Friday, 14 August 2009

An "ordinary" night in Cambridge

Following on from my meeting with Mary the previous Wednesday we organised another evening out and about in Cambridge and agreed to meet in a tourist pub at the edge of what can be considered the main attractions. This time I booked into The Days Inn at Cambridge Services.

As usual despite my best endeavours, I was late arriving at the Pickerel Pub – close to the river in Magdelene Street and much to Mary’s chagrin, when she arrived there some 15 minutes before myself, she found herself in the midst of a gang of football supporters who were watching the footy on a big screen in the backroom.

Dressed in a white flowing skirt, orange top and white jacket, white shoes and bag, I certainly looked summery enough! I parked the car on the street some 600m away and walked confidently through throngs of tourists and entered the pub. Having greeted Mary much to her relief I went to the bar and order a couple of glasses of wine from a very pleasant and accepting girl behind the bar who I entered into conversation with whilst she was opening a new bottle of wine. No raised eyebrows, the world didn’t stop, we were accepted as we presented without a murmur from any of the other clientele and the place was busy (as were all the pubs we visited through the night)

Sitting in the snug chatting away sipping on a glass of wine I quietly reflected on how far I had come in less than a year.

As we wanted to fit in quite a lot, we moved on and after a short debate, chose to eat at the Japanese restaurant adjacent to the river. This was the first time I had eaten Japanese although Mary was very au fait re the menu even speaking Japanese to the girl who took our order. We were lucky enough with the weather to be able to eat outside in the courtyard and watch the world go by as we shared a bottle of wine and I sampled the fare. Again, we were in the middle of other diners without comment or visible signs that we were unwelcome. It just felt normal and as such after a short while it never even crossed my mind even after having to use the ladies.

After eating, we took a couple of piccies by the fountain in the square before continuing on my guided tour of the sites of Cambridge, next stop the famous grasshopper clock opposite one of the famous Universities. Once again we took advantage of the location for a few photographs as the light now had faded.

From the clock, my host took us to The Eagle pub, famous as one of the oldest coaching inns in Cambridge and during World War 2 as the base for American airmen from nearby airbases used for R & R. As we threaded our way through the packed pub, Mary showed me each of the rooms and explained a little of the history including one room where US airmen used to sign their names on the ceiling before leaving for missions over Europe, still evident after so many years. It was the sacrifices of so many men and women so long ago that allows us to enjoy the freedoms that too many take for granted.

By now due to me having to drive, I was on the sparkling mineral water whilst Mary was able to enjoy the wine. The pub was packed with a wide range of nationalities and ages and again we were fully accepted as we presented – you may have noticed a trend in my comments by now.

By now with the clock striking 11, we tried a club round the corner and had another drink in the midst of a group of much younger clientele. More due to our age, I found the atmosphere slightly daunting as was the music (well I am 51!) and so was pleased too move on.

Finally we came across another crowded busy lively bar in a covered precinct beyond the Guildhall where we had another drink whilst being surrounded by lots of young people. I guess I was probably 25 years older than the next oldest there and whilst again we were comfortable, it may have looked a little strange for two middle aged women to be standing there chatting sipping drinks.

With the midnight bell striking, I decided that enough was enough and turned back to walk to my car accompanied by Mary. On passing the Pickerel once more, we noted that they were still open and catching the eye of the young girl behind the bar, who had served me earlier we entered and managed to get the last orders.

Sitting down on my own whilst Mary had gone to the ladies, I was aware of a guy behind me staring at the back of my head. He was on a table with another guy and a girl. I must admit I thought it quite intimidating and so turned around in my seat and with only a few feet between us asked him if there was anything wrong. At this he blushed, stammered something and turned away. Shortly afterwards he left on his own.

On Mary’s return, the girl got up and asked if she could join us, introducing herself with the words “I have been on a blind date with a boring moron, you two look far more interesting”

Drawing up a chair, she explained that she had been in Cambridge for 6 months and was from Leeds. At this moment the other guy (not the one I exchanged pleasantries with) returned and joined us. He was from Chesterfield and we enjoyed a chat whilst Mary engaged the girl in conversation. It was quite a strange feeling for me (sober as a judge) chatting to a bloke I had never met before about all sorts of things whilst dressed.

As 1am approached, we were asked to leave as the pub was shutting and I managed to leave the three of them looking for another pub which might still be serving despite Mary’s power of persuasion.

Walking back to my car at turned 1am on my own I was able to reflect on how I had passed an ordinary night out in full view as Emma and thoroughly enjoying just being accepted.

10 months ago I would wait unto sometimes 2 in the morning before leaving the safety of my hotel room for a quick dash around a deserted street. How times have changed!

Back at the hotel I cleaned off my make up, got undressed and then slipped into my new nighty - virgin white of course! and dropped off pretty quickly.

Always one to push it to the limit, I set my alarm for 6am and getting up, got dressed casually - jeans, pink vest style top, new ballerina style pumps and slipping my jacket on left my room, past the receptionist with a good morning and outside into the car park. I then made my way next door to the services and ordered a sausage and egg mc muffin and a coffee at the MacDonald i the food area. Sitting there sipping my coffee, I realised that no one including the girl who served me , gave a toss a sto how I was dressed. All those tears of self inflicted torment and imposed exile finally were swept away. As they say, us against the world - when do we attack!

Back in my room, time to revert back to me and a short 6 mile drive to work. New shoes don't grow on trees you know!

Roll on next Wednesday and a chance to meet up with all my friends again.

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