223: Northampton

OS Explorer map 223, Newport Pagnell & Northampton South: Towcester & Olney – I own this map, and I have visited it before I started this blog. Visited for this post 15th December 2017.

Like my post about Cambridge, this one is can only be somewhat atypical, since for me this map is home. My parents and I moved to Northamptonshire in 1997 when I was but a babe of two, and so I won’t particularly be able to isolate times when I “visited” this map. Nevertheless, I have not written about this map since starting the blog, so here’s a post! I returned home from Cambridge on the 15th December; it is now the 18th, and while nothing astounding has occurred, I can write about a couple of things assuming that you, my reader, are not in need of tales of action and high adventure.

On Saturday 16th, the day after I got home, in the morning Father Dearest and I went to the garden centre to get a Christmas tree; we then put it up. The next day, two of my cousins, Guacamole and Fashionable Cousin, came over to help decorate the tree; we duly did this, and dutifully before we’d even had any tea! I have strong opinions about multicoloured Christmas lights, in that I very severely dislike them, so one set of those stayed very firmly in the box. (I had the day before gone downstairs to dig the Christmas decorations out of the cellar; a large electric keyboard fell on me but fortunately I was able to resolve the situation.)

That done, we had tea and spent some time looking at photos to remind Fashionable Cousin of some of her questionable early fashion choices.

A few days before Christmas last year, I decided to make a pie. I think the recipe was called something like a pork and chicken pie, but I believe I put cranberry sauce and stuffing in it to make it vaguely Christmassy.

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Last year’s pie

While I very much enjoy cooking and like to think I’m reasonable at it, my usual approach is rather chaotic and tends to avoid recipes, instead being rather spontaneous about things. Admittedly this has had some poor results in the past, but I at least usually enjoy my cooking. However, this pie was made following a recipe and was rather more involved an affair than I usually go for; it was quite fun to do, and so this year I have decided that I shall again try to cook some adventurous foodstuff. I’m going to try to make this thing, a venison and mushroom suet pudding, because I very much like suet puddings but feel that they feature far too infrequently in my life.

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Last year’s pie again. (Well, I don’t exactly have photos of this year’s thing yet as I haven’t cooked it yet.)

To this end, Mother Dearest and I today set off to buy a pudding basin. We went to a cookshop, up the A5 in the somewhat pompously named Heart of the Shires Shopping Village. Firstly, though, we stopped for petrol in Weedon. Now in this area the A5 Watling Street follows the Roman road pretty closely (ooh, this is the first time I’ve used actual knowledge from the OS map in question on a blog post!), so yay, petrol station on a Roman road.

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The petrol station in question

We then went to our destination and, after dithering about which pudding basin to buy (there were only 1l and 1.75l options rather than the 1.4l that the recipe recommends, but we eventually found one that was sized vaguely in between the two), we left with our new purchases – not only the pudding basin but also a colander and some Christmas decorations. When we emerged it had got rather dark and foggy and we sought home.

Previous visits

So yes, this won’t be a “previous visits” section as much as a “my life here” section, since I lived here most all of my life – and still do, outside university terms. To start with, as I lived in this map since 1997, which is twenty-one years ago counting inclusively, let’s have twenty-one pictures of me in this map area, one in each year. Yep, that’s right, it’s time for… baby pictures!

It’s not just my home that was in Northamptonshire, of course, so was my school. (And while I’ve lived in three houses since 1997 I went to only one school from the time when I started in 1999 until I left sixth form in 2012.) Some of the photos above are at school, actually, and here are a couple more:

The image on the left is of one Jeans for Genes Day (a charity event when one came into school wearing jeans instead of uniform to raise money for something or other). I asked, does it matter what one wears with the jeans? No, it did not. And therefore, I came in wearing jeans and my Darth Vader costume. The photo on the right is of me, Climbing Programmer (although he neither climbed nor programmed in those days), and Joystick doing sound and light for one of the school plays. We enjoyed holding up signs to make the actors laugh while they were onstage.

Ooh, since this at least nominally map blog I feel I should also tell you, reader, since I have the opportunity, about an occasion when this OS map was actually used, as my last Previous Visit that I’ll describe.

These photographs are of an occasion in summer 2015 when three of my Oxford friends – No Longer Hairy, Little S [1], and Unicorn – came to visit, and we went for a walk around the local villages of Nether Heyford, Bugbrooke, and Flore, alongside the Grand Union Canal for a little while. The map was used (two copies of it, in fact), and we found rather a delightful little tunnel under the motorway that I rather liked. Little S was very interested in the hay pictured, city dweller that she is. This whole gathering was in fact a preliminary to a group drive down to Dorset to see Ex-Linguistician. We slept in my cellar on the 28th and drove down together on the 29th.

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Little S as we prepare to go to sleep in the cellar.

A long, probably boring dig into the archives of one day

Let’s have a dig into my archives, shall we, as I’ve done that only once so far? Let’s have some fun and reconstruct the way we co-ordinated this meet-up. If you’re not interested, which would be very understandable, feel free to stop reading here.

This meeting was on Monday 28th September 2015. Now if I look in my SMS and Facebook message archives, the planning seems to start on 16th September with a message from Ex-Linguistician to a group of us, saying “Hey 🙂 any news on people’s plans?”. Now this obviously implies there had been earlier discussion relating to this. Now we hadn’t met since the end of term (I went home for the holidays on 27th June) except on the 26th August when No Longer Hairy and I met in London to go to the dark restaurant Dans Le Noir. (When I say we hadn’t met other than that, I mean there’s no evidence of any other meetings in my diary, photo library, letter collection, or in our Facebook or SMS messages). This presumably means that such a previous conversation couldn’t’ve been face-to-face (we never used to do phonecalls or Skype really), so I’m guessing that discussion was in the WhatsApp group. I do have my WhatsApp message databases from this period, but I haven’t yet done all the faffing necessary to decode the archive files, so we won’t go there right now. [2] So, after Ex-Linguistician’s message, we conversed about when and where to do a meeting – there was talk, from Little S mainly, of going to see an art installation called Dismaland. We also considered all meeting at mine, but eventually decided to go to Ex-Linguistician’s. Ex-Linguistician sent me a link to an amusing BuzzFeed post that was a map of England’s rude place-names.

So far discussion had all been rather general, deciding only that I’d “try to arrange things” such that we could go to see Ex-Linguistician at her home. The Facebook thread goes quiet until September, and we must pick up the trail in text messages. On the 16th I ask No Longer Hairy whether he’s free on any days from the 24th to the 29th. (I do so in embarrassingly dodgy Latin, saying “dies xxiv ad xxix de hoc mense” – not only am I not using Roman dates as we tend to now, but rather than a genitive huius mēnsis? That’s truly awful.) He can only do Monday and Tuesday due to being in Kidderminster with his Oxford church until Sunday, apparently. The next day I ask Lapsed Lawyer, but get no reply. On the 20th I ask Unicorn. No reply. The same day Lapsed Lawyer finally replies, after a reminder, being also free only after the weekend. I also now ask Little S, who replies in the affirmative within two minutes. By the 21st I have coordinated that we shall go to see Ex-Linguistician and go to Dismaland on the 28th and 29th. (My Latin also seems to have improved. Incidentally, texts to others from this period, and my diary, inform me that I had my wisdom tooth – rear upper – out on the 21st, although that was in Dunstable so, alas, not in this map.)

Continuing to converse with Ex-Linguistician, she makes the comment “[hopefully] Haha, less meat salad than last time…xD”, referring to an occasion when we visited her in Germany during her year abroad and I left two packs of German “Fleischsalat”, a kind of coleslaw with meat in, in her house, which she found disgusting. On the 23rd at 21:19, I tell No Longer Hairy that I’m about to send him a Facebook message about this trip. I send this message at 21:53, in a new thread consisting of me, No Longer Hairy, Lapsed Lawyer, Ex-Linguistician, Little S, and Unicorn. We are gathering at my house and driving down to the South for Dismaland and Ex-Linguistician, but discuss whether to stay a night down there or not. Ex-Linguistician and I have a text conversation between 15:59 and 16:19 on the 24th about whether we’d like to stay the night with her, but decide we shouldn’t as her mother would dislike it. We also bemoan the difficulty of contacting Unicorn and Lapsed Lawyer. The Facebook group then is given the news of the final plan at 17:22 – We’ll gather at and disperse from Amrit on the 28th and 30th, having a day trip to Dorset on the 29th. Notably, we also decide to replace Dismaland with a trip to Stonehenge as it’s more on the way.

On the 24th and 25th, No Longer Hairy and Little S talk to me via text and Facebook about getting to me on the trains; we arrange which trains. On the 26th, Lapsed Lawyer finally replies to me saying she, alas, cannot come due to a job interview on the 28th. On the 27th, Ex-Linguistician texts me asking about lunch plans for the 29th; we ask the Facebook thread and are indecisive. At 10pm that night, Ex-Linguistician to the group: “can you guys all quickly text [Lapsed Lawyer] with your name? She lost her phone contacts somehow”. I somehow send her my name at 21:04, an hour earlier, so I’m not sure how I knew to do that.

On the day of arrival, the 28th, I tell Little S that I have left home for Northampton station at 10:06 and tell her where I will be parked and she replies. I say at 10:16 that I have arrived, and then at 10:28 tell No Longer Hairy and Unicorn that she and I are leaving for Wellingborough station to collect them; at 10:55 I say we have arrived. (I don’t know how I arranged with Unicorn which train he was getting – there’s no evidence in the SMS or Facebook archive, so I would guess WhatsApp, although possibly it was a phonecall.) At 10:57, No Longer Hairy says he will be five minutes, and then we apparently successfully convened and went to my house. We do things like go on the above-mentioned walk then. At 17:13, Ex-Linguistician texts me asking about arrangements for the next day – we should text her upon departing Stonehenge; she also advises me on finding her house.

The next day at 10:56am I tell her we reached Stonehenge and at 11:10 I tell her we have departed. In fact, we did not go to Stonehenge but only looked at it from the road, as evidenced by a 12:05 message to the group by No Longer Hairy: “Stonehenge” in reply to a “Where are you atm? :)” from Ex-Linguistician, followed nine minutes later by “But not paying £17.50”, which gets the reply “Well damn”. At 11:53 I tell Mother Dearest that we have reached Ex-Linguistician’s house. Then comes the stay at Ex-Linguistician’s house and an outing on foot from there for a walk and for lunch in a pub, and finally we departed. At 22:59, I tell Ex-Linguistician in the group that we have successfully reached my home. I believe Unicorn left us along the way, while Little S and No Longer stayed the night at my house before I took them to one of the train stations the next day.

I would also have looked in my physical archive folder, but unfortunately I have managed to leave just that one volume (which does the second half of 2015 and early 2016) in Cambridge.

And that, reader, is the end of the message and SMS archive relating to that one trip. As a reward, here are some pictures from the trip, although really that’s a bit inappropriate, as most of it happened outside this map area. (Wellingborough station is in map 224, Ex-Linguistician’s house is in map 118, and Stonehenge is in map 130.) Well done for getting through all that!


[1] She wanted to be called Lil’ S, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with those words coming from my metaphorical mouth.

[2] WhatsApp doesn’t, I think, store messages in the cloud anywhere unless you tell it to, which I didn’t, so they can only be got from one’s physical phone.

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