Lockdown. Day 61 (Saturday).

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This morning we woke to the sound of the wind unabated. For the second day running it battered the trees and homes around us. In fact, it seemed to have increased in intensity, so my first job after breakfast was to strategically position bamboo stakes in the front garden to support the Irises and Lupins which were in danger of being beaten into submission. Even the two-stage aluminium ladder I keep chained up at the back of the house had shifted and needed re-securing which was a tribute to the strength of the wind as this is a sheltered space .

None of this could dim our happiness that we’d be getting our cat back today, although an early phone call from the vets was a concern. Whilst Jet had responded well to the opiates overnight the vet was a little concerned about his demeaner and the fact he was drooling so wanted to keep him under observation for a bit longer. Out of deference to their expertise we acquiesced but both of us suspected we knew what the problem was. After two nights, Jet was getting ratty with being stuck at the vets!

As there was nothing we could do but wait we did the best we could to pass the day, filling our time with stocking up on some shopping and pottering around at home. I scanned a few pictures but neither of us could give anything our full attention. It was that sort of a day.

What made it more awkward was the vets were only offering an emergency service so their normal number wasn’t being answered. Essentially, we had to wait for them to ring us. Finally, late afternoon they did. We had a chat about Jet’s progress and demeanour and the vets agreed – it was time he came home!

The surgery is only a 15 minute drive away so I wasn’t long before we picked him up. He was totally placid and disinterested in the world when we did. The vet said he was like a different cat to the one the day before, when he’d been growling at them. But we knew this was because he’d been fed up!

When we got him home the ooor boy was rather comical. He was obviously still off his head on the painkillers he’d been given! He staggered and bumbled his way around the house like a drunk, but the first thing he did was make a bee-line for his litter tray, which seemed like a good sign! The vet had left a catheter in his front left leg (just in case) and it was both comical and sad to watch him trying to shake it off as he walked. Eventually, he settled on his heated mat and we managed to get some food and water into him. Despite rhe poor old boy being off his head he was still as affectionate as he’s always been and we were so glad to have him home. We took turns in keeping an eye on him whilst I worked in the office and Dawn cooked up another chicken Madras. Dee had liked the one I did the other night so much she decided to have a go herself and cook up a big batch to eat now with more for the freezer.

Whilst domestic life was improving now the band’s back together the UK political world continues to fall apart with the revelations that Johnson’s PR polecat – sorry, Special Advisor Dominic Cummings has shown his contempt for the Covid-19 lockdown by taking a few trips to Durham from London. I suspect this story is going to run for sometime as it looks like the journalists who broke it are letting it out but by bit, which is making the Tories flounder as they don’t really know what the full story is. Meanwhile, the Labour party who at long last have a Leader who knows what he’s doing are going to make the most of this shambles to expose what a useless and dishonest bunch we have in control. I think this from Twitter pretty much sums up how many people view the situation right now. 

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After the sacrifices millions have people have made over the past few months to keep themselves, their families and everyone else safe from Covid-19, to see the Government endorse ‘one rule for us, one rule for you’ is sticking in an awful lot of people’s throats – on every side of the political divide. I wonder what the next series of revelations and the Government’s response to them will reveal? 

 

 

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Lockdown. Day 60 (Friday).

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And then the gales arrived…

This morning we awoke to the sound of high winds whipping though the trees outside and battering the house as they rampaged across the valley. It was impressive, but also rather disturbing as life’s not exactly normal at the moment so the last thing you need is to worry about storm damage!

The irony for me was that I was sitting in the garden the other day, looking at the Lupins, which are about to flower, and thinking “I wonder if I need to stake them yet as they do get battered in high winds”. My subconscious obviously knew more than my conscious mind!

Today was another that didn’t really catch fire as the both of us were still concerned about Jet (our cat) and how he was getting on at the vets. I know that the old adage ‘no news is good news’ is true, but that doesn’t make the lack of news any easier sometime. With so many vets in the area closed down due to Covid-19 the one’s that remain open are obviously having to deal with a vastly increased workload and I can understand the pressure they must be under, but it does make you anxious, not knowing when they’ll get chance to find time to ring us as we don’t want to be bugging them.

So, the morning passed with a meditation and an easy breakfast before we both knuckled down to try and do some work. I’ve only managed to get a handful of old slides scanned this week so I was anxious to try and pick up the pace a little and crack-on with finishing the album I’ve been scanning for a few weeks. I’d hoped to have had it finished by now!

As always when scanning pictures, the time flew. After sitting for a few hours I took a break by getting out for a stroll along our tree-lined road, which was a bit like taking your hands due to the gusting winds. There was debris everywhere as the trees had taken a real battering. There were so many leaves on the road it was like autumn, only this was a sea of green.

The wind didn’t drop all day, it just kept coming! I was glad that I had an excuse to stay indoors. I’ll bet it wasn’t much fun if you were on a ship somewhere as from what I saw on social media pretty much the whole country was talking a battering.

Whilst I was busy upstairs Dawn was pottering around keeping herself busy downstairs, although both of us were waiting for the phone to ring and get an update from the vets. Jet was due to have some teeth out but we knew the vets were under pressure due to lockdown and a reduction in vets in the area, so we’d no idea when (or even if) they’d be able to get him seen to. To say it made for a stressful day was an understatement!

It wasn’t until the evening that the vets rang. Jet had come through the opration and the anaesthetic but now only had two teeth left. We were both hugely relieved but the vets would be keeping him in another night to monitor his progress, so we wouldn’t get him home for another night at least.

Whilst we’d waited we did have one fun diversion – the weekly ‘Big 6’ on Zoom pub quiz. Dredging the memory banks for answers to arcane questions is certainly a good way to take your mind off things! Tracey, Holly, Tony, Fran and Aubrey, Olly, Ruth, Kath, Dawn and I pitted our wits against questions asked by Mel in her own inimitable style – and Lancashire dialect!

The rest of the evening was relaxed and hassle-free. After all, it’s not like we’ve got to get dressed up to go out! Instead after eating we did what so many people across the country are doing – retreated to bed and logged on to Netflix. Goodnight!

 

 

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Lockdown. Day 59 (Thursday).

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Remind me never to complain about our moggie jumping on the bed ever again…

We both missed the boy this morning as he’s still in the vets. As a consequence our plans to get up early didn’t materalise. It wasn’t a ‘duvet day’ by any means but we hit the ground ambling rather than running as we waited for a morning call from the vet to let us know how Jet was. When the call came, it was (mostly) good news. He’d had a comfortable night and the pain relief was working. His potassium levels has risen and he was less dehydrated, but he was struggling to eat because of the pain from one of his back molars, which really needed to come out. The vet didn’t want to risk that until he’d regained some strengh, as there was a real risk we’d lose him under the anesthetic, so we were facing another day without him. Needless to say, this took the shine off the day.

Luckily, we had plenty to keep us occupied as Thursday’s shopping day and our weekly trip out of the valley to visit Huddersfield. We headed out not long before 10 and immdiately noticed the roads were the busiest we’ve seen them since lockdown began, driving into central Hyddersfield from the M62 motorway junction at Ainley Top was like a pre-lockdown day as traffic was that heavy.

Our first port of call was the big Sainsbury’s supermarket which was also much busier than last week so we had to queue for about 10 minutes, not that we minded. The weather was warm and sunny, although their was a persistent breeze that really kept the temperature down low enough that you still needed a fleece.

Once inside the pair of us breezed around with our respective trollies Dawn shopping for her parents and I for the two of us. It social-distancing ballet was harder to choreograph this time due to an increase in people. Family groups had been allowed in which was a real pain in the arse as they spead out and take up so much room. Kids being kids – they’re also unpredictable! Even so, it’s a lot more pleasant than the melee you normally get before a bank holiday.

Shopping done we headed over to the water tower at Huddersfield station that’s the base for Dawn’s organisation –  Community Rail Network (or ACoRP as it was until the recent rebranding). Dee needed to spend some time in the office collecting paperwork and sorting out some bits so I had time to get a few shots around the station area. There’s still few rail passengers about and you could dump a herd of elephants in the deserted car park! The bus stand in the square outside was equally deserted. I watched a Trans-Pennine Express a 5-car Class 802 pull out of the station on its way to Leeds and counted just 4 passengers aboard. This is despite the ramping up of rail services since last week. Here’s a sample of what was around.

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The 0Z68 Crewe Gresty Bridge to York Siemens loco move with 68029, 68028 and 68032 leading pass through sunny Huddersfield.

Having done what was needed the pair of us drove up to Dawn’s folks and dropped off their bags of shopping, staying just long enough for a chat in the sunhine before heading home as we both had work to do (and a vet to hear from). As we crossed over the M62 motorway I was surprised to see just how quiet it was compared to the local roads. There were very few cars or vans, most of the traffic was articulated lorries.

Back at home we stowed away our shopping then phoned the vets, who said Jet had gone for an x-ray, so they’d ring us back later when they knew the results, which left us feeling a bit uneasy. Dawn knuckled down to some work whilst I sat in the garden and caught up wit reading some technical publications I’d picked up from the CRN office earlier. To say the Covid-19 picture’s still confused for the rail and bus industry would be putting it mildly. Then again, is any aspect of the UK’s policy clear? The statistics on testing and deaths can’t be relied on, the ‘roadmap’ for the future exit from lockdown seems to be held upside down and we have an absentee Prime Minister and a Cabinet that makes the Keystone Cops look like the SAS. Meanwhile, scenes of traffic jams at our national parks and beaches show that relying on the “common sense” of the great British public is pinning your faith on an oxymoron. What could possibly go wrong? If only we could go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint and wait for all this to blow over…

After ploughing through my ‘light’ reading the sun was sufficiently over the yard arm for me to break open a bottle of beer. We still hadn’t heard from the vets, which was worrying so we rang them again. A very apologetic nurse explained there’d been confusion earlier as they had TWO black cats called Jet in today. It wasn’t our Jet that had gone for an x-ray. Later the vet rang us and we got the full low down. Jet is staying in for another night so that they can stabilise him ready for his tooth extraction which (hopefully) should happen tomorrow. There’s still a risk with the anesthetic as he’s struggling to eat, so doesn’t have his strength up – but what can we do – other than go ahead and hope all will be right in the end? Hopefully, we’ll have him home soon…

Jet

Jet in better days, just where he likes to be – on the bed!

As a distraction technique I decided to do some cooking this evening and rustled up a chicken Madras from one of the ‘Hairy Bikers’ recipes. It’s a quick fix but very tasty. We ate it with chapattis as a change from rice. Dawn even said she preferred it to the recipie she uses. Within a short time I went from this;

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To this…

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I continued the therapy with a Gin and Tonic to wash the curry down with! Hopefully, tomorrow – we’ll have good news about the boy. The place just isn’t the same without him…

 

 

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Lockdown. Day 58 (Wednesday).

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Today was not the day we’d hoped for. It started out in style with a brilliant weather forecast suggesting it’d be the hottest day of the year so far. The pair of us were up early, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to make the most of it. Jet, our cat had given us a break and slept in his own bed last night, he only leapt on this morning after Dawn had got up.

My plan was to eschew slide scanning for the opportunity to catch up with blogging, paperwork and reading. I was sat in the office typeswiping when Dawn told me that Jet had been sick. Nothing much – just some bile. It’s not unusual as we thought he’d probably been trying to bring up a furball. Then he was sick again. This time we could see there was something wrong. He retreated to his heated mat (we bought him one to ease his arthritis as he’s 18.5yrs old) and lay there looking very sorry for himself.

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The both of us were concerned but decided the best thing we could do was keep an eye on him. It was easy enough for me to shuttle between my office and the bedroom so I kept him under observation. He didn’t stir for several hours and was very quiet, which is very unlike him, he’s normally a very noisy cat and often wanders in to me for some attention. This wasn’t like him at all. In the afternoon Dawn looked in on him and decided to phone the vets. We managed to get the last appointment of the day at 17:50, so all we could do is look out for him until then. He hadn’t eaten or drunk anything all day, which was another concern.

With the weather being so glorious I relocated to the front garden to soak up some sun and crack on with writing as well as reading up on the current news from the rail industry. The day was a real scorcher so popping upstairs to check on Jet every so often was a useful cooling off period. Poor Dawn was stuck inside at her desk as the amount of paperwork she has to deal with makes it impossible to move outdoors in the way I can.

When it was time to take poor Jet to the vets we dug out his cage and Dawn lifted him in, which produced the only noise he’s made all day. He was clearly in pain. Normally, when we take him in the car to the vets I sit his cage on my knee and leave the top off as he’s a curious cat and he loves watching the world go by. This time he lay at the bottom of the cage without as much as a peep out of him. The vets had a system where the building was closed but one of the nurses would come and collect your pet off you before taking it inside for a check-up. We had an anxious few minutes sat in the car until the vet rang Dawn to say that Jet had Pancreatitis and was obviously in pain. They were treating him with opiates, hydrating him with a drip and would be keeping him in overnight to monitor him and do some blood tests. It was a relief to know he was in good hands, but a wrench to leave the poor little bugger…

Neither of us felt up to much after that. It was already 19:00 so we went and sat in the sun with a drink and talked about the day and our concerns for ‘the boy’. With everything going on right now we really could have done without the stress of this, but what can you do?

Let’s hope tomorrow brings some good news…

Lockdown. Day 57 (Tuesday).

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Today was another good day and it even had a touch of variety! It started well as the pair of us were up early following our productive routines of exercise and meditation. Dawn doesfar more exercise than I as she follows a regime via social media where she’s part of a group. Me? I stick to weights and walking – although I’m missing the workouts I used to get from carrying a 12-13 kilo canera bag around all day. It’s nearly two months since I last did that and I expect it’s going to be a shock to my knees to be picking up the strain again once this is all over and I can get back to travelling.

Somehow I suspect It’ll be a while before that happens. Whilst the railways started running an expanded timetable yeaterday the Government advice is still to stay away and there are plenty of unanswered questions over how the hell you manage social distancing on a busy public transport network as it will kill capacity. Not just on trains but at stations too.

All these matters are discussed by my colleagues in the latest edition of RAIL magazine which is available tomorrow. I have an article in there too but mine is a look back at 10 years of the reopened East London line. I lived and worked in that neck of the woods for over 10 years, from 1986 to 1997 before moving to North London for another 13 years, so I know the lines of old.  

As usual, a large chunk of my day was spent scanning slides but later in the afternoon the pair of us decided to nip out to a local farm shop as we both fancied something freshly cooked rather than relying on provisions from the freezer – even though that’s all home cooked meals. There’s no processed or ready-meals in our larder!

The first farm shop we called at only did phone in orders, which was our mistake as we should’ve checked first. Instead, we drove to our usual source of goodies at Bolster Moor, which we knew was open as we’d called in the other week. They’ve done a good job of working out social distancing space and their was no queue to get in, so shopping was a delight in the circumstances. 

I came away with some sirloin steak to use in a Thai salad as well as some chicken thighs. Oh, and one of their sublime pork pies which was still warm from the oven – although we were good and shared it between us!

Rather than drive straight home we took a detour via some of the local country lanes. Why not? Traffic’s light, it’s close to home and Dawn knows the roads. so it was lovely to break the monotony of the same routes we’ve been sticking to for the past two months.

En-route home we popped into the Tesco supermarket in Sowerby Bridge to pick up some alcoholic and non-alcoholic supplies. The place was quiet and the queue was short, so it didn’t take us long. Unless you’ve just arrived from Mars pretty much everybody knows the drill by now.

Back as Chez Bigland we buttoned down for the evening but first there was time to enjoy a drink in the garden and listen to the birdsong emanating from the stand of trees opposite the house. They’re a popular spot for all manner of our feathered friends including Wood-Pigeons, Crows, Magpies, Jays, Blackbirds, Finches, Tits and even the occasional Sparrow, although for some reason Sparrows are seen far more often at the back of the house than the front. The Tits are tarts, they get everywhere, as do the Magpies. 

Once the sun had set Dawn adjourned to the kitchen to prepare the Thai beef salad whilst I disappeared into the office to finish of some slide scanning before supper. The wait was worth it…thumbnail_20200519_222646

To be honest, neither of us are big red meat eaters. It’s something we have on rare occaisions, but when we do something like this is right up our street as the meat is simply one component of a dish with fantastic flavours. 

I have a suspicion food has become far more of a focus for many people thanks to the situation we find ourselves in. As we both enjoy cooking it’s actually good fun and we can honestly say that throughout lockdown we’ve not eaten a single take-away. Mind you, even before lockdown we’d only order a take-away once every Preston Guild. But we did enjoy visiting restaurants. I can’t see us doing that again for a while…

Lockdown. Day 56 (Monday).

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After yesterday’s slight hiccup the two of us faced a new week with renewed determination that the next seven days would be productive! It certainly started well. Dee was up just after 6 to begin her daily exercise regime. I stayed in bed a mite longer but made the most of it by working on the laptop whilst I sipped my coffee and kept the moggie company. He’s decided our bed’s his now and won’t take no for an answer. Trying to remove him’s like trying to throw away a boomerang!

I did join Dawn in time for a morning meditation which put us both in a good frame of mind for having a positive day, whatever life threw up.

Suitably balanced we retreated to our separate workplaces and cracked on. I’d already got a queue of slides ready for scanning and had a pleasant trip down memory lane, meandering back 27 years to the summer of 1993. I’m still amazed at how many of the pictures I remember taking although every so often one foxes me, leavng me thinking “what was I doing there, then”? The fact the individual slides are still unblemished and undamaged after over a quarter of a century is a relief too. There’s the odd one with a bit of surface scratching but I was meticulous about keeping my camera clean after having some travel pictures from India so badly scratched by grit on the film plane back in 1991 that vowed never to make the same mistake again.

Whilst I was busy scanning I did keep one eye on social media and the latest pathetic antics of ‘Extinction Rebellion’ as their tiny band of protesters pretend they can stop HS2. Quite how holding up a some banners outside a couple of worksites long enough to get pictures to post on social media before buggering off again is meant to stop HS2 is a mystery. All it does is fool a few gullible voyeurs sat at home watching into donating their money, but presumably that’s the idea. I notice a lot of the bluster has died down now. XR’s supposed ‘protectors’ have gone from claiming they’ll stop HS2 to saying they’re there just to record ‘wildlife crimes’. Only problem is – despite all their cameras – they’ve failed to capture a single ‘crime’! So we have allegations thrown around like confetti, but not a single arrest, much less a prosecution or conviction.

It is laughable that people who can’t even stop themselves being evicted from any of their tiny camps claim they’re going tostop the biggest construction project in Europe. Talking of evictions, many of the remaining protesters at Harvil Rd (and some of their associates) have been served with writs and are up before the High Court on Thursday this week!

I finally took a break from scanning to take some exercise and stop my legs ossifying. The weather’s the worst it’s been for some time – cold and windy with occasional, desultory rain showers so literally took a walk up the road with the hope that conditions will improve later. My determination that this is going to be a good week extends to getting my daily 5 miles under my belt every day – but it does prove difficult sometimes when juggling so many things. Today was no exception. With the pair of us at full slog throughout the day it was after 18:30 pm that we went out together and did our local circuit through woodland and park before getting home in time for the weekly Platt family ‘Zoom’ call. 

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Zoom is a good stopgap for face to face contact in these troubled times, but will it replace it? You have to be joking!

Afterwards I had a last hour in the office editing today’s scans and getting them onto my Zenfolio website. You can find them in this gallery. 

I added to my health ‘brownie’ points by also having an alcohol free day so I felt very virtuous by the time I climbed into bed that evening. As for all those scanned slides – here’s a sample. 

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On the 1st July 1993 Class 86s No’s 86634 and 86637 haul a Freightliner train bound for Ipswich through Stratford in East London. Built for the West Coast Mail Line electrification in 1965-66 these locomotives were 23 years old when this picture was taken. Remarkably 86637 remains in service today, 27 years later – although not for much longer! Freightliners remaining Class 86s are about to be replaced by Class 90s displaced from Liverpool St – Norwich services. The 90s have been rendered surplus by the introduction of the new Stadler built Class 745 units. 86634 lasted in service until May 2002. It was scrapped at CF Booth, Rotherham in 2005.

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Lockdown. Day 55 (Sunday).

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*My apologies, this blog was written several days after the event as I’m frantically trying to catch up with recording the lockdown*

It’s said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We had a few of those today but they went out of the window almost as soon as the day broke! I’d intended to get some work done, scanning old slides, then catch-up on some DIY whilst Dawn had plans to carry on with her redecoration of the front room and the porch. The weather was ideal as it was warn but overcast.

In the end, none of that happened. I don’t know if it’s lockdown fatigue or ennui but the pair of us ended up sleeping late. Even when we got up the day never seemed to get into gear and before we knew it most of it had flown. In an effort to salvage something from the day we finally got our arses into gear and went for a walk around the valley. Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions we’re still not venturing far. Partially because we don’t want to get caught up in crowds and partially because – what’s the need when we live in such a scenic part of the country? We have some lovely views right on our own doorstep!

Our walk took us down to the valley floor and across the river Calder at Copley, below the Lloyds data centre where a new housing estate and road bridge has been built in the past 5 years. It’s not a place I’d want to live as it’s hemmed in by the river on one side and the canal on the other, with the risk of flooding that brings, but many people don’t seem bothered and the properties have all sold. Once across the river we passed under the railway lines and headed out into open country along Hollas Lane. Purely by accident we’d timed our trip perfectly with the weather as the clouds that had blocked the sun for most of the day finally broke, giving us a gorgeous spell of clear blue sky. Leaving Hollas Lane we followed footpaths across the fields which took us along a sunken, stone lined trail which is a perfect green tunnel.

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Breaking out into the sunlight on the other side we’d great views back across the valley to ‘our side’ and the height we’d gained gave us a commanding view of the Copley railway viaduct. It was so nice to be out that we stopped in field for 20 minutes just to admire the views and allow me to get a couple of pictures like this.

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A pair of Northern Class 195s cross the Copley viaduct with a Leeds – Manchester service. As you can see from the tree canopy, Spring has well and truly arrived in the Calder Valley!

It was such a peaceful spot I almost wished we’d have brought a picnic with us rather than just the Nakd bars which we munched on as we enjoyed the sunshine and the silence. The roads are still quiet around here, which allows for blissful moments like this.

Moving on uphill we crossed another couple of fields to reach North Dean Road, which is more of a track than a proper road as vehicle access is extremely limited. We followed it down through the woods to reach the new pedestrian bridge across the Calder to Copley, which replaces a older stone bridge that was washed away in the floods on Boxing Day 2015. On the way we passed masses of pungent wild Garlic which was in flower, carpeting the woods. Luckily I’d brought the camera with just one lens – a 105mm Micro, which is ideal for pictures like this.

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Once across the Calder we headed home through Copley village and re-crossed the canal and railway to head up towards Skircoat Green. On the way I couldn’t resist stopping to grab a shot of this Ceanothus bush which was a mass of blue flowers and industrious bees.

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There may not be very many opportunities to add to my archive of railway images, but I have to admit I’m enjoying the opportunity to shoot other stuff instead as I don’t normally have the time except when I’m travelling abroad.

We headed home through our local woodland (Scarr Woods) some of which you can see behind the train in the earlier picture. Despite their proximity to Halifax and the fact there’s so many properties scattered around their edges we hardly saw a soul. One or two couples like us and the odd family, but there was no danger of proximity or difficulties with social distancing.

Back at home we sat in the garden and soaked up the last of the evening sun whilst I enjoyed a beer and Dawn a glass of Tesco’s non-alcoholic fizz. It was the perfect end to our stroll and what had felt like a wasted day.

I did redeem myself later in the evening by spending an hour editing a few slide scans and setting up a batch for Monday but the both of us thought that the occasional day at less than full tilt was allowed, so we crawked into bed and had an early night, grateful for the fact that – if we want to – we can!

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The UK’s largest new railway station gets planning permission.

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Today, (19th May) the planning application for HS2’s west-London super hub, Old Oak Common, was approved by the Old Oak Common and Park Royal Development Corporation. This gives the go-ahead for what will be the largest brand-new railway station ever built in the UK with a total of 14 platforms comprising a mix of six high speed and eight conventional service platforms. The high speed platforms will be constructed inside a 850m long station box, which has the a volume to contain 6,300 Routemaster buses.

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The new station will incorporate some striking design features, such as an impressive sequence of interlocking curved roof forms, designed to enhance the open environment of the station and provide natural ventilation, minimising energy consumption. The arch forms also reduce the need for columns to support the roof, providing open sight lines, allowing clearer views compared to older, more traditional stations.

HS2 OOC Station Ground Floor Concourse View

The station design development has been led by engineering professional services consultancy WSP with architectural support from WilkinsonEyre.

When operational the station will be used by up to an estimated 250,000 passengers each day, making it set to become one of the busiest railway stations in the country and (potentially) second only to London Waterloo. It’s eight conventional platforms will provide seamless connectivity with the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), Heathrow Express and trains to Wales and the West of England. This will also relieve pressure on Paddington station and the London Underground network such as the Circle and Hammersmith and City Lines as well as allowing faster Cross-London journeys.

HS2 OOC Conventional Rail Platforms View

The station design has been future-proofed with a sufficiently sized concourse and platform space to accommodate passenger growth to 2041 and beyond. Interchange with other modes of transport will be accommodated by provision of a dedicated bus and taxi facility, dedicated drop-off and pickup areas, pedestrian and cycle links, and upgraded highway infrastructure.

New public spaces are also being created as part of the design including a new public square directly outside the station that will include seating and cycle parking and may also be used as a setting for public artwork.

The station is designed to meet a ‘BREEAM excellent’ standard which is an industry recognised standard for buildings that reduce energy usage and materials waste, and minimise impact on the natural environment.

The station is being built by a joint venture of Balfour Beatty, Vinci and Systra (BBVS) who were awarded the contract to build the new HS2 station in September 2019 and are set to begin work on site next month.

The Old Oak Common area has historically been an important railway site as it was the location of the Great Western Railway’s locomotive and carriage stabling depot and workshops. Now, with the arrival of HS2 it’s set to leap into the future as a crucial transport interchange.

Lockdown. Day 54 (Saturday)

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*Warning, blog under construction*

After Friday’s shopping expedition our normal weekend routine was altered by another trip out of the valley as we’d arranged to drop shopping off at Dawn’s folks in Huddersfield. There was no rush, and it was the weekend, so I left Dee to have a lie in and crept into the office to set up more old slides to scan. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll manage to get all of the railway ones done before lockdown ends and my attention has to swing back to commissions. I’m still unsure of how the might work in practice as there’s obvious challenges. Hopefully things will become clearer soon as the public transport gets to grips with the challenges of mass transit and social distancing. In the meantime, I’m ploughing on with scanning and looking forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

After lunch I ended up in a group call with friends from the rail industry which was a fun-filled hour of laughter as gossip was swapped and stories told – none of which are repeatable in a blog like this! For a brief time the physical distance between us disappeared and it was like old times…

As I’d joined the call on my mobile we continued our group chat whilst Dawn drove over to her parents. As we didn’t need to go into the town centre we drove direct across country. It’s a lovely drives that takes in some great scenery and although the roads were busier than they have been they’re still far from normal.

(to be continued)

 

Lockdown. Day 53 (Friday).

*warning, blog under construction*

The end to another working week. Well, in theory as weekends don’t mean as much nowadays, especially for freelances like me as it’s nearly 25 years since I last worked in a 9 to 5 job! Add in the effects of lockdown and it’s very easy to lose track of the days or what you’ve been doing, which is one of the reasons that I’ve been trying to write a daily blog.

Today’s routine did vary as after breakfast I left Dawn busy at work in the living room whilst I took a stroll into Halifax to pick up some shopping from Marks and Spencer’s food hall for her parents. It was my first trip into Halifax since the easing of lockdown restrictions, so I was curious as to what I’d find. With the weather being cloudy but warm it was a pleasant stroll. The main roads that I crossed on the way were much busier than has been the new normal but everywhere else remained quiet. It was the same situation in the town centre, albeit there did seem to be a few more people around – although no new shops appeared to have reopened. The pedestrian precinct that M&S is located in was dead. There was no queue to get in the shop but there was inside. We zig-zagged through ladies underwear to get through to the small food hall where staff enforced a strict one in, one out policy and insisted that everyone used trollies (no baskets). I managed to get most of the stuff on the shopping list although it took me a while as I never shop here so I had no idea where to find things!

Glad to be out I headed over to the local health food store to pick up some of the veggie cheeses that we use at home as Dawn is allergic to cheese. They’re coconut based and more expensive than ordinary cheese but they’re tasty and work really well in salads. We use them sparingly and regard them as a bit of a treat which is probably just as well as I spent over £20 just on cheese!

On my way home I stopped to get a couple of shots, just to show how quiet the place was.

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The Woolshops shopping centre with M&S behind me. On a normal Friday this place would be teeming. Thankfully, most people are still staying safe.

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Corn Market in the centre of Halifax with the Market Hall to the right. a Handful of shops (mostly butchers) remain open in the market, the rest of the place is deserted.

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The Westgate Arcade which leads on down to the Piece Hall, is deserted.

It’s reassuring to see that, despite the Government’s muddled advice, most people have made their own decision to stick with lockdown and stay at home. Sure, there’s always a few idiots who don’t and there’s some fringe political elements on the far-right and left who’re playing on people’s prejudices or paranoia to exploit the situation, but most folks aren’t taken in.

Walking back home with my goodies I traversed equally quiet streets and spent the rest of the day at home scanning yet more old pictures from the 1990s. I was tempting to head outside into the garden to soak up a little bit of sun, but (to be honest) the weather’s nowhere near as warm as it has been and a persistent wind’s taken the edge off it.

This change was obvious when it came to six o’ clock, when it was time for us refugees from the ‘Big 6’ pub to meet via Zoom and recreate the traditional Friday Quiz. Last week many folk were joining from their gardens. This week everybody was inside. The quiz was no less fun and it was lovely to be able to catch up with folks and share a few jokes – even if it was online. I wonder when we’ll be able to do this properly?

Quiz over, the rest of the evening was quite anti-social. Dawn did her thing and I did mine as the pair of us were focussed on other things. On the bright side, I did manage to finish scanning and editing another tranche of slides like this.

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If I stood on this platform and took the same shot today, nothing would be recognisable. This is Stratford (East London) on the 7th June 1993. The railway line still exists, but everything that surrounds it has been swept away as the area’s undergone a massive transformation. The first part was due to London’s growing economy, the second part was due to Stratford becoming a major transport interchange. But the biggest transformation was because of the 2012 Olympics.