On another bike ride (quite a bit before my Lake district ride), the plan was to ride to London; tour the loco sheds and major railway stations of all four British Railways Regions, and then ride onto Clacton (Essex) where Dad now had the caravan as he was working at the Pier Theatre during the week and over the summer holidays season.
Getting to London was not a major problem as it was just over 60 miles away and so well within my range. I managed to include Euston, St. Pancras, Paddington, Waterloo and Liverpool Street railway stations into my tour, and with a few noteworthy incidents:
For those of you not familiar with the road system around London, one major road then was the North Circular which was a way of bypassing the heavy traffic areas. At one point, I was looking for the North Circular road signs and suddenly I saw “To Circular Road”! I got onto it, and was pedalling for quite some time, when I heard some wild animal noises coming from behind a wall very close to the road. As I carried on, I was very interested in that wall and it was not long before I realised that I was not on London’s North Circular Road. In fact, I was on one of the Regents Park Zoo (London Zoo) circular roads!
At one railway station (possibly Euston?), I was intending to spend the night there and had found a luggage cart to sleep on. I had not been there very long when a man approached me and was rather “over-chatty”. I really wasn’t too interested in a conversation other than what was dictated by courtesy. My interest there was limited to trains! He was however rather persistent and, at one point, started to touch me in areas that were inappropriate. This was a new experience for me and, while it was intuitively clearly wrong, I did not know quite how to resolve it. Fortunately, I guess I was not giving off the signals that he would have liked so he stopped, and asked me if I would like to go back to his place and sleep. As naïve as I was, all my instincts were screaming no! I declined, and he left me alone to my trainspotting and sleep.
At Liverpool Street Station, the only feasible place for me to sleep was on the marble slab of a Luggage office. It really would not have been that uncomfortable with some strategic spreading of clothes however, a policeman did not agree! He quizzed me about where I was from; where I was going; where had I been etc. etc., and I guess I convinced them that I had run away from home or done anything untoward. He was very nice and said that if I went to Platform 14 (?), I would find a train in there which had all its coaches heated. He said that I could sleep in that train, but to be aware that it leaves at 6:00am and I must not be on it then! That was probably the best night’s sleep on the whole trip… stretched out full length on an upholstered seat in the dry, and lovely and warm!
Overall, the ride was a lot of fun… and an education!