Exeter, lifes journey

Feeling sorry for myself, having fulfilled my commitments for the day by 12 noon, I was at a loss for something to do with myself.

I know I am about to get a head cold, there is a strange sore feeling at the back of my nose, when that happens I know I will get a running nose, ending with my nasal tracts being stuffed up and blocked.

As I was a long walk from home, perhaps an hours walk which is good for me as it is exercise, my mind suddenly came up with an Idea. In the distance a fast train raced down the rail track to some far off destination, and I thought, why can’t I be on that train?

My mind raced through distant places, as my eyes caught a plane reaching for the sky having just taken off from Heathrow, Penang in Malaysia, Machu Picchu in Peru, Rome in Italy, Erzincan in Turkey, all places far far away, too far.

How about Brighton on the South Coast of England, Bognor Regis another seaside town on the South Coast? I love the seaside.

Then I had a Eureka moment, Exeter in Devon.

Exeter is a town I had never been to, but heard about. My school friend from many years ago, Ronald Rose, used to go on holiday there, and back at school would not stop talking about it. My mind was made up, Exeter here I come.

My local train service, South West Trains, had a train that went there. I would see the City of Exeter I had wondered about for all these years, and as a sea port, be able to see the sea.

By 12:20 midday, with a sandwich, with fillings I had never heard of, and orange drink in hand I joined the train, and soon we were racing through the countryside, visiting railway stations, picking-up and dropping-off passengers, my mind fantasizing what I might see at the other end of the line, nearly four hours away.

At Salisbury, the nine carriage train parted, the first six carriages of to Exeter, the last three off to Bristol. Although I knew I was sitting in the correct part of the dividing train, a slight panic raced through my mind, “was I on the correct train?“.

The speed of the train now reduced as we stopped at more frequent stations, some with platforms too small, so only the first three carriages of the six was actually in the station.

At one station we were held for five minutes. Why?

The rails was single track, with only limited places where trains could pass, so there could be only one train at a time on the track, one up train and one down train.

This did not bode well, small stations, single rail track, we must be leaving the hustle and bustle of suburbia, of London.

Eventually arriving in Exeter Central Station, one stop before the end of the line, I searched the city center map on the wall.

Where’s the sea?

No where to be seen, so I headed to the city center, from there I must find the sea.

With seagulls squawking overhead, that must be a good sign surely, I headed down a steep hill, leading to a valley which I reasoned must contain a river which will lead me to the sea, and sure enough, there was the river, but no sign of the sea.

Nearby, was an old ruin, was it an old church, or a castle, or just an old warehouse? Some one was working on the stones, obviously an archaeologist, but I could see no information to help me.

There were direction signs which pointed to the City Center from where I had just come, and another to the Quay, a six minute walk.
Now that is the direction for me to go.

I walked by the side of the River Exe, slow flowing and not very wide, sitting in a valley.

I followed the flow of the river to the Quay, which was now a collection of cafés and handicraft workshops and only four or five at that.

There were no ships in the port, and as I read the information plaque outside the public toilets, I found out that it had begun to close in about 1840 due to that single track rail track built by Brunel I had just traveled on, which could take the wool exports away quicker. The port continued into the 20th Century, but declined rapidly, eventually closing to only the pleasure boats, and not many of those either.

The old warehouses, as in many old ports of the UK, have been converted to offices, apartments and restaurants.

Still no sea.

Exeter Quay

Another information plaque in the small harbour showed a map, and I was about eight miles or twelve kilometers from the sea, connected not solely by the River Exe, but a canal built two hundred years ago, to bring the trade ships to the quay.

By this time, it was too late to visit the sea, even if there was a pathway for me to follow.

I returned to the city center, noticing how small Exeter was as it rose up from the River Exe’s valley.

I visited the Cathedral, St. Peters, an imposing building, but it was getting late, I was getting cold, my nose now running even more, and I contemplated the four hour train journey home.

St. Peter’s Exeter Cathedral

Thankfully, I passed a book shop selling books at a cut price. That is my answer, a good book to read on the way home.

With another sandwich, with again only understanding the ingredients cheese, the rest I had no idea of, plus an orange drink, I boarded the London bound train.

Totally absorbed in my book, the journey fled past.

I had built up in my mind a day out to remember. I had in my mind something out of this world, total satisfaction, wonderment, a fantasy of Exeter started in my school days by Ronald Rose.

I was disappointed, it was not what I expected.

Life is so cruel to me. Oh Poo Poo.

But hang on, yes life is like that. We build something up to something beyond what will happen, what is there and available and we go for it, only to find that our expectations may not be fulfilled.

Yes, sometimes our experiences far outreach our expectations.

I actually had a great time.

I had forgotten about my running nose, my head cold. I had learned some more things about Exeter. I had relaxed for once. I had read a book and learned something from that.

I had made the journey I had watched others had done and made the sames journey myself and can now relate it to you reading it here.

Life is a journey, sometimes it is not what we want, sometimes it is more that we expect, but we should take the journey and be happy what we experience, for to be sure the track we take could be a fast or a single slow track, but it has a start and an end.