“Oh jesus, oh lord oh jesus”: a weekend in Hereford

Going back to the place that holds so many memories, good and bad, was always going to be a bit of a gamble, especially as I took the earliest opportunity possible to run away from it back in June. But a lot has happened since June. In 7 months, my whole life has changed, been hurtled through a roller coaster and turned upside down so many times I’ve lost track. The last 7 months since I left RNC in Hereford have been a whirlwind of change and mixed emotions. We’ve all gone our own separate ways, taking different paths for our futures. I chose the OU, Kieran decided to go back to RNC, Josh is volunteering and Godwin is giving local college a run for their money. But this weekend, for the first time in ages, none of that mattered. The last 7 months of keeping in touch via Imessage, Twitter and phone calls were completely forgotten the moment Josh and I boarded the train.

 

Ever since October when we visited Rnc for the presentation ceremony of our certificates, this trip had been on the cards. Originally, it was just a fleeting comment of “Why don’t we come up for the weekend on your birthday?”; but the comment stuck. It was already set in stone by the time I was sat in the back of my parents’ car driving home in October. So, as soon as I could, I started arranging train tickets and times with Josh. I felt it made sense to get on and book it so that it really was set like cement and also the prices were cheaper. Although I’d hoped for low costs on the tickets, I’d underestimated how brilliantly cheap the tickets were. It cost me less to travel to Hereford for the weekend from Southampton than it did from Hereford to York in one day. Then again, that was well worth the money and there was no price limit on either event; they needed to happen and I didn’t care about how much money was or wasn’t spent.

 

As soon as the tickets were booked, I wanted to get onto arranging accommodation for Josh and I. To begin with, I suggested the Premier Inn in Hereford but then Josh had the miles better idea of asking Gardner Hall, the college’s access centre and hotel, if we could book rooms for the two nights’ stay. I was a little dubious about them actually agreeing to it but when I finally rang them to talk about it it was a lot more simple than I thought. Josh and I were able to have a large twin room with two single beds for two nights for £124, saving us £22 each if we’d had separate rooms. Anyway, being roommates seemed like a very good idea, so we went for it. I booked the twin room for both nights and was told we could pay on arrival, making things a lot easier for us. All that was left to do after booking the tickets and the accommodation was to arrange travel assistance to help us around the train stations and on and off the trains. Our journey to Hereford involved a change at Newport station, which turned out to be no problem, and as I have only ever done one train journey before – the trip to and from York last May – I was a little apprehensive. But I had no reason to be worried because Josh’s train knowledge and guiding expertise along with the brilliant assistance we received at all stations were faultless. I couldn’t have asked for a better travel buddy than Josh and I’m very grateful for that.

 

After waiting a very long time and being very excited for a very long time, Friday finally dawned. I shot out of bed the moment the alarm went off, rushing around having breakfast, getting ready and making sure I had absolutely everything I needed. As usual, I packed far too much stuff and my overly large rucksack was ridiculously heavy. It was so heavy that at times during the journey I was concerned I’d lose balance. Thankfully I remained on my feet. Mum took me to meet Josh at the station at 8.40am while Dad waited in the car. He was ready and waiting with a rucksack and information about our journey. Luckily, although we’d been slightly worried the train would be delayed, it was right on time, rushing into the train station, bringing a little bit more excitement with it. We were actually doing this. Like really, we were going to Hereford for the weekend. We were on a train, on our way back to the place where everything began almost 2 and a half years ago. It was really strange travelling back on a train to Hereford because I’d never done that before. I’d always been in my parents’ car and we’d stop at the Motorway Services for food and a wander around. The only stopping we did was when we got off one train to board the next. There were definitely no comfort breaks. Not that I’m complaining in the slightest.

 

The train journey itself was great, too, because Josh and I managed to have a conversation for the entire ride. I’m not too sure on the subject matter of the conversation now as I think back, but I remember that it was good nonetheless. On the Newport to Hereford train, we also had some hilarious Welsh passengers sitting in front of us who were clearly having a domestic but trying to be nice because of their 2-year-old son. I know he was 2 because his mother took it upon herself to tell the guard his life story. He’s “her whole world” apparently and is due his birthday this week. Happy birthday to the little Welsh lad who had the parents having a passive aggressive domestic on the train on Friday. To be fair to them, they were quite entertaining but worrying at the same time. Also, the lady had a striking resemblance in her voice to Stacey from Gavin and Stacey, which had Josh and I laughing a lot, especially when she said “I’ve never known someone so bloody rude in all my life!” in her very strong Welsh accent. I think we departed that train laughing a lot.

 

Of course, departing that train meant we were in Hereford and our weekend was just a taxi ride away from starting. The taxi driver we had was lovely, and I think a bit concerned about the weight of my rucksack, and we were surprised very much by the price of the taxi fare. It was only £4 from the station to the college which was a lot cheaper than we’d guessed. Then again, Hereford taxi prices have always been pretty good and I think, like a lot of other things, going back in to the rest of society made us forget that. On arrival at Gardner, I was a little annoyed to discover that although the person on the phone on Monday had told me £120, it was actually £124 as I’d been previously told. We also discovered that not only was the receipt machine broken, so I couldn’t have official evidence of paying, Gardner had also forgotten, despite the fact I’d told them twice, that we were staying for 2 nights. Thankfully, they didn’t kick up a fuss about the fact that they’d forgotten my booking details and we were still allowed the room for both nights as arranged. I wasn’t too impressed about the receipt saga but thought I’d leave it, probably because I was far too excited to care.

 

As soon as we’d dumped our bags in our rather luxurious room, Josh ordered Kieran to come and join us and luckily for us he agreed. We decided to go down to the coffee pod in hope of seeing my favourite IT teacher. It took us a while to find her, as she was hiding from us eating her lunch in the corner, but we finally got to chat. It was only brief, and could well be the last time, but it was nice all the same. After lounging in the coffee pod for a bit longer, we wandered back over to Gardner because it was present giving time, which turned out to be a lot of giggly fun, just like everything seems to be with us when we get together. Thankfully, the Birthday Boy liked his presents, which I was slightly surprised about. We stayed in Gardner, lounging around, chatting, listening to music, giggling and generally catching up and having fun until we decided it was time we got some food. We’d already agreed on Yates, where we’d gone for my very last meal in Hereford back in June, so when we were ready we took a gentle trek into town to Yates. I had the best macaroni cheese I’ve had in a very long time and the boys seemed to enjoy their burgers. As it was Kieran’s birthday, I’d managed to get Josh to agree with me that for the entire weekend while we were present Kieran wasn’t to take his wallet out of his pocket and no money of his was to be spent. As I pocketed my card after paying, I realised that step one of that plan was complete. No money of his had left his wallet so far.

 

Once Yates was done, it was back to college to wait for the bar to open. We decided the best way to spend this time was in Kieran’s room listening to music. That’s where I first heard this song, from which a line has become pretty much the statement of the weekend.

 

But then it was bar time. 7 months ago, I used to spend every Wednesday evening in that bar so was slightly surprised when the barlady had completely forgotten who I was. After we’d got our drinks, Josh and I went to sit down at our usual seats, where we always used to sit in the bar. It was always my observing seat and that occupation was restarted on Friday evening as I observed everyone else in the bar. It was quite nice because the barlady had put banners up to celebrate Kieran’s birthday. We’d also informed her and another good friend of his that he wasn’t to pay for a thing. If he needed alcohol refills and nobody else was offering, I said, then he was to come to us and we’d supply the money. As it happened, none of our or his money was spent. Other people were too busy buying him pints for Josh and I to need to. The entertainment in the bar consisted of some speakers playing all sorts of music. They were pretty good speakers and the music was pretty alright too. Everyone seemed to enjoy it an awful lot, anyway.

 

On Saturday morning, after we’d all got up and ready, Josh and I went over to Kieran’s for breakfast which consisted of tea, Hobnobs and caramel Digestives. It was a pretty good breakfast, in my opinion, and reminded me a lot of every Saturday morning from November onwards of my last year where breakfast with Kieran, and Josh when he joined us sometimes, would consist of tea and/or coffee, biscuits and sometimes bacon or sausage sandwiches. Saturday and Sunday mornings were a lot of fun at college. We spent a few more hours in the kitchen just listening to music before going back to Kieran’s for more lounging around.

 

Saturday evening, though, was the best fun I’d had in a long time. We went across to Gardner where we ordered takeaway and watched the second Ted movie, which was a lot better than I feared it would be. The takeaway was also lovely but I did realise that I can’t eat Herefordian takeaways like I used to. The amount of food I chose would have been no problem to consume 7 months ago but my stomach just can’t take it anymore. Sadly, I wasn’t able to eat it all, possibly because of the scenes of Ted going on while we ate. They were certainly enough to put you off your food if your stomach wasn’t already full enough. Even so, the food was lovely and I did enjoy it a lot. We spent the rest of Saturday talking and figuring things out for the future and catching up. Who knew so much could change in such a short space of time not seeing each other? Well apparently it can because we talked and talked and talked.

 

On Sunday, for our last meal we decided to go back into town to Hereford’s Weatherspoons. We’re all fans of Weatherspoons and as we’d already done Yates it seemed a good idea, which it did prove to be. Again, our food was lovely and, thanks to Josh, neither Kieran nor I needed to put our hands in our pockets because we were treated to dinner. Sadly, when lunch was over, it was almost time for our weekend to be over. Our train was at 4.44 and it was already gone 2 o’clock by the time we got back to Kieran’s. So all we had time for was relaxing in his room and enjoying our last hour in Hereford. It is very likely that this weekend will have been our very last in Hereford because by March we’ll have no reason to visit anymore. That made me sadder than I expected as we walked from Kieran’s room after saying a sad goodbye. Leaving Hereford was always something I was quick to do before yesterday. But that’s because I didn’t really appreciate the city as a student, or the college either. Being a visitor is a lot more fun, even if you feel you don’t belong there anymore. Sitting in the waiting room at the train station with Josh was strange because it was just the two of us. I’d got so used to us being in our guiding train of three and it was so weird not having someone holding onto my shoulder as we walked. The train doesn’t really work as well as a two-piece.

 

The train ride home was quiet. We were both lost in our earphones, me listening to Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and Passenger while Josh listened to Ed, Taylor and his podcasts. Again, the journey was no problem; assistance was great and the ride itself was fine. But as we left Hereford, I did feel a bit sad about the fact we may never go back and it’s going to be another six weeks until we all see each other again. But beware, Newcastle and more accurately Blyth, we’re headed your way in March as soon as everything’s figured out. I’ve never been there before, either, so it will be quite an experience. Maybe we’ll even make that adventure as good as this one was. Our mission, when we arranged this, was to give Kieran a great 19th birthday. I think we succeeded in our ambition and I’m mighty glad about that. Even if we hadn’t, it was still marvellous to see each other again. But “oh lord oh jesus” what a weekend we had. I wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world and can’t wait until next time.

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