Monday, August 29, 2011

Bank Holiday Train Trip

In the UK, not every day off is tied to some specific event, memorial, or person. Some holidays are just "bank" holidays, a day off for the heck of it. Originally, these holidays were based around saints feast days and other significant religious celebrations, but the list has gone random. Read more about bank holidays here.

The last Monday in August (today as I write) is one of the bank holidays. Most every store was closed today, not just banks. Jacob, Lucy, and I walked over to a local church (not the one that was for sale) because they had advertised on their sign a miniature train show for the bank holiday. We had to look up when the bank holiday was to be sure to go on the right day.

It is awfully nice to be able to walk to so many different things. Being able to walk alleviates the stress of driving, though it introduces the stress of getting the children to walk at the same pace in the same direction at the same time. My wife made up a game that promotes unity if not uniformity. We look for a sign down the sidewalk and some one of us claims that they will touch it first. A mad dash ensues where typically Jacob and Lucy beat their parents to the sign. Then we look for the next sign. This system works pretty well as long as we pick signs that aren't across the street or past an intersection. Our kids are quite conscientious about holding hands while crossing the street, which is a relief and a delight for us parents. But I digress.

We reached the church and had to follow their hedge around a corner until we could get into the grounds. We went in by the parish center door and found two old ladies sitting there chatting. The one said they wouldn't charge for the children (being under 5 has its privileges), so I paid my £3 and we went in.

The trains were of varying gauges and the tables were mostly long and quite intricately decorated. Jacob and Lucy enjoyed watching the trains go back and forth (a lot of the train tracks were not loops, so the trains just went forward and back). Jacob especially enjoyed when they would come out of tunnels. "You weren't expecting that, were you, Daddy?" was a very popular question. We admired all the displays. Some of them were a little too high up. I had to lift one child and then the other so they could get a view.

A nice set right at the beginning

The details were pretty amazing to me, even ducks in the water!

Jacob cheers on the train!

Lucy enjoyed this foreign set

Another amazing miniature was this organ.

A typical track with circular rails

The organizers were crafty enough to set up a kitchen and some tables and chairs so they could sell snacks to the visitors. We had some scones and I had a cuppa tea. Jacob didn't like the jam and cream on the scones. I'll have to order one plain next time. Lucy enjoyed the jam but not the cream so much. They both asked about apple juice, which we forgot to bring and they didn't have. Even fresh scones can be a little dry. After our snack we set out for one last train set.

The ladies at the entrance said Thomas the Tank Engine was in the back room, so we wandered around until we found the right place. The back room was the sacristy where the pastor vests for services. All the closets were closed but plenty of small plastic tracks were laid out on the floor. On a table in the corner was a small layout with a Thomas train whizzing around. The kids enjoyed that too, though not so much since they were getting tired.

Jacob looked down on this track layout.

We wandered back outside and tried to find a different exit from the church grounds, but the hedge only had the one opening. We crossed the street and resumed our game of finding and touching road signs on the way home. It was a delightful way to spend a bank holiday morning. The next bank holiday in England is Christmas Day, a long wait.

Of course, as an American working for Americans, my wife will have next Monday off for Labor Day, which is also a pretty random holiday if you ask me. We still don't have plans yet. If we get done unpacking/settling in, or even close to it, maybe we'll do some sight seeing next weekend.

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