Derby, an old working class town in the English Midlands. Rows of red brick terraces built by the British railway companies line the suburban streets. In fact, it’s very different seeing so many buildings made of brick after leaving Scotland.
I caught a series of trains down from Falkirk in southern Scotland. A whopping £65 for the train ticket! Wow that’s extortionate, given that with most low cost airlines you could fly around Europe for the same price.
In any case, I got there, and my old housemate Adam was there to greet me and pick me up from the train station.
Old cars and old friends
Adam was visiting his parents in Derby and working on his car. His step father runs his own business restoring very old cars. He works on cars from the very first era of cars. He’s worked on Oldmans from the earliest 1900s where cars were so slow they only had sunshades. Many others are from the 1920s, Bugattis, Rolls Royces, Triumphs and Alvis. He probably doesn’t work on anything younger than himself and his accent reminds me of the stout English chaps in that Monty Python sketch on “luxury”.
Adam is working on restoring two cars of his own too. A Triumph TR4 and an Alvis like this one his step dad restored. I even got to ride in a working one!
I was pretty stoked to get a ride in the Alvis. It had a surprisingly large amount of horsepower still left in it. We cruised around town and the countryside, easily keeping pace with everyone else. It was a joy to ride in with the top down, though despite the English summer it was a little chilly.
A lot of time and work goes into these sorts of cars. I’d love to do my own restoration one day, but probably to a car I feel more affinity towards like an old Skyline or Supra from the 80s or 90s. They remind me of the movies Initial D and Fast and the Furious.
Day trip to The Peak District
Getting out of the house one day, Adam and I headed to the Peak District for a walk in the countryside.
We made a few stops along the way, the first being JCB World Headquarters. The Midlands are home to some big industry, so it was no surprise to Adam that we stumbled across JCB, a big manufacturing company for heavy work vehicles like bulldozers. I’d never heard of them.
Hilariously, we saw a sign for their gift shop. So to find out what was inside the gift shop and for the novelty of it being World Headquarters we pulled in.
Security buzzed us in after we told them we wanted to see the gift shop. I imagine we were the only people in a while to pass through because they seemed surprised and there was no permanent attendant in the shop. I bought some JCB headphones to use when jogging and we were on our way.
The next stop was lunch at a farm where we found a hearty Scotch ploughman’s lunch. It didn’t look all that filling at first, but we were full by the end of it. We washed it all down with some elderflower lemonade and some dangerously dry apple cider. I love English cider.
I’d never seen Scotch eggs before. I have no idea how they do it, but some how you get a soft-boiled egg wrapped in cooked and crumbed sausage meat. The whole board was delicious.
Then we finally made it to the Peak District and decided to go home (just kidding). We took a walk along Dove River, through the countryside and back along some cycling tracks.
The thing I find odd about England, and maybe it’s not that odd at all, is that all land is privately owned. So none of the country roads really have any space on the sides (which is a pain when you want to pull over) and everything is fenced. Meaning also, that when you go walking you are permitted to cross private land on public hiking trails and that only.
So we walked through people’s paddocks, past livestock, climbed stone farm walls and past barns. Quite nice, but not as dramatic as the Lake District, though that may have been because we were in the southern part.
Some English Traditions..
The English Pub
English (and in general British) pubs are attempted to be replicated all around the world, but it’s never the same as going to one in a place like Derby. A smallish city, with local pubs dotted on corners around residential areas. Where the local worker would come for a pint after a long day of hard yakka.
These pubs always have such great character and are full of characters too. You can just imagine how they would have been a hundred or so years ago before things like telephones and the internet. They would have been an inn for travelers and traders, a source of information and rumours, a place to find work etc. They’d be very central to society.
We enjoyed a few pints at a few pubs. Adam and his step dad drunk beer whilst I drank cider. We even went to a beer and cider festival at one pub where they had all sorts of fancy brews on tap. I had the Gladiator cider which was a whopping 8.4%. I definitely felt that one drinking it by the pint!
Inviting a friend over for tea has to be one of the most quintessential English activities. Some might say it’s just for housewives or old ladies like Mrs Bucket (pronounced Bouquet), but us two young lads went out for a spot of tea anyway.
Adam was horrified and called me a bogan when I tried milk in my green tea. I felt like it’d never been done, so I wanted to try it, but apparently I ruined my tea. The cream slice was great though!
Adam’s mum also brought home this local Eccles tart made with almonds and raisin mince. It’s always nice to try these sorts of things.