Onwards - the estuarine plain of the Ouse and Humber is hardly a renowned scenic hotspot, but today its big silvery sky looked magnificent, overshadowing Drax power station's clutch of cooling towers steaming away in the distance. The chequerboard of fields were yellow and a soft light presaged autumn.
Anyway, as we drove across south Yorkshire, the way light fell across the wide landscape and big cumulus filled sky reminded me of our journey decades ago. I got a quick blast of 'The Streets of Arklow' as head music. We chatted about what we could remember of our 'big day' and discovered that we were now quite vague about most of the details. Not surprising, I suppose, forty years is a long time and we have done so much together since then.
We found ourselves sheltering beneath some big trees beside York Minster. They were next to the famous 'Five Sisters' lancets. Forty years ago I would probably have bored Gill stiff with an in-depth explanation of the development of lancet window arrays in Early English style abbey churches in the North East of England during the 12th and 13th century. I remember writing an extended essay about it at university. Luckily I have forgotten the details so Gill escaped an impromptu Pete panegyric on the subject.
Instead, just around the corner from the South Transept we happened upon a monument to Constantine the Great. On the death of his father in York in AD306 Constantine was proclaimed 'Augustus' by his troops, which in effect made him ruler of the Western Roman Empire. It took a further 18 years of sporadic civil war for Constantine to control the entire Roman Empire and he only converted fully to Christianity on his death bed. Nevertheless, in making Christianity the official religion of the empire he had a profound effect on the subsequent development of Europe, both as 'Christendom' and a place where ideas derived from the Classical era continued to hold sway.
Perhaps the proclamation of Constantine is the most momentous historical event ever to take place on British soil in terms of the way it shaped the future, yet it is not particularly well known. We speculated about other contenders - the development of the steam engine - without it the Industial Revolution would not have happened. The advent of the age of machines is written in the geological record- a marker of the transition between the Holocene and the proposed Anthropocene. Perhaps this means Thomas Newcomen or James Watt are equally epoch making Brits. Then there's the publication of Darwin's 'Origin of The Species' in 1859; the effect of this book revolutionised our view of the human race and our place in the universe. It's impact perhaps is best summarised by the Douglas Adam's character 'Oolon Colluphid's - the title as his bestseller - 'Well That About Wraps It Up For God'. It makes all the current shenanigans about Brexit seem a little parochial we agreed. Interesting as all this speculation was, by now we were drenched; after a quick visit to Sainsburys we headed for the bus.
A rainy day in York did not really compare with what we originally envisiaged - lunch by Lake Garda or the sparkling Adriatic. Even so, it is rare when you explore somewhere on foot that you don't come across something that strikes you as beautiful. As we squelched through the lanes towards the campsite the leaves glistened, the drizzle accentuated their yellowing - sloe berries and rosehips in the hedgerows, twilight by seven - time to follow the sun. Two weeks to go and we will be bobbing between Newhaven and Dieppe; roads south beckon.