I used to go fishing with my grandfather on the River Severn at Arley. More than forty years have passed since then, and I have long given up angling. I remember, I always used to feel sorry for the fish, insisting that my grandfather handled them gently, placing them back into the water carefully after removing the hook. By the time I turned ten, I no longer wanted to fish. Arley was the last place I disassembled my angling kit never to reassemble it again.
Last year, I visited my mother in Birmingham, as I do several times every year. This time, I took the chance to drive out to Arley, not to catch fish but to catch some photographs.
The Severn Valley Railway, a heritage railway that runs from Kidderminster to Bridgenort passes by Arley. The railway with its cute stations and steam locomotives is one of the most popular heritage railways in the UK. Of course I waited at Arley station for the next train to arrive, anxious to experience the splendor of an old steam train stop at the station. Sitting on the platform bench, I felt I had been transported back in time. After ten minutes or so, the stationmaster stepped out of the ticket office, proud to be wearing his period uniform. He stood straight, chest out, radiating an air of authority.
I heard the whistle first. Then I saw the smoke. Around the bend in the tracks came the locomotive into view, puffing out a thick grey cloud out of its chimney. The locomotive pulling vintage carriages approached the platform gently, coming to a halt with a gracious elegance. I could almost see the wartime scene, soldiers in uniform stepping off the train into the arms of weeping wives and girlfriends, happy their loved ones have returned home safe.
I turned to my left. The locomotive was framed with bright red flowers. As the engine driver lent out of the locomotive, I made the photograph.
I walked down the hill towards the river. It was a pleasant, somewhat overcast summer's day. It was a weekday, so there were few people at the riverside. I walked across the bridge to Arley Village, a quaint little riverside village with a post office, a shop, and tea rooms. It was teatime, so what do English folk do at teatime? They drink tea. That's exactly what I planned to do.
I set myself down on the tearoom terrace. "This is the life", I thought. A warm summer's day, lovely English countryside, a seat overlooking the riverbank. All that is missing is English porcelain with a pink roses pattern on the teapot and cup. "I wonder how the porcelain looks?", I contemplated (if this was my only concern, then I really was enjoying the good life!).
I ordered an Earl Grey. When the young waitress served my tea, my day was complete. While the teapot lacked the pink roses, the cup and saucer did not. That was good enough for me.