279: Blyth & Doncaster

OS Explorer map 279, Doncaster: Conisburgh, Maltby & Thorne – I do not own this map, but had visited it before starting this blog. Visited again for this post 7th February 2020.

This is the first of five posts about a trip I did from Friday 7th to Monday 10th February 2020; a long weekend away to the Yorkshire Dales with my friends (and housemates) Erithacus, Millicent and Vesper. We visited this map area in particular as a dinner stop during the drive northwards!

The four of us mentioned above, together with Queenie and Cheremy, make up a group of six friends who have gone on a summer holiday together each of the last four years – the Holy Island Trek in 2016 and our trip to the Isle of Harris in 2018 being the two of these that were in the UK and so have featured on this blog. Last year though (2019), just the four of us went on an additional trip together, namely our Gerald of Wales trip to Snowdonia. Since that was such a nice little holiday, we decided to do something similar again! In January, we therefore booked a cottage, and a month later were off to the Yorkshire Dales!

The Swan Inn at Blyth, which we swanned into and immediately out of, upon discovering it was full.

This trip began on a Friday, after a half-day of work for me. I went home at lunchtime to collect my car and do some shopping, and then the trip started properly when I picked up Vesper, Millicent and Erithacus from their respective workplaces at around 4pm. [1] We had a long drive ahead of us, just under four hours, but it passed pretty pleasantly: we chatted a bit, and Erithacus played us various works of The Mechanisms, whom she had recently got into; that passed the time well.

We hadn’t planned where to stop for dinner, but a little backseat Googling and attention to our stomachs led us to stop a little after the half-way point of our drive, in the town of Blyth, at the north end of Nottinghamshire. Our first two attempts in the town at finding a place for dinner failed, namely the Fourways Hotel and the Swan Inn – the former of which was closed, and the latter full, which was particularly disappointing given our delight at the pun that we’d be “swanning in to the Swan Inn”. At least we got to swan in and out of it either way.

The Indian restaurant that was our eventual destination

Our third attempt at finding an eatery was successful, though, at an Indian restaurant called Aasha. We passed a pleasant enough hour in there, eating poppadums, dipping sauces, and various vegetable curries with rice and naan bread; and admiring the head waiter’s impressive mullet (hairstyle, not fish). We did impressively well at ordering only an appropriate amount of food, which was fairly nice, even if lots of the dishes did taste fairly identical.

And that’s it! After our Aasha experience, we got back in the car, and swanned off back up the A1, to arrive at our destination in Swaledale a little under 2 hours later.

Previous visits

Now, I have been to this map area before, but a very long time ago. The occasion in question saw the Dearest Progenitors and I staying the night in a hotel in Doncaster. I’m not sure exactly when it was, but I think I was somewhere in the 7-9 years old range, placing it in around 2002-4. According to Mother Dearest, whom I asked in order to supplement my memories, we were in Doncaster for some Sikhism- or Punjab-related exhibition – my family are Sikhs from Punjab originally (though I’m not religious myself), my grandparents having been born there, and Father Dearest is very into learning about Sikh history and culture.

However, this trip is not memorable for the exhibition, but for something which happened in the hotel afterwards. In particular, my parents and I were eating dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, when I reported that I was feeling sick. Unfortunately, the restaurant toilets were inaccessible, so Mother Dearest quickly escorted me back towards our room. However, we weren’t quite fast enough, and just as the lift doors opened onto our floor, little me vomited, right onto the bit of floor directly out of the lift. My mother then summoned a member of hotel staff, and then, with me actually feeling a whole lot better after being sick, there followed a rather farcical situation where, while the hotel chap rushed off to find some cleaning supplies, Mother Dearest and I took up a station just behind my pool of sick, and had the job of urgently warning people not to step out as the lift doors opened, to avoid them stepping in it!

When eventually the crisis was over, Mother Dearest gave the cleaner a £5 tip for the inconvenience, for which he was very appreciative: apparently, said he, he dealt with pools of sick regularly, but it was usually from drunken people who’d just walk of and leave it without telling anyone. It was therefore refreshing for him for it to, on this occasion, be from a sick child, as well as that we were willing to take responsibility and give him a little something for his trouble!

It was a memorable occasion, and has been brought out regularly by both me and my mother as an entertaining anecdote ever since. I wonder whether the hotel man does the same!

(As mentioned in my Ravensworth post, I also went to Doncaster at the start of my July 2018 trip to Harris and Galloway, in order to collect Millicent at the station. However, since this was exclusively transport-related, it didn’t count as a visit under The Rules.)

[1] At this time, my main job was at techspert.io, and I worked only three and a half days a week for them, leaving me Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons to do other things – mainly various bits of volunteering and consulting work for various groups in the effective altruism community. On this occasion, though, I’d kept my afternoon mostly free, in order to be able to do some food shopping, and then collect the other three as soon as they could get away from work! Millicent and Erithacus both worked in the Cambridge University Library, while Vesper worked, as she still does, running Cambridge’s local effective altruism group.

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