We passed a repurposed trough:
There are quite a few, actually. If they all look alike, there's a reason:
The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was an association set up in London by Samuel Gurney, a Member of Parliament, and philanthropist and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, in 1859 to provide free drinking water.
Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association it changed its name to include cattle troughs in 1867, to also support animal welfare.
It's not only still around, it has a website.
We entered Liverpool Street Station at the back, which was confusing, but I knew where the ticket queue would be, and bought the tickets. I've got it now: Norwich train to Lowenscraven or Woolenstonecroft or something, changing trains at Dipswitch or Ipswitch. Asked if it left at 11:00.
“I did,” said the clark, “but now it leaves at 11:02.”
An important distinction.
We had a cup of coffee at the dark, sticky Costa, bought some items at the M+S as usual, then boarded as soon as the gate was announced. Pulled out and rode northeast.
The Ipswitch Switch requires leaving the train, taking an elevated staircase over the tracks, and getting into another train bound for elsewhere. The first time we made the Ipswitch Switch I lashed the family along at break-neck speed - let’s go! The train will surely depart in seconds without us! - but this time I was more relaxed: eh, it’ll be there. And it was: one electric car, no engine, a smallish and warm thing that could not be confused with a recently produced model. It chugs along at a speed you could match on foot; a cheerful lady of senior age takes your tickets and calls you dear.
Sat across from a man who quietly fumed about the ridiculous train, having no space for his bag or any monitor to indicate which stop was next; he too was going to Walbers, and was a bit surprised to learn we were getting off at Darsham. He wasn’t.
Well, that’s where our friend is meeting us, I explained, but it didn’t seem to help. I can understand why - I’d be confused, too. So the train doesn’t go to Walbers?
Not anymore. Not for a very long time.
Astrid met us at the station, and hurrah we were here. Drove into Walbers with that happy emotion you get when you're going to a place you love, and haven't visited in a while. Stowed our bags in her new guest house, which was quite marvelous and set out for a walk in the countryside along the ancient paths.
If you like . . . you can stroll along on your own, right here.
Then ales at the Anchor! I was hailed by the barkeep as The American, which made the day complete. Back in Walbers.
Back at the Black Dog or Mucky Pup deli, where there was a dog of an inconsistent hue.
And then, at long last, to the Anchor for a Ghost Ship, as fresh an ale as you'll find on the isle. The barkeep greeted me: "It's the American," he said.
I know it's all their pub, and not mine, because I am, well, the American. But it still felt like home.
Little did I know I was about to suffer one of the European traveller’s nightmares.
Tomorrow: INDUSTRIAL ACTION.