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Rolling blog: A chilly day in the Calder Valley

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Today’s a good day to be sitting at home with the central heating on, pottering around doing various chores and keeping one eye on the weather. The temperatures hovering around zero, although the wind makes it colder. We’ve snow forecast and the baleful sky looks like it could deliver it at any moment. Luckily, my new Brasher walking boots have arrived, so I’m prepared!

It’s now mid afternoon and the snow’s turned out to be drizzle, which is a bit of a disappointment but probably for the best!

15:53

Despite the filthy weather and treacherous conditions we’ve ventured out as we needed to stock up on spices ready for Xmas. I love browsing the local Asian supermarkets, marvelling at the variety of exotic veg on offer, or exploring the vast spice aisles. Here’s our haul.

Now we’ve dumped the car, taken our lives in our hands and strolled up the cobbled hill to our local, the Big 6. On the way we passed a car that’s skidded on the ice and rear-ended another! Now, what to choose…

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Rolling blog: Birmingham return…

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09:30

Dawn and I are on our way to Birmingham for the ACORP Association Of community rail lartnerships) AGM. It’s not the quickest of journeys to Britain’s second city due to our Victorian rail network. Right now we’re on one of Northern’s no-frills Class 150s heading to Manchester Victoria. In my opinion these are the worst trains Northern have – even the Pacers beat them. They’re very much in as-built form, which means there’s no tables, the seating’s 3×2, it’s difficult to find a rubbish bin and the views are poor because of the window and doorway arrangements.

Admittedly, there’s not a lot that you can do with the major design defects, but Arriva Trains Wales refurbished their 150/2s and brought them up to a much higher standard. I’ll see if I can dig out a picture to compare later.

10:39

After a brisk stroll across central Manchester we’re now sitting on Cross-Country’s 11:05 to Bristol Temple Leads which is being worked by a 5-car Voyager. I can’t wait to be doing this trip on Hs2, although I’ll have to as it’s not going to open until 2033!

11:49.

We’re well on our way to Birmingham now. The train’s pretty empty for a change, I’ve managed to get a table seat and crack on with some picture editing. Dawn and her colleague Hazel have the table opposite me, so I’m leaving them to it!

The weather’s picking up the further South we get, so I’m hoping to get one or two rail shots before the ACORP AGM starts…

12:52.

The ladies have headed off to AGM venue and I’ve nipped off for an hour to get some new library shots of the cross-city line which is operated by these old Hunslet built Class 323s.

26 of these trains (which date from 1992) work around Birmingham with another 17 based in Manchester. They’re nippy units that are comfortable to travel on as well as being popular with drivers. Despite this, they’re due to be displaced by brand new trains from 2020. However, there are plans to transfer these trains to Northern allowing them to replace the 4-car Class 319s there and work in multiple to run 6-car trains (2×319=8, which wouldn’t fit in most platforms).

16:06.

The AGM’s over and there’s six new board members elected from nine candidates.

18:00

Dawn and Hazel with the outgoing Chair of the ACORP board, Peter Roberts, who’s been keeping order for the last 18 years.

Rolling blog: Leeds liason..

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Best laid plans and all that: I’m currently sat on a train to Leeds with my wife as Dawn’s having to have an ultrasound scan on a shoulder injury, so I’m going with her for a spot of moral support. It’s a pain in more ways than one as time is flying by at the moment and there’s so much to do before we fly out to New Zealand.

Mind you, the concept of time seems to be relative if you’re a member of the Tory party, especially if you’re an MP. Despite the sands running out rapidly on the article 50 date and us getting ever closer to crashing out of the EU in a no-deal scenario, they’ve found time for another round of the interminable civil war to stage a no-confidence vote in the PM. This is proof (were it needed) that the majority of the Tory party only cares about itself and the wealth and ambitions of its members. The rest of the country can go hang. I can see I’m going to indulging in a lot of spleen venting in these next few weeks as these fools take us ever closer to the edge of the precipice.

Whilst my spleen’s up to speed, I’ll have another gripe? What is it about some people who clearly have all the awareness to their surroundings as an amoeba? Here’s an example from today.

These two women have the whole bloody platform to stand on and a waiting room to sit in. So where do they choose to stand? Right in the middle of the doorway! Despite several people having to try and squeeze past them (and being typically British, they never said anytbing to the women) it never entered into their tiny minds that this wasn’t a great place to hand around! I’m beginning to despair of the English and I’m constantly reminded of an old NUT badge from the teachers strikes of the early 1980s that said “if you think education’s expensive, try ignorance”…

From Leeds we had a spin on one of Northern’s Class 170s which have been cascaded from Scotrail. This one was working the 11:55 Leeds-Selby. They’re certainly an improvement on the 158s!

13:48

For Dawn, this has been time well spent. Her shoulder injury is capsulitis which was diagnosed by ultrasound. A Corticosteroid injection was administered directly into her shoulder capsule to help ease the inflammation, so I came in useful as a hand-holder! Dawn was given advice on exercise and posture. We went private, so it cost £150, but it was worth it.

The clinic’s in Garforth, to the East of Leeds. It’s a place i’ve never visited before although I’ve passed through the station dozens of times. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact it still manages to retain a functioning High St. I was also interested to see clues to its past in the name of a pub (The Miners) and this building.

Those days are long gone. The last colliery (Rothwell) closed in 1983, the year before the bitter and destructive Miners strike of 84-85.

17:05

We’re now in Huddersfield. Slightly later than planned as the Trans-Pennine service we caught was (to no-one’s surprise) delayed. The stopping pattern of the Hull-Manchester service we used has changed, it no longer stops at Batley but the automated announcement still claimed it did, much to the Conductors annoyance!

As we left Garforth I spotted this historical plaque on the Miners pub.

Whilst Dawn’s returned to work I’ve been having a mooch around Huddersfield, looking for a few bits for our New Zealand trip. It’s bleeding freezing tonight, the temperature may be rising in Westminster but the hot air’s certainly not reaching West Yorkshire!

This festive season the town’s gained a new attraction in St George’s Square, outside the station. It’s a tent based pop-up pub (I saw the same thing in Lincoln last month).

I popped in to have a look but didn’t stop for a drink as we’re meeting up with Dawn’s parents for a meal later at the wonderful Thai Sakon.

21:20

The food at Thai Sakon was excellent as usual and so were the staff. Here’s my starter: deep fried crispy noodles with prawns in a sweet and sour sauce.

It was a lovely evening with Dawn’s parents. We shared food and laughter. We’re now making our way back home on one of Northern’s less attractive trains.

The picture pile gets smaller…

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After all my travels last week the first part of this week’s been spent at home trying to catch up on paperwork, picture editing and scanning more old slides in an effort to reduce the mountain I have to climb. If you’re interested in last week’s German rail pictures, you can find the full selection here and the travel shots here.

Meanwhile, I’ve made another dent (albeit a small one) in the railway slides. I’m currently scanning a couple of albums from 1996-97. Most of them have never been seen since I took them. A selected few had made it onto my Zenfolio website but now I’m being methodical and scanning complete albums. The beauty of this is that it creates a lot of space! The slide albums contain many duplicated shots because that’s what you did in film days – just in case an important picture was damaged or was out with a client and you needed a copy. I reckon I’m binning at least 30% of the slides I have because they’re redundant now once one’s been scanned. Here’s some of tonight’s batch.

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It’s a reflection on how technology’s changed over the past 22 years. The irony is that I remember working out that each of these cost me about 24p apiece when I added together the price of the film, developing and mounting – plus postage! In theory, I’m throwing away a lot of money!

Here’s a taster of what’s been scanned today.

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Here’s 37057 at the Ipswich Wagon repair depot open day on the 15th June 1996. EW&S had taken over the BR trainload freight companies (Mainline, Loudhaul and Translink) earlier in the year and this was the first public outing of the new livery. 37057, 60019 and the inspection saloon 999504 had been repainted and were on display. So much has changed since those early days of privatisation!

I’ll try and get some more done soon. Right now I’ve got other tasks in hand, including finalising our trip to New Zealand in December-January, plus, I’ve just found out I’ll be working in Birmingham on Thursday.

The UK’s collateral damage to Tory party infighting.

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I really don’t think UK politics can get any more surreal. The origins of the Brexitshambles and the manipulated referendum that kicked it all off were in a Tory party brawl that spilled out onto the streets. The Conservatives have always been split over Europe and the headbangers in their Eurosceptic wing have been a thorn in their side for years. David Cameron bought them off with the referendum – and we all know how well that went!

Since then we’ve had two and a half years of the Brexit headbangers living in a different world to the rest of us. One where no claim was too outrageous and no lie too big to tell. Now we’re coming to the endgame. They never could deliver a single one of their promises, instead they blamed everyone else for the failure to deliver a ‘pure’ Brexit. In that respect the Brexit fundamentalists share the same ideological purity (and total inability to deliver) as the hard-left.

Meanwhile, we’ve wasted two and a half years whilst they try and deliver the undeliverable. All the bluster about ‘take back control’ and ‘they need us more than we need them’ has been exposed for what it always was – English arrogance. The EU has remained united and stuck to its principles.

Now we’ve come to the end game. The deal on the divorce from the EU and one of those burning issues that the Brextremists always dismissed as ‘Project fear’ – the Irish border question – hence the backstop. The Brextremists hate May’s deal because it exposes what the rest of us always knew: leaving the EU makes us a rule-taker, not a rule-maker. All their bluster about ‘sunny uplands’, no ‘downsides’ and how easy it would all be was just a pack of lies – and now those lies have been exposed. Here’s a few of them.

brexit lies

So, the shambles deepens. Teresa May has managed to negotiate a divorce settlement with the EU but it’s painfully obvious to most sensible people that it’s a worse deal than we had. Truth is –  it was always going to be as there are no Brexit Unicorns. But that doesn’t stop the Brexit fundamentalists making their excuses and pretending ‘we’ could have got a better deal if one of them had been PM. May knew she was going to lose the vote on the deal, so cancels it at the last moment. Funny, isn’t it? Apparently, she’s allowed to change her mind all the time, but we’re not allowed to change ours by being given the opportunity to vote in a second referendum on the details of the deal/no deal!

So, what are the Tories about to do now – according to media reports? Stage a fucking leadership contest, that’s what! The UK is like the Titanic, it’s heading straight for a frigging Iceberg, so what do they decide to do – fight over who gets to hold the wheel!

Never has a developed nation been so ill-served by its political classes. Sadly, it’s not just the Tories. ‘Magic Grandad” – otherwise known as the leader of the Labour party is just as culpable in the shit-storm that’s about to hit us as the Government is. It has his tacit support for his own ideological reasons.

If only I could say “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here”…

 

Rolling blog: Düsseldorf diary

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It’s been a quite start to the day here in Düsseldorf, mainly because of the dull, grey weather, plus the fact I’ve used the time to catch up on some admin and picture editing from the comfort and warmth of my hotel. That said, I’m off to explore shortly and have a few hours wandering before I’ve got to head back to the airport and fly back to the madness of Brexit Britain. Here’s a couple of shots from yesterday to start the day.

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Dusseldorf has an extensive tram network and a variety of trams, including these vintage vehicles that people can hire for parties!

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The Hauptbahnhof gets into the festive feeling…

12:52

I’m back in the Altstadt (old town) after spending some time getting shots at the station. It’s very interesting to see the number of private operators on German rails nowadays. Two names caught my eye as they both operate in the UK: Keolis and Netherlands operator Abellio. Here’s one of the services Abellio operate. The other thing that’s caught my eye is the number of new trains here. I can see I’ve some boning-up on fleets to do.

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The weather’s not been as bad as predicted. Whilst it’s grey and damp, it’s mild and the rains failed to materialise, which has made picture-taking easier as I’m not having to start getting into the extreme end of the ISO range.

13:56.

There’s a lovely atmosphere in the Alstadt. What I like is the way that many of the bars have setting outside, so the walking streets are always lively. They’re equipped with heaters, but they’re mode for comfort on a mild day like today. Right now I’m having a beer outside one such establishment.

I have to admit to being a fan of Weissbier!

Meanwhile, here’s a few phone pics and a selection of camera shots from my wanderings

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Foxy lady!

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Watching the world go by from a bar in the Alstadt.

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I love the variety of architecture here.

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These regional trains take 7 – 9 minutes to get from the centre of town to the airport. This was the one that carried me.

17:55.

I’m now sat in the departure lounge ready to catch the plane. I can’t say I’m too enthused about returning to Brexit Britain. Whilst I was in the immigration queue a German woman spotted the ‘Bollox to Brexit’ sticker on my passport. “No need to guess which way you voted” she said (in English). She is also flying to the UK and asked “What have they done to your country”?

I wish I could have given her an answer, as it’s obvious that Brexit supporters are so immersed in their own little world I doubt they even know themselves.

Today, a Brexit supporting Tory MP of Indian heritage suggested we (literally) starve Ireland to ensure they drop the backstop. It’s such a stunningly stupid comment on so many levels it literally takes your breath away. Priti Patel clearly has no understanding of English/Irish history (try googling the potato famine for a start) so also has no idea of diplomacy. Does she honestly think these empty threats will intimidate Ireland – which has its back covered by the rest of the EU?

What the hell have we become as a nation?

18:20.

Ready for take off…

19:48 (UK time).

I’m back in Brexit Britain, having negotiated the rat-runs and cramped passages of Manchester Airport, I find that my journey to Huddersfield is going to be ‘fun’ as Trans-Pennine Express have cancelled a number of services. Plan B means I’m now on a Northern Rail service to Blackpool via Manchester Piccadilly, where I’ll see what’s running across the Pennines…

Siemens unveil the new Mireo…

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On December 6th Siemens unveiled their first of their new regional train platform – the Mireo – at their Wildenrath test centre.

The first order is for 24 3-car Mireo’s. This has been placed by Baden-Württemberg, who have bought the trains which will be operated by DB Regio from June 2020 when the fleet is due to be used on the Rhine Valley network, operating regional services on the Offenburg – Freiburg – Basel/Nuennburg (Switzerland) route during the week and on the Kaiserstuhl region from Freiburg to Endingen/Breisach on Sundays. Here’s a selection of pictures from the event.

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463 502-5 on the test track at Wildenrath. This is the unit we went for a spin on. Well, several spins really!

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The stylish front end of a Mireo

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The standard saloon of one of the 26m long driving cars.

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In the cab of a Mireo. Their top speed in 160kph.

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The open gangway between cars.

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These 3 car Mireo’s for DB Regio have a small 1st Class saloon at one end, right behind the cab. 

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The 18 metre long centre car, showing the articulated bogies and door arrangements. 

Each 3-car Mireo has space for 27 bicycles in a multi-purpose area. All doors are equipped with a sliding platform that automatically bridges the gap between train and platform to allow easier access.

More about the Mireo

The Mireo’s lightweight welded integral aluminum monocoque construction helps weightsaving, as do the articulated bogies. As much as possible, components have been installed underfloor or on the roof, leaving the interior area fully available for passengers with space for bicycles, strollers, and wheelchairs as required. The interior can be converted again and again with minimal effort, whilst the cantilever seating design permits cost-effective cleaning of the passenger area.

Siemens will offer a Hybrid version of the train, as this diagram explains.

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The Mireo will be provided in anything from 2 to 7 car formations.



 


 

 

 

 

 

Rolling blog: I’m leaving, on a jet plane…

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– just a couple of problems. I’m going to a country outside of the Brexit madness – but it’s only for 48 hours. Will I return from Germany to a country that still has a Government – much less one that’s actually in possession of its marbles – who knows! What will be lovely is to spend some time with friends and colleagues in Germany away from all this madness in a fully-functioning country. I’m off to have a look at Siemens new Mireo train, then spend a night in Dusseldorf, where I want to visit the Christmas Market. That means this rolling blog will keep rolling for some time. I’m going to put it on hold right now so as to get some sleep before my flight…

07:12

I’m now awake and guzzling coffee airside at Manchester airport. Judging by the security kerfuffle here Manchester thinks it’s special. For the first time in all my years travelling security insisted that – not only did I have to remove my shoes and belt but my meagre supply of toiletries (none over 50ml) just *had* to be put in a plastic bag and my camera also must be removed from it’s camera bag and be put in a separate tray to the rest of the kit. Utterly pointless of course, but that’s Manchester Airport security for you. It’s why airports are such a miserable experience nowadays, arbitrary rules that make no sense but are justified on the grounds of ‘security’ so you can’t question them. Mind you, I’ve never been a great fan of this airport anyway. It’s cramped and messy, not exactly a great advert for the city it serves. It’s also packed. Looking around the lounge it seems to be mostly leisure travellers, there’s very few people who look like they’re here for business.

09:43(10:43 German time, which I’ll be using now on).

The flight wasn’t bad. I was flying with Eurowings for the first time and they seem a decent airline. The woman pilot warned that there was very bad turbulence in our sector, but we got very little. My only complaint was that the whole of the trip took place with the ground blanketed in cloud. You couldn’t see a thing! Here’s how it looks at Dusseldorf airport.

Now to head to town..

13:40.

The weather’s no better in central Dusseldorf than it was at the airport, so it’s not a great day for picture taking, although I’ve got a few. I think tonight should be good as wet weather and night time are ideal partners.

I tweeted a couple of pictures earlier to try and dispel a couple of the myths about German railways that are popular in the UK because of rail privatisation. Here’s one – that German railways are nationalised. Really? Here’s a local service to Cleve at the Hauptbahnhof. It’s run by Transdev, a private company who run trains in 6 countries.

The myth that German trains are far more punctual than in the UK was exploded by having a look at the board. There’s Intercity services up to 110 mins late!

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Siemens picked up our group and brought us the the PCW at Wildenrath, where the first Mireo was officially unveiled.

DB Regio has ordered 24 of these 3-car, articulated trains. Eight pre-production units will be built and tested here before the Mireo enters public service in June 2020. I’ll blog more about the Mireo separately.

17:06.

We’re now on the coach back to Dusseldorf. Needless to say, it’s now pitch black outside, but at least it’s dry! I’m looking forward to checking into my hotel, uploading some pictures, then going for a wander…

21:20.

It’s been a mild night here so I’ve had a good wander and visited the Altstadt (old town) to see the Christmas Market, which was lovely – and watch the world go by whilst drinking Glühwein. Here’s a few pictures from the evening.

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Lovely, isn’t it? This is trees either side of the Stadtgraben neat the old town at night. 

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Chritsmas market in the square with the Rathaus as a backdrop.

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It does get a tad congested around the Glühwein stalls in the market square.

Glühwein – such a lovely drink on a winters night. 

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Right, it’s 22.47 here in Dusseldorf and I’ve got a fun packed programme ahead of me before I fly back tomorrow, so I’m putting this rolling blog to bed. Goodnight!

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling blog: another day, another adventure!

I’m en-route to Manchester Airport as I’ll be spending the next couple of days around Dusseldorf in Germany. All that will be a separate blog, this one’s about today in the UK.

Thanks to my in-laws (who were visiting as Dawn had sorted out her mum with a new phone) I got a lift to Sowerby Bridge station. I wouldn’t have minded walking but the weather has been particularly wet today. I half expected to look down on the residents of Sowerby Bridge from our eeryie atop the valley side to see them building an Ark.

Now I’m heading for Manchester, and for once I’m early – but only because the preceding service was running late, so arrived first! That said, it’s a comfortable refurbished Class 156 and there’s plenty of seats as it’s a quiet train.

When I get to Manchester I have the delights of ‘bustitution’ to look forward to as it would seem the line to the Airports closed due to engineering work. I wonder if I can get a tram…

23:57.

I eschewed the idea of a tram to explore the reality for RAIL passengers – which is what I do. Right now I’m at Piccadilly, waiting for a rail replacement bus to the airport. It’s obviously been a wet day in Manchester, just as it has been at home, the pavements are sparkling due to the lights reflected in the rain, but it’s been a hard day for the homeless. The rise of homelessness is a national disgrace, before Brexit we were the 5th richest nation on earth, but a decade of politically imposed austerity has wreaked havoc. A problem that was on the wane under the last Labour Government has mushroomed under the new ideology. Here at Piccadilly most of the lasttrains have gone and the stations slowly shutting down. The biggest queues are for fast food, not trains – as you can see in this picture.

Here’s the last departure for Chester.

The concourse still holds a lot of people. Like me, many of them are waiting for the rail-replacement buses to the airport, or the last train train back to York, which seems to be very popular with young students – I can’t think why!

Whilst I’ve been sat here I’ve been fascinated to watch a retired, long-bearded Muslim man collecting discarded food bags and crisp packets. After a while I realised what he was doing. He was collecting the food to feed to the birds. I caught his eye as he crumbled some crisps he’d collected to feed to pigeons who obviously knew he’d be there!

23:57.

Airport bound…

It’s now 01:36 and I’m at Manchester airport. So, in the best Private Eye tradition, tho wiĺl be (cont page 94)…

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Not time for blogging, I’ve been too busy editing pictures – and watching the Government (and hopefully, Brexit) implode.

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As the old Chinese curse goes “May you live in interesting times”. We certainly are. According to the BBBC, tonight’s vote in Parliament which decreed the Government was holding Parliament in contempt was the first time it’s ever happened.  Just think on that…

It’s hard to explain to people unconnected with politics or economics just what an absolute f*****g shambles this county is in at the moment. Or as I saw on Twitter earlier;

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I think “fucktangular” pretty much sums up the Brexitshambles, the Government and the ‘opposition’ at the moment. Never has this country been so ill-served by its political classes. Meanwhile, in other news most people will have missed, one of the architects of this mess, one Nigel Farage, has announced his resignation from UKIP as it’s completed the job he started and morphed into the British National Party. Their new Leader, Gerald Batten has welcomed arch-racist, several times convicted criminal  (and self publicist) Stephen Yaxley Lennon (aka “Tommy Robinson”) into the fold. Apparently, it’s OK to be a racist with a blazer in UKIP, but bomber jackets are just too common!

So, whilst Britain goes to hell in a hand-cart and we have five days of these political shenanigans to look forward to as our (entirely self-inflicted) national humiliation plays out in front of the world’s media I’ve not been eating popcorn, I’ve been editing pictures for clients and my website. Here’s a few samples to lighten the mood.

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An East Midland Trains HST plays ‘peek a boo’ through a doorway at Sheffield station.

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The German Christmas market’s in full swing at the moment. Ironically, it’s sponsored by the city of Frankfurt – although how long this might continue in a post-Brexit world is open to conjecture. The fact this Bierkeller is filled with the younger generation says it all really.

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A birds-eye view of the site of the new High Speed 2 station site in Birmingham. Demolition of the old concrete foundations of the parcels distribution site is well underway.