My flight to Philadelphia was very easy, the plane wasn’t too full and the weather reasonable so not too many bumps. I was meeting my friend Wilma at the airport. I have known Wilma for as long as I have know Phil and Derek, who I visited in Nelson, can you remember that far back? It almost seems like a lifetime ago to me now. Phil, Wilma and I all worked together for a company called Personal Computers Ltd, a PC dealership, it became a plc whilst we were there and was eventually bought by one of the big wholesalers. Anyway we formed a bond many years ago, there are two other women from that time, Christine who now lives in Italy and Louise who lives in Glasgow. Even though we are spread out across the world we try to meet sometimes all together sometimes one on one, to me they are very precious friendships. Anyway I digress. Wilma is currently working in the US and away from her family most of the time, and is based outside of Philadelphia in a small town called Lancaster, about an hour and a half driving time. Wilma was flying in from Toronto where she had been working for a couple of days. She arrived just ahead of me and my flight was early, so through the wonders of modern technology we managed to find each other and had a big hug in the airport, trying to remember the last time we saw each other, I think I was working in Edinburgh, and she came for a flying visit.
Anyway we managed to find our way to the car park and even found the car without too many issues, and set off on our drive. It had taken Wilma quite some time to find a place to live when she had been asked to take on this role, and she settled on Lancaster because it reminded her very much of an area of London she had lived many years ago, I think it was London Fields, but I may have got that wrong. Quite up and coming, and charming. There is a big Amish community there too. When we finally arrived there, having passed a few Amish carts, we stopped off for some lunch and then the obligatory visit to the supermarket for a few bits. The licensing laws in Philadelphia are different and alcohol can only be purchased in one or two supermarkets and there is a limit of three litres per visit. Generally you have to buy it at the government owned outlets, very much like the system in Iceland. So we visited one of those too, to get a couple of bottles of wine.
Then home to the house where she lives, a brick built terraced house, with a big back yard and parking space behind that. The ground floor is made up of a big kitchen dining room at the front, hallway and stairs and two rooms at the back, a living room and then another room behind that which was probably a later addition to the house, but is also a good size, the fire in there makes it a very cozy place to be. Squirrels and birds are all in the back yard and I spent some time watching them during the days. The squirrels were of course very adept at helping themselves to the bird food from the bird feeders Wilma had put up, practically hanging upside down at one point.
That was were I would usually spend my mornings especially if I was writing. Upstairs are two large bedrooms and a bathroom and then there is a second floor which has a huge loft room. So plenty of room for the family when they came to stay. The house is also very central, within five to ten minutes walking distance of the town centre. Just the sort of place I would choose to live too. Wandering around the town there are lots of interesting buildings, and many of the houses have porches on their frontage complete with chairs. I went into the graveyard of one of the churches one afternoon. As I was walking back home and was looking at all the gravestones of the founders of the church. All the old service men had the union flag on their graves, usuLly placed there on Independence Day every year. It was only a small cemetery and I was making my way out when I saw someone locking the gates, I was lucky I didn’t get locked in.
We had a great evening catching up with each other, and then the following day Wilma went to work and I had a day of pottering around. As you probably know by now I like to do little after a travel day unless I am pressed for time. This leg of my journey has been rather fast and furious to say the least, so it’s good to know I can unpack and settle for a couple of weeks.
That evening we were going into Philadelphia by train to see an Ice Hockey match, if was a corporate event Wilma had been invited to and I was her guest. I used to play hockey at school, that’s a few years ago, but have never experienced the ice version, boy was I in for a surprise. The Amtrak train takes about and hour and fifteen minutes to get into Philadelphia, it’s quite a comfortable train, and it wasn’t too busy. We arrived in the station which was a beautiful building, these old stations in the USA are quite palatial. Very high ceilings and large ornate pillars. Then into an Uber once we had worked out where the pick up area was and on to the the Wells Fargo Centre Arena where the game was. Traffic was quite heavy but we made it in plenty of time and found the VIP entrance, collected our tickets and made our way to the box where we were being hosted.
It was an amazing view of the ice hockey pitch, we were offered food, drinks and did some socialising and then we settled down to watch the game. There were a couple of young boys there with their Dad and they were getting into the spirit, it was wonderful to watch them. The game is split into three sections and even within each section there are breaks. They wheel all sorts of stuff out at the breaks including a car in one break. They also have a team of people who come and sweep the ice, on skates of course, and various opportunities for crowd spotting and congratulations. All good fun. The Hockey was fast and furious but the Philadelphia Eagles did not fare to well against their opponents I am sorry to say. The young boys asked their Dad if he thought they could score enough to win in the last 10 minutes and were quite deflated by the negative response. The goal keepers were funny, they wear great big leg pads and go down in their knees with the lower part of their legs splayed out in order to prevent the puck getting in. I tried to photograph it, with limited success. Finally the game was over and the exodus began, it was pouring with rain, and very cold, trying to find the place for the Uber pickup was a bit of a challenge, the traffic was awful with everyone leaving the stadium, so we were waiting for quite a while. Finally we were in the warmth of the cab, and on our way back to the station where we got a coffee and waited for the platform to open to get the return train home. It was very dark, and Wilma wasn’t very familiar with the route, the announcements were also very difficult to decipher. I was trying to count the stops, because I thought I knew how many to Lancaster. But we were also watching out for other people going there by listening to conversations with the guard. Successfully exiting the train at the right stop and a five minute drive back to the house and bed. Great evening, we both enjoyed it enormously.
The following day I went to investigate the local market, housed in a huge high ceilinged building, which was full of all sorts of lovely things from fresh veg and bread through to ready made meals, and cheeses. Some of the vendors were women from the Amish community wearing there long skirts with aprons and some form of head gear. I often wonder seeing women from different communities, religions, countries wearing the uniform required of them whether they yearn to be able to be more individual. Not that the majority of women dress as individuals as they are often influenced or restricted by fashion, age and budget. I myself can’t imagine the not having the freedom to dress the way I want to dress, and am currently enjoying dressing in denim after years of corporate dressing, anyway I digress again. I bought some bread, a crab soup and a couple of limes for gin and tonics. We had bought the gin bought so far failed to find any tonic water. I went on a bit of a mission looking for some, there didn’t seem to be any small supermarkets in the town centre, there are a few corner shop type places, but no luck there. Then I went to the local garage store. They must have had every drink under the sun, but no tonic water. I asked at the counter and they didn’t know what I was talking about, I said you know you put it in gin, oh seltzer you mean, no, not seltzer. Hilarious, it is one of the staples in the U.K. in any small shop or garage, anyway I failed, no g and t for us today.
The next day we decided to go for a walk, there was a big park area and we were hoping that it would be a good place, sadly whilst quite nice, there were a number of trails, but not really what we had hoped for. We opted to walk one trail which was mainly along a road, but it served some purpose of getting us out of the house and taking a bit of exercise, but we didn’t get the feel of being in a country park.
The following day was a big day out, back to Philadelphia for the Museum of Arts and then to see the Harlem Globetrotters show at the Wells Fargo Arena the same venue we had seen the ice hockey. The weather wasn’t too bad, but I have to say I was missing sunshine. We caught an early train, but later than we had hoped because I had managed to misread the timetable, for some reason I couldn’t get the Amtrak app working on my phone, and Wilma was having problems downloading it, so I had relied on Google and clearly not specified Sunday. Oh well. Finally we were on our way,
We got an Uber to the art gallery. It was walkable but we needed to be careful with the time we had. The cab driver told us that there were roadworks because a bridge had been closed and it was causing mayhem. Anyway we arrived with a plan of exactly what we were going to see which was quickly abandoned, we walked in and saw the most amazing display of a temple which had been installed in the first room we came too. It completely took us by surprise, and was so beautiful. Then there was another, a Japanese Tea House which had been installed not just the original house but the surroundings too. Clearly a creative team at the Museum the way these buildings had been installed. All the rooms with period furniture, of which there were many, were also set out beautifully, breathtaking if the only way I can describe these rooms. We managed to find all the pieces we wanted to see and I have to say I was extremely impressed by the museum.
The steps which lead to the Art Museum at the front entrance, we had come in through a different entrance, are known as the Rocky Steps, they were used by the character Rocky in the film of the same name, to train by running up and down them. So when we came out of that entrance, although it took a bit of finding for some reason, I then had to have the obligatory photographs taken, not of me running obviously, just stationery half way down.
Then off to see the Harlem Globetrotters, they are doing a world tour with what is really a show. They play the Washington Generals, a team which was dissolved because it was failing so badly but has been reformed. The game breaks up every once in a while for a bit of showmanship of sorts. It was highly amusing. Things that surprised me were that there were two women in the team, and that’s not a new thing, and even though they were very short by comparison to the majority of the male players they were not short on skills. The team as a whole were real performers in every way. Clearly it was a set piece, but so well done and a drama in its own right. Towards the end, a nail biting finish with Washington in the lead, a couple of the Harlem guys climbed up onto the hoops and were causing all sorts of mayhem and doing mad tricks up there. Particularly the one who decided he couldn’t get down. Very very funny. I would highly recommend going to see them.
It was much easier to get away this time, the traffic was not nearly as bad and no rain. We got back to the station and were both hungry because food was a little on the too fast side at the venue, so we hadn’t had much and we discovered a bar in the station which did food, only burgers, but they were really good. There was a bit of excitement in the bar, a woman who had left without paying on a previous occasion had come in and was trying on the same stunt again, but the staff recognised her, they called the police. Of course you never realise in the moment what is going on and only sort of pick up the pieces after the fact, perhaps as well. Off to catch the train and not quite as stressful in terms of knowing when to get off this time.
Monday of course is back to work for some people, sorry Wilma, I had a relaxing day doing this and that. During the week I had a beauty appointment, and we went out for dinner a couple of times, and even had a takeaway. I explored a bit and wrote a bit, I had a lot of catching up to do after my whistle stop stays. It’s difficult to know where the time goes sometimes. But we were both looking forward to the weekend because we had booked weekend passes for the Roots and Blues festival in downtown Lancaster. I had spotted this tiny poster in a window the week before, and we decided it would be fun. So Friday night came and and we wandered into town and went to see J J Grey, he was amazing, it was in one of the main halls. So a big audience and it was bouncing.
We got home quite late and a little the worse for wear and the next day we were off again, this time we were going to see the Phil Gammage Quartet in a little club. We got settled in at the front standing by the side and once again had a great time, some people were dancing and it was a lot of fun. So much so we decided to stay for their second set which was on an hour or so later. We were definitely reliving our youth that night, we laughed so much. We got talking to the band afterwards and then made friends with Phil and David Fleming the Harp player, don’t ask me why they call Harmonica players Harp players, I did ask but didn’t get and answer. If anyone out there knows please let me know. After their second set we want on to a couple of other places and finally we were queuing to get into the only place with a gig still playing, but the queue was too big, so we decided at midnight it was time to call it a day and go home. The following day we say another couple of really good acts, including the Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones and the Blues Doctors, such a great festival, we met some fun people. The Festival is, I think, only in it’s sixth year but I would definitely go again
The next few days were spent in the usual sort of routine, with Wilma working, I was starting to prepare myself for going home. I was flying home from New York and Wilma was also booked to fly home that weekend too. Unfortunately Wilma had a small car accident on the way into work one day, so was relying on being picked up and dropped off. Fortunately she wasn’t hurt in any way, and also fortunate that we had already made the decision to travel to New York by train. We were going the afternoon before our flight home, in order to experience a little of New York night life. So a busy week for Wilma preparing to travel and working.
The day of departure arrived all too soon. We were catching the train at about midday and Ubered, is there such a word now I wonder, to the station in plenty of time to board the train for the final stop of what has been the most amazing adventure.
See you in New York.