Rocked up nice and organised at Whitby station to board the 10:00 North York Moors steam service to Pickering. For a moment the eagerness of those waiting on the platform began to evoke King's Cross on a Friday afternoon, as normally civilised folk suspend social mores and descend to base primal savagery in their desperation to secure a table seat on the 16:00 to Newcastle; the indecorous trot gives way to a full sprint, batting aside old ladies, small children and anyone anti-social enough to have luggage.
Having safely grabbed a pair of tables in the middle of a carriage (swings about less than seats at either end) at the rear of the train (you get a better view of the engine when cornering), settled down to enjoy the ride. At this point awful realisation hit that 8-year-olds don't enjoy train rides, they need something to *do* and being a crap dad I hadn't brought any paper or pens. Emma ripped apart a diary (after all we don't have a life) and found a pen from somewhere.
Trip went well for an hour or so, until the boys began to realise that they hadn't eaten for over 90 minutes and started enquiring as to when we would arrive and could get some dinner, with increasing frequency and urgency. Poured off the train and almost ran into Pickering like a bunch of football hooligans looking to trash the town, glancing into every shop window to see if there was anything that could be eaten. There are about forty places to eat in Pickering, but found to our growing alarm that 38 of them do only salads and paninis for grannies, not proper food for deep-voiced size-ten-wearing teenage boys. Almost went into the Black Swan, a dingy-looking pub because it did burgers and stuff, but spurned the darkness for the light: the White Swan which looked altogether more pleasanter (middle class). Food was nice but bloody pricey for pub grub - evidently Pickering could do with some competition for non-panini dinners if you're thinking of starting a business.
Having eaten the best that Pickering had to offer we didn't bother the market too much (usual affair: lighters and cheap jumpers) and hopped back on the train, stopping off at Grosmont to look at the steam engines being fixed up. Everyone went along with this, although I increasingly got the impression that I was being humoured by the rest of the family: "Look, your Dad wants to look at some oily machines, just go along with it, it won't take long and he'll be grumpy if he doesn't get to see them." Increasingly I find myself gawping at something, saying "Wow look at that" only for my kids to reply "Wha? Oh that." Fortunately it seems that the process of becoming middle-aged includes a decline in the extent to which you give a shit. Bring on the crankiness. Or am I... Move on.
Waiting on the platform to return home, it started to rain. Cue Michael: "Um, I've lost my coat." Didn't outwardly grimace, kept visibly calm. Inside, I was a furnace of roiling and incandescent, teeth-grinding, spluttering rage. At least for 30 seconds or so, before wearily accepting that all my efforts will always be like a house of grass in a high wind, scattered and destroyed without warning by the vicious caprices of random events beyond my control. Started calculating whether we should retrieve or replace, emotion spent.
Tea: meat, bread, but mainly meat. Token salad, mostly binned.
Evening entertainment: taught the boys how to play Hearts. At least I tried to, but had to resort to looking up the rules online as it became obvious I had no idea what the hell I was on about. Michael made an excuse and sidled off, confiding in Emma that "that game is *really* complicated." I feared that I may have put my kids off games for life, at least the non-gambling type (more about this later).