I travelled to Rickmansworth from my home in the Lake District, and I had to change trains at a place called Crewe (in the county of Cheshire), and then at London Euston, where I got the underground train on the Metropolitan Line to a place called Harrow-on-the-Hill. I thought this sounded like an unusual name for a town, but it used to have an even stranger name in the year 767. Back then it was called 'Gumeninga hergae' which means temple on the hill. The people who lived here, belonged to the Gumeningas tribe and worshipped at the Pagan temple on the hill. I'd quite like to come back and explore Harrow on the Hill some more one day. But I didn't want to miss my train and be late arriving at the school to give my talk!
As a geographer, there was something very interesting for me in visiting Rickmansworth, because it has some very unusual geographical features! The railway embankment means that the water doesn't drain away very well from the ground, and because of that you get what is called a 'frost hollow' or a pocket of frost. This causes the temperature to vary a lot from the morning and throughout the day. On the 29th August 1936 for example, the temperature at dawn when the sun came up was 1.1 °C, but 9 hours later, the temperature was 24.9 °C. You would probably need a warm jacket, hat, and scarf at dawn, but could be in your shorts and t-shirt and feeling very hot indeed by the afternoon! Can you imagine that! It reminds me a bit of when I was in the desert and it was cold at night but really hot in the day.
As I was walking to the Ibis hotel where I was staying for the night, I saw a McDonalds, so I thought I would get some food for my dinner as I was starting to feel very hungry. I haven't been to a McDonalds restaurant for a very long time, so it was very strange for me to discover that you could only order food, by using the touch screen computer, or one of the iPads on the dining tables.
It took me a really long time to find out how to order on the computer screen, and I must have looked quite funny to the people around me, and perhaps a little bit dodgy, because there were three police officers stood close by and watching me as I placed my order!! It was a good job I didn't get too angry or frustrated with the computer, or I might have been arrested! I was getting a bit 'hangry'.
Actually, when I was born in 1975, there was only one McDonalds restaurant in the whole of Great Britain, and it was in Woolwich in London (Kent). It was a few years later that there started to be more of them, and now they seem to be everywhere.
When I was about 7 years old I got really jealous of my brother, because I had been working hard at school all day, and when I got home from school, I found out that he had been to McDonalds in Bournemouth on the day it opened, and I had never been to one. He was just a toddler, but they only served a few things on the menu back then. Hamburgers, fries, and a drink called 'root beer' which everyone said tasted like the stuff the dentist gives you to swill around your mouth at the dentist after you have your teeth cleaned! Both me and my brother ended up getting jobs at McDonalds as adults (but in different stores and not at the same time). My brother cooked food in the kitchens, and I worked as a cleaner. It was great experience for us before joining the army and navy. Sometimes the customers were very rude and they often left a lot of mess, but it was good for 'character building' and the pay was fairly good, plus we got free food, and if you wanted to travel, you could just do your job, but in any McDonalds anywhere in the world.
It was hard work mopping the whole restaurant but very rewarding too, and because it was always really busy you didn't have time to get bored, and the shift went by very fast.