CURRENT LOCATION: On the Pride of Rotterdam, Hull
Welcome to Le Grand Tour! I can’t decide whether the cycle officially started in Halifax when I shut my front door behind me or whether it will start when I get to the Hook of Holland tomorrow. I’ve compromised and called this ‘first’ day, ‘Day 0’. Now I think about it, that’s not a compromise is it? Oh well…
The distance from Halifax to Hull is obviously much more than 17km by the way but, as you will see from the video below, most of the distance between these two northern icons was covered in a train. One of the trains made by Leyland Buses in the 70s. Not quite a Pacer but only one notch up the hierarchy of train evolution. It had more in common with an old bus than a modern train. I sat beside Wanda making sure she didn’t fall over as we rattled from one suburb of Leeds to another. Maximum velocity was reached in the plains of East Yorkshire and, with an assisting tailwind, we arrived in Hull on schedule.
I sauntered through Hull, a city that, like the train that brought me here, is reminiscent of the 1970s. In fairness, the few bits that weren’t flattened by the Luftwaffe are now cherished and being restored, including the town hall which is drenched in scaffolding. On the subject of getting drenched, there’s a full-blown storm taking place outside. The ship doesn’t leave until 8:30pm so I’m loitering in one of the bars listening to a live guitarist. There are worse places to shelter from a torrential downpour.
I got chatting to a retired Dutch professor on my way from the centre of Hull to the port. He is on his way home after a month cycling around northern England and Ireland. The weather on the west coast of Ireland had lived up to its reputation of being wild but he’d enjoyed his jaunt around the British Isles nevertheless. He was, and still is – his new book is out soon(!) – an expert in geo-mapping. After we’d exhausted that topic he talked a little about my onward route although I had to force a smile when he asked me my age. He said the reason for asking was that the ferry from Vlissingen that I’ll be taking in a couple of days is free for over 65s. Mmm… You’d better watch the video:
Life on board the Pride of Rotterdam is beginning to pick up. Frank Sinatra has replaced the live guitar. It’s not the busiest of ferries although I suspect that on overnight sailings such as this, many people simply hide away in their cabins for fear of being forced to endure the live entertainment (the tannoy earlier promised things more exciting than acoustic guitar but I’d be happy with them sticking with that). I think that’s probably what Professor Matthias is doing. Meanwhile, I don’t quite feel comfortable spending my money with the evil P&O Ferries corporation but in my defence, I bought my ticket well before they decided to sack many of their employees. Most of the crew on this ship are south-east Asian in appearance and are very friendly. It’s not their fault that their bosses are at the Stalin end of humanity. The ship has a contingent of young people – predominantly male but some females – with a smaller group of men in their thirties who appear to be looking after them. They are all wearing tight fitting shirts and jackets. I’m trying to work out who the heck they are. Current possibilities are: a public school 6th from outing (we are talking Eton or Harrow), the army or a contingent of Mormons (without the badges). I’m determined to work it out before we dock in Rotterdam but as the group of people in charge are all boozing in the bar, my money is on them being teachers…
UPDATE: I was wrong… They are from the Yorkshire Officers’ Training Regiment.
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