Frugal Decadence

Whilst this blog may have given the impression that I have a taste for the finer things in life, in truth, my tastes are relatively modest.  Whilst I enjoy the occasional meal of the standard oft associated with a tyre manufacturer from the Auvergne, I wouldn’t want it everyday – and, when indulging, I operate within quite a strict budget.  Truth be told, a significant part of me still thinks of cherry pie filling as the height of luxury – yes, life was hard in the 1970s!  Now, I could probably afford to eat cherry pie filling every day, but haven’t even tried it since becoming an adult – I fear eating it now would somehow adversely affect my childhood memories, and that it would certainly be a disappointment.  However, in many areas my tastes remain pretty cheap to satisfy.

Last night I took myself to Ely to attend a concert at the cathedral.  Whilst I go to quite a lot of concerts, most are really very cheap – one of the advantages of child (well, student) labour! – and this one came as part of a season ticket making it even cheaper.  As I don’t really enjoy driving, and like it even less in the dark and still less when I’m going to an unfamiliar location and have to find somewhere to park, I let the train take the strain.  This does involve a change of train in Cambridge – but takes only marginally longer than driving would (at least according to Google, though I wasn’t convinced they had taken account of crossing Cambridge on a Saturday evening in the run-up to Christmas).

On arriving at Ely station, I discovered that the location of the cathedral seemed to be a secret.  Signposts indicated many of the delights that Ely can offer the visitor – but no mention at all of its most famous landmark, unless it was included under the rather vague description of “Visitor Attractions”.  How the mighty have fallen!  Perhaps this cryptic signposting was an attempt to encourage visitors to the City to try some of its other attractions?  If so, it failed for me as the cathedral is quite large – and so can at times be seen from a distance – and I knew it was uphill (and in this part of the Fens, there is only the one hill!).

At the cathedral I saw my second Verdi Requiem of the year (and, indeed, my life) – in an even larger, more impressive venue than the last! (I’m not sure where I’ll have to go for my third…)  The cathedral seemed rather warmer than the streets of Ely, and was packed with warm bodies, so I decided to remove my coat for the concert: otherwise I’d not feel the benefit on my departure.  This turned out to be a bit of a mistake – Ely cathedral has physically very impressive heaters, but sadly they are rather less impressive when their heat output is taken into account (though if you are less than a foot away, you can feel some warmth).  The Requiem lacks an interval, so there was no chance to correct my clothing error – so by the end, I was really quite chilly.  Luckily, I had been to Ely once before in winter – so I had a plan!  But a brief stroll from the cathedral – on a route back towards the station – lies the Fountain Inn.  This offered me a reviving pint of Woodforde’s Wherry, a packet of rather superior salt and cracked black pepper crisps – and even more important: a roaring open fire.  I do wonder if the Good Lord gave us cold weather purely for the joy that an open fire and a pint of bitter can then bring – and all for less than a fiver.  It had been too long since my last pint of Wherry – which might even have become my favourite bitter since the sad demise of Butterknowle Conciliation – certainly, it slipped down very nicely.  Sadly, no time for a second (I like Wherry, but not enough to miss the last train) – but as the winter approaches, perhaps I need to find excuses to visit Ely of an evening (or find a local source of flames and Wherry).

As on the way out, my home journey was broken at Cambridge station – and another chance to check out work on our exciting new platform!  (Not long to wait now).  This gave me time for a steaming hot, waxed paper cup of hot chocolate – yet more decadence!  Another inexpensive, guilt-free pleasure afforded to the traveller on these cold evenings.  Thus fortified, I was delivered back to Whittlesford Parkway and my velocipede for a bracing – and wind-assisted – ride back to Fish Towers.

A thoroughly enjoyable, slightly decadent and extremely economical night out.  It also illustrated the joys of slow travel: had I driven, I’d have missed out on beer, fire and cocoa – much to the evening’s detriment.  If only there were a local source of glühwein and pâtisserie somewhere on my travels, I could fully embrace slow travel and make the most of my waiting times.

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