The gang’s had a brilliant couple of days in Belgium but now it’s time to make our way home. After a leisurely breakfast at our hotel our merry band piled into a taxi to the railway station and we’re now on the train back to Brussels. Despite the fact it’s a Sunday morning the double-deck push-pull set that’s working our train’s busy, mostly with people dozing! That said, we’ve managed to find some seats up on the top deck today, which is giving us all chance to catch up on news from home and the world via a plethora of portable devices.
We’re not heading back the the UK straightaway. Instead, we’re having a few hours break in Brussels. Today’s my 60th birthday, so we’re going to have a few drinks in the city to celebrate first before catching our Eurostar.
As often seems to be the case at the moment, the old axiom that plans never survive the first attack holds fast. I was intending to go back to Manchester today but ended up working in the office far longer than intended as a client (who shall remain nameless) had had been let down by a former member of staff and couldn’t locate a set of pictures I’d taken for them. To be honest, it took me a bit of digging to find them and send them duplicates. By the time all that was done and other bits and bobs sorted out thete wasn’t much point in heading West, so I nipped out to tick off another job on the list instead. Northern were running a special train through the Calder Valley for stakeholders in order to showcase the new Class 195s which will begin working Leeds-Chester services from next Monday, so I hung around to get shots of it in the valley before heading over to Leeds via Bradford and the cross-station interchange to give me a bit of exercise. After grabbing a few shots en-route I boarded a rammed Cross-country service up to York, my final destination. The plan was to get a few shots for a client that would feature the stations magnificent roof, and all went well. I’ll add a few pictures later.
I’m now on the homeward leg after catching a busy Cross-Country service from York to Leeds that was made up of a modified HST set fitted with automatic doors. Only one door set had failed, which caued a bit of a scrum as two coachloads tried to exit the remaining working door! It being Friday, the trains were even busier than normal, which added to the chaos.
Leeds was equally as busy, although the new gateline seems to be coping well under pressure. The space it’s created on the platform side is certainly welcome on a day like this.
The York – Blackpool service I’m on has been rammed all the way from Leeds. This is what it’s like on the final leg (for me at least) from Bradford. And yes, I’m sat on the luggage shelf!
And relax! In our local pub with friends and Mel reading out the Pub Paper quiz in her broadest Lancashire accent!
Yet another early start saw me in the office before 07:30, sorting out a queue of pictures from past and present. First up was finishing scanning and editing another batch of old slides from 2000 which are now on my Zenfolio site. I’ve almost completed the whole album, much to my relief! I’ve no idea what year’s next in the queue, it could be contemporary or something from the 1990s. I’ll find out soon. That done, the lightbox was consigned to the cupboard and the desk cleared to allow me to collate the latest picture choices from a client, get them captioned and added to their website. After that the day descended into the mundane as I dealt with paperwork and emails. Conscious of the fact it was glorious subshine outside I made a bid for freedom early in the afternoon and headed into Sowerby Bridge to head West. I’m currently speeding across Chat Moss aboard an ex-Thameslink Class 319 en-route to Liverpool where I plan to get creative with the camera, even tho’ the sun seems to have deserted me. Let’s see how it goes…
Oh, the joys of the all-stations stopper! I made a tactical error by catching this as we were held at Earlestown to let a late running TPE service overtake us. The problem? That TPE was one of the Hitachi Class 802 sets I was hoping to get shots of in Liverpool! Ho hum!
Bugger (pt 432).
My train was held yet again at Roby to ket two more expresses to pass, meaning that, as we approached Wavertree the train I wanted to get shots of went sailing past in the opposite direction! To add insult to injury, the heavens opened as we finally pulled into Lime St over 10 mins late.
This is where patience has to kick in. The light is awful, but there’s great potential, all I can do is wait for dusk to fall and colour return to the sky. I’d break out my old Northern Rail flask full of pea and mint soup, but then I really would look like a trainspotter!
It’s almost the end to a frustrating afternoon. I’m heading back to Manchester on TPE’s 18:57 to Scarborough. I’ve managed to get a handful of useful shots but a combination of circumstances reatricted my options. A lot of late running meant that at times the station was almost devoid of trains, which wasn’t what I needed. Once the rush-hour was over I was surprised just how quite the place was. Still, the arch roof and modern (white) lighting made for good surroundings. I’ll add them later. Now I need to think of some new locations for the kind of shots I have in mind…
I made a very rapid change of trains at Manchester Victoria, one of those that National Rail Enquiries wouldn’t even suggest. My TPE service came in at platform 3 and my Northern service to Leeds was leaving 3 minutes later from platform 6 which just gave me time to dash across the footbridge and see it coming in. This time of night you don’t hace tk fight your way past slow-moving pensioners, women with buggies or lost looking souls with suitcases the size of a small caravan, so it’s easier! I’m now relaxing on a care-worn but comfortable Class 156 where the heating’s working full belt, so it’s as warm as toast.
This isn’t going to be a long blog. The pair of us are starting to flag after getting to bed at 03:30 this morning before getting up again just a few hours later at 07:30, but it was well worth it. The ACoRP awards was a fabulous night that went without a hitch due to the great team that delivered the event. The full list of winners can be found here on the ACoRP website.
The days when Community Rail was seen as a sideshow and something eccentric or even irrelevant are long gone. Now the awards are seen as a ‘must attend’ event and have the support of the Department of Transport, Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies themselves, hence the regular attendance of the DfT’s Peter Wilkinson and Network Rail’s Chief executive Andrew Haines to name but two. But the evening belongs to the groups, most of whom are volunteers – who put in the thousands of hours that make such a difference to their stations, and their communities. As one of the awards Judges I feel very privileged to get to meet so many inspiring people who’re doing such fantastic work up and down the country. The community rail awards is our way of ensuring they get the recognition and appreciation they deserve for all the brilliant work that they do.
Here’s a few pictures to give a flavour of the event.
Right, it’s time for bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow when I’ve lots of pictures to add to my Zenfolio website. Watch this space…
– As Rod Stewart sang, only this night is going to be akright as it’s the annual ACoRP community rail awards. This year it’s being held in Telford, Shropshire.
Right now I’ve a few hours off to explore before the big event. I’ve never been to Telford before, so after breakfast I had a wander. Built as a new tiwn back in the 1960s you can see that the motor car featured heavily in the town’s design. It’s sprawling and features a lot of car parks. That said, obvious efforts have been made to provide plenty of footpaths and even some cycleways to compensate. I don’t think the place will win any architectural awards tho’…
Not having long I popped down to Wolverhampton for a flying visit to grab a couple of shots before heading back up the line to a place I’ve not visited since 2005, the delightful Codsall station. The old station building was converted into a pub many years ago. Run by Holden’s brewery, it’s a delightful place to visit for a pint, a sandwich and a browse of the railway memorabilia that decorates the walls.
Sadly, the weather’s not been kind to me. I’ve managed to get a few shots for the library, but now it’s time to head back and get ready for tonight and a very different style of photography…
Right, it’s time to head for the big event. Suitably ‘suited and booted’ and with all the camera kit checked and ready to go I’m off for the staff briefing…
Today I’ve escaped the confines of the Calder Valley to head across the Pennines to Manchester. My plan is to pop in at a charity coffee morning being held at Manchester Piccadilly before working out my itinerary for the rest of the day which will very much depend on the weather. Yes, I know I talk about the weather all the time, but in my work as a photographer it’s a vital component that has enormous influence over what I do – as well as where and when!
I’m hoping to be able to get some library shots of the new trains that are entering service with Northern and Trans-Pennine Express, and possibly an old Pacer or two before they take their final trip to the scrapyard.
Things haven’t got off to a very auspicious start. We’re just pulling out of Stalybridge in the middle of a shower with the wind pushing in low clouds from the West, promising more rain to come. Let’s see how the day goes and where I end up…
The coffee morning at Piccadilly is a great success and a fantastic example of the railway family coming together to help a charity. Cakes were baked by (and the stall staffed by) volunteers from Network Rail, Northern Rail, Transport for Greater Manchester and ACoRP station adopters as well as staff from Macmillan cancer care, the charity funds were being raised for.
I’m on the move again as the weather in Manchester’s living up to its reputation and chucking it down! I’d moved on from Piccadilly to Oxford Rd where, despite the weather, I managed to get several shots of both the CAF units for Northern and one of the TPE mark 5 sets. Sadly, not side by side.
In an effort to escape the rain I headed West, over to Liverpool aboard one of the new 195s. Initially, it was to no avail as the rain was bucketing down when I arrived, but just before I left the skies began to clear and the sun appeared. Whilst I was at the station once of those one chance in a million events occurred. As the rain was so heavy I changed my mind about nipping out of the station to grab a sandwich and decided to get a last couple of shots first. As I walked past passengers waiting for the London train a woman waved at me. At first, I didn’t recognise her. As I got closer I realised it was Annette, an old friend from Southport whom I shared a flat with in when I lived in London’s East End from 1986-96. The pair of us haven’t seen each other for maybe 15 yrs! We ended up chatting for quite a while, catching up on all the events in each others lives over the past few years. It was both a nostalgic and bittersweet experience as it made me think about how many things have happened in my life since the day we picked up the keys to that flat in Bromley-by-Bow back in July 1986…
After bidding adieu to Annette I grabbed that sandwich and a few more pictures before leaping aboard one of Northern Rail’s new 3-car electric trains which was working to Blackpool North via Wigan. This was one of the more numerous 3-car varients of the Class 331 that I’ve spent time photographing around Leeds and the Aire Valley. The unit was packed but I managed to find a tip-up seat in the vestibule that was free. By the time we got to Wigan we’d caught up with the rain and I was treated to several heavy showers. The rain was so torrential that some Wigan – Southport trains were cancelled due to the line flooding. Once I’d managed a few shots of the new trains I caught a Wigan North Western -Stalybridge service made up of avpair of Class 150s, one of which is a unit (107) recently cascaded from London North Western. As you can see, the skies above don’t exactly look inviting…
Having left Wigan and constantly criss-crossed out of weather fronts I pitched up in Manchester to change trains once more. Now I’m heading back across the Pennines aboard a busy commuter service, the 17:19 to Leeds which is worked by Class 156/153 combo. The atmosphere aboard is quite subdued. There’s little sign of people looking forward to the weekend, more a like a lot of knackered folk thinking “thank God it’s Friday!”
Back in Halifax I’m meeting up with Dawn for an evening at the pictures and something the English do far better than dealing with the present or future: nostalgia. We’re off to see the ‘Downton Abbey’ film…
As I predicted, there were angry and heated scenes in Parliament yesterday. MPs from all sides expressed their disgust at the behaviour of Johnson and his Cabinet coterie. Some, like Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman (a man I normally have little time for) didn’t mince their words.
The whole proceedings were a deeply unedifying spectacle, more so because of the complete contempt Johnson and his clique showed for both Parliament, the Judiciary and democracy itself. The final straw for many was Johnson’s clear disdain for female MP’s worries about him stoking up tensions and his attempt to co-opt the spirit of the murdered MP for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox, by claiming enabling Brexit would honour her memory.
I met Jo Cox once. At a station adoption event in Batley. Jo was very kind and helpful to my wife Dawn as it was Dawn’s first public speaking event representing her company, ACoRP. After that meeting I was convinced Jo would have gone far, maybe even all the way to the top. She was clever, witty and engaging. She also knew how to make things happen. What I do know is that Jo would have been horrified by Brexit and done everything she could to fight it. Johnson using her is typical of the man. Let’s face it, he has a long history of using and exploiting women. He has no moral compass whatsoever. The only thing that matters to him is his own ambition.
But don’t fall into the trap of thinking Johnson’s unapologetic performance and stoking of outrage yesterday was accidental. It was anything but. It was straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook, the one Trump keeps under his pillow.
Johnson’s trapped himself. His arrogance, willingness to lie fluently and lack of a moral compass have got him (and us) into this mess. Politically he’s a dead man walking, caught in a mire of his own making. He’s impotent as he has no majority so he’s at the mercy of others. He’s swinging in the wind like the famous picture on that zipwire. The only way out of it that he sees is to trigger an election – hence his behaviour. He wants a vote of no confidence – anything that will trigger an election that he thinks he still has a chance of winning. That’s why he’s trying to goad everyone, be they Labour, women MPs or even his own backbenches.
But remember the old Chinese saying. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Johnson’s problem is that others remember that saying too and are happy to give him enough rope…
Since I wrote this Parliament has voted to refuse to suspend itself during the Conservative party conference. It’s yet another humiliation for Johnson, who’s faced with being at the conference or in Parliament. Ten of the former Conservative MP’s Johnson withdrew the whip from voted against the motion. Remember what I said about revenge?
As the old Chinese curse goes, “May you live in interesting times” – and we certainly do. So far today the Scottish Court of Session has ruled that Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, Meanwhile, the government is refusing to publish details of communications between No 10 aides about Parliament’s suspension, despite MPs voting for their release.
Now remind me, what was the Brexiters slogan? Oh yes – “take back control”. I wonder how many of the mugs who fell for that now feel that they’re remotely in control, never mind Her Majesty’s Government! In the space of a few short weeks we’ve go gone from a Brexitshambles to an complete clusterfuck. Johnson’s proved how utterly incompetent he is and the whole edifice of Parliamentary democracy has crumbled and fallen. And all for what?
In other news I’ve been working from home today but I managed to brave the gales in order to nip out and get some shopping whilst traversing the scenic woodland route to the supermarket to get my exercise steps in. What I didn’t do (for once) was get any pictures, so this blog is presented to you in glorious black and white text. Sorry about that folks!
I’m hoping to renew normal service over the next few days as there’s lots of exciting trips and events lined up right now. Right now I’m busy juggling the work/life balance, so this is all you’ll hear from me tonight. Cheers folks!
The weather that is! It’s hardly stopped raining all day here in the Calder Valley. I don’t think I’ve seen the top of the opposite side of the valley as it’s been hidden behind low cloud that’s haunted us all day. I’ve been grateful that I’ve been busy at home as the occasional foray’s I’ve made into the murk have been damp and dismal experiences even though the effort’s been worth it to keep my exercise regime up. That said, the views from the promenade were actually worth seeing today as they were so different.
What wasn’t different was following the news of our political implosion and descent into chaos. Johnson was in Ireland today where he made another of his meaningless speeches. Lite, trite and shite, it didn’t address a single serious issue. Instead it was full of references to ‘hard work’ and ‘opportunities’ – real Unicorn Stuff. His attention seeking antics at the podium also made him the butt of some hilarious memes.
Johnson’s prorogued Parliament today, but not before it’s caused him some more headaches.
Where does this leave the UK? Up shit creek without the proverbial paddle. Our EU friends are running out of patience. They’re far more prepared for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit than we are, because they’ve never lied about the consequences, have prepared in a meaningful way, and they’ll share the pain. Us? Pfft! Many in the UK are still believing in Unicorns and they idea none of this will really happen to us because, somehow, we’re ‘special’. I still overhear pub conversations where folk talk of the ‘will of the people’, completely ignoring the fact we’re three and a half years from the referendum where Leave promises have turned to rat-shit and the demographic’s changed as people have changed their minds – not to mention the way the names on the electoral register have. As someone put it “you mean we’re meant to leave now because that’s what a lot of dead people voted for in 2016?”
Such hubris isn’t going to turn out well. What’s painfully obvious is the complete lack of any plan from Leavers, other than to crash out of the EU whilst blaming the EU. This is going to get messy.
Away from politics, I’ve finished uploading all my Sowerby Bridge rush-bearing pictures to this gallery. There’s a couple of hundred pictures from this last weekend in there now along with rush-bearing pictures going back to 2010 when I first moved up here from London.
I’ve also been busy on the cooking front and tried something different tonight – a Goan Pork Vindaloo. I’m leaving it to steep and fester overnight as these things are like cheese – they need time to mature!
Today’s been one where I’ve been going nowhere fast. It’s not involved a single train – unless you count editing pictures of them. Instead I’ve been able to enjoy being at home, listening to the wind howling outside which has blown many of my pot plants over whilst I’ve sat inside and edited pictures, sorted out paperwork and caught up on all those bits and bobs you can’t always do when you’re never in one place for more than a couple of hours. The pictures I’ve taken over the past few days mean that my Zenfolio website’s now passed the 60,000 pictures mark. You can view them here. You can also buy prints, which start at a very reasonable £1.28. Here’s a couple of examples.
Our cat (Jet) has taken my continual presence as confirmation that he’s got food and attention on tap. You think kids have ‘pester power’? That’s nothing compared to a black cat. As soon as he knew I wasn’t sloping off out of the front door he thought ‘gotcha’ and treated me as his personal Butler, but I don’t mind as it’s lovely to still have the old boy (he’s 18) around.
By the end of the day I was getting a little bog-eyed and stir crazy so I ended up in our local pub, the Big 6, to partake of the Friday quiz and catch up with friends that we haven’t seen for a while because we’ve been so busy and haven’t been around as we were in Ireland. Dawn joined me after work and we had a lovely couple of hours relaxing, joking and answering daft questions. We also had the opportunity to plan some new adventures for the ‘Big 6 on tour’. We’ve got Belgium coming up soon, but there’s more fun and games in the pipeline…
Now it’s time to kick back and enjoy the weekend. Social media can be left to itself whilst the pair of us enjoy some escapism from the real world and enjoy a film. The same shit will still be there in the morning.