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It feels rather surreal realising that we’re already in December. The year seems to have flashed past so quickly. The arrival of a new month has also seen the return of the sunshine. We’ve a beautifully crisp winters day here in the Calder Valley, although we won’t be seeing much of it as the pair of us are off to Manchester by train to do some Christmas shopping. Hopefully the exercise will work off some of the fantastic food we enjoyed at The Engine last night.

I’ll post a few pictures and comments through the day as time allows.

13:00.

We’re on our way on a packed 3-car from Sowerby Bridge, with 7 of us sharing a vestibule. At least there’s tip-up seats in the vestibules of these old 158s so it’s not too bad! Mind you, we’ll be calling at several stations on the way, so this train could be quite ‘cosy’ by Manchester…

13:13.

My prediction came true by Hebden Bridge where dozens more joined us including a cyclist who just managed to squeeze her bike into the last available space.

13:22.

We added more variety at Todmorden where a chap boarded carrying a 5ft tall Xmas tree, it’s not wrapped up either! Luckily he boarded at the other end of the train!

13:32.

There’s now 10 of us in this vestibule, including the Conductor, who’s doing the doors from here. To add even more variety whe’ve been joined by several children, including one dressed as the Incredible Hulk, complete with green facepaint!

13:45.

Thank God we’re ‘fast’ from Rochdale, as there’s not a square inch of space left on this train. The kids are stowed away in the luggage rack and people are holding on to watever they can as we rattle and roll our way into the city…

It’s amazing how many people you can fit on a 158!

16.55.

I hate shopping at this time of year when the city’s packed. Whilst the atmosphere around the Christmas market is lovely it’s a pain in the arse trying to tour the shops in search of what you want – especially when you can’t find it! In the end we did manage to salvage something from the day and ticked off a couple of items from our lists, but not much! Having exhausted our patience the pair of us adjourned to a favourite haunt in the Northern Quarter for a drink in order to gird our loins for the trip home.

Sadly, our cunning plan backfired as we arrived at the station to see our train was absolutely rammed to the gunwhales, leaving many of us unable to get on. As the next one wasn’t for another jour there was only one option that made sense – another pub and chance to explore a bit more of the Christmas market.

19:37.

We’re now sat on the 18:57 to Sowerby Bridge, having arrived in plenty of time to get on this time. It was just as rammed on leaving, but we were first in the queue. It’s another 3-car Class 158 which is going to make it popular with the homeward-bound pub crowd later as the toilet door doesn’t lock!

20:28.

Bliss! We’re finally home in the warm and out of the freezing cold. The mercury’s really dropping tonight and it looks like we’re in for another cold one. The Council’s gritting lorries have been busy and many of the roads have had a layer of salt since the early hours of this morning. I always wonder why it is we still use something so corrosive nowadays. Many of the buildings here that are close to the road bear the scars as the stone is eaten away by the salt splashback as vehicles drive past.