I’m sitting on a Grand Central train which is taking me back to London for the second time this week, so I thought I’d snatch a few minutes away from work to scribble a few words.

I’ve very much been back on the road this past week, so even slide scanning has had to take a bit of a back seat as slide scanners aren’t the most portable bits of kit, then again – neither are slides!

Last week saw me spending Wednesday conducting a series of interviews for a book. This involved one on-board a train to Wakefield before I hot-footed it across the Pennines to Longsight depot in Manchester, then moving on to Preston for the final interview in the trilogy. Sadly, my journey home was delayed at Blackburn due to some poor soul threatening to commit suicide on the line. This time, the outcome was a happy one. I wasn’t so lucky on Thursday when I had to travel to Oakham for the funeral of Ray “Matey” Towell. The outward journey was fine. I started from Huddersfield with a trip along the Penistone line in absolutely glorious weather. Even the fact that the trip was done on a Pacer couldn’t take the shine off things. For once, I eschewed keyboard swiping on my laptop to soak up the scenery – and the sunshine. The onward trip from Sheffield was to Leicester was done on something a little more comfortable as EMT provided a Class 222 Meridian. Because they’re fitted with power points I had no excuse to avoid knuckling down to do some picture editing. I’d planned to get the train for the final leg to Oakham but a few minutes browsing social media informed me that a number of the ‘brothers’ (oh, and a solitary sister) were converging on the town with the idea of sharing a charabanc. Thus, I found myself with Messers Pridmore, Brennan-Brown, Morris, Hughes and Howard for a laughter filled trip to a place we’d all really rather not have been going…

That said, Ray’s funeral was a fitting send off for such a popular character. Around 160 people filled All Saints church to celebrate his life. There was laughter and tears in equal measure as memories were shared and poems read. Afterwards, most of us adjourned to a local hostelry. After all, it’s what Ray would have wanted.

Time conspired against me as I couldn’t stay for more than a few minutes thanks to a prior engagement in York, so after a swift half and a few farewells I legged it to the station for a train to Peterborough and an onward connection to York. That’s when it all started to go wrong for the second day in a row. A glance at the Peterborough information screens told me that the East Coast timetable was in disarray thanks to a suicide at Stevenage. My train was going to be late but i’d no idea how long I’d have to hang around. VTEC staff were doing their best to keep passengers informed but some questions they really had no answers for. For me, time was of the essence as I was volunteering at the Railway Benefit Fund spring ball that evening. The ETA of my train began to slip as news came of further delays due to what we were told was a trespass incident near the suicide site – exactly what no-one needed*

In the end my train arrived 50 minutes late. Having left myself some recovery time I still managed to arrive before the event started – although I had to change into my tuxedo in the NRM toilets rather than at the hotel (my partner, Dawn was also a volunteer, so she’d carried it with her)! The fun of the ball made up for the days more sombre & sober events. Everybody there had a wonderful time with the added glow that we’d raised thousand of pounds for the RBF.

After a weekend of work and walking around home I was back on the road on Monday when I headed back to London to add to my picture library before attending a Eurostar community event in the evening (more of which later). Yesterday was a little different as I joined the ACoRP team on a visit to my old home town (Southport) to ‘recce’ the venue for the 2016 ACoRP community rail awards and discuss arrangements with the venues staff. We also selected the menus for the evening and tested what would be on offer (I know – it’s a tough job!) We can confidently say that those attending won’t be disappointed…

Today I’m back on Grand Central as I’m due to shoot portraits of the new Senior Management Team of a well-known railway company in London. This evening I’ve an engagement in Huddersfield and tomorrow I finally have a day at home -but only the one. After that Dawn and I head up to Scotland for a long weekend with a bunch of friends that will involve archery, quad-biking and driving tanks. Oh, and maybe the occasional libation..

*Earlier this week I was chatting to one of the crew from the train which suffered the suicide. I’m not going to name names but I think this is a good illustration of the random nature of these tragic events and how fate can deal the cards. The Train Manager is the only one from his depot to have suffered a suicide. In fact, he’s had two. After the latest incident he was on the empty stock returning to depot up North to be checked out and cleaned up. On their way the driver spotted someone lying in the four foot ahead of them. Thankfully for all concerned this person ‘chickened out’ at the last moment and moved onto another track – thus preventing the train (and some of the crew) having two suicides in one day.