208: St Neots

OS Explorer map 208, Bedford & St Neots: Sandy & Biggleswade – I do not own this map, but had visited it before starting this blog. Visited again for this post 3rd September 2018.

Hello, dear reader! This is going to be the first post in a good long while that isn’t about any lengthy travelling trip, but instead about a map near home that I visited just for a little while. At the end of August, I moved into a new house near Cambridge with my friends Vesper and Erithacus – [1] since we were all leaving university at the same time, we had decided to live together as we entered the Real World and looked for jobs.

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Vesper and I on the day we got into our new house!

It’s been really very pleasant so far, and now, three months later, we all have jobs and are well-settled in to a nice comfortable routine.

I write to you, though, about an occasion at the very beginning of September, just two days after Erithacus moved in. Vesper was away for the week, and there were a few essentials that Erithacus and I had decided really shouldn’t wait until she was back to pick up, so a day of shopping was in order.

Most of the things we wanted we were able to get in Cambridge, but also on the list was a vacuum cleaner. After a long time commiserating over our distinct lack of any idea as to how one should choose one, we eventually picked one on Argos’s  website. Unfortunately though, all of the branches in Cambridge had run out of that model, so, loath as we were to change our minds yet again, off we drove to St Neots, whose Argos branch did have one.

The drive was half an hour or so, during which we listened to Weird Al’s eBay song and other assorted silly internet classics – notably Bad Lip Reading’s “Seagulls, Stop It Now“, which has been stuck in our heads for months… . We parked in the amusingly named Tebbutts Road car park before going into Argos.

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The amusingly-named Tebbutts Road car park

The car park sign was of note for two reasons – not only was the name amusing to our childish minds, but emblazoned around it was a reminder that St Neots is in the area of Huntingdonshire District Council. Huntingdonshire District Council is a weirdly uncomfortable entity – Huntingdonshire, while one of the traditional counties of England, no longer exists, having been abolished in 1974; its historic area is now part of Cambridgeshire. However, the name lives on, as a part of the mess that is England’s levels of local government, as the name of one of Cambridgeshire’s District Councils – it’s a shire that is not a shire, but is an administrative division within a shire, but that it still called a shire, even though it isn’t one. Weird.

Anyway, we went into Argos and painlessly acquired our vacuum cleaner.

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Erithacus poses outside Argos with our new vacuum cleaner!

After this we had a walk around the high street, generally appreciating being in a town smaller than Cambridge, and bought some ginger cordial and some exciting looking vegan chorizo substitute in Holland & Barratt. A stop was then made in Poundstretcher, an (as the name suggests) cheap homeware shop, where we purchased such items as washing up sponges, a mop, a bin and an extension lead. [2]

From there, we hopped back in Hilda (my car) and were off home! We made use of the vegan chorizo the next day, putting it in some (equally vegan) macaroni cheese that we made, which was really very nice!

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The macaroni cheese!

Here, for no reason at all, is a photograph from a couple of days later, when Vesper was back, and Millicent had come to visit – the hats were because we were celebrating Erithacus getting a new job!

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We hadn’t bought a dining table yet, hence the camp table, but that was soon to come – on which topic, see my next post!

Previous visits

While I’ve never been to St Neots before, this map does include a couple of places I’ve visited, in the Bedford area.

One of these is the village of Harrold, between Bedford and Northampton, which is notable to me as the home of my dear schoolteacher, Mr Tickle. Naturally, being a schoolteacher, my school friends and I saw him at school, not at his home. However, in 2013, the year after we’d all left school, he invited us over to meet him for dinner in his local pub.

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Cabbage, Geochunderer, Climbing Programmer and Mr Tickle in the pub

It was a very pleasant evening, as I remember – it was good to catch up, and since it’d been less than a year since we’d left school, there were plenty of people we still knew around to gossip about.

Also in this map area is Bedford itself. I’m not sure that I’ve ever really done anything in Bedford, but I have been there once for a short while, in 2015. While I lived in Oxford, I was in the Oxford Tolkien Society (on which see my Oxford post) – I somehow managed to do four different committee positions in that society… – and one of the annual events that we had was the Varsity Quiz: a quiz in which we would compete against the Cambridge Tolkien Society on fiendishly difficult questions about obscure corners of Tolkien’s œuvre.

The way to get to Cambridge from Oxford, at least if you’re an impoverished student, is the distinctly uninspiring X5 bus. It takes four an a half hours in each direction, and has in its advantage not much more than the fact that it’s very cheap. The way there, as I recall, passed reasonably happily; we were among friends, there was some sleeping, and lots of trying to prepare for the quiz. (Amusingly, when we were discussing topics that might come up, I used as an example for the list round the rivers of Gondor. Naturally, exactly that came up in the quiz, and we hadn’t prepared for it. [3])

We lost, in the end, as we had done the past three years (but didn’t the next year – as soon as I’d left…), and we suffered Bedford as punishment for our defeat. The X5 bus, alas, was delayed, and the first bus we got on only took us as far as Bedford before forcing us all off to wait in the cold and rain for the next bus.

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Tolkienians huddling in a Bedford bus stop

Fortunately we weren’t there too long, and were back in Oxford before midnight.

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[1] I haven’t actually, naughty naughty, posted about the map area (225) that this house is in yet – when I first visited it in June, when we went to view the house, I decided to leave posting about it until we’d lived in the house for a little while, as I announced in my Milton & Ely post. I will have to do it soon!

[2] In fact, I can tell you exactly what we bought, since I left it as a comment in Splitwise, the app that we use to split up money for things bought together:

Broom, mop, mop bucket, wall hooks, bathroom bin, washing up sponge with internal liquid reservoir, windy extension lead for the lawnmower, sink plug filter, and a couple of other bits

[3] We still did really well on that question, actually, getting 10 rivers, but Cambridge got 13 due to the obviously unacceptable tactic of including the Mering Stream and other boundary rivers – and, alas, the moderators ruled in their favour 😥 . In hindsight we should have expected the rivers question, given that a well-known geography addict was setting the questions…

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