24th October picture of the day…

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The expression ‘it’s grim up North’ was certainly applicable to today’s weather as we’ve had persistent rain most of the time. Dawn’s been out and about whilst I’ve been busy at home with various chores and work – hardly the rock and roll lifestyle but productive nonetheless. I did manage to escape the office long enough to take a soggy stroll down into Sowerby Bridge and back along the canal but the weather was hardly conducive to lingering which is a shame as the trees are looking glorious right now as they’re shedding their leaves at a rapid rate and some of the colours are gorgeous. Of course, Covid has meant Sowerby’s much quieter than normal so I avoided the temptation of popping into a pub for a ‘swifty’ as it’s not the same when you’re on your own and I’m not tempting fate by mixing with strangers just for the sake of a quick drink – even if the change of scenery’s appreciated. Whilst we’ve dodged the Tier 3 bullet here in West Yorkshire I’m not convinced we’ll remain lucky and I’ve no desire to put myself in harms way. A select group of us had arranged to go out for a meal in Sowerby next week to celebrate a couple of birthdays (mine included) but the tighter rules have meant we’ve had to cancel. With the way things are I’m not sure when if we’ll get the chance again this year.

Back at home I managed to get another tranche of old railway pictures and memorabilia sorted for eBay, including some rare items such as this. I’m gradually emptying cupboards of stuff I’ve been hoarding for years, but there’s plenty more to add to eBay yet which (along with scanning old slides) should keep me occupied during the winter months – new lockdown or not…

Right, on to the picture of the day. Bugger this miserable weather, let’s pretend Covid hasn’t happened so we’re off to somewhere sunny…

I took this picture on Eriyadoo Island in the Maldives on the 16th January 2004. What I wouldn’t do to be socially isolating somewhere like this right now!

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The stopHs2 campaign’s a gift to Lawyers (but no-one else).

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The other day I was blogging about Joe Rukin and his StopHs2 group, remarking how little visibility they have now they’re redundant, then this pops up – but I’ll bet you won’t see it mentioned on their website!

Why? Because it’s yet another expensive legal fiasco!

Apparently, Rukin had filed for a Judicial Review of the Government’s decision to proceed with the High Speed 2 railway. There was just one teeny, tiny problem. He never offered a shred of evidence to back up his claim – as the court decision reveals.

Not only was no evidence produced, Rukin’s landed with a legal bill of £4234! Only he isn’t really, because – like all the other spurious and futile legal cases brought against HS2 over the years, this one has been funded by donations from gullible members of the public.

Over the years, anti HS2 campaigners have wasted millions of pounds of other people’s money on these lost causes (including taxpayers, as the Government can’t claim damages). The only people who’ve benefitted are the legal profession, who’ve been happy to trouser the cash.

For many years the leaders in this field were the Chiltern Nimbys who called themselves the High-Speed 2 Action Alliance (HS2AA). They took out dozens of Judicial Reviews against HS2 back in the early 2010s. In 2012 they took out 10 and lost 9. Only the most minor judgement was upheld and it had no meaningful impact on the progress of the project. You can find details here. They tried (and failed) again in 2014, this time with Hillingdon Council.

Of course, HS2AA are history now, the group folded years ago. It was left to ‘celebrity’ environmentalist Chris Packham to pick up the challenge of wasting people’s money, which he duly did with his 2020 judicial review, along with his solicitors ‘Pay Day’ (don’t you mean Leigh Day? Ed). The ruling when it came was excoriating, sparing neither Packham nor his solicitors blushes. People’s money wasn’t spared either as Packham had raised the ackers to throw away through a crowdfunder which reached £140,000.

Of course, over the years we’ve heard lots of bluster from other anti HS2 groups threatening judicial reviews, none of which have materialised.

One that did was another 2020 failure by Camden Resident Hero Granger Taylor, which was also Crowdfunded.

Ironically, Rukin’s has been kept quiet, with no mention of it on the StopHs2 website, but then that’s probably no surprise as it was a woeful attempt that was doomed to failure as he couldn’t offer any evidence to back up his claims! I’ll bet his humiliation won’t get a mention either…

I almost feel sorry for the people who’ve been mugged for money by these campaign groups or people like Packham (trading on his celebrity). They’ve spaffed* hundreds of thousands of pounds up the wall. My ire is saved for the people who launch these futile cases, knowing that they can con the money out of people to fund them. I also take a dim view of the legal firms like ‘Pay Day’ (you mean Leigh Day! Ed) who’re quite happy to trouser the cash on the basis that they’re helping to ‘test’ the boundary’s of the law. I’ve yet to hear of them turning round to anyone to say “look folks, you’re wasting your money, you haven’t got a chance of success”

Hopefully, we’ll see people less keen to throw their money away on lawyers and futile attempts to stop Hs2 now – but I won’t hold my breath..

*copyright Boris Johnson

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23rd October picture of the day…

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Another odd one where time’s elastic – but not in the way where it expands so that you can fit everything in – exactly the opposite! So, I stepped back and thought ‘bugger it – it’s poets day*’ and did as much as I could before decamping to our local pub to have a socially distanced evening and a right good giggle with friends.

Oh, before I go any further, let me explain *poets day for those unfamiliar with the term. I learned it when I was working as a Housing Officer in London in the 1980s. It stands for Piss Off Early, Tomorrows Saturday. I’m sure a lot of people in various industries can relate to the concept!

Having done so, it was lovely to catch up with people in one of the few ways we can right now. Three of us have a birthday next week and the original idea was the group would go out for a meal. That’s now been canned (for obvious reasons) so we’re all feeling a bit bereft. As much as some tech geeks like to pretend the internet’s the future, Zoom birthdays really don’t cut the mustard.

Right, on to the picture of the day, before the build-up in my spleen needs venting…

Here’s Taprobane, a privately-owned island off the West Coast of Sri Lanka, which has an interesting history. I took this picture on the 13th January 2002.

Right now I can think of worse places to be isolated upon…

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More trouble at t’stophs2 mill…

As we slowly descend through autumn towards winter the anti HS2 campaign follows a similar trajectory from failure into farce. All the protesters bluster that bloomed in the Spring as they set up new ‘protection’ camps has blown away like dandelion seeds. The name ‘protection’ camp was always an oxymoron as they never protected anything. From a peak of eight camps they’ve gradually been whittled down to five, some of which are now redundant, whilst others are just refuges for the remaining rag-bag of protesters as many have already buggered off home.

I wrote about their early financial shenanigans and internecine warfare in this blog. That warfare has continued as HS2Rebellion never did account for the £36,000 plus that was raised through crowdfunding. Instead, they came over all pained and ignored the calls to be open and accountable. But (to their credit) some activists in the camps wouldn’t let the matter drop.

This week was meant to be HS2rebellion’s ‘big push’, both on social media and outside Parliament, as this daft poster explains.

*Narrator* – only they didn’t rise up, few participated and the decisions are made by an anonymous few…

Anyone on social media like Twitter could be forgiven for missing their ‘online action’ as it was as big a flop as when The Hs2 Action Alliance (remember them?) once tried to organise a ‘Twitterstorm’. A handful of teenagers Tweeting stuff they don’t understand and who react badly to being challenged does not an ‘action’ make.

Worse was to come outside Parliament an online yesterday. Their ‘big event’ attracted just a few dozen people, many of whom were the same old faces, Middle-Class Nimbys from the Chilterns who’ve nothing better to do and a few self-styled ‘eco-warriors’ who think posting overly long rambles where they just make stuff up on social media actually changes anything.

“What are we doing here? Shouldn’t we be up trees – or something?”

Then the excrement hit the air-conditioning live on the HS2 rebellion ‘livestream’ when one of their controllers got into a public spat with a camp protester.

Asking where the £35k plus went is classed as a “ridiculous conspiracy theory” apparently, because the person blocked was no other than Hayley-Marie Pitwell (see my other blog for the lowdown) – as she explains herself…

It seems HS2Rebellion and many of the protesters are breaking out into bit of good, old-fashioned class warfare! The ‘posh boys’ (and girls) who make up much of the hierarchy of groups like Extinction Rebellion and HS2Rebellion do seem to have a knack of alienating some of the troops like Hayley-Marie! Now, I may disagree profoundly with her on HS2 as well as her world view, but I have to admire her persistence in following the money on a matter of principle.

As you can imagine, battle-lines were soon drawn as supporters of either side rallied around. If you so desire, grab some popcorn and browse the HS2 rebellion and associated Facebook pages to watch the fun. It’s better than many TV soap operas!

Whilst the farce unfolded on social media and outside Parliament you may be forgiven for asking the question “whilst they’re parading around outside Parliament, who’s actually trying to stop HS2”? It’s a question some of their activists were asking too. Here’s several rather revealing examples. Firstly, this one about the hopeless and hapless Denham ‘protection’ camp which is rapidly becoming redundant as the National Grid crack on with preparations for installing their new High-Voltage pylons.

It’s very true. All that’s coming out of Denham nowadays is a stream of videos showing what the protesters have utterly failed to stop. It’s akin to the old TV game show where the presenter used to tease losers with “here’s what you could’ve won!”

Meanwhile, over at Crackley camp, a lone protester managed to get atop a digger for a bit and sent this, which rather neatly encapsulates the futility of what they’re doing.

No ‘ground support’ means that she was on her own. What did she achieve (apart from getting arrested and having bail conditions imposed?). Nothing. More was to follow…

Does this sound like the ‘growing’ campaign HS2Rebellion like to bluster about? This was rather revealing too as reality is finally starting to sink in to some people

I suspect ‘holiday’ is a euphemism for people sodding off back home as many won’t return. Looking at some of the early photos the protesters used to post of their gatherings in the spring/summer is a bit like looking at old photographs of soldiers from WW1 where the dead, wounded or missing in action are labelled, only in this case it’s injuncted, arrested or gone home! With this rate of attrition and with the onset of winter I can’t see the protests achieving anything other than becoming more and more of a farce, especially as HS2Rebellions rhetoric and daft lies becomes more and more out of step with reality. The cognitive dissonance is strong there. You might compare their PR tactics to those of Goebbels, the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it. In truth, they’re more Comical Ali than Goebbels!

Remember when Joe Rukin and StopHs2 were a thing? Until Extinction Rebellion came along, they *were* the anti HS2 campaign. Now they’ve all but disappeared. Joe Rukin’s phone still rings on the odd occasion a friendly media outlet need a quote, but that’s it. Their website tells the sorry tale. Compared to the heady days when there could be several posts a day and dozens a week there’s been one since early September, and that’s a very brief one to tell people where the remaining protest camps are!

Politically, the anti Hs2 campaign (and I use that word loosely) is finished. All that remains is a dwindling rag-bag of protesters who’re spending more and more time on infighting. How anyone thought this bunch could stop the largest construction project in Europe (spread over 140 route miles) is a mystery and an exercise in just one thing. Hubris.

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22nd October picture of the day…

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Another one of those days where nothing quite seems to go right…

After the saga of the fridge repair that didn’t happen today we’ve had another domestic farce. Our washing machine had packed up and the new one was being delivered this afternoon, so I was ‘confined to barracks’ for most of the day as the delivery slot wasn’t exactly tight. To be fair, they turned up PDQ and rang me to say they were on their way, so I had chance to clear the kitchen. If only things had been that simple. As soon as they started disconnecting the old machine they hit a problem. There was a historic leak on one of the water pipes connecting to the washing machine, so it was job stopped! Now, I can sort of understand – the last thing they want to be involved in is an insurance claim for flooding, but a more mature and experienced sort of person might have said ‘it’ll be reet’ (as they say in this neck of the woods) and cracked on.

Instead, I waved them and our new machine goodbye (whilst muttering imprecations under my breath) before clearing out the sink to sort out the leak. Half an hour, a bucketful of swear words – and a skinned finger or two later and the problem was solved. To be fair to the guys – they’d spotted something I hadn’t. The colour-coded stopcocks which indicated hot and cold pipes were the wrong way round! I didn’t do any of the old alterations to this house, but I’d like to shake whoever did warmly – by the throat! So many DIY jobs I’ve taken on since have turned into a nightmare as I have to correct old bodges, and whatever you do, don’t ever get Dawn started on the honesty and propriety of the person she bought the place off or we’ll be here all day!

This means we’re now without a washing machine until Monday. OK, first world problems I know – and we have Dee’s parents as backup, so it’s hardly the end of the world, it’s merely one of those little niggles that interrupt your day. Which brings me on to my picture of the day. First world problems? We just don’t know we’re born…

I took this picture in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on the 20th March 2018. Imagine your mother/grandmother working carrying bricks on a building site for a few rupees a day (every day), then having to wash the family’s clothes in a local river – or as someone once said – trying to break stones with wet washing – anyone who’s ever travelled in India will know exactly what I mean.

Now, what was that I was saying about a broken washing machine?

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21st October picture of the day…

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The pair of us have had another day working from home at Bigland Towers, which hasn’t been much of a hardship as for much of the day the weather’s been crap with low grey cloud and heavy rain showers dominating the valley.

On the bright side, sitting in the office all day has allowed me to get all of yesterdays pictures edited and on my Zenfolio website as well as catch up on some paperwork. I had to stay in anyway as an engineer was due to call around to fix a problem with our American-style fridge, which has been playing up. Sadly, that didn’t go to plan as when he did arrive – he didn’t have all the correct parts! Ho hum…

I’m hoping for better luck tomorrow. We’ve a new washing machine being delivered as our old one’s given up the ghost after 13 years, so another day of type-swiping and waiting for the phone to ring beckons. Hopefully, I’ll have one last chance to get out on Friday before Manchester (and now South Yorkshire) go into Covid Tier 3 restrictions. Will we in West Yorkshire be far behind? I haven’t got a Scooby Do! Sense and Sensibility left the field of play quite some time ago.

If restrictions do kick in here then I’ve plenty of things to keep me occupied, which is a plus. The fact the nights are drawing in and I’ll have nowhere to escape to less so. The Covid blues were bad enough in the summer. Winter’s a whole new ball-game.

On that note I’ll move on to the picture of the day, which reflects the seasons. The trees around here have suddenly cottoned on to the fact it’s autumn and are shedding leaves by the truckload. The colours are stunning, so I’m hoping for a bit of sunshine over the next few days to be able to capture scenes like this, which I took Westwards down the Calder Valley in Todmorden, West Yorkshire on the 15th November 2018. In the picture a local Northern train service leaves the station to cross the viaduct that straddles the centre of the town, whilst the surrounding hills are awash with a range of autumn colours. With the rapid rate the leaves are dropping at the moment, I doubt the scene will look similar this November.

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20th October picture of the day…

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Hmm, what a strange day it’s been. I wanted to escape the office today as all the omens are that I’ll be spending a lot of (involuntary) time stuck at home over the winter months, so I’m making the most of what freedom I have whilst I have it.

Anyone reading the political runes over the past couple of days could see that there was a political dog-fight brewing over Covid, the Government’s tier system and the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. Today it came to a head. With this on the horizon I decided to take a trip into Manchester to document how this is affecting the railways, but also to stock up on some cooking ingredients that we can’t get locally. If I’m going to be stuck at home then cooking is one of my therapies, so having the raw materials that allow me to recreate South-East Asian dishes means a lot as there’s bugger-all chance of me getting out to that part of the world until 2021 at the earliest.

Manchester city centre and the railway stations that serve it were the quietest I’ve seen them for months. It seems that the message is already getting through to a lot of people who’re already staying away. I headed to Chinatown to buy the herbs and other ingredients I needed but the place was pretty much deserted – which felt very surreal for what’s normally a bustling area of the city.

Having got most of what I wanted I made my way back through Victoria station, which brings me on to a very topical picture of the day…

A solitary passenger checks his phone as he waits for the 15.33 to Newcastle at Manchester Victoria, 90 minutes before the Prime Minister was due to make a televised announcement over what Covid tier Manchester was going to be placed in after a very public spat with the elected Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Personally, my feelings are that right now we’re becoming increasingly ruled by Downing St diktat as the democratic institutions of this country are ignored – be they Parliament or local politicians. Meanwhile the PM’s office has developed a standard tactic of blaming everyone else for Johnson’s failures – be that the EU, Parliament, local Mayors or other devolved institutions. This is only going to get worse as the clock (inexorably) ticks down to January 1st.

Welcome to Britain in 2020…

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19th October picture of the day…

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Today’s hardly been the most exciting of times. Instead, it’s been one spent glued to a computer screen in order to add 250 plus pictures from my recent travels onto my Zenfolio picture website. They fall into all sorts of categories (rail, travel, shipping and the building of High-Speed 2) so if you want to gave a browse and find out which galleries they’ve been added to – follow this link. I’ve also used my time to email out the latest batch of winning bids on eBay, I’ll be restocking my site with a lot more old pictures and railway memorabilia this weekend, but there’s still a few hundred pictures and badges remaining from the last batch. Here’s a sample.

Unfortunately, the weather here in the Calder Valley’s not particularly conducive to great photography right now, but I’m hoping to get out and about to get some pictures this week before the clocks go back and the day get too short for travelling for – that’s if we’re even allowed to…

So, without further ado – here’s today’s picture, which I took one bright spring morning way back in March 2001 whilst I was walking through Green Park in London. The building behind those park gates is Buckingham Palace…

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18th October picture of the day…

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Today’s been a day for catching up with jobs at home as well as beginning the task of sifting and editing the hundreds of pictures that I’ve been taking over the past few days. Even so, the pair of us were determined to get out and spend some quality time together, despite the gloomy (but mild) weather conditions. This afternoon we put on our boots and headed up the other side of the valley and over to the Moorcock Inn on the edge of Norland Moor. The Moorcock’s been a regular calling point of ours very many years now. It was once we missed during the ‘lockdown’ so we were delighted when they reopened. Sadly, the latest Tier 2 tightening and uncertainty over the next few weeks means they’ve taken the decision to shut their doors once more from November 2nd. It’s a crying shame as we’d booked in for a meal for our wedding anniversary, but we can absolutely understand why they’ve chosen to do what they have. Having received the news we couldn’t not go up for possibly the last time before they shut just to say hello and offer our support – and enjoy the views from the beer garden one more time…

This rather neatly brings me on to the picture of the day, which is the view from our cottage looking across to Norland taken on the 3rd January 2010. As beautiful as it looks, I’m hoping the scene isn’t repeated this January!

Tommorrow I’ll be busy catching up on eBay sales and adding some of the new pictures I’ve been editing to my Zenfolio website – and hopefully a bit of blogging, so stay tuned…

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Take the long way home…

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16:00

I’m currently on my way back to West Yorkshire after escaping the latest London ‘lockdown’ as I stayed over in the capital after my trip to the isle of Wight – or ‘littler Britain’ as it could be called. To be honest, it was a lovely trip with perfect weather and a blog about the unique Isle of Wight railway will follow later in the week. In the meantime, here’s a taster. This was the view from my hotel window yesterday morning. We couldn’t have asked for better weather either!

What was also good about the break was that it was planned just before the latest local and national shutdowns were introduced, as it may be some time before we can do such a thing again – because I have no trust in the Government to come up with anything resembling a coherent strategy to deal with Covid. It reminds me of the anarchic 1970s American sit-com ‘Soap’ where the trailer for each episode would include a plot recap and end with the words “Confused? You will be – after the next episode of Soap!” – only in this case substitute Government briefings for Soap…

Leaving London was weird. I stayed in Clapham so wandered down to the Junction to get a train into the city. I’ve never seen the place so quiet on a Saturday. It was the same when I caught the Northern line tube from Waterloo to Euston. This picture was taken on my train between Charing Cross and Leicester Square which is normally on of the busiest parts of the route on a Saturday as its teeming with tourists who don’t realise how close together the two stations are and the fact it’s far nicer to walk!

At Euston I took time to have a look at progress on the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway work around the station and the ridiculous and totally ineffective ‘protection’ camp in nearby Euston Gardens. You’ll be able to find the pictures in this gallery in the next 24 hours.

Right now I’m heading back (stage by stage) up the West Coast main line via LNW trains. Sadly, the weather’s nowhere near as good as it was in the Isle of Wight, but even so, I’ve managed to get some useful library shots and hope to get more when I reach Manchester. Leaving London the trains were very quiet but the further we get from the capital the more people are joining us. Even so, the numbers are abysmal compared to pre Covid levels.

16:38.

After changing trains at Crewe I’m now on my wat to Manchester. Crewe was eerily deserted. The new lockdowns are obviously taking their toll on passenger numbers which had grown over the past few months as restrictions were relaxed. Sadly, as I’ve headed further North I’ve seen more people (almost all young) ignoring the regulations on mask wearing. You can easily spot the stereotype they conform to. Either young girls made up to the nines or ‘chavvy’ young men, both too arrogant and ignorant to consider others.

18:10.

I’ve just walked across central Manchester from Piccadilly to Victoria stations, which was an instrutive experience. The city centre was busier than parts of London! The majority of folks out and about were young and the pubs were doing a steady trade. One thing I noticed was couples where the woman was wearing a mask but the man wasn’t. Is this some bizarre macho thing? On the plus side, more people of all ages were masked as they walked around compared to a month or two ago – so the message is getting through – albeit slowly. Another thing I noticed was more folk up North use disposable masks whilst in the South the pattern is for people to have washable ones where they can also express some dress sense or individuality through the patterns and designs.

Watching people’s behaviour makes me think we’re not going to be out of the Covid woods for some time yet. How much damage it will cause economically, socially and healthwise in the meantime is a question I don’t think anyone can answer.

Sitting on my 3-car train from Manchester to Halifax I can’t help noticing it’s busier than many trains I’ve used today- but then it’s half the size! Even so, there do seem to be more folk travelling in the North.

20:00.

Home again! Now it’s time for me to relax and put my feet up before sorting and editing the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken over the past few days and getting them on my Zenfolio website. Here’s one last taster. Whilst I was at Clapham Junction I caught one of SouthWestern Railways new Bombardier built Class 701 trains out on test. The company has 60 ten-car and 30 five car trains on order which are intended to replace their old BR built fleets. Only they’re late. Very late – and they’re proving troublesome – so when they’ll actually enter service is anyone’s guess right now.

701002 approaches Clapham Junction on its way to London Waterloo. This was the first set to be delivered by Bombardier in June 2020. The whole fleet of 750 vehicles was meant to have been in service by the end of 2020. To date, none have entered public use.

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