Gone to Coventry 10/10/15

Today was a busy day and I haven’t even had a chance to download my photos, let alone sort them out and upload them. I’ll try again tomorrow on the train.

10/10/15 – no it’s not. It’s 9/10/15.

Yes it is.

What is it?

I had an hour last night where I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know why?

I had set the alarm on my clock for 6.59am. I wanted plenty of time to get washed and wrestle my PJs and toiletries bag into my suitcase. I finally woke up at 7.19am.

I gave Michael and Rosemary their gifts at breakfast time. They both laughed over Michael’s Last of the Summer Wine/Ferrari bag.

I said goodbye to Rosemary at their home. “I hope you can see us again in five years,” she said. And then Michael took me to the station. “Don’t leave it five years next time.”

Because of the layout of the “new” and “improved” Leeds Station, Michael was only able to pull onto double yellow lines, basically kick me out, and then had to drive off again.

But at least I had plenty of time to get my bearings. Even though I’m heading to Coventry and I needed the Plymouth train to take me to Birmingham New Street.

My train was due to leave platform 9B at 10.11am. It was “On time” and the doors were due to shut on minute before departure. How come it arrived at 10.10am then? It was closer to 10:15am when it finally did leave.

One thing that it doesn’t do as well (this is the CrossCounty Company), is that on the Arriva trains they have a little slot in the top of the seats stating that this seat is reserved. On this train you make a guess that the seat isn’t reserved and hope for the best.

The announcer has just said that the electronic display above the seats says if one’s booked or not. I didn’t realise that and I’m wedged in now, so I’ll just have to hope I’m in a non-reserved one.

And the lady next to me has just finished her sandwich and has started on her fingernails.

It’s really foggy this morning. I’m glad I’m not flying out.

I discovered that one of my seats was reserved from Derby and the other (mine) was reserved from Sheffield. So I moved to a non-reserved seat at Sheffield when my nail-chewing companion got out. I then discovered that when the nail-chewer (who can’t ever be hungry) left her seat it was relabelled as vacant and I could have simply moved over one. Oh, well.

Announcement: “Please take note of the electronic information above your seat to avoid convenience with other passengers and convenience to yourself.”

I’m getting out at Birmingham New Street. Everyone warned me to get out at Birmingham New Street and none of the other Birmingham stops. They needn’t have worried. The only Birmingham stop is Birmingham New Street. Which is the stop after Burton-on-Trent. Now that’s easy to remember!

11:53pm

Photos are going funny again, so you’ve only got a few.

Yes, it is that late, but we’ve had a good afternoon and evening, and I’m not going to put EOS away until I’ve copied over all my photos from the last two days.

I got out of the train at Birmingham New Street as instructed and took the lift to the concourse floor. Pen was going to tell me where she was going to meet me, but because the newly revamped Birmingham New Street was only finished about a month ago, she didn’t know the layout of the place. It was good to have the lift doors rise up and see her through the glass panels.

We caught the train to Coventry and met fellow Thunderbirds fan Elizabeth there. Our first stop was to find some lunch and we went to a place on the quieter side of town away from all the students. Coventry has two universities and as today’s Saturday…

(I think.)

Over a couple of nights in 1940 and especially on one night (although there were other times) the Germans blitzed Coventry with incendiary bombs. It was a highly industrial area and they had a pretty good go at wiping it off the map. Other cities suffered in a similar fashion, but Coventry was used as propaganda by Winston Churchill’s PR team, as the mediaeval Coventry Cathedral – The Cathedral Church of St Michael – was almost totally raised to the ground. Its destruction was used to show how “Jerry didn’t play with a straight bat.”
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There are conspiracy theories that Churchill did know about the impending raid, but didn’t let Coventry know because he didn’t want the Germans to know that Bletchley Park had cracked their Enigma code. Apparently a book has been released today that purports to have evidence of this, but our guide in the Cathedral Blitz Museum – Barry Gittens the Blitz Guide – claimed that he’d had two people come in to view the museum and they’d both stated otherwise. The first claimed that Churchill couldn’t have known because he didn’t tell him.

This guy had been on the signal receiving defences and they’d received information that the Germans were mounting a raid that night. The belief was that the raid was on London. It was only about four hours before the raid before it was realised that Coventry was the target.

The other person was a woman whose sister had been Churchill’s secretary. She’d come home from school (in London) one work day to find her sister at home. Churchill, believing that London was going to be hit, had sent everyone home to be with their families.

Believe it ~ or not.

We continued on through the museum, which showed the extent of rationing, what was recovered after the cathedral was bombed, and what it was like in an air raid shelter.

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The Cathedral itself, as you can see, is a vast open shell. (They are at present excavating the under croft, which is why all the scaffoldings’ about.) The original roof was thin lead, which the bombs punched straight through. Beneath the lead was a crawl space above 600-year-old oak beams. They had no chance against the incendiaries. Especially when the fire fighters were trying to save the rest of the city and the water supplies were disrupted – As were all other amenities.

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The roof, when it collapsed, collapsed one side first, meaning that the windows on one side had to endure sustained heat and lost all window detail, while enabling the other side to retain some traces of stained glass.

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After the bombing they found two burnt roofing beams and made them into a cross at the altar. The present cross is a replica of that.

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They also found some mediaeval nails and made them into a cross.

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The new Coventry Cathedral has strong connections with the original.

The nearby Holy Trinity Church survived because the pitch of the roof caused the bombs to slide off.

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We moved on through the city to the Coventry Transport Museum. Because its industries were such an important part of the city, telling their story means that the story of Coventry is also told.

They started out making sewing machines. Using those skills they moved onto making velocipedes, hobby horses and then bicycles.

Of all shapes and sizes.

Making bicycles led naturally on to making motorbikes.

And cars.

As did many places around the world, Coventry lost a lot of its car manufacturing in the 1980s. But it still manufactures the London Cab. We had a ride in one home to Elizabeth’s, simply because I’ve never ridden in on. So now I can say that I’ve ridden in a London cab… In Coventry!

The second to last section of the museum deal with the future – both of Coventry’s universities have engineering departments. And Jaguar have their research department in the city.

And the final section dealt with the land speed record. One of the vehicles that the museum houses is the ThrustSSC which broke the land speed record in 1997.

But the one I really liked is the Bloodhound SSC. I’ve known about this attempt since an episode of “Bang Goes the Theory”, at which point they were going to attempt the record in 2014. Now they’re hoping to do it in 2016. But what was really amazing was that the model on display was made entirely out of K’nex building “blocks”.

After that, and a quick trip to Sainbury’s, we went to Elizabeth’s. During the evening we ordered in Chinese takeaways, watched an episode of “Sherlock”, and had a game of “The Settlers of Catan” – which was quite good once you worked out how to play it.

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