Friday lunchtime, this past weekend looked as though it was going to be pretty quiet with only one thig planeed, to fix a friend’s computer so that she could get on with writing up her thesis at home. By 7pm Friday I knew I had a full weekend on my hands.
Firstly, during Friday afternoon one of my friends who lives down Farnborough way said that she was taking her son for a birthday trip on a steam train on Sunday and then asked if I’d like to come along too. Well, how could I refuse? After all, I’d be uncle Steve again and Christopher’s such a fun chap to be with. Of course, this would also involve buying a birthday present.. and what better present for a 5 year old fan of Thomas the Tank Engine then to get him a train set?
Secondly, during the “Happy Hour” general departmental get together thing on the Friday evening, one of the postgrads was talking about how two of his friends had pulled out of dinner that evening and now they had lots of food to eat and no-one to eat it, then asked if I was free that evening. Hey! I’ll never say no to a free meal and some friendly conversation.
Saturday morning started by going off to Toys’R’Us and looking for a train set. Unfortunately, the range of railway stuff they have is pathetic! I had a choice of a titchy set with just a small oval of track, a little loco and a few trucks or a set with a larger oval, two points, an LNER A4 loco and three Pullman coaches.. so it had to be the latter! I then popped into Halfords to get some rear brake blocks and thence back home via Sainsbury’s.
I decided (wisely as it turned out) to check the contents of the train set box once I got home, only to find that the loco, tender, TrakMat&trade and instructions were missing. What a pain.. I knew it’d take a while to get that sorted and there was only just about an hour before I’d arranged to fix Jenny’s SPARCstation 10.. so no time for lunch.
Anyway, I managed to get the set replaced and get to Jenny’s house just in time (the traffic was being awful, as usual on a Saturday.. especially when there’s a football match on).
The fixing of the SS10 took about 5 minutes.. I had to run devfsadm and restart the volume manager for it to recognise the CDROM drive.. then after a quick cup of tea and a chat it was off again.. via Blockbusters to see what DVDs they were selling as ex-Rental.. and found “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” an excellent film, for £9.99.
Once I got home I flopped a bit and watched the DVD before going to bed quite early.
It was now Sunday.. so seeing as I needed to be at Rachel & Grahams by about 10:30 and I needed to get petrol, it was up at 8:30.. a bit of a shock to the system for a Sunday. I was out the door by 9:15. I arrived a short while before the Hartlands got back from church, bringing along Christopher’s best friend, Bethany. There was a little tooing and frowing.. Rachel popped off to collect Aaron, the other of Christopher’s best friend to come on the trip. Meanwhile, I took the train set out of my car and put it into the house before Graham and I trundled on afterward.
The journey to the Watercress Line steam railway took about half an hour.. we rushed a bit because we thought we’d miss the train.. as it turned out, the timetable Graham had was for last year and so the times were about 15 minutes earlier than they should have been, so we arrived with plenty of time to spare.
Dispite the rain we all had a fun time on the train.. at the far end of the line we got off, watched the engine run around and get coupled to the front for the return journey then went off for lunch in a nearby pub. T’was a really nice lunch and I couldn’t avoid having the Bread and Butter pudding with custard afterwards.. it had custard!
We wandered back to the station, had a look in the shop, where the kids had badges bought for them then we waited for the train back to arrive. We had another pleasant journey back, with Graham nattering to one of the volunteers, I think he must have been about 15 years old, who told him that he was folling in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps as his grandfather had been a locomotive fireman and his father a driver.. and now he worked on this line in his spare time.
When we reached the station at Alton we all got off and watched the engine being decoupled from the coaches before toddling off home.
Thankfully, when the kids arrived they were so interested in talking about the trip that they ran straight upstairs to Christopher’s room without noticing the big train set box in the living room.. so when I got in I was able, with the help of Rachel, to spring a surprise on Christopher.. who jumpped up and down and grinned and generally couldn’t believe that he’d been given such a nice pressie. It’s times like these when you know the real worth of things.. money is only a tool.. and if that tool can be used to make other people happy then it’s well spent.
The rest of the afternoon was spent helping Christopher, his friends and Rachel & Graham set up and play with the train set, with a short intermission for birthday cake.
Finally, Christopher’s friends left and it was time for little Chritopher to go to bed.. so we all said goodnight and he ordered us not to play with his train set. 🙂
Later, we packed the set up and it was time for me to go home.
So, as you can see, a rather packed and enjoyable weekend!