Monday, 8 June 2015

Day out in Malvern

I promised myself that, if I could fill the trolley I used to wheel my dog around in with books, on a trip to Malvern, I would take the next step and ask to rent a small unit in Broad Street Books. This is strictly a hobby - I don't expect to make money out of it particularly (or not for a while, anyway), but it's an extra string to my bow just in case I need it in the future.
I'd chosen a lovely sunny day, and the bus ride to the station was enlivened by chatting to the ladies from North Carolina. It's a pretty cheap journey, too - £7.80 day return on the train, through lovely countryside, and with a good view of the British Camp on the Malverns - the Iron Age hill fort.
Great Malvern station is at the bottom of the hill, so I set off to the top and wheeled my way gently down, from charity shop to charity shop. Years ago, when I had a (much bigger) book unit selling science fiction, and a husband who could drive a van, we'd always done well at Malvern. Since then, some places had stopped selling second hand books, but others, like the Amnesty Bookshop, had opened. The staff there on a Friday are an entertainment in themselves, whether it was struggling with a difficult till or talking about local gossip.
Great Malvern must be a nightmare for anyone in a wheelchair. I saw a chap in a wheelchair getting off a local bus - the driver put the ramp down for him - but after that, the main street is very steep, and lots of the shops have steps to get in and out.
I thought about visiting Elgar's favourite tea rooms, the Blue Bird - but it's up a staircase, and there was no way I was going to get my laden trolley up there at that stage. I had a half of Jennings Cumberland Ale at the Unicorn instead, and later went in Henry's Cafe for a snack. I've no idea why I was the only customer - the scrambled egg was lovely, and I had a nice pot of tea with it.
I also had a nosy up to The Courtyard, a group of shops behind the crescent shaped parade of shops at the top of the hill. The shops themselves were closed up - it looked like an experiment that had failed - but in the wall nearby there was something that looked like a fireplace. Inside the "fireplace", though, was rock, green with weed and dripping with water - and this was the spring from which Malvern Spring Water had first been taken. Now they use another spring on the other side of the hill, with a better flow of water, but this was also a saint's well (I'm afraid I've forgotten the name of the saint) who set up his hermitage there before the nearby Priory was thought of. There was a plaque on the wall beside it.
It was when I got back to the station, fully laden, that I realised the flaw in my plan. Stairs. On the way out, with an empty trolley, I had stepped straight onto the platform from the street, and straight off the train at the other end at the exit. On the way back, with a ton of books to lug around, I had to go under the underpass, down the stairs on one side, and up on the other. And back at Hereford, I had to get up the stairs onto the bridge, and down the other side. Fortunately for me, three lovely girls, and a man, surrounded me and helped me carry the trolley up and down. Or I might still be struggling!
But I had to get back to Hereford first - and a combination of two people stepping in front of trains that day (one at Worcester and one at Droitwich Spa) meant serious disruption for the line. The staff at the station were as helpful as they could be, and on the way into Birmingham they had arranged for train tickets to be used on certain bus services, but it still took about two hours for a train to head for Hereford. I was given a form to fill in for a refund - but it was only £7.80 (and I would have been entitled to £3.90) and I was in Hereford in time to get the last bus back to Hay, so I haven't bothered. For someone on a longer journey it would probably have been worth claiming.
So I had plenty of time to browse the little bookshop on the station platform, and start reading one of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series that I'd picked up earlier (she's a very good writer - I really felt as if I was there at the Highland Gathering she described).
So the experiment worked. I can go book buying with the trolley, though I'll have to think more about how to tackle stairs next time!

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