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Saturday, 26 December 2009

Snow and coal

So, today I want to tell you what happened next. On Monday I was still hoping that we might manage to stick to our schedule, but of course I should have known better. I looked at the Eurostar website on Monday night - it said that passengers with tickets for Tuesday would be able to travel on Wednesday, because there was a backlog of people who should have been travelling over the weekend, and they wanted to give them priority on the limited service they were intending to run on Tuesday.

I went to the Eurostar terminal on Tuesday morning, though, to see what was happening, and they told me a different story from the one I'd read the night before - they said we could turn up in the afternoon and they might be able to give us seats on a train (one of only two trains that day), or we could go across on a ferry the same day, or we could wait till Wednesday and get on a train.

We were in Brussels to meet up with some friends of ours and we wouldn't have minded spending an extra night there, actually, but we were just a bit worried that we might get stuck there over Christmas, and thought it would be better to try and get out as soon as we could. So we decided to go for the ferry option, which involved a coach to Calais, then the ferry crossing to Dover, and then a train to London. And as it turned out, we eventually* arrived in London at exactly the same time as if we'd gone by train - the difference was, though, that it took nine hours instead of two!

(* re. Kirsti's comment about false friends - It's interesting that there are quite a number of words, including 'eventual(ly)', that have one meaning generally shared across European languages, and a different meaning in English.)

I always used to use the cross-channel ferries before the Channel Tunnel opened, and I actually quite like ferries, as long as the sea isn't too rough. I seem to travel with more luggage than ever these days, though, and the worst bit was having to carry that weight along walkways and up ramps and steps to board the ship.

From London we took the train up to Leeds as planned, and that's where we are now. We've had a proper white Christmas this year, and we went for a long walk through the snow in the nearby countryside yesterday. There used to be a lot of coal mining round here, but the mines are long gone and the land has been smoothed over and reverted to nature, or has had housing and roads built over it, in some places. You can still find industrial remains, though, especially remains of small mines and trackways dating back to the early days of the industrial revolution. People still burn coal fires in their houses (you can't do that in the city of Leeds, which is a smoke-free zone, but the surrounding region isn't) and retired miners are still entitled to free coal. These days, though, instead of being delivered from a nearby pit, it's imported from ..... who knows where?

It was very quiet - I daresay most people were at home, sat in front of the telly - and as we headed back home in the fading light, a solitary blackbird high in a treetop sang its Christmas song.


If you stick to something, you continue to do it.
A backlog is a quantity of work that you should already have done.
To turn up is to arrive in some place - in the context of travel, it often means to go to a port or station, etc. without a ticket or reservation.
People often say meet up with instead of just 'meet'.
If you get stuck somewhere, it means that you're delayed and can't leave - e.g. because of the weather.
To go for something, in this context, is to choose it.
The industrial revolution was the period in the 18th and 19th centuries when there was a huge expansion of industrial activity, and lots of new types of machinery and manufacturing processes were invented.
A pit is, in this context, a coal mine.
Telly is television.


Nice to hear you arrived safe and sound. The coal - of course from Poland, what else?

Good to hear are well and sound Jonathan. Your blog set me back ages, I mean talking about coal fires. I remember one Christmas when visiting Northern Wales and how the coal fire was an everyday current. Your question about coal producers was also interesting; my guess is, as Kirsti wrote, Poland. But I confess that I did some searching and found out that the major coal producers in the world are (in the following order, statics 2006) China, USA, India, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Germany, Indonesia and Poland. Happy New Year!

Hi Jonathan Happy Christmas , Happy to hear that you finally arrive on time in London . I WISH YOU AND YOUR WIFE A NICE AND REFRESHING HOLIDAY . CHEERS

Thanks for all your contributions. This blog has now closed and can no longer accept new comments.

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