Too much to do…

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So much for Sunday being the day of rest! Sometimes I envy those people who can sit with their feet up on a Sunday because they’ve nothing to do. Today’s been a mix of DIY, researching articles, scanning pictures, ploughing through emails and dodging showers whilst exercising.

The weather here has couldn’t have been less summer-like. We’ve had heavy rain and gusting winds, which has made walking through our local woods adventurous to say the least! The amount of broken branches and leaf detritus that’s evident makes you nervy to say the least. I felt as twitchy as Corporal Fraser in the opening credits to ‘Dad’s Army’.

Dawn’s been just as busy too as today was the final day of her ‘virtual retreat’ so the living rooms been pretty much out of bounds to me as it was converted into Dee’s gym and yoga centre (amongst other things)…

Another thing I’ve been working on is a long HS2 blog detailing what’s going on with the project right now – which is a huge amount. I’ll try and get it finished tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll end with…

Picture of the day.

T9675. The Alfred High school. Alma Mater of Gandhi). Rajkot. Gujarat. India. 13.02.2000crop

This is another from the series of pictures from India that I’m swapping between with railway shots from 1995. The picture was taken on the 12th February 2000 in Rajkot, India. The building is the Alfred High School, which was founded on the 17th October 1853 during the days of the British Raj. Why was I interested in taking pictures of the school? Because of an old pupil, who changed the course of history. His name? Mohandas K Gandhi – although most people only know his last name…

 

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More stormy weather…

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We’ve had a fun day here in the Calder valley as the weather really hasn’t known what to do with itself. One minute the valley’s blanketed in murk, then that clears to welcome clear blue skies, then the next apocalyptic cloud front appears to literally darken our door and the heavens open for a few brief minutes before the sun’s cracking the flags again!

If nothing else, it’s been fun to watch. Dawn’s into day 2 of her ‘virtual retreat’ but we did get out for a walk together earlier, kitted out in waterproofs and with brollies to start with, then the sun arrived so we stripped off, then the rain came back! Still, it keeps us fit – and occupied, plus – it’s glorious to watch the skies change as we have a grandstand view. Here’s how the skies over Sowerby Bridge looked like earlier as the next storm blew in.

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Whilst Dee’s been busy on her retreat I’ve been keeping myself occupied researching articles and sorting out old images, which brings me on to…

Picture of the day

Here’s another one from India. This one was taken in Rajkot in the state of Gujarat on the 11th February 2000. I’ve always loved Indian street scenes. You just never know what’s going to appear. I often find a strategic location to sit and wait to see what might catch my eye. It doesn’t normally take long for something of interest to happen, especially as Rajkot’s a busy little place with people flocking in from the countryside to bring their produce to market.

T9638. Women sit atop sacks on a motor rickshaw. Rajkot. Gujarat. India. 11.02.2000crop

Here’s a group of women sitting atop their wares as they arrive into town on the back of a three-wheeler which is the front end of a motorcycle with a trailer tacked on the back.  They’re very common in the countryside but you used to see a variant even in New Delhi back in the 80s-90s where a Harley-Davidson was converted into a taxi trike. They were almost always driven by Sikhs and plied specific routes around the capital. They were horribly polluting so they were banned many years ago but out in rural areas these contraptions still exist.

If you want to see the rest of the pictures from India that I’ve added to my website, follow this link, which will take you straight to the India gallery.

 

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Stormy weather…

The run of glorious sunshine we’ve had these past couple of days has come to an abrupt end thanks to the arrival of some very unsettled weather. Today we’ve had blustering clouds that didn’t amount to anything, clear skies and sunshine where the UV was akin to Superman’s X-Ray vision and finally, a thunderstorm that produced lots of noise and torrential rain, but little lightning – which was rather disappointing as I do love a good storm. For most of the day I was trapped inside, slaving away over a hot laptop as I researched some articles and also sorted out a variety of old pictures. As is often the case the day flew by and the Friday night quiz seemed to come around in no time. This week we extended it as Tony Allan had some old copies of the ‘Pub Paper’ so we went back to what was topical in 2015 – which seems like another world now.

This weekend Dawn is on another ‘virtual retreat’, so I’ll be staying in the background and working on various different projects whilst trying not to get in Dee’s way. After all,  it’s not like I’ve nothing to fill my time with.

OK, enough of the present, let’s move on to today’s…

Picture of the day.

This is a very special place and one that I would dearly love to go back to, although it’s harder than it used to be, which is rather odd in this day and age.

T7623. Storm over Maninjau lake. Sumatra. 1992.

This is Lake Maninjau in West Sumatra, Indonesia. I took this in (I think) July 1992. It’s an absolutely stunning place. The lake is actually inside the caldera of an extinct volcano. I stopped here for a few weeks during a trip overland through Sumatra and used it as a base to visit the Mentawai Islands (another long story and pictures) during a year long -solo trip in 1991-92. This was taken from the verandah if the little homestay I’d found a room in. You can see the clouds boil in over the edge of the caldera on the opposite side of the lake approximately 4km away as a storm came in from the West. You could relax as you knew it would be at least another 20-30m before it reached our side of the crater.

When I did this trip I caught a ferry from Georgetown in Malaysia to Medan in North Sumatra, then travelled overland by bus via Lake Toba and across the Equator to Maninjau. Nowadays the ferry’s finished and visa restrictions mean few travellers come here anymore.

I’ll explain more tomorrow when I have time to add to this blog. In the meantime, if you want to see more pictures of Sumatra, follow this link.

 

Is it too early to miss lockdown?

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I ask as for the past couple of days much of the country has basked in temperatures that have made it the hottest of the year so far but also seem to have an inverse proportion to the levels of stupidity on display. Yes, I know the Government has pretty much killed-off lockdown, but that’s not meant to happen until the 4th July, not the first sunny day since the announcement. This blog may end up as a cathartic rant but I don’t apologise for that. Sometimes you’ve just got to get these things off your chest. And it’s my blog – so I will!

The day started so well, It’s Thursday, so Dawn and I ventured out to Huddersfield on our ‘Red Cross’ mission to go shopping for Dee’s parents. We also picked up stuff for ourselves. Today we had to visit a wholesale fishmongers. As the sun was cracking the flags we didn’t want to leave our purchases in the car to slowly cook so Dawns dad met us with a cool bag to take our purchases straight back to their place whilst we did the rest of the shopping. The staff at Sail were excellent and the whole process was hassle free – until ‘Flash Harry’ turned up in his expensively restored vintage car and ignored every bit of social-distancing etiquette – which started to set the tone for the day. Looking at his age, gammon complexion and physique my first thought was “Well, it’s your funeral”…

Once our fish exchange was done Dee and I headed into town and popped into the CRN offices for the weekly check-up. The weather was too good to keep me inside but the time was too short to do much so I only grabbed one rail picture. Well, at least it’s a contrast to the vintage stuff I’ve been scanning recently!

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195022 and 195020 come out of Huddersfield carriage sidings to head West across the Pennines.

Whilst Dawn did what she needed to do at the office I wandered through the town to see how things had changed since last week. In fact, very little – apart from the weather, which had dragged a few more people out. Not that it had done much for people’s ability to follow simple instructions for the common good…

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It’s OK, I’m wearing a mask, no guidance applies to me…

I won’t bore you with the minutiae of shopping at Sainsbury’s but what was lovely was being able to spend a bit of time with John and Norah in their garden at a respectful distance. The sun was an absolute bonus!

We couldn’t stay long as we both had to get home to catch up on work. I was lucky as a lot of what I needed to do could be done outside so I ended up basking like a lizard whilst researching. Poor Dawn was trapped inside! Whilst I was doing so I made the mistake of catching up on the news and saw the scenes of absolute fcukwittery from the beaches of Bournemouth and beauty spots elsewhere that makes me despair about this country. We’re not even out of lockdown, we’re nowhere near free of Covid-19 but as soon as the sun comes out some people simply don’t care about the consequences to themselves, or others.

Britain is incredibly fortunate. We have probably the richest language on the planet. It’s the language of Shakespeare, Chaucer – and so many others. There are 220,000 words in the Oxford Dictionary, we have the ability to express ourselves in innumerable ways yet so many people can’t even grasp the fundamentals of the language – or if they do, don’t understand they apply to them. Stuff like ‘one way’…’don’t litter’ – the list (seemingly) is endless – and don’t even get me started on those who thought they knew what they were voting for when they voted for Brexit! Try asking some of them four years down the line what it is they think they’ve ‘won’ and watch the brows furrow. It’s the same now with Covid, the relaxation of lockdown – and sunshine.  What bit of all this don’t you understand?  Me and mine will stay safe and we’ll try and ride out the economic consequences that these muppets don’t even think about, much less comprehend. Many (many) years ago, when I was travelling, I hooked up with a Swedish girl. As we spent more time together I noticed that she kept a diary in English. Being curious, I asked her why? Her reply was that she could be so much more descriptive in English due to the breadth of the language compared to her native Swedish. I’ve never forgotten that. Then I see so many people for whom English is their native tongue, yet they struggle to master and make themselves understood in the basics. As for their inability to grasp simple concepts -like ‘one way only’ – I despair.

Ok, rant over, now it’s time for…

Picture of the day

In 2010-11 I took some time off from the UK to travel across Asia. Because of India deciding to kick-off about visas due to recent terrorist incidents it got ‘interesting’ to say the least. When I managed to get back into the country after a sojourn in Thailand and Malaysia I headed over to the Gujarat to explore. On the way back to Baroda from a day trip I ended up in a crowded commuter service. It wasn’t a problem as I wasn’t a stranger to these conditions and I stuck up conversations with those around me. So much so I ended up taking lots of pictures and lent my camera to the chap opposite to take mine. Here it is…

DG77491. Me on crowded train. Gujarat. India. 26.3.11crop

My Gob’s open because I was trying to explain what to do before he pressed the shutter. Ho hum…

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Now, where was I?….

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Excuse my absence this past few days but I’ve had little time for blogging now a semblence of normality is returning as lockdown gradually crumbles. This has co-incided with having articles to research and write, as well as advanced preparation for judging this years Community Rail Network (formerly ACoRP) awards – although I can’t go into any details on that (for now at least). Something had to give, so I decided it would have to be blogging, which is a shame as there’s plenty to write about – but now scribbling for money takes priority!

The weather’s really improved too – which allowed us to get out for ‘Fathers Day’ with Dawn’s parents (both mine passed away many years ago) by going for a walk together somewhere I’d not been to before. Blackmoorfoot reservoir is just to the West of  Huddersfield and it’s an easy but pleasant walk in the country with lovely views across the Colne valley. Due to the recent rains the reservoir water levels weren’t as low as I’d expected, but full it ain’t, as you can see from the picture.

resev

Talking of pictures, I picked up some more old albums from storage at Dawn’s folks and they’ve now joined the queue for scanning when time permits. Here’s a sample, which is from an album of railway images taken in 1994-95, when Intercity expresses on the West Coast Main line looked like this…

04161. 86228. Crewe. 21.08.1994crop

Class 86228 named ‘Vulcan Heritage’ stands at Crewe with a Southbound express formed of Mk 2D coaches bound for Euston on the 21st August 1994. This locomotive passed on the Virgin trains when they took over at privatisation in 1997 and it survived in traffic until 2003. In 2013 it was exported to Bulgaria, where it remains in service today. You can find the rest of the pictures from the album (as they’re scanned) in this gallery. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get out and about more in the next couple of weeks and start updating my website with more recent images.

This leads me on to….

Picture of the day.

This is taken from another old travel album that’s in the queue for scanning, which contains a varied selection of shots from Europe and Asia. This one mixes three of my main interests. Railways, food and travel!

T9833. Vendor cooking pooris at the railway station. Ahmedabad. Gujarat. India. 21.02.2000crop

On the 21st February 2000 a young man working on a stall at Ahmedabad station in the Gujarat, Western India, fries Poori, the delicious Indian puffy fried bread made from unleavened whole-wheat flour. I love Pooris for breakfast, along with a curry sauce and the sort of coconut chutney you find served in Southern India. I’d been on holiday in the country but had extended my stay to head up to the Gujarat from Goa in search of India’s last mainline steam locomotives, which operated from (no, don’t laugh) Wankaner Junction! Sadly, I arrived just two weeks after the last engine had its fire dropped for good – but that’s another story – and picture…

 

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Nostalgia (and the weather) isn’t what it used to be…

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Hardly a vintage day today for a whole host of reasons which I won’t bore you with, but there have been a few small victories – and plenty of losses. It’s now 91 days since I last set foot on a train, which is the longest time I’ve been off the rails (literally, if not metaphorically) for as long as I can remember. The last time may have been sometime in the early 1980s, so at least 35 years, if not more ago. The irony is that right now myself and many other volunteers should have been on day two of a marathon train journey – ‘3 Peaks by Rail’ – the annual fundraiser for the charity The Railway Children’. If you want to know what it’s all about, here’s a gallery of pictures from the 2019 event. It’s a gloriously mad and exhausting event that showcases the true spirit of the railways and the people involved in them. The camaraderie and banter amongst the team is superb and I really miss it. Normally we manage to raise around £250,000 so it’s also time well spent. Here we all are before setting off from Crewe. Well, all but me – obviously, as I’m behind the camera!

DG325281. 3 Peaks by Rail. Crewe. 13.6.19.crop

Instead of taking part in this adventure I’m stuck in the Calder valley, getting rained on, with no prospect of escaping for quite some time. On the bright side. I did finish scanning yet another old slide album today which consisted of travel pictures from 2003 although it was a bitter-sweet victory as it reminded me of just how much I used to travel in those days. Just that one album had pictures from Sri Lanka, Spain and Ireland as well as weekends away from several UK locations, and that was only between January and July! What a far cry from the past 91 days…

It got to the point that I needed to take a break, get some fresh air and some exercise to come back to the present. Despite the fact it was chucking it down I went out for a long walk to take some time to enjoy the here and now away from everything. It was lovely, just having the time to stand and watch the world go by in our local woods listen to the rain and smell the freshness of everything magnified by the downpour whilst gathering my thoughts. No-one else came along to disturb me I had the place to myself. Well, apart from the Robins and the Jays, who seemed oblivious to the weather. Afterwards I walked on up to the promenade above the woods where I had a grandstand view across the valley and beyond to watch the next rainstorm roll in. I was hoping it would be a thunderstorm as I love them, but I wasn’t that lucky. The climactic pyrotechnics, barometric changes and frisson of danger that you get with a good storm fascinate me. They also put you in your place in the grand scheme of things. I hadn’t taken the camera as pictures hadn’t been my intention so this series were taken on my phone.

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Inside Scarr woods. Listening to the rain drip through the tree canopy, the birds singing and foraging – but not seeing another soul…

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The view from the promenade above the woods looking South towards Norland as the next rainstorm heads our way. I was hoping for a thunderstorm but it wasn’t to be.

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Looking over Sowerby Bridge in the valley and Norland up above to the left as the next weather front arrives.

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Almost the same view as the cloud front passes, the light improves – and the rain arrives on its coat-tails. You can see why the painter Ashley Jackson loves the skies here so much. They really are Turneresque.

Whilst I’m in such a pensive and thoughtful mode, it brings me onto the…

Picture of the day.

This is about as far removed from the Pennines as you can get. Here’s a picture of the beautiful little beach at Arambol, in North Goa, India, taken on the 30th January 2000.

T9346. Arambol little beach and freshwater lake. Arambol. Goa India. 30.01.2000 crop

My connections to this beach go back to 1985 when I arrived here as a penniless traveller on my first trip to India. The story’s too long for this blog, but I spent 6 weeks living on this beach in 85-86. You see the rocks towards the end of the beach at the far end? We’d bury big old biscuit tins containing our valuables beneath the sand next to them. At night we’d dig pits in the sand on the broad sandy strip facing the sea which we’d line with a mat and cover ourselves with a sheet, falling asleep to the sound of the waves. In the morning you’d wake up and notice the trails of the crabs that had walked over you during the night! In those days it was effectively a nudist beach so in the morning your shower was just (literally) getting out of your pit and running straight into the sea to play in the waves until it was time for breakfast, which (if you wanted to get dressed) you’d have in the nearby village, otherwise from buying fruit off kids who’d come down to the beach, baskets on heads, selling all sorts of local produce. When you wanted to wash the salt off from your sea-shower you’d go for a dip in that lake at the back of the beach, which was freshwater. It was formed by a stream that ran down from the hills at the back of the beach. It was the closest you could get to an idyllic existence and I look back, grateful that I was there at the time to experience it.

One day I’ll do a blog about life here once I’ve scanned the old slides and gone through my old diaries. It was such a different world in those days…

By 2000 it was all rather different, but no less beautiful. Lynn and I had stayed here for several weeks at the beginning of our 1997-99 round the world trip. We’d only been back in the UK a few months but already had itchy feet, so came back to Arambol for a month over the festive season though to the end of January.

Sadly, I’ve not been back to Arambol since 2003. To be honest, I’m not sure that I want to as I don’t know what I’d find now. I have such fantastic memories of the place I wouldn’t want them spoiled. Maybe one day…

 

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(Not) the lockdown blog…

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Yesterday was the first day the pair of us ventured away from home since the end of lockdown and the rule change that allowed many shops to reopen. Thursday is our weekly outing to Huddersfield to collect shopping for Dawn’s parents, so I was curious to see how the town centre would have changed since last week. The roads were certainly busier. The amount of traffic seemed not far from pre-lockdown levels.

The weather was appalling, with grey skies and constant rain, which played to our advantage as our first port of call was Sainsbury’s – which was sans queues despite the car park being busy. We managed to get around in pretty quick time despite the fact not as many checkouts were open as normal.

Our next stop was Dawn’s offices at the railway station. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of extra footfall and St George’s Square was still empty, so whilst Dee sorted out paperwork and checked on the building I went for a walk into town. The first difference I noticed was on John William St where trees in pots had been moved into the road and barriers run between them to create wider pavements to allow for social distancing. Pedestrianised Market Place was marked out with a new one way-system with bright yellow markings. Sadly, many people were ignoring them. Despite 3 months of lockdown and massive media coverage of the virus and its dangers, some people still can’t follow simple rules set up for everyone’s safety.

DG342294. Covid direction arrows. Huddersfield. 18.6.2020.crop

How difficult is this to understand?

I sometimes despair at people’s exceptionalism and what it says about the lack of a cohesive society in the UK.

As you can see from the picture, the streets weren’t exactly teeming with people, but they were noticeably busier than they’ve been at any time since lockdown began. I noticed a variety of shops had reopened. There were jewellers, clothes shops, more food outlets like Greggs and even a good old-fashioned hardware store!

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Wandering back through town I saw that the large Kingsgate shopping centre was holding people at the doors to limit the number of people inside at any one time. It was the only place I really noticed a queue, but that could have been down to the weather as normally the banks always have folks waiting.

Another place that had reopened was the old Huddersfield Open Market. A variety of stalls were back in business selling cloth and household goods as well as fruit and veg, pies and pastries. Like many places. a one-way system was in place and the floor was clearly marked out into 2 metre sections.

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On a less serious note, I also came across two new units of measurement for social distancing…

Yorkshire Terriers.

DG342292crop…and Huddersfield station cats!

DG342309. Station cats Covid measurements. Huddersfield. 18.6.2020crop

Full credit to Kirklees council for finding a fun (and local) way of getting the message across to people. At least you’ve tried!

As the weather was so lousy we didn’t hang around any longer than necessary. After leaving the shopping we Dawn’s folks we high-tailed it back to Halifax and home to catch up on some work and stay dry. Nevertheless, it was an interesting day out (for me at least). I’ll be curious to see how many more shops have re-opened by next week.

Right, time to move on to the…

Picture of the day.

This shot was taken in the Loggerheads pub in Shrewsbury, Shropshire on the 4th May 2003 when we’d been away for the weekend with friends, walking on the Long Mynd. You can tell it’s an old picture by a feature on the tables that are long-gone. Ashtrays!

T15483. Local musicians gather to play in the old Loggerheads pub. Shrewsbury. Shropshire. England. 04.05.2003crop

It’s a classic old boozer that hosted music nights, where local people would turn up and play together. Whilst we were there I asked if the musicians would mind if I took a few pictures and they were happy to let me. Notice the old boy with the bushy beard, glasses and flat cap in the left corner? At first I thought he was a chap who’d just got trapped in the corner after the minstrels arrived, but later on, he doffed his cap and started singing (in quite a powerful voice) some old folk songs. It was a lovely evening and very different to my London life at the time. I must admit, I’ve a soft spot for Shrewsbury. It possesses some cracking pubs and it’s home to an enormous variety of old buildings. It’s one of the best preserved of our old cities and the place is well worth a visit as it contains 660 listed buildings. Here’s more details from the towns official website.

 

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Lockdown – ish. Day 83 (Sunday).

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This is my last Lockdown journal. Tomorrow most shops are allowed to reopen and lockdown is officially dead. Of course, a lot of people are still furloughed, working from home or waiting for the hospitality industry to reopen but it’s not the same. This doesn’t mean I won’t be blogging about Covid again, or how life pans out over the next few months, but I’ll be freed to concentrate on other writing on subjects old and new.

To say it’s been a strange few months is an understatement. In some ways we’ve been protected from some of the worst aspects of lockdown. We live in Calderdale which has one of the lowest rates of Covid infections and deaths in the UK. We also have some beautiful scenery on our doorstep so – even when we were at our most restricted, we could still get out into the country. Nor has it all been bad. We’ve enjoyed the clean air and quiet as well as the chance to catch up on jobs we’d struggled to do otherwise.

But there have been downsides. For me, 2020 will pass into memory as the year that nothing happened. 99% of all the trade fairs, exhibitions, awards ceremony and events that are my bread and butter have been cancelled or postponed until next year. Finances are tight, but I’m in a better position than many in that I have reserves, and I have another string to my bow – my writing, which has kept my head above water and also kept me sane! How the rest of the year will unfold is a very good question. Life will slowly return to normal but it’s going to take some time. It’ll be a little while yet before I return to the rails and a lot of that depends on what happens with the rules on social distancing as the current 2 metre rule is crippling industries like public transport. There’s also the obvious concerns about a Covid second-spike. especially after some of the recent demonstrations and flouting of the guidelines at beaches and other tourist spots.

Our final official day of lockdown began like most other Sundays – with a lie-in and a leisurely start before coffee boosted the rest of the morning. The weather had really picked up so the pair of us were looking forward to getting out and about, but first we both had chores and some work to catch up on. I finished scanning another batch of travel pictures in order to give me the momentum to finish another album, whilst Dawn caught up on office work.

By late afternoon we’d both had enough and headed off out to do something we’ve not done before during lockdown. We went up to Savile Park to meet friends from the Big 6 pub and celebrate Alison’s 50th birthday – all at appropriate distancing of course! OK, we bent the rules a little bit as there were more than 6 of us all told, but we were a collective made up of different groups with a few people circling. The weather was superb and it was lovely to see people we’d not seen for months. I ended up chatting to John, the Landlord of the Big 6, about what happens next for pubs. Unsurprisingly, he told me Landlords hadn’t been offered any guidance or advice on reopening from the Government – so no surprise there then!

His view was he’d reopen – eventually, but only as a bottle pub as there were too many risks with selling real ale from barrels as they’d no idea how many people might turn up to use the beer-garden and there were too many financial risks involved with the vagaries of the weather and the chances of a second lockdown. I suspect he’s not the only pub Landlord thinking along these lines…

We stayed in the park for an hour before everyone started drifting off home, but not before Alison was presented with two birthday cakes! Here’s Hannah, one of our Neighbours, presenting the first cake…

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Returning home the weather was just too good to waste so the pair of us poured some drinks, used Jet’s cage as a table and settled down to a game of Scrabble in the front garden! It was a lovely end to a great day. I wonder how long it’ll be before we get nostalgic for the balmy days of lockdown?

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Or, will it all seem like a strange dream in a few months time when life does finally return to normal?…

Picture of the day.

Today’s picture was taken in Barcelona, Spain on the 20th April 2003. The cities famous tourist street, Ramblas, has always been the haunt of buskers and different street-performers. Whilst wandering along one day during a visit to some Spanish friends, this chap caught my eye as his impression of the left-wing revolutionary icon – Che Guevara – was very good. I’ve always been fascinated by the legend of Che. A few years later I visited Cuba and took a trip out to some of the most famous sites of the revolution, and Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara – but those are pictures for another day!

T15343. Busker as Che Guevara. Barcelona. Catalonia. Spain. 20.04.2003crop

 

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Lockdown – ish. Day 82 (Saturday).

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After the horrible weather we’d had to end the working week, Saturday turned out to be better than expected – not that we were up at Sparrowfart to see the sunrise as we allowed ourselves a gentler start to the day with coffee in bed at a sensible, but not outrageous, time.

We had a slightly different day planned and places to visit we’d not been to since lockdown began. It’s not that they were terribly exciting, but with the way the days tend to roll into each other because of the lack of options nowadays, a trip over to Holmfirth to visit their Lidl and Aldi stores seemed like a treat! Funny, isn’t it how lockdown has made the mundane seem exciting?

The drive over to Holmfirth wasn’t bad, the roads are getting more and more busy nowadays as people slowly return to work but maybe because it was a Saturday they didn’t feel that bad at all. We normally shoot over to Holmfirth every 6 weeks or so as we can pick up stuff there we struggle to get locally, also, it’s a nicer shopping environment. Neither store was crowded although the car parks were – and neither store had a queue outside – although I wouldn’t have minded if they had as the weather had really picked up by the time we arrived. T-shirt weather had returned at last! We breezed around both supermarkets as they weren’t crowded at all and the shelves were well stocked in comparison to the early days of lockdown. Stockpiling is obviously a thing of the past – thankfully….

Moving on we headed back towards home but called in at Dawn’s parents to drop of some shopping we’d picked up for them. The contrast to Thursday’s couldn’t have been greater. Then we were freezing our butts off due to the wind, today we were soaking up the sun! The trip back to Halifax was really pleasant, it was just a shame there was nowhere to stop off for a drink and to admire the view, instead we came straight back and relaxed at home instead. I indulged in some garden therapy whilst Dawn relaxed and pottered around before joining me for a drink outside.  It was easy to forget what was going on in the outside world and lose ourselves in the sounds of the trees and the local wildlife. Lockdown as had its plusses as well as minuses and not having to rush around and instead be able to enjoy a slower life has been one.

Having picked up supplies earlier we had one of our favorite dishes for supper, which we save for a weekend treat: Spanish-style spicy prawns accompanied by garlic bread to soak up the delicious gravy which is far too good to waste. Bliss! Ok, it’s time to move on to…

Picture of the day.

Back in May 2003 I spent a weekend with friends walking around Church Stretton in Shropshire, a county I’ve long regarded as one of England’s hidden gems. It always seems to get overlooked, but that could be part of its charm as it means its not a packed with tourists as some other counties. Church Stretton’s small market town that’s an ideal base from which to explore the Long Mynd and the hills like the one this picture was taken from, the 459m tall Caer Caradoc. The Shropshire hills are an AONB and when you get there it’s not difficult to see why.

T15451. Looking down on Church Stretton from atop Caer Caradoc (459m). Shropshire. England. 04.05.2003crop

Once life returns to something resembling normal I’d love to take a break here once more as views like this should be appreciated and enjoyed.

 

 

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Lockdown. Day 81 (Friday).

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Today’s been the worst day (weather-wise) that we’ve seen since lockdown began. It was awful. When I opened the bedroom blinds this morning much of the valley was invisible as it was hidden behind impenetrable murk whilst the rain never seemed to let up for most of the morning.

There was no point in going out – not that there’s really anywhere to go to – so after breakfast with Dawn I retreated into my office, thankful that I had comfortable surroundings to work from and having plenty to keep me occupied and gainfully employed. Let’s face it, the commute from the bedroom to my office (via the kitchen for coffee) isn’t exactly onerous – even if I do miss the variety of travel. Even so, I have the bird-feeder outside the window as a distraction and a regular stream of visitors to keep me distracted. The Tits and Finches have got used to me being here most of the time now and aren’t fazed at all – even when I have the window open.

It’s typical of the way things work that, whilst the weather had turned crappy and I was stuck inside, the batch of pictures in line for scanning were of palm-fringed beaches in Sri Lanka. Talk about rubbing it in! So, whilst the rain dripped from the stonework outside I was transported back to lovely Mirissa,a beach town on the islands West Coast and also the fabulous old fort at Galle, a sleepy little place that was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588 before being rebuilt by the Dutch from 1649 until the British took over in 1796. It’s a wonderful place to explore and was featured in one of my pictures of the day earlier. When all this is over and travel restrictions are eventually eased I’d really like to get back to Asia. It’s a part of the world I’m really missing. One day…

As is usual on a Friday we held the weekly ‘Big 6’ pub quiz via ‘Zoom’, which was great fun and had the added attraction of an extra quiz hosted by Holly – a teacher and former barmaid at the 6 who’s affectionately known as the ‘Ginmeister’ due to her knowledge of that particular spirit and its mixers. The quiz is a great precursor to the start of the weekend and an opportunity to catch up with friends – some of whom we’ve not seen in  the flesh for months. Now, as ‘lockdown’ is relaxing (or falling apart, depending on your views) we’ll hopefully be catching up – at an appropriate distance – with people again.

OK, it’s now time for the…

Picture of the day.

In April 1998 I was a few months into an 18 month round-the-world adventure. Having spent time in India Lynn and I had moved on to Nepal, where we’d joined up with two Dutch friends who ran treks from Kathmandu to visit the village of Barpak in Gorkha district, where they ran a small charity. From Barpak we trekked towards the high Himalayas where we camped with the intention of enjoying some fantastic views of the snow peaks. Initially, the weather was cloudy and wet, so we really didn’t see much when we reached the place where we were going to stay. But the next morning, the skies cleared and this was the view from our tent.

T7204. Clearing skies over the Himalayas. Gorka District. Nepal. April 1998crop

Sadly, I’ve lost the notes which recorded the name of this particular peak, but wow – what a view – and what an experience – although I’m not sure my knees have ever been the same since! It’s not the climbing, it’s the coming down that does the damage…

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