Rolling blog. Go West…

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11:00

It’s a beautifully sunny day here in West Yorkshire, so after being cooped up in the office since Monday I’m venturing out and heading West to give myself and the camera an outing and make the most of the autumn light. I’ve also arranged to meet a friend who’s over from Ireland and pick up some exotic food shopping from Manchester’s Chinatown as I can’t get the ingredients in our neck of the woods. I’m hunting Kecap Manis, the Indonesian/Malaysian sweet soy sauce which is a staple of Asian cousine in that part of the world. Anyone who’s been to Indonesia and eaten locally will immediately know what I’m talking about. The little plastic bottles of sweet chili sauce and Kecap Manis are ever-present on the tables of Rumah Makan’s (food stalls) across the archipelago.

Right now I’m sitting on the 10:44 from Halifax to Manchester which is made up of a pair of CAF built 195/0s. It’s busy, but not overly so. Passenger numbers on the railways have really bounced back, especially leisure travel. Commuter and business numbers are still down but climbing. The bounce-back has confounded the sceptics who predicted a much slower recovery. I’ll be interested to see how busy Manchester’s main stations are later today…

Watch out for regular updates and pictures throughout the day…

20:33

Sorry! I take back (with embarrassment) what I said about regular updates. I’m now on my way home from Manchester after a really good day but one that went anything but to plan. I’d intended to head West to get pictures of the Porterbrook leasing Class 769 bi-mode trains and also get a few shots of the new Stadler Class 777s which are on test runs before being introduced into service on Merseyrail. But today was ‘one of those days’. For once I had company on my quest. I met an Irish friend who’s over in the UK for a break but who’d never explored the routes I was looking at, so it seemed like a natural synergy. Having hooked up at Victoria we headed West on a pair of 156s to Wigan with the intent of catching up with the 769s there. It wasn’t to be. On arrival we checked ‘Real ‘Time Trains’ only to find the bi-modes were few and far between and certainly not on any train we were waiting for. There was only one thing for it. Adjourn to the pub and plan..

HS2rebellion: The fat lady’s singing (day 5)…

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It’s just as well I promised not to give you a day by day account of the eviction of the Wendover squatters as I’m not sure I could have sat through hours of their turgid ‘livestreams’ and rambling commentaries that would make GBNews (the ‘gammon channel’) seem interesting.

Most of the videos posted on the HS2rebellion Facebook page have come from that fantasist Mark Keir. I did recommend that *if* you had to watch them to do it with the sound turned down. Sadly for me, I’ve had to endure his unhinged ramblings so that you don’t have to. Apart from the general lying through his teeth about the impact of HS2 on the environment the general rule of thumb with Keir is that if he asserts or suggests something in his commentary you know the opposite will actually happen. A few days ago he claimed that the bailiffs were packing up for the day because they were moving a cherry-picker. A short while later they’d plucked the last remaining tree protesters out of a bath stuck up said item of foliage. The other day he claimed an Inspector from the Health and Safety Inspectorate was going to stop all the work because it was ‘dangerous’. A few minutes later the cherry-picker was back in action, resuming demolishing the only Tower on the site! Oh, and never trust a man who spends so much time laughing at his own (unfunny) jokes! One thing I’ve noticed and a trend that’s continued since the start of the eviction is how few people tune in to watch these tedious livestreams. They never get into triple figures. When you consider that some of the folk dipping in to observe will be supporters, not opponents of HS2 these numbers are appalling, but predictable. A lot of HS2rebellion supporters have moved on after defeat after defeat.

Frankly, the last few days have been an embarrassment for HS2Rebellion. Despite all the ‘calls to arms’ from people like Keir, no-one, apart from a handful of the usual suspects, have turned up to stand helplessly on the opposite side of the A413 to ‘bear witness’. Whilst Keir and Co have focused on the slow demolition of the tower over the only tunnel on the site which is held by less than 10 people, they’ve deliberately ignored what’s happening on other areas of the three sites that make up the camp but one of their number let it slip in his livestream. Iain Oliver (aka ‘Pirate’), who’s been evicted from several camps (most recently the completely useless Wormwood Scrubs squat) filmed the dereliction and destruction of what appeared to be the main camp through the fence. This part of the camp was allegedly meant to remain untouched as one of the protesters – who faces several serious charges unconnected to her HS2 activities – had been remanded on bail to that address. The fact the bailiffs are now taking possession of that part of the begs the question as what’s happened to said person, as the other protestors aren’t even mentioning them anymore. Has ‘Yogi’ done a runner?

This leaves the ‘tower’ and the only tunnel on site which lies beneath it. Both appear to be occupied by around half a dozen people. The bailiffs are taking their time scrapping the tower before they can get to the tunnel, but why wouldn’t they? There’s no hurry. The camp isn’t in the way of any work. It’s not stopped any HS2 construction anywhere. Plus, there’s only ever going to be one result.

Because half a dozen people cut off from the real world on a site that’s not even needed to built HS2 was always going to stop HS2…

No doubt this farce will drag on for a while yet, but it’s achieving nothing other than wasting time and money. If anything of any note happens I’ll do an update. In the meantime expect a blog next week from somewhere where the real action is – the HS2 construction sites at Euston…

Meanwhile, the fat lady’s in fine voice and enjoying her last hurrah…

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13th October picture of the day…

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Today’s been a curate’s egg sort of day. I won’t dwell on the bad parts but the good ones are that I’ve managed to arrange some more jobs, sift yet more emails and paperwork, get my daily exercise in – and book tickets to see Paloma Faith for when she appears at the Piece Hall in Halifax next year. Oh, I’ve also managed to scan another bunch of old slides, this time from the 1990s, which has made me rather introspective as they’re of old friends and family that I’ve lost in the intervening years.

Some of the work I’ve been arranging is around the forthcoming COP26 conference and series of events in Glasgow in November. The importance of this major Climate Change conference can’t really be overstated, but looking at the record of our Government I can’t help but wonder if they’re taking hosting the event any more seriously than anything else they do. You know, like actually running the country for the benefit of the people who inhabit it, rather then the folk who donate money to the Tory party?

The signs aren’t good. Here’s why,

You’d think that decarbonising our transport infrastructure (the biggest single source of UK Co2 emissions) might be seen as a bit of a flagship policy and something to boast about at COP26? But then this happens – a story broken by an old friend on the International Railway Journal.

Yep, UK freight operators have been forced to revert back to diesel traction because of the rocketing cost of electricity! I’ll revisit this story in the next few days.

Meanwhile, here’s the picture of the day, which is rather a personal one. The tranche of slides I’ve been scanning include some of the one and only time my mum came down to visit me in London. After much persuasion Lynn and I managed to get her on a train to come and stay with us in the East End – an area she was fascinated with because of her Civil Service experiences in World War 2. One of her jobs was re-issuing ID cards to people who’d been bombed out of their homes. I remember her telling me that she knew exactly which cities and areas had been attacked because of the stream of applications they dealt with – even if it was never mentioned on the BBC due to wartime censorship.

So, here’s Mum looking comfortable in the ‘Sun in Splendor’ pub on the Portobello road on the 21st May 1994.

Mum loved markets and a bargain so she was fascinated by the stalls and butchers in the Portobello Rd and elsewhere in London. A trait I’ve obviously inherited…

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12th October picture of the day…

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We’ve had a quiet but busy day here at Bigland Towers. I’ve been whittling down a list of ‘things to do’ both business-wise and socially, whilst at the same time lining up some jobs for the future with varying degrees of success. During the process I received a phone-call from a work-colleague of 12 years standing who’s become more than that as we see each other as good friends. She wanted to let me know that she’ll be leaving her job by the end of the year but wanted to tell me herself rather than me find out on the grapevine. I was delighted for her as she would be crazy to turn down the opportunity she’s been offered, but also sad that we probably wouldn’t work together again as she’s leaving the industry completely. Such is life, when you’ve been around for so many years as I seem to have been now you often see people come and go. Some of them you miss, others not…

Apart from that note of sadness it’s been a positive day. The weather’s been kind I’ve managed to bump up my exercise regime as a consequence and still get a lot done. Oh, there’s several blogs in preparation too – all I have to do now is find the time to root out the pictures for them.

As well as everything else I’ve also managed to get around to scanning a few more old slides. Not a huge amount, but the logjam is starting to be cleared once more. When the photographic work quietens down again (as it normally does in December-January) I’ll be rattling through slides at a much faster rate. Normally, January would be our big holiday. Dawn and I would get away for at least a month in SE Asia and I’d often stay away much longer, but Covid’s put paid to those plans, at least for now. Instead, I’ll be clearing the decks of various projects here in the UK. But, in homage to warmer climes and those long trips to exotic locations that have been the mainstay of my life for so long – here’s the picture of the day from today’s scans. I took this picture (on slide film) on the 14th December 1993. This was my hotel in India – honest!

The building you see is the Umaid Bhawan palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India. The palace was begun in 1929 as a job creation scheme as the area was suffering from a severe drought that deprived many farmers of their living. It was commissioned by Maharaja Umaid Singh and designed by the British architect Henry Vaughan Lanchester (a contemporary of Edwin Lutyens). The Maharajah’s ancestors still occupy the majority of the 347 room building, but when I was there part of it had been converted into a hotel. Lynn and I hadn’t planned to stay there, but it was Lynn’s first time in India and we’d had to sleep in the luggage racks of a packed overnight train from Delhi, so I thought a bit of luxury was in order as a commiseration. Of course, in 1992, the cost of luxury was very different to what it is today and the room we had was actually quite reasonable! That evening we sat out on the balcony you can see here, sipping cold beers, watching peacocks wander the lawns and through the bougainvillea bushes. Then at sunset, a sitar and tabla player appeared to give us our own personal performance. Magic! If you want to see more pictures that I took at the palace, you can find them here.

Oh, to be able to have the freedom to do these things again…

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11th October picture of the day…

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The pair of us are starting to adjust to the idea of being back at home and work after a much-needed break in Shropshire. The positive note was that we came back just in time to catch some lovely autumnal weather which has stayed with us today – even if we only got out to enjoy it this evening as the day’s been full on for the both of us, catching up with work commitments as well as planning the next few weeks. I’ve got some interesting events coming up over the next few weeks, plus some new opportunities in the pipeline. Dawn’s been occupied catching up with her colleagues at Community Rail Network, one of whom pointed out that it’s only eight weeks until we’re down in Southampton for the Community Rail Awards! This year seems to be flying by, despite the continuance of the fallout from the pandemic, lockdown and all the other stuff that made 2020 feel to drag. To be honest, I can’t say I’ll be sorry to see the back of 2021 in the hope that 2022 will finally see a return to near normal and I can get away from ‘plague island’ for a while.

The change in the seasons are becoming very obvious in our local woodland, where the leaves are developing their autumnal palette, far more so than the trees we observed in Shropshire which are clinging on to their summer greens. I’m praying we get plenty of bright, sunny days before the final leaves are shed as it’s a glorious time of year to be out with a camera. But first, I have a few other jobs to do that involve cities, not countryside. Although not all will involve such architectural gems as the picture of the day…

Today’s image was taken on our Shropshire sojourn during a visit to Ludlow, a fantastic old market town full of Tudor and other era gems. This is the frontage of the wonderfully wonky Feathers Hotel.

The frontage of the building was completed in 1619 although the core is earlier. The hotel is three storeys high excluding the cellar and has a three-bay plan, with bays which are moulded and carved mullions and transoms, with cast diamond glazing. It was built by Rees Jones, an attorney from Pembrokshire who had come to Ludlow to pursue his profession at the “Council of the Marches”. Clearly, the legal profession was a wealthy one in those days. Nowadays it’s a grade 1 listed building that’s been a hotel for many years.

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HS2rebellion: The fat lady’s singing (day 2)…

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Tempting as it is to lapse into a ‘Big Brother’ style spoof (“it’s day two in the Wendover house”) I refrain from succumbing! This is only going to be a short blog anyway as little of interest has happened. The bailiffs and police have the site secured with a literal ring of steel, having it all fenced off. Access was always made difficult by the fact the squatter camp was bounded by the Chiltern railway to the West and the A413 to the East. Sneaking in was never going to be easy and now the remaining occupants are cut off from their tiny bunch of supporters, few of whom turned up today.

This morning less then a dozen of the usual suspects (Keir, Thompson-Smith et al) spent their time in a pointless stunt outside Bucks County Council offices ‘demanding answers’ as to why the CC had leased the land to HS2 to carry out the eviction.

The selection process for the Golgafrincham B Ark – sorry – the HS2Rebellion protesters outside the Bucks CC office this morning. I’ll bet staff were quaking in their boots! As for ‘local’ Mark Keir (one of the 9) lives in West Drayton in the London Borough of Hillingdon. Who knows where some of the others have been drafted in from.

It was the same tired and trite diatribe and bluster about how everyone, HS2, the County Council, the bailiffs, the police, the courts – and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all – were colluding and acting ‘illegally’. In fact, the *only* people who were supposedly acting legally were the protesters! It’s a bit like an unfunny version of ‘Carry on Cleo’ with Keir in the part of Kenneth Williams, shouting “infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy!”

A weary Council Officer was sent out to talk to the protesters and listen to their nonsense. No doubt a reply will be drafted laying out in legal detail the reality of the situation – to which Keir and co will respond in true pantomime fashion with ‘oh no – it isn’t’! – and the curtain will rise on the next farcical act as none of this will change a thing.

A video has appeared on Youtube with Mark Keir, who went full Goebbels on camera to Sky News. His fantastical claims have become more and more unhinged. HS2 will drain the Grand Union Canal and destroy drinking water? He seriously thinks people will fall for this stuff? Keir and Co have got to the stage now where they’ll literally claim anything as they know the game’s up.

Of course, while their pantomime was in Aylesbury there was no-one to bother the bailiffs, who just got on with the job of assessing the site and working out how many protesters might be playing their pointless game of hide and seek. There’s obviously no rush to get them out as they’re not interrupting any construction work in the slightest – which is why this camp (like the Euston one) is utterly pointless. Plus, the longer this drags on the more of the tiny bunch who turn up outside will get bored and drift away. There’s little in the way of boastful livestreams or posts coming from inside the camp either, so the keyboard warrior voyeurs who normally feed off this stuff have little to send ‘love and rage’ about (unless you get off on a 14 sec, close cropped vid of someone eating out of a can). Euston or Denham this ain’t, it’s all going to be a bit boring and tedious. So I won’t be doing daily updates, merely try and keep a tally of how many have been evicted and when it’s all over.

Meanwhile, the fat lady’s in fine voice, even if it’s a comic opera she’s singing in!

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HS2rebellion: The fat lady’s singing…

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I woke up to the news this morning that HS2 contractors, police and bailiffs had begun the long-awaited eviction of the last anti HS2 squatters camp remaining on phase 1, the risibly named “active resistance” camp outside of Wendover, Buckinghamshire.

As it’s situated alongside the busy A413 road the operation’s begun on a Sunday in order to lessen the disturbance to locals (most of whom will only be too glad to see the back of the squatters). It’s difficult to say at this stage how few people are still occupying the camp but the numbers are small – as can be judged from the absence of comments and livestreamed videos from inside the camp compared to previous evictions. As news of the eviction has spread on social media a few more people have attended but as they can’t get into the camp they’re doing little other than creating a nuisance to traffic!

Events are unfolding on the HS2 Rebellion Facebook page where some videos are being posted, but they make it clear that the squatters and their few friends watching outside are vastly outnumbered. A large number of the familiar faces who were the ‘hard-core’ of the protesters are noticeably absent. Currently, the bailiffs are repossessing areas of the woods and erecting fencing. There’s very little in the way of confrontations as even the squatters seem to have realised the futility of their actions. The numbers watching the videos are also markedly down from previous events, which suggests many of the keyboard warriors and armchair activists have lost interest as the result is only going to go one way. None of the livestreams have had viewers above double-figures! Mind you, as the one’s on the Rebellion FB page are from fantasist and liar Mark Keir (the Walter Mirtty type who claimed to have watched the Roald Dahl tree being cut down in Jones’ Hill Woods) that’s hardly surprising. His commentary’s so away with the fairies you’re better watching the videos with the sound off!

I’ll keep you informed of how things progress as it could be several days before the farce is finally over.Whenever that is, it can’t change the fact that the ‘rebellion’ against HS2 was always more bluster than fact. It took little more than a year for the protests to collapse in ignominy. Now the fat lady’s singing…

UPDATE: Sunday evening.

It’s only day 1 of the eviction and already some of the handful of squatters have been removed. One left of their own accord as they were feeling ‘unwell’ and another two were removed from a bathtub up a tree! I mean, seriously? a bathtub up a tree? The camp has been established for two years and if that’s the best they can come up with. Needless to say, the bailiffs soon pulled the plug on them!

The farce will continue tomorrow and for a few days hence. However long it takes doesn’t really matter as (like the Euston tunnels) this camp isn’t stopping construction of HS2 in the slightest. Oh, if you are tempted to watch any of the videos on Facebook, I would seriously recommend turning the sound down if the commentator is Mark Keir! He’s made a tedious ass of himself as usual today, at one point claiming ‘victory’ because a cherry-picker was being moved so (according to him) the eviction was over for the day – only for said cherry-picker to then pluck the pair from the bathtub! Keir reminds me of the old adage – “How do you know when he’s lying? His lips move”!

Just how away with the fairies these people are is demonstrated by this earlier tweet from an old face. “Boots” (aka William) – the ‘eco-warrior’ who’s recently flown back to the UK from one of his regular jaunts to Spain.

Apart from the fact you can file this under ‘it never happened’ the idea that these people (who have minimal supplies as the donations have been running out) can hold out for ‘months’ is hilarious! You just know this tweet isn’t going to age well…

So, turn down the sound (you won’t learn anything factual) and pull up the popcorn as the eviction unfolds over the next few days…

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Back in Yorkshire…

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We’re now back home after a brilliant week in Shropshire. We left this morning but took most of the day to come back in order to prolong the holiday. First off we nipped back down to Ironbridge for breakfast in the hope we’d see the place in the sunshine that was predicted. Sadly, that wasn’t the reality. Low cloud and mist cloaked the area leaving the light looking flat. Even so, we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the town – and a decent breakfast of smashed Avocado and poached egg on toast at a cafe overlooking the bridge.

Bidding adieu we decided to ignore the motorways and cut across country in order to explore. As much as we’ve enjoyed Shropshire we’ve noticed a marked difference to home as we’ve toured the county. Many country pubs are derelict or are intact but remain closed, meaning it’s hard to find somewhere to stop for a drink or bite to eat. In contrast, most of Yorkshire’s establishments have reopened. Why there’s such a disparity is impossible to fathom. We know some of our locals are struggling to find staff. Is the situation worse in Shropshire, and if so – why?

Heading back the first major town we looked at was Market Drayton. As the name suggests it’s a market town. There’s some fine old half-timbered buildings but we weren’t tempted to stop as we’d been spoiled earlier in the trip when we’d visited marvelous Ludlow (and also Shrewsbury). So, we kept driving across country. Passing through Loggerheads (no, really!) to skirt Stoke and pass through Leek before hitting the Peak District. The weather improved the farther North we got, so much so that by the time we arrived in Buxton the temperature felt more like June rather than October! It was so good we decided to take a break and found a pub with a beer garden where we could sit and soak up some rays over a drink and watch the world go by.

Buxton is known for its waters (bottled and spring) but for people with an interest in railways the area’s also known for its rail connected quarries which ship stone all around the UK. Dawn was happy to drive past the one at Peak Forest in order than I could grab a couple of library pictures as the weather conditions were perfect. Here’s a sample.

An empty DB Cargo train backs into the loading area at Peak Forest. Each one of those wagons can carry almost 78 tonnes of stone. There’s 22 of them in that formation. Loaded, they’ll carry 1,700 tonnes. In contrast, an 8-wheel HGC road vehicle can carry just under 20 tonnes, meaning each train like this is taking 85 8-wheeler lorries off the roads. Oh, and that’s before we even think about the amount of Co2 saved, not to mention all the other environmental benefits.

The rest of the trip home was in weather akin to what you can see in the picture. Sadly, it’s not forecast to last, but hey-ho. We’ve had a great break in Shropshire which we both thoroughly enjoyed – and we’ve still got the weekend to look forward to (and a busy week after that)…

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@hs2rebellion celebrate yet another pyrrhic ‘victory’…

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Over the past few days the media has been covering the story of the trial of seven HS2 ‘rebellion’ protesters who were arrested after being evicted from the tunnels they’d dug under Euston Square gardens earlier this year. After the eviction which lasted over a month the Metropolitan police charged the protesters with aggravated trespass.

Yesterday, at Highbury Magistrates court District judge Susan Williams dismissed the charges against the seven, leaving HS2 ‘Rebellion’ in boastful mood – as this post on their Facebook page demonstrates.

“Victory” for the tunnellers? Really? Why? What did they stop?…

So why did District judge Susan Williams dismiss the charges? Well, the answer’s rather embarrassing for HS2rebellion and the hopeless protesters. It’s because whatever they did in Euston Gardens they were never going to stop HS2 being built as the gardens weren’t an active HS2 worksite. Put simply, you can’t ‘stop’ what isn’t happening! This article in the Guardian newspaper sheds more light.

Laughably, Daniel Hooper (better known as ‘Swampy’) is quoted as saying. “Our plan is to stop HS2”, completely ignoring the fact he couldn’t possibly do so by digging a tunnel under Euston Gardens, which is why the Judge dismissed the case. Even Baldrick can come up with a better plan than this! But this is typical HS2Rebellion and their through the looking glass world. It’s very Orwellian,1984 truthspeak – ‘failure is victory’…

Ironically, I’d been highlighting the fact these protesters were useless as they were nowhere near an active HS2 worksite right from the start of the protest and in blogs like this one from February, before the farce came to an end.

Of course, HS2 Ltd were disappointed that the charges (brought by the Metropolitan Police) were thrown out of court as the whole fiasco is estimated to have cost £3.5m. After all, Just think how many trees that could have planted? I’d suggest that the police need to work more closely with lawyers in future to ensure that any charges levelled are appropriate and stand a chance of sticking in court. Even so, this was no ‘victory’ for the protesters Their raison d’être is to stop HS2, but yet again they’ve proved themselves to be abject failures – and now their day is done…

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– and relax! (Shropshire diary. Day 6)…

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Just a short blog from me today – although I’ll flesh it out when I have a little more time when I’m back at work.

Today the pair of us passed the day walking on the Long Mynd above the little town of Church Stretton in Shropshire. The Mynd’s a heath and moorland plateau that’s been designated and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). It’s reached by a series of steep climbs from the town – which it towers over. Unlike when we climbed nearby Caer Caradoc we were lucky with the weather, as these pictures show. I’ll describe the area in more detail soon…

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