At the end of August, I spent a busy but most enjoyable four days in the UK – only my third visit back to my home country in nearly four years since moving to Prague.
The trip started early, in fact very early, on the morning of Monday 27th August. My flight with the Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air from Prague to Luton Airport, (officially ‘London Luton Airport’, but as far as I am concerned, ‘Luton Airport’ as it is located adjacent to Luton and not London ), was scheduled to depart at 06.00 CEST that morning. Whilst I am a great believer in using public transport and two night buses would have got me to the airport, I eventually chose the easier option and booked a taxi which was waiting for me outside our apartment block at 04.30. The flight was uneventful and we landed at Luton on time, just before 07.00 BST.
Just over an hour later, having collected my bag, got through passport control remembering to say “Good morning” rather than “Dobrý den”, found the free bus service to take me to Slip End and collected my pre-booked hire car, I was heading up the relatively quiet M1 motorway, bound for Derby. The motorway was quiet, partly due to the relatively early hour, but also because it was the August Bank Holiday Monday (public holiday for all non-Brits reading this) meaning very few trucks were on the move.
The main purpose of my trip was to spend time with each of my two adult children, my son Phillip and my daughter Christa. Phillip has recently moved to a flat right in the centre of Derby, very convenient for the shops but with no free parking facilities nearby. Thus he suggested that I park at a location about ten minutes walk from where he lives, where he met me and helped carry my bag back to the flat he now shares with his friend Sam.
Monday 27th August was a typical British bank/public holiday – it was cold and it rained most of the afternoon and evening But I enjoyed seeing Phillip play for his indoor five-a-side football team where they posted a convincing 4 – 1 victory. Afterwards, we enjoyed a fish and chips supper from a nearby takeaway.
Phillip had been able to take the next day off as part of his annual leave and in contrast to the previous day, Tuesday 28th August dawned fine and sunny. We spent a good part the day on a leisurely drive north up through the Derbyshire and South Yorkshire countryside, stopping off for lunch at this typical English village pub in Wortley, located directly opposite the village Church
We were headed for Leeds where that evening, Oxford United FC were playing Leeds United FC in the second round of the League Cup competition.
Back in 1986, Oxford United famously won the League Cup so, as you can see, Phillip wore his replica retro Oxford shirt dating from that occasion. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring any good fortune this time as the match ended in a 3 – 0 victory for Leeds United.
Despite the result, it was still an enjoyable day out together and allowed Phillip to add Elland Road to the list of football grounds he has been to. We also had a relatively quick return journey to Derby after the match, back down the M1 and the A38.
The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, I set off and drove south, initially to the outskirts of Coventry where I visited two large Tesco supermarkets in search of a small number of things Sybille had asked me to try and purchase whilst in the UK. With one exception, I was successful! I had intended to then spend a few hours exploring the centre of the city where I spent the first eighteen years of my life, but unfortunately it was once more pouring down with rain. So instead, I drove along a relatively newly-constructed road, (which follows the route of what I remember as being a railway line ), out of Coventry and on to the village of Braunston, situated on the Warwickshire-Northamptonshire border, where I had booked to stay the night at ‘The Old Workshop‘, a canal-side Bed and Breakfast establishment.
Within an hour of my arrival, the weather decided to improve markedly. I was therefore able to enjoy a walk up the canal towpath alongside the Braunston flight of locks, first crossing this splendid cast iron bridge over the entrance to the adjacent marina.
That evening, I met up with my daughter Christa and my new son-in-law Ian, at the Boat House Pub and Restaurant in Braunston where we enjoyed a meal together. Then the next day, I visited them in their new home in nearby Daventry and met Emmylou and Harriet, Ian’s two children by his previous marriage.
The weather was kind enough to allow us all to spend the afternoon on a walk through Daventry Country Park which is based around one of the two reservoirs that feed the summit level of the Grand Union Canal. Emmylou rode her bicycle and found her own island at the edge of the reservoir.
Harriet is quadriplegic and so travelled in her specially adapted outdoor wheelchair. Here she is, along with Christa and Ian.
And here she is with Christa and me.
All too soon it was time to leave and head back down the M1 to Luton, return the hire car, get the bus to the airport and catch my Wizz Air flight back to Prague. In typical low-cost airline fashion, my flight departure was delayed but, on this occasion, only by thirty minutes. I had wondered whether I was wise to fly with Wizz Air again following my experience just over two years previously when the equivalent flight was delayed by five and a half hours
The delay, together with gaining an hour by flying eastwards, meant it was after midnight before we touched down in Prague. However, another taxi ride eventually got me safely back to the Chaplaincy Flat by 01.00 on Friday 31st August.