Another awful day for the Stop Hs2 ‘campaign’.


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Yesterday, the High Speed Rail (West Midlands – Crewe) Bill had its 3rd reading in Parliament after completing the petitioning process. In a surprise to absolutely no-one except a few die-hard anti Hs2 people, it sailed through with a majority of 263 to 17. The 17 who voted against it were the usual rag-bag of MPs who’ve always opposed Hs2. This included disgraced former Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins (who had the whip withdrawn in 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct and who is still ‘under investigation’) and another of his Brexit supporting ‘chums’, mad Kate Hoey MP, plus Helen Jones, the MP for Warrington North and the other pro-Brexit Labour dinosaur – Dennis Skinner. Also on the list were two Plaid Cymru MPs and 11 Conservatives.  Yet again the Tory list featured the same old names. Bone, Fabricant, Cash, Gillan, Bridgen and McVey, plus 5 others. Completely outnumbering them were a cross party selection of 210 Tories, 45 Labour, 6 DUP and 2 Liberal Democrats.

To say it was a walkover would be an understatement! You can find the Hansard record of the debate here. Needless to say, the decision was welcomed by a wide range of political, business and transport groups up and down the country. But what of the anti Hs2 camp? Well, it’s a bit like saying “Don’t mention the war”! There’s been a news black-out from StopHS2, which has been hilarious! There’s no mention of the result on their website, Facebook page or Twitter account. Even more amusing, StopHS2 ‘Chair’, Penny Gaines was live tweeting all the way through the debate. In her usual style, Gaines tried to spin and hype anything negative said about Hs2 by the tiny number of detractors, whilst studiously ignoring anything said by its supporters. Producing over 100 Tweets in that time for her tiny band of 798 followers from her home in Bournemouth (yes, Bournemouth!) she kept up a stream of spin right up to the moment the vote was taken, as you can see here;


Then? Nothing. Absolutely nothing – complete radio silence in fact. She ran away and left people hanging. Well, she would have if there’d been many listening, the maximum she got was 10 retweets! As far as her Twitter thread goes it died just as soon as the result of vote was announced! It’s hilarious! Talk about denial!

So, that’s it folks, the Hs2 Phase 2a bill has passed with a massive majority and now goes on to the Lords, where it’ll also pass with a huge majority as there’s no more opposition to Hs2 there than there is in the Commons! In the meantime, the future of some of the MPs who voted against the bill is ‘interesting’ to say the least! Hoey has announced she’s standing down at the next election – jumping before her solidly Remain constituency deselect her. Hopkins future looks in doubt too. Plus a few of the other Brexit fundamentalists like Gillan & Fabricant could be in for a rough ride if/when Brexit blows up in the faces because of the impossibility of making Unicorns real. The same for Skinner when his constituents wake up to the real damage Brexit will cause. In fact, the correlation between opposition to Hs2 and support for Brexit is unmistakeable, although some prominent Brexiters – including one who previously pulled the wool over Hs2 antis eyes before – Jacob Rees-Mogg, who voted FOR the bill!

It’s only a question of time now before StopHS2 join all the other defunct anti Hs2 groups as historical footnotes – and failures.




Rolling blog:Essex escapade…


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I’m up, sipping coffee, catching up with the dawn of a new day and preparing for my journey from West Yorkshire down to Upminster in Essex. Hopefully all’s well with the world (and especially the East Coast Main Line) so I won’t be having any ‘adventures’ on the way…


It’s a beautiful still, sunny morning for walking to Halifax station.

After a brisk stroll I arrived at the station with a couple of minutes to spare before joining my first train of the week, the 07:42 to Leeds which arrived bang on time (I hope this is an omen for the rest of the week). Today we had the luxury of a 4-car 150/142 lash-up, so I’m happily bouncing my way to Leeds aboard this!

My train’s only half full, allowing plenty of choices for a seat, which makes a pleasant change.


We’re arriving at Leeds and it’s the usual stagger from signal post to signal post before a platform becomes free. It’s rare that you get a clear run into the station nowadays, especially in the peak. No doubt the new platform that’s under construction will help matters but it won’t be until Hs2 comes along that we’ll see much more capacity released. If only Leeds had a tram network that could be connected to the national network and run tram-trains on services like the Knottingly or Brighouse routes.


I’m now speeding South on a late running Azuma which is working the 08:45 to Kings Cross. The set was delayed on the way North by a trespass incident so arrived 20 mins down. Speedy work by the onboard crew and the platform staff loading catering kit managed to reduce the deficit to a mere 5 minutes, which is time we should make up on the way. I’m relaxing in the quiet coach at the rear of the train, which is quiet in more ways than one, there’s only half a dozen of us in it, and that’s after leaving Wakefield Westgate. This was us at Leeds.

Today’s a gorgeous day to be travelling as the weather’s superb, there’s hardly a cloud in the Yorkshire sky but the forecast for London’s not so bright. Even so, I’m not complaining as my commission’s an indoor one!


We’re now bowling along through the Cambridgeshire fens South of Peterborough at 104mph. The weather forecast has been spot on and we’ve left the Yorkshire sunshine behind for a blanket of fluffy low clouds with just the odd tantalising glimpse of blue sky.


We’ve just sped through Biggleswade at 125mph, having made up the time we lost earlier. The Azuma’s are certainly nippy things and their acceleration and braking is impressive. I fully expect to arrive in London on time.


As expected we made up the time by Kings Cross. I soon picked up my old London pace and ducked and dived between the tourists, navigating rapidly through the tube to Tower Hill than dashed up the staircases at Fenchurch St to catch the 10:32 which will take me to Upminster.

On reflection, next to the Isle of Wight lines, the c2c TOC out to Southend and Shoeburyness is the one in the country that I use the least. It wasn’t always so. For a decade (when I lived in London’s East End) I lived within spitting distance and often used it for business and pleasure. It still feels familiar, even if the suburban scenery that surrounds it has changed a bit in the past 30 years!

What hasn’t changed is some of the people and I have a stereotypical ‘Essex girl’ sat behind me, complete with hooped earrings, Tango tan and incessant chatter about nothing!


Sorry for the gap in blogging but it’s been a non-stop afternoon. I was kept busy at the IECC as the staff were more than happy to be involved in the photo shoot and it turned into a really informative and interesting time. So much so that I ended up staying beyond my allotted time just chatting about the industry

Afterwards, as the weather was breaking and the sun was muscling in on the act I decided to head out to Leigh-on-Sea to capture some c2c train shots for another client. I’d not been around the area for several years so I was curious to how much it had changed. The answer was – not a lot! I’ll add some pictures later. The combination of great weather, views across the Thames estuary and a couple of good pubs was sooo tempting, but it’s a busy week and I needed to get home so (reluctantly) I tore myself away after getting the pictures I needed. Right now I’m heading back to Fenchurch St, hoping to miss some of the rush crush.


Sorry! – another gap…

My Azuma to Leeds is just pulling out of Doncaster as I’m on the final(ish) leg of the journey home. I’ve been busy editing pictures, distracted by a superb sunset evening – and trying to keep up with events in Parliament, where the 3rd Reading of the Hs2 Phase 2a Hybrid bill has passed 3rd reading by 263 votes for, only 17 against. It’s another crushing example of how little political support the anti HS2 campaign had in real life. Anyway, here’s one picture from earlier. This is a trio of the latest sets to join the c2c fleet to complement the 357s. Six of these Class 387s are leased from Porterbrook, which means this train is made up of half of the fleet!



Another weekend’s over.



After a couple of days at home normal service will be resumed in the morning as I’ll be up at Sparrowfart to head down to London once more. I’ve a commission from a client which will see me taking pictures at Upminster IECC, the signal box that controls a large chunk of the local Essex rail network. Next week’s going to be busy as I’m away Wednesday & Thursday on ACoRP awards judging, with a mere nine stations to visit across the East Midlands train network.

It’s all a contrast to the weekend as Dawn and I have had some quality time at home. Today’s been quite a relaxing one which allowed me to catch up with a few chores at home, indulge in a bit of blogging, get out for a walk and plan more of a forthcoming trip to Ireland. We even managed to fit in a visit to our local pub for a couple of pints in the beer garden. Well, when I say ‘we’ I mean me, as Dawn’s decided to give up alcohol as part of a 60 day challenge, so whilst I was enjoying some of Acorn breweries finest Dee was supping bottles of Becks Blue!

I do enjoy these weekends at home because they’re a relaxed contrast to much of my working weeks that can see me travelling from one end of the country to the other and I’m going to be doing plenty of that over the next couple of months!

So, expect a few rolling blogs this next week, starting early tomorrow morning, but for now – goodnight!

StopHs2, remember them?


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I’ve not blogged about Hs2 or what passes for a campaign against it for a while now, mainly because there’s nothing going on! Oh, there’s still a tiny bunch of Nimbys (nor more than a couple of dozen regulars) banging on about Hs2 on Twitter, but in the real worlds there’s nothing. In an effort to still appear relevant, StopHs2’s Joe Rukin turned up outside a couple of Tory party leadership hustings but he got nowhere near either of the events in Carlisle of Nottingham. Instead he filmed himself rambling on (as he does) about nothing really relevant to anything. Neither video got more than a 2,000 views, so it was all pretty pointless, as usual. If you like watching paint dry, you can find one of the video’s here.

Meanwhile, Rukin’s latest petition on the Government website has bombed. Each one he starts performs worse than the last one. This one’s struggling to get 19,000 signatures. To be in with a chance it needed to have over 53,500 signatures at this stage of the game. When you look at the constituency results, they’re awful. Camden is supposedly a StopHs2 stronghold as it contains Euston, yet only 247 in Camden have signed, and the last one of those was 5 weeks ago! Truth is, the anti Hs2 campaign in Camden has collapsed as most of those genuinely affected have been bought out by Hs2 or have moved on. It’s the same in many other areas. Let’s take the Chesham and Amersham constituency of arch Hs2 anti Cheryl Gillan MP as an example. This has always been ‘the’ anti Hs2 stronghold, so you’d expect tens of thousands of signatures, wouldn’t you? Here’s the reality, I took this screen-grab a few minutes ago.

petition. 14 jul

A grand total of 1608 signatures, not even 2% of her constituents! Some ‘stronghold’! And this is their best result. Notice also that the only constituencies with anything more than a a handful of signatures are those on the Hs2 route? So much for claims that Hs2 antis aren’t really Nimbys!

Another sign of the collapse of their campaign is the results from the only London constituency that registers, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. In the last petition they managed 1555 signatures, or 1.59% of constituents. How many have they got so far this time? Just 389 or 0.399%!


Another interesting feature of the latest petition is the way nowhere on the Phase 2b route to Leeds even registers. The Manchester leg doesn’t even register at all. On the Phase 2a route to Crewe the only one that appears is Stone (with just 287 signatures, 0.335%). The petition’s closing date is 29th October. When it finally staggers to a close I’ll crunch the constituency numbers and compare them with the last two petitions just so we can map the decline. To put their numbers in perspective, remember that Hs2 passes through 63 constituencies that (between them) contain a total of 6.53 million people!

All the evidence points to the fact their campaign’s going backwards, not forwards. More and more folk affected by Hs2 have been bought out and no longer care about the campaign to stop Hs2 and that process continues across all phases.

So, where do they go from here? Nowhere. The grassroots Stophs2 campaign’s effectively dead. Their only hope is that the cavalry (in the shape of a new Tory leader) will ride to their rescue. But, as I’ve blogged previously, that isn’t going to happen. It’s all over bar the moaning now as Hs2 ramps up to the major construction phase later this year. No doubt we’ll still see the usual suspects wittering on about Hs2 on social media for a while yet, and there’s no sign of Joe Rukin being employable, so expect a few more pointless videos as he tries to keep himself in the public eye. But as for any effective campaign, the show is well and truly over!


The changing face of rail in the Calder Valley



The new Northern Rail trains have been in a long time in the pipeline and their introduction’s been delayed by six months, but this weekend the new CAF built Class 195s have actually arrived – even if it is on text runs. On Saturday and Sunday the trains are on test between Bradford Interchange and Todmorden, where they reverse to head back East. If you want to see them on Sunday, here’s a link to the times they should be running at.

I managed to catch a couple of the runs today as Dawn and I were enjoying a leisurely day in the valley so nipped out to Sowerby Bridge. Here’s 195110 returning to Bradford Interchange after a run out to Todmordon.

DG328555. 195110. Sowerby Bridge. 13.7.19.crop

I’m really looking forward to these units entering service on the Calder Valley route in the next couple of months as they’re a step-change to anything we’ve had before. Here’s a look at the interiors.

DG326635. Interior. 331106. 28.6.19.crop

So, if you have time to nip out tomorrow, enjoy the sight of our new trains!


Rolling blog: westward we go…


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07:29.It’s a beautiful morning in the Calder Valley today, full of sunshine and feeling like summer, but I’m already Westward bound on the 07:21 to Chester as far as Manchester. Unlike earlier in the week when this was a rammed 2 car Pacer, today it’s a 3 car Class 150+153 lash-up so there was no problem getting a seat and no-one’s been left behind anywhere.Whilst I was waiting at Sowerby Bridge a unique service passed in the opposite direction. Grand Central work an early morning service from Hebden Bridge to Leeds on behalf of Northern Rail. This calls at Sowerby at 07:17.

I’ve always wanted to get a shot of this but didn’t fancy wandering down to Sowerby Bridge at 7am unless I really had to!


We’ve just left Todmorden and summer’s drawing to a close in front of me. There’s some humongous grey clouds towering on the horizon and it’s looking like once we pass through Summit tunnel into Lancashire the weather’s going to be a bit wet! Fortunately I’ve a folding umbrella on the camera bag but the conditions might make today’s shoot ‘interesting’ to say the least. PR shots and rain are uneasy bedfellows…I’m off to the Alstom factory in Widnes to shoot pictures of one of Transport for Wales repainted and refurbished Class 175s. I’m not sure if I’ll be allowed to share any pictures just yet, so watch this space…


There’s fun and games at Manchester Victoria (where we arrived 5 mins late due to congestion) as a points failure at Earlstown’s having a knock-on effect. I’m now on TPE’s 08:10 to Manchester Airport which I’m taking as far as Oxford Rd. I’d normally walk but those grey clouds I mentioned earlier a currently dumping their load on the city! A sign of how much Victoria has changed in recent years was the fact that as my TPE service pulled in, all four through platforms were then in use by the TOC. It’s a far cry from just a few years ago when Northern had the monopoly on services through Manchester’s second station.


I’m on my 3rd train company of the day as I’m now on an East Midlands Trains service from Nottingham to Liverpool Lime St as far as Widnes.

The rain’s stopped for now but the threatening, low clouds hold the promise of more at any moment. There’s just the occaissional tantalising glimpse of blue sky and sudden shaft of sunlight to tease me.


I’m still at Alstom in Widnes. After completing a whole series of internal and external shots we’ve taken a coffee break in the hope the weather might change just enough to get a sunny external shot. After that I’ll be calling it a day. The guys need to finish working on the train at it needs to head back to Chester tonight. The bodywork looks really good as thus is a proper paint job, not just a vinyl wrap.


Job done! Patience paid off, we waited patiently for a break in the cloud and finally a break in the cloud passed over us in the perfect place for the sun to shine upon us long enough for me to get the shot I wanted.

Now I’m heading into Liverpool to grab a late lunch (and a few more pictures) before heading back across the Pennines.

On the way in we’ve just passed Allerton depot. Talk about changing fortunes! For many years the depot was derelict. Then Northern took it over as a base for the Ex-Thameslink Class 319 electric fleet which were displacing diesels. Now the depot is full of Northern’s next generation of trains, the CAF built 195 and 331s. The picture was the same at Edge Hill carriage sidings. There’s literally dozens of new Northern trains ready to enter service over the next few months as mileage accumulation and driver training is complete.


My, Liverpool Lime St’s changed in just a few short weeks! Not only are Class 195s much in evidence, so are some other interlopers in the shape of Transport for Wales who’re operating a new service to Chester. Here’s a couple of images.

Understandably, there are still teething problems with the new Northern sets. Two were being coupled together when something ‘fell off’. After a bit of head scratching and investigation staff on the scene told me it turned out to be nothing more serious than a spanner someone had left where they shouldn’t have! It caused a minor delay.


After heading back into and across Manchester the same way I came I’m now on Northern’s 18:21 from Manchester Victoria to Sowerby Bridge. As it’s a 3-car and today is ‘POETS day’ (Piss-Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday) my trains neither crowded nor the passengers stressed. That said, I feel sympathy for train crew working this evening as many stations are awash with folk on their way out and expecting to have a good time, as the amount of empty bottles & cans they’ve left behind attest to!

Thursday miscellany.


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Today’s been another mixed day working from home with yet another early start. I ‘commuted’ from bedroom to office before 7am this morning in order to finish finding a whole series of pictures that would allow a client to advertise their wares. It took several hours to finish but I’m glad it’s done and dusted. The added bonus is that it threw up a couple of gaps in my picture library which I can plug later this month whilst doing other work.

Freed from that chore I had time to see that the campaign to keep the HS2 high speed railway in the public eye (especially in the North) has taken another step forward with the release of another report by the High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL). At the same time, Jim Steer of Greengauge 21 had a very good piece in the Yorkshire Post newspaper. This is all a marked contrast to a few years ago. Nowadays the North is very much behind Hs2, with Transport for the North TfN and many others constantly banging the drum for the project and also Northern Powerhouse Rail, which it will form part of.It puts the failed anti Hs2 campaign into perspective. Apart from some on the Tory right who’re still trying to get Hs2 cancelled there’s little evidence of a grassroots anti Hs2 campaign. StopHs2 are very much a joke nowadays with Joe Rukin reduced to making utterly pointless videos for Facebook of him outside the Tory leadership hustings in Carlisle and Nottingham as he’s not been allowed within a million miles of either candidate!Even the few remaining antis on Twitter aren’t up to much, apart from recycling tired and trite spin & the same fake facts they’ve been trotting out for a decade now. Mind you they are good for raising a chuckle every now and then. To say that some of the stuff they trot out on Facebook or Twitter is pure tinfoil hattery is an understatement! If they’re an echo chamber, then that chamber would have been located in Bedlam!

Oh, there has been another bit of good news in the media. The pint-sized fascist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who class himself ‘Tommy Robinson’ has been sent down for 9 months. In one of those great twists of irony that his mouth-breathing supporters will never get, he wore a T-shirt to court that bore the slogan “convicted of journalism”. Yaxley Lennon’s no more a journalist than the next thug in the street. He was jailed for contempt of court, something no real journalist would do as they understand the law. So, what did his supporters do when he was sent down? They attacked real journalists reporting outside Parliament – after trashing a long established pro-EU protest down the road. Now, this is why I say that parallels with the rise of fascism in Germany in the 1930s are all too real. There’s little doubt that ‘Tommeh’ supporters will to a man (and woman) also be Brexit supporters and the Brexit has made fascism fashionable again. It’s let the genie out of the bottle and it’s also poisoned the body politic – to the extent the Tory party Leadership contest is dominated by it. Each candidate has to swear an oath of loyalty to a belief in Brexit Unicorns, because that’s what the tiny bunch of elderly Tory members want to hear – and damn the consequences for the country and the economy. As each day passes we look more and more like an unstable banana republic – only without the benefits of bananas (curved or straight)!

At least Dawn and I will escape the madness (even if for a few hours) tonight as we’re off to the cinema to see the new ‘Spiderman’ film. If I’ve time I’ll let you know what we think. In the meantime, here’s a picture taken earlier when I managed to get out for a stroll.

Midweek musing.


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I’ve had another long day working from home which has allowed me to achieve a variety of things. Firstly, I’ve caught up with picture editing which means there’s now over 59,300 pictures on my Zenfolio website. Follow this link to see which galleries the most recent pictures have been added to. I’ve also been busy on other client based projects, one of which I can’t talk about at the moment but it involves a lot of search for particular pictures. Hopefully I’ll have this finished by the weekend. Of course there’s been the usual paperwork drudgery, plus keeping in touch with clients about jobs old and new via the wonders of email. There’s some exciting stuff to look forward to, including a job on Merseyside on Friday, but more about that when it happens.

Despite all the office based stuff I’ve still managed to get out and get some exercise by strolling up through our local woods, taking a roundabout route to do some shopping, although today the Calder Valley hasn’t exactly been basking in sunshine, just haze and a mixture of dull skies or high cloud. Compared to the fantastic summer we had last year this one’s more like the proverbial curate’s egg!

With being so busy I’ve not been following the news so I’ve escaped the madhouse that’s the Tory Leadership race to the bottom. The idea that the country, or rather a very tiny proportion of it which is Tory, elderly and believes in some batshit crazy stuff – including Brexit – is about to elect a blustering and incompetent serial liar as the next Prime Minister (yes, you Boris Johnson) is beyond madness. But that’s where we are nowadays. The country has taken leave of its senses and all the majority of us can do is watch the car-crash as it unfolds in front of our eyes. How long it will take before the first political crisis arises after Johnson’s elected is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to bet that it won’t take long. The Tory membership may be falling over themselves at Johnson’s feet, but there’s plenty of seasoned Tory politicians who know what a disaster he would be as Premier and the potential he has to tear their party apart and/or lead it to political oblivion. I suppose that might be the only silver lining to this particular cloud but it’s a hell of a price to pay.

Right, enough political musing, I’ve got another early start as I’ve lots of work to do tomorrow and the alarm clock’s already counting down to morning…

Rolling blog: let the judging begin…


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05:30.I wasn’t planning to be up this early but the cat had run out of food, spotted me moving so decided to sit at my side of the bedroom and mew me out of bed! The little sod know I’ll get up and feed him just to prevent him waking up Dawn. Pavlov’s dogs eat your heart out! So, I’m now sipping coffee in the office, checking the weather forecast (it’s worsened overnight), catching up on the news and waiting for Dawn’s alarm to go off. I might as well have an earlier start than planned…Today we have three stations around the Greater Manchester area to judge and all have confirmed that they’re ready for us, so it’s not too onerous a day. I’ll update the blog as and when throughout the day.


I’m currently stood on an absolutely jam-packed Pacer working 1D71, the 07:24 from Sowerby Bridge to Chester which was already full and standing after leaving Halifax. It’s short formed as there should be a single car Class 153 attached. I’m lucky, I managed to get on, many others at Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Rochdale weren’t so lucky!

All through the trip our Conductor has maintained her smile. She’s abandoned her ticket machine in the back cab to stand in the rear door well so she can get to operate them.To add to the fun, we’re now 9 minutes late leaving Rochdale.


We’re now on our way to our second visit. After arriving at Victoria I hotfooted it over to Piccadilly for the train out to the first station (Glossop). We were so busy I didn’t have time to take any phone pictures. Now we’re chugging along through South Manchester to our second.


We’re now on our way to the third station of the day. This was taken at our second one. Any guesses where we were? This is ‘Joe’, who was being given a spruce-up by the local station friends group as we visited


With our last visit of the day done Mark and I are heading off to our respective abodes. It’s been a delight to meet the volunteers at the three (very different) stations and see and hear about the work they’re doing. Here’s a clue about which station was the last one on today’s list. Can anyone tell me where this is?

Plotting and planning…


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Today’s been one of those days stuck in the office where I’ve seen little else other than a computer screen. Most of the morning was spent editing hundreds of pictures from last week’s Network Rail jobs, but at least now they’re done and dusted so I can move on to other work, and there’s one very big job that’s going to be taking up much of this month – judging the 2019 ACoRP awards. The past few days has seem me busy going through the permutations and times of how to get myself and my fellow judge around all the stations we need to visit without us having massively long days. Luckily, Mark, the new Judge who’s joining me this year has a lot of rail experience and has been able to make suggestions I would’ve otherwise missed, so we’re gradually getting there. Tomorrow we start visiting the first stations closer to home before ending up with the more far-flung ones towards the end of the month. No doubt I’ll be rolling out some blogs about our travels. In between the ACoRP work I’ve a few interesting commissions coming up, so expect a bit of variety over the next few weeks. I’m going to be travelling pretty much the length & breadth of England, so there’s going to be plenty to see and photograph.

After the glorious weather we had for our narrowboat trips yesterday we’ve had a disappointing start to the week, the day’s early promise came to naught, gradually the day darkened as the clouds built up, culminating in a wet and dreary Monday evening, leaving me quite happy to be spending an evening keyboard bashing whilst Dawn’s busy downstairs cooking curries. The smells wafting up from the kitchen smell delicious!