The first day of the month and the first day of the week arriving together along with some glorious sunshine gave me the impetus to break away from my usual routine today. Abandoning the computer I swapped it for the camera and enjoyed a long walk, just to blow the cobwebs away and do something different for a change.
For the first time this year I walked into Halifax itself, which was existing in that sort of strange half-life many towns and cities are enduring right now. The only things that were open were food outlets, banks and the odd shop selling the bare necessities of life. Still, it gave me time to look upwards to admire some of the fine buildings without worrying about walking into people as there were bugger-all people to walk into!
Despite the fact the low winter sun had already moved around and wasn’t in the best position for some pictures I began the trek from the town centre up the steep climb to the top of Beacon hill, which gives superb views across the town and out into the surrounding hills and valleys, so here’s the picture of the day, taken today from the top of the hill looking down into the town itself.
The square building at the bottom right of the picture behind the church spire is the superb Piece Hall. Above it in the centre of the picture you can see the Octagonal dome of Halifax Borough market which opened in 1896. Above the market to the right is a white fronted building with a dome. That’s the rather ostentatious Natwest bank, showing off in a town dominated by a building Society! I’m looking North-West here, so beyond the town you can see Mount Tabor and the moors around Ogden in the background.
I’ve added many other views of Halifax and surrounds taken today to this gallery. Enjoy!
I’ve a favour to ask… If you enjoy reading this blog, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course (although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab!), but the revenue from them helps to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site – and right now (because of Covid), us freelances need all the help that we can get. Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website – https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There wasn’t much chance of a lie-in today as Dawn was up with the larks as part of her ‘virtual retreat’ course. She was up before 06:00 in order to get ready for a yoga and meditation session that started at 06:30 so I seized the day and started working in the office, preparing the next batch of slides for editing and scanning and also catching up on some blogging. But my main focus of the day was going to be other than work. I’ve been trying to up my fitness levels by increasing the distance I’ve been walking and today provided me with the ideal opportunity as it was a mix of DIY, shopping and photography.
One job I’ve been meaning to finish for quite some time (no, not the bathroom – another job!) has been repainting the back of the cottage. As we’ve had such fantastic weather (and today was the hottest so far) it made sense to concentrate on that, so I was out quite early but not so early that my activities might piss-off the neighbours! A few hours of vigorous sanding, cleaning and undercoating later and the pipework and guttering looked pretty good. The glossing would have to wait for a day but as I needed to buy some white spirit to clean the brushes that wasn’t a problem.
My next task was to wander down into Sowerby Bridge in search of said liquid, plus some food supplies. It was a gorgeous day for a stroll so I took the camera with me in order to be able to get a couple of shots that would help tell the story of the impact Covid-19 is having on the railways. Walking down the hill into town I was struck by just how busy it was traffic-wise. There were far more cars on the road than I’ve seen since lockdown started and I’ve no idea what they were doing that caused them to be there. ‘Essential’ journey’s? I don’t think so – not for many of them anyway. Still, I’m not going to preach. If someone’s self-isolating in a motor vehicle and breaking the monotony of being stuck at home by going for a drive without putting anyone else at risk…
As Sowerby’s only DIY shop is shut for the durations my first port of call was a shop I never use – B&M bargains. The queue to get in was tiny and it only took 5 minutes to get in but my time was wasted as they’d sold out of white spirit. What are people doing with the stuff, or is it folks like me who’re using lockdown to catch-up on some DIY? My next port of call was going to be Tescos but time was tight as there was a train due that I really wanted to try and get shot of so I ended up at a deserted railway station and realised there were other topical shots to get too. Here’s one.
A pair of Northern Class 195s pull out of Sowerby Bridge station on their way from Manchester to Leeds. There were less than half a dozen people aboard. The station car park is deserted. Before the Covid Pandemic empty car parking spaces here were as rare as rocking horse shit. Now?…
Meanwhile, this is what I was after. The Calder valley’s gained a regular Trans-Pennine express service – although it’s non-stop! Here’s 185130 powering through Sowerby bridge whilst working 1P73, the 11:10 Manchester Airport to Redcar Central. There are now two trips each way on this route.
Having got the pictures in the can I nipped over to Tescos to pick up the shopping I needed. The queue was only a couple of dozen long so it didn’t impinge on my day. Suitably stocked up on non-alcoholic fizz for Dawn I wended my way home up the hill, which certainly gave me a bit of exercise. In fact, it made me keen to stretch myself further. As I hadn’t been able to get any white spirit I decided to throw caution to the wind and head into Halifax for the first time since lockdown started. Having seen just how busy Sowerby Bridge was I was concerned about what I might find in the town centre. I needn’t have worried. In fact, it was far quieter!
We’re certainly doing that with first the Brexit shambles and now the panic over the pandemic! The picture seems to change almost hourly as there’s a new development or story reported in the mainstream media or fed by social media.
For Dawn and I, yesterday seemed perfectly normal, although how long this will continue I have no idea. The pair of us went out for brunch in Halifax, visiting the wonderful Piece Hall to eat at ‘Elder’, a cosy café on the ground floor of the historic building. With what’s going on we’d expected Halifax to be quite but in fact it was teeming and we had to wait to get a table at the café! We both ordered the same brunch, a delicious mushroom Benedict, poached eggs and a béarnaise sauce served on potato rostis, accompanied by fried mushrooms.
Dawn had a coffee whilst I washed mine down with a bottle of Pale Ale from the Saltaire Brewery.
Suitably fed and watered we went off to do a spot of shopping to make a few strategic purchases rather than panic buying! Yorkshire being Yorkshire, we didn’t encounter a single person sporting a facemask. Having completed our chores we popped into one of the new bars in town. ‘Kobenhavn’, which is situated in the Westgate Arcade. It’s a modern bar on three levels which has an excellent selection of craft beers and real ales. They also cater for wine drinkers, have tea/coffee and a range of non/low alcohol drinks. Dawn was taken by some of the beers and enjoyed one of the Veltins whilst I went for “Pride and Joy”, a Pale Ale on handpump from local company Vocation Brewery which was very well kept. The bar was almost empty when we arrived but half an hour later it was teeming with beer aficionados of all ages and sexes.
It was a pleasant interlude, knowing that it might be the last time we were doing something like this for a while. The entertainment wasn’t over yet as this critter and some of his friends were on display outside in the arcade.
Before heading we had one last chore to do which was to pop into the Tesco’s in Sowerby Bridge to pick up some supplies. Oddly, it’s the only Tesco’s in the area that sells their own-brand alcohol free Presecco. We’ve been sampling different brands and this is without doubt the best we’ve found. Whilst we were there we couldn’t miss the shelves which has been stripped bare of bog-roll and all the other stuff that’s on the list of essentials for those who’ve joined in the panic-buying jamboree…
Returning home to dump our purchases and change the fun was far from over as the rest of the evening was spent at a friend’s house, where the ‘6 from the 6’ were getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of our number, Tony Allan (of Phoenix Brewery fame). We were hosted by Fran and Aubrey, who’d cooked up a fantastic array of Caribbean recipes which catered for all tastes as we had vegetarian, chicken and lamb dishes. It was a lovely sociable evening. One only hopes the coming Coronavirus circus doesn’t mean we won’t be able to do such things for a while…
Today (Sunday) things have been a little more relaxed. We’ve been observing the unfolding world chaos via the social and mainstream media and thinking “the world really has gone mad”. At the same time we’re trying to make sense of it all and consider what we might need to do as it’s looking increasingly likely that many European countries, including the UK, are going into various degrees of shutdown.
So, we’ve been doing some strategic shopping ourselves. And no – I don’t mean panic buying bloody toilet rolls! Instead we’ve stocked up on a few everyday provisions that mean we don’t have to visit shops that often. We’ve been buying slabs of cooking staples like tins of chick-peas and chopped tomatoes just in case the Government, which doesn’t seem to know its arse from its elbow – decides to do something really daft. Oh, and I’ve stocked up on the wines and beers, so if nothing else I can always drown my sorrows at the stupidity of it all.
We did have a wonderfully light hearted moment when we were out. Whilst we were stood in the checkout queue I noticed the woman behind me had a large bottle of vodka in her shopping so I mentioned to Dawn that – if we run out of hand sanitizer you can always make some up using alcohol. Dawn (at the end of her tether) decided to count to 10 in a theatrical fashion. The elderly couple ahead of in the queue obviously overhead this and the woman turned around and laughed, saying “I’ll have to try that!”. Looking back at her more doddery husband who was slowly packing the shopping she observed “we couldn’t self-isolate for four months. I’d end up killing him!” I couldn’t help but sympathise…
These times are about to get a lot more ‘interesting’. Over the rest of the month I have several jobs lined up on the railways that include a fair bit of travel. Will any of them be cancelled? Who knows? I think next week could prove to be very fluid with things changing day by day. On the bright side, I have a home office, several articles and blogs to write and a large collection of old slides to scan, so I’ve plenty to keep me occupied in the case of an enforced stay at home. The difficulty at the moment is the uncertainty and the inability to plan – and I’m one of the lucky ones! I’m not living hand to mouth, I’m not on a zero-hours contract and I have the ability to ‘cut my cloth’. I feel for those who don’t, and I can’t help but wonder how all this is going to pan out. I’ve been a resident of this planet for 60 years now and I’ve never seen such strange times. At least it’ll give me plenty to write about…
After yesterday’s fun and games gallivanting up and down the West and East coast main lines I’ve had a far more relaxing day catching up with work at home – with nary a real train in sight! It won’t last of course, but it makes for a pleasant interlude. You can find many of the photos from yesterday on my Zenfolio website. Follow this link to see which galleries they’ve been added to as there’s a variety. Here’s one from the end of last night, when my homeward bound Grand Central service was diverted via Hebden Bridge.
Whilst busy editing pictures I’ve been keeping one eye on events in the wider world and the political shenanigans in the UK where we’ve been graced by the presence of the Tango’d Tw*t. Sorry, the President of the United States of America, who’s been rubbing shoulders with other NATO leaders including our very own bouffant buffoon, Boris Johnson. It seems it’s not just ridiculous hairstyles and a proclivity to misogyny the two men share, it’s also an aversion to press conferences and interviews. Both men either cancelled them or cut them short, whilst Johnson is still running scared of and hiding from a BBC interview with Andrew Neil! When these mean are classed as ‘leaders’ of the free world is it any wonder we’re in such a mess?
With all that in mind I filled in my postal vote today. Regular readers will know that I’m advocating voting tactically. There’s hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of us who see themselves as politically homeless at the moment due to the shit-shower on both the Left and Right of UK politics at present. I’ve talked to just as many Tories who’re in that position as I have Labour supporters. There’s no doubt that Brexit and the parade of the dogmatic, venal or talentless politicians that we see on either front bench right now has caused a shift from the old tribal politics. It’s just that none of us know where it’s going to lead when the dust finally settles. So far the election campaign interviews with various politicians have seen more car crashes than the Indianapolis 500. I especially like this one, with the latest in a (very) long line of UKIP leaders!
As a tactical voter I’ve had to hold my nose and consider who is best placed to keep out Johnson and help block Brexit, rather than whom I might prefer to vote for. of course, the decision’s never easy as you may end up voting against a good local candidate, but many voters are now doing what not enough MPs have – and are putting country before party (if they still feel they have allegiance to one). This went into the post tonight, sans stickers of course…
With the latest polls showing a narrowing of the gap between the Tories and Labour and distinct signs that tactical voting is starting to register it looks like we’re in for a very unpredictable election night that could very well provide some more ‘Portillo moments’. I see the Green party have now stood aside in the Chingford seat of arch Brexiter Iain Duncan Smith, who only has a slim majority in a constituency evenly split between Remain and Leave in the 2016 referendum. It’s also rumoured to be looking dicey for another Brexiter and member of the Cabinet, Dominic Raab, in his staunchly remain constituency of Esher and Walton, which would be a major turn-around. I’m not going to expect too much as one can always be let down, but I suspect many of us can think of certain dogmatic MPs who serve no useful function that we’d love to see lose their seats. I wonder if someone shouldn’t produce a Brexit Bingo card with their names on? It would certainly add to the entertainment.
If the polls continue in this vein I’d certainly recommend getting in the popcorn for the night of December 12th, along with something stronger, just in case it’s needed.
Talking of the election but on a different tangent it’s been amusing to see the dwindling band of StopHs2 Nimbys desperately trying to pretend that they’ve still got a dog in the fight and can actually swing the vote in some constituencies. The fact we’ve empirical evidence from every election since 2010 to prove this is nothing but bluster makes no difference, they’re still maintaining that fiction! Quite who they expect to fall for it – other than themselves – is a good question. here’s a classic example from Peter Deeley.
Seriously? No, it’s bluster, Deeley’s timeline reveals that he’s always been intending to vote for the Brexit party. Shame they’re not standing in his constituency, as I’ve blogged about previously here!
OK, enough of politics, I’m off to edit a few more pictures! Goodnight…