01 May 2015

Victorian trip

I was more scared of the Victorian trip than of the marathon! Running 42 km is one thing; walking a few kilometres in heels is quite another. I am more scared of the latter. I had doubts whether I should really wear these shoes, but I like suspending disbelief from a solid cable, and I decided to stick with the shoes. They had zips, so weren't really Victorian-credible, but they sure had the look. But I stuffed a pair of trainers into my bag, for in case it either got too painful, or we would be in a hurry to catch the train, and I would be too slow on heels.

The day came. I got into the outfit and stuffed all I needed into a neutral-looking bag: paraffin lamp, candles (for back-up), matches, a bowl, a chalice, a water bottle (glass, of course), a loaf of bread, butter, cutlery, gloves, and the back-up shoes. Ready to go!

Rather punctual, the blacksmith and the reverend appeared. Off to Porthmadog we were! We parked in a residential street near the station, where we fine-tuned our costumes under the disgusted glares of the residents. Not sure what upset them so much! Then we headed to the parking lot where the others were parked. A feast of waistcoats, flat caps and scarves greeted us. Soon we were all ready to head to the station.

At the station we found some more people, among which Don, his wife Elaine and their charming dog Harry. I wasted no time to get some wet kisses (from Harry, that is). And after some pictures we got into our carriage. We had one for ourselves!

Pic by David

Inside our carriage

The route was beautiful. Just a small narrow gauge tourist line doesn't impact the landscape very much, and we rode past dreamy forests, eerie swamps, cute cottages, and whatever else one could wish. They even served coffee on the train! All well so far.

Harry had made a new friend

Then we got to Tanygrisiau. Time to get out! I got a gentleman to help me negotiate the step down and was quite enjoying the novel situation. But that's when it would get difficult. Once out I struggled to keep up, to the amusement of the men who might sometimes experience the opposite. Phil's wife was quick to suggest a pair of heels for him too; that might slow him down! But today that would be bad; he was scampering ahead with the stew and the stove; by the time we would reach the end of the mine dinner would be ready! Lovely.

We took a muddy path, and to my surprise David offered me a hand without prompting. I'm not going to say no to that! So I was chivalrously guided over the mud and the rocks and the puddles. Further on we saw a group of kitted-up children and some adults; they looked like they would go canyoning. On a bridge both groups met; David and I were the stragglers, and by the time we got there, our group had already been roped into a group pic with the children. They don't bump into a herd of Victorians every day! I dutifully turned around for the picture. And then noticed I knew the man who took it! It was the husband of our local sea level expert, who had defended her thesis only months before. I had met him at the party afterwards. I was surprised to see him there, even though I knew he did outdoorsy things with children for a living. He was a whole lot more surprised to see me there, especially dressed the way I was!

We walked on, while the weather got worse. But my feet barely did; it wasn't as bad as I had feared! I should keep these shoes; the least painful heels there are. And before it hurt too much we reached the clapper bridge, which is usually used as a photo opportunity. And in spite of the weather, we took a group picture (with an antique camera) there. Unfortunately, the picture would not come out!

Selfie on the way up

The modern camera did work!

We went on. And got to where the broad, comfortable path changes into a steep, slippery, narrow situation. I got David's hand back! And before we knew it we were up. Success!

At the entrance we did another doomed photo shoot, and then let our lamps. Time to go in! It's always hard to see where you're going when you come in from daylight, but today it was pretty much impossible. I had the faintest light, and none of the light shone down. Not easy to see where you put your heeled feet! And then my light went out, after some 5 metres. Oh dear.

When it was lit again, all except Mick and David had gone ahead. They came up behind me. That made things worse; they had brighter lights, so I was walking in my own shadow. When they passed me things got better. And the terrain got easier while my eyes got used to the dark. I started to catch up with the others! They were negotiating the collapse in a very inefficient way. I might have been badly dressed and badly lit, but I do know my way over the collapse. But I managed to extinguish the light again. I was glad I had brought lots of matches!

From the collapse on it was an easy (though wet) stroll to where the picnic was. There was plenty of light there! And benches. And food and drink. I was quite happy! I had made it on heels, and now I could have lovely food with lovely well-dressed people. And there was coffee and port! The coffee didn't combine too well with my metal chalice, but the port surely did. It was good stuff! Mick had been given it by a former Spice Girl. Not very Victorian (it wasn't that one) but an unusual detail!

Picnic underground. Pic by David (in spite of him being in it)

Some more pictures were taken, but then it was pretty much time to go back. We had a train to catch! I managed to make my way out, only extinguishing the light once. And once out I changed into my trainers. That made things easy; I scampered down the slope. At the railway crossing we were all together again. And we had time to spare; David and I looked at each other, at the weather, and at the cafe we were just passing, and figured the place to be was in there. Nobody agreed, though, and we ended up waling on to the station. Where we realised the train was due 10 minutes later than we had thought. That meant half an hour of freezing our arses off on the platform. That cafe would have been so much better! But we mustn't grumble. Another round of coffee in the train when it finally came warmed us up again!

Steward Sinker looking executive

I had feared this day, but it turned out marvellously pleasant. I wouldn't mind doing that train ride again! And if I ever have to negotiate a mine in high heels again I'll do it with more confidence; on these shoes I can clearly do it. And it's actually quite nice to occasionally have the hand of a bowler-hatted man to help you balance!

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