Safely back in Hatfield an hour before the wife was to call and inform me whether she was bailing out of the conference early or wading into the late afternoon sessions, I was overcome by a powerful thirst and coincidentally stumbled–almost literally– upon the Cat and Fiddle, an estate local typical of the post-war build (although it may actually pre-date the war or have been put up for another purpose when the fighters and bombers were rolling off the nearby assembly lines).
Anyway, the people seemed friendly enough and surprised to see a stranger; the beer was cheap (especially so if you choose one off the posters listing specials); and an episode of ‘Only Fools and Horses‘ that I haven’t seen before was on telly. Result!
The first rule of travel literature: always open with a photo of dick grafitti
The morning of Jackie’s conference I started reading some papers on structure and function of GABA receptors, membrane proteins in the blood/brain interface that act as ion pumps when insulted by the blood chemistry of, for instance, alcohol consumption. Inspired to think about something besides my aching legs and ready to do a biochemistry experiment related to the topic, I stretched, dropped our luggage at the front desk, and stepped out for a run down a bike trail the used to be the rail bed between Hatfield and St. Albans.
St. Albans is a cathedral city and has quite a nice one just up the hill from the site of the Roman village of Verulamium on the River Ver. Well, I say ‘city’ but the designation ‘city’ is conferred upon a town by monarchical edict and with a cathedral you are almost a shoe in. Ely and St. Albans are cities that are smaller than the ‘towns’ Swindon and Reading. Calling a town a city or vice versa can start a fight. I am not sure what to think, therefore, about the trickle of water that makes up the “River” Ver.
Remains of the gate to Roman Verulamium
St. Albans Cathedral
HQ of my religion, on Hatfield Road, St. Albans
I hit a few pubs on this trip, locations shown below, and three in the course of this run including one (Ye Olde Fighting Cocks) that makes the dubious claim that it is the oldest pub in Britain.
In the past, I have attended an “organ festival” or two. Hey, I grew up in the 70′s. But, I believe St. Albans to be really obsessed with organs (although, mind you, we may be talking about two different things here…but this nicely brings the slideshow back to the opening image):
With a well attended conference at the University of Hertfordshire the choice of cheap housing was limited so we splashed out, slightly, on a Ramada. It was the Comet Hotel in the past, named for the first commercial jetliner to go into production (across the road at what was once the de Havilland aerospace plant) and the hotel bar still goes by ‘The Comet,’ and is housed in the attractive 1930′s art deco section of the complex. However, that’s about all that is attractive about the Comet, from the high prices, the surly staff, and the very pedestrian business hotel bar atmosphere. Worth a look, not really worth a stop.