days of London and the River Thames.

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Sandra was just packing to go down to London when she got the phone call.

well done on passing your probationary period. Slight change of plan, you’re doing Beautiful Berkshire, bank holiday Monday, pick up the guests at Slough railway station, first stop Windsor Castle.

Sandra could hardly quell her excitement, she had never been to Windsor, never seen a royal castle, now she would visit the scene of the royal wedding. As the train from Paddington drew into the station she spotted a chap in the company uniform.

‘Sandra? Did you get the tour pack. Is it your first time as a guide?’

‘Guide?’ the first misgivings sank in. ‘I don’t lead, I just round up.’

‘Gavin won’t be leading for a while with his broken leg, didn’t they tell you? But you’ll be fine, you can’t get lost, the branch line goes frequently, straight into Windsor and Eton Central. Walk out and the castle is right in front of you, apparently, haven’t actually been there myself. Here’s the tour agenda, tonight’s hotel is near the castle and the crib sheet for the castle visit is on the front page, or would be if we had a ring file like we used to. All the gen is on a tablet now. Oh, mustn’t forget the parrot.’

Sandra had still not got a word in edgeways as he handed her the azure and scarlet feathered creature on its long stick. Suddenly he was gone and an assortment of people were gathering around her. She tried not to panic, they all had their pre booked train tickets and it was not difficult to find the platform, hordes of bank holiday trippers were heading that way, along with other tour parties.

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The train had made two return journeys before they got on board, but at least she had time to chat to an English speaking tour guide. The other woman laughed when Sandra told her tale.

‘Uncoached Tours, are they still in business? I got out as soon as I could. It’s going to be manic today, tours from every nation, but as long as you have your tickets booked for the castle…’

‘Tickets, do you need tickets?’

‘They’ll be a code number if UT booked on line, anyway, just keep an eye on my Saint George’s flag and you won’t get lost, turn left at Queen Victoria’s statue.’

Passengers poured off the little train as it pulled up at the end of the line. Only a few people got stabbed as Sandra tried to manoeuvre her parrot on a stick. There was no sign of a castle, only designer shops, eating places and crowds. She had no idea if her guests were all following as they were swept along.

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At last they were outside and before them on the other side of the road was a castle, and on the pavement was a queue of people stretching back down the hill further than she could see. The day was grey and drab, not like the sunny wedding weather. She tried to speak into the tiny microphone with no idea if her guests could hear. Ahead, the white flag was progressing and Sandra felt a little hopeful as Queen Victoria glared down at her. There were more people around than for the wedding, uniforms and yellow jackets steered people and they followed to the end of the pre booked tickets queue, further from the castle than when they started.

Not all Sandra’s guests were wearing their parrot badge, but the ones that were did not seem happy as the queue shuffled along. She tried to read interesting facts from the tablet, but the guests started fiddling with the audio boxes hanging round their necks. A man in uniform asked for her group’s name and booking details, as she fumbled with the tablet and shook her head he strode off, only to return ten minutes later with a frown.

‘No record of booking for your company, the best thing you can do is come back at nine o’clock tomorrow.’

Sandra felt panic rising. The guests had all heard the conversation on their audio equipment as the uniform ushered Sandra out of the queue. A man with his parrot badge upside down stepped forward.

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‘He’s right, did you see the queue to buy tickets. Why don’t you take us to see some other sights, such as where Charles and Camilla got married?’

‘The only sight I want to see is a sign for the Ladies’ said another voice.

‘That’s okay, they got married above the public toilets, come on, this way folks.’

Sandra tottered to catch up with him, it had occurred to her to run away, but she could do with a comfort stop as well.

The man grinned at her. ‘I only come on Uncoached Tours  because they are such fun, something always goes wrong, but they pick reasonable hotels. A drink, a meal and material for my novels is all I ask.’ He turned to the others, grasping the parrot out of Sandra’s hand. ‘Here we are at The Guildhall. After our comfort stop we’ll stroll down to the Long Walk and see where the royal carriage processed last week, at least the sun is coming out now.’

Sandra wondered if he purposely wore his parrot badge upside down.

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Read about Windsor in yesterday’s blog ‘Windsor After That Wedding’

and as it’s Windsor Week at Tidalscribe look out for Silly Saturday –

‘Not The Royal Wedding’

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See more pictures of Windsor at Beachwriter’s Blog

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

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Windsor After That Wedding

Eight days after the royal wedding we are in Windsor to catch up with friends, not at the castle, though they are staying opposite the castle. We are down the road in a pub bed and breakfast. Flags are flying everywhere and Windsor is busy, like it is every weekend, especially a bank holiday weekend. A sunny Sunday afternoon and everybody is happy, except the odd crying child; crowds, sightseeing and family outings don’t always work. We hear a father saying to his young son ‘We are here to discover the town, not to go to Legoland.’

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Legoland is way out of town, though you can catch the bus near the castle. We had already seen signs for motorists saying Legoland was full. But Windsor is not about plastic bricks, the castle is made of real stone with thick walls to keep out the aircraft noise; along with many other people the Queen lives under the flight path to Heathrow. The blue sky today is heaven for plane spotters. We sit on the footbridge over the River Thames, the bridge links Windsor and Eton, the little town is part of the school rather than the school being in the town and is well worth a wander. Today the river is busy, you can dine aboard a big boat or hire a little boat and get in the way of the sightseeing riverboats. You can also ride in the Windsor Duck for an amphibious tour.

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On Bank Holiday Monday morning the sky is heavy, the air misty. We can hear the roar as we step outside, but the clouds are so low the aeroplanes above us are invisible. We stroll the same way the royal wedding carriage drove and arrive at Windsor Great Park. The scaffolding is coming down where the cameras were last week and the Long Walk is back to normal, no crowds, just people and dogs enjoying The Queen’s back garden. If you wanted to you could keep going towards the bronze horse, away from the crowds; beyond lie gardens, forests and lakes. We walk up to the castle gates, open for royals, locked to the public. Everyone is taking photographs. Round the town side there is a queue for the castle, but only for ticket holders. There is another queue for people wanting to buy a ticket, it stretches down the hill out of sight, but all is civilised, plenty of people in uniforms to direct or advise you to come back first thing in the morning. Everyone wants to see the setting of the wedding.

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Opposite the castle is Windsor and Eton Central railway station, the branch line from Slough was built for Queen Victoria. The three carriages go back and forth all day, curving across the river. Below the station is the main coach park; visitors are funnelled in through the station concourse and out onto the busy street. We sit with our coffee just inside the entrance and people watch. Tour guides now have microphones and their followers have earpieces and a receiver hanging round their necks. Each guide has their own flag or totem to wave above their heads, we wonder if there will be jostling or fighting for the best spots.

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Down by the river the sun has come out. In the gardens there are fountains and children’s play areas, lots of families are having big picnics, or big families are having picnics. We buy an ice cream and watch a chap potting up plants for the roof of his narrow boat. The scene is peaceful and far removed from the tourist frenzy at the top of the town. On the other side of the river boat owners enjoy picnics on the fields of Eton.

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You can see more pictures of Windsor on my Beachwriter’s Blog at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-five-beach-writer-s-blog/

As it’s Windsor Week at Tidalscribe look out for Flash Fiction Friday

and Silly Saturday – Not The Royal Wedding

Wonderful Windsor Wedding

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The Japanese tourist gasped as the toddler hurtled towards the castle wall, beyond lay a steep drop down the grassy bank.

Before the Windsor Castle fire of 1992, the public were free to wander round most of the castle grounds. The Royal family still had their private gardens. You could pay to just see Queen Mary’s dolls house, or to go in parts of the castle. The free wander round made a pleasant outing for children or Australian visitors on a sunny day.

I don’t think anyone’s child has ever fallen over the wall, but ‘bad parents’ also had another child wander into the guard room in an unguarded moment, he was quickly ejected.

The town of Windsor in Royal Berkshire is still a great place to visit, a playground for those who live near or work at Heathrow airport. Why did the Queen have her castle built right under the flight path? The streets around the castle are thronged with tourists all year round, though not as crowded as today for the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Though we often visit Windsor, we weren’t there today. I don’t like crowds, but I do admire the spirit of the stalwarts who camp out for days for royal events. Like millions of others we stayed at home and had an excellent view on television. Billions around the world?  How do they know how many people are watching in their own homes? My sister in Australia was and my daughter-in-law in the USA was up at 2am ready to switch on.

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You may have thought from news coverage that everybody in the country was avidly interested, but this is not so. In Britain, royalists and republicans are as sharply divided as Remainers and Brexiteers, but we chopped our king’s head off long ago, did not like the alternative and welcomed back the monarchy. Ten European countries still have a king or queen. Through many ups and downs The Windsors are still with us and Queen Elizabeth the Second is the only monarch most of us have lived under, seeing off many prime ministers and far wiser than most of them no doubt. Truly a spiritual head of the country, above politics; whatever anybody else believes I am sure the Queen truly believes in the holy vows she took on her coronation. She is head of the Church of England, it is our state religion and a Christian wedding is what took place today. Most of us don’t bother to go to church, but we do expect the church to be there in all its glory for special occasions.

The happy atmosphere and the vast crowds showed plenty of people still love monarchy and tradition. Humans love colour, pageantry, romance and drama. We enjoyed all of that today with sunny weather making it perfect.

I know nothing about Meghan or her acting career, but she seems a graceful and warm person who has slipped easily into her fairy tale princess role.

The wedding went perfectly; nine o’clock seemed early for full coverage to start, but guests were arriving and there were outfits to admire and the guessing game of who was who. People from all walks of life, no politicians, just the occasional prince from afar such as Prince Seeiso of Lesotho.

The bride had ten delightful little bridesmaids and page boys. Inside the church there was beautiful music. Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal church livened up the Cof E with his rousing sermon on love.

The sun was still shining as the bride and groom emerged from Saint George’s chapel and it was time for the beautiful horses to play their starring role. The Windsor Greys pulled the carriage, the Household Cavalry escorted them on their shiny black steeds, through the streets then back up the Long Walk in Windsor Great Park and the return to the castle for the Queen to host lunch, our part in the wedding was over.

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