Lockdown. day 4…

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After yesterday’s adventures there’s been very little excitement today as we haven’t moved from home all day. There’s been no need to go to any shops as we’re stocked up with everything we need right now, especially as my delivery from Virgin wines arrived today to go with Tony Allan’s beer gift yesterday!

Dawn’s been slaving away over a hot keyboard (either computer or phone) whilst I’ve been busy trying to get as many old rail slides scanned as possible. I had to admit defeat by mid afternoon as I was getting bog eyed and the weather outside was beginning to warm up. It’s been a beautifully sunny day, but not particularly warm so I was happy to stare at screens initially, then I decided to make the most of the weather and go stuck into some gardening as a mix of therapy and exercise. I’ve been meaning to replant part of our front garden for a couple of years but the time’s never been right. Today, it was. I’ve dug up an old azalea bush which is one of a pair but that was starting to dominate its sector of the garden. It’s been transferred to a pot that I can put out of the back of the house and its spot has been taken with a young Acer bush which will add colour at different times of the year. I’ve also split a huge Hosta which had got too big for its spot. It’s been quartered and 3/4 of it now resides in other flower beds or pots. As I was digging these things up I also sieved the soil and removed enough pebbles and stones to make a small beach!

All this activity has made up for not going for a walk today, so I don’t mind or feel guilty about the fact we didn’t get out for our traditional constitutional. Instead, I had the chance to sit in the late afternoon sun for a little while to pretend I was a lizard and bask, topping up my Vitamin D levels, which is something I’ve really missed with not having our normal January jaunt to warmer, sunnier climes. The way things are at the moment I’ve no idea when that opportunity will come around again.

Whilst I’ve not been out I have tried to keep up with the news. You may imagine my wry smile when I head that both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary had tested positive for Coronavirus. Wasn’t Johnson boasting the other week that he’s shaken hands with Coronavirus patients? Awkward…

Apropos of this, I had a quick chat over the garden fence (as it were) with some Neighbours earlier. One of them is a hospital Anesthetist. Did he think think this lockdown would be over by the Government’s 3 week review? No. His view was that 12 weeks is more likely. I’m certainly planning for the long-haul – at least by then I won’t have to worry about getting all these slides scanned anymore! Talking of slides, here’s a couple from today’s batch. Both were taken at Liverpool Lime St and show why regional rail liveries aren’t always the best idea – even in BR days.

It’s a Pacer Jim, but not as we know it! When the railbuses were first introduced some of them were branded ‘Skippers’, painted in a faux Great Western Railway livery and sent to Cornwall to work some of the branch lines. They were a bit of a disaster due to excessive tyre wear and the fact they screeched around the sinuous curves, deafening passengers and locals alike. They didn’t last long and were soon transferred North. Here’s 142516 at Liverpool Lime St with a service to Wigan North Western on the 17th June 1991.
Same day, same location. Only this time it’s Network SouthEast liveried 86401 that looks very much out of place. The Class 86 had been repainted and renamed ‘Northampton Town’ to work the ‘Cobbler’ commuter trains between Euston and Northampton. Of course, it never stayed on those diagrams, hence it turning up in that well known outpost of Network SouthEast. Err, Liverpool…

On Fridays a group of us would often meet in our local pub (The Big 6) for an unofficial Quiz night. Our friend Mel would read out the questions from the brain-teasers in the local ‘Pub Paper’ in her finest broad Lancashire accent, which made it doubly challenging. First we had to work out what she was saying, then we had to work out the answer to the question! As that entertainment avenue’s no longer open as the 6 is closed to us a couple of folks had the idea that we should recreate the experience over Snapchat, so we tried it for the first time tonight. It lacks some of the atmosphere, but the humour and daftness was still there and it was great to be able to interact with familiar faces in a way that we’ve been deprived of. This could become a regular Friday feature of lockdown. When needs must…

Tomorrow’s the weekend – the first of the lockdown, but it’s rather lost its meaning as it’s going to be no different than any other day. That’s one of the problems right now, it’s difficult to tell the time. Clearly, we’re not alone in this as I’ve seen several friends comment about the way they’re finding it difficult to keep track of the days. How are you coping, wherever you are?

Lockdown. Day 3…

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Actually, today was a little more normal in some ways, but very surreal in others. The pair of us pushed the boat out and had a lie-in until 07:00, partially because our aged moggie (Jet, who’s now well over 18 years old) has rediscovered some of his youth and remembered how to leap onto the bed and wheedle his way between the pair of us to make the bed his own. We’re not sure if it’s the medication he’s been proscribed for his arthritis or the fact Dawn’s been giving him catnip! Whatever it is, it’s working wonders – for him, but not doing a huge amount for our sleep patterns!

Once up we headed to our respective offices to sort out some work. Mine’s in the back bedroom whilst we’ve set Dawn’s up in the living room. I managed to finished editing 60 old railway slides and stick ’em on my Zenfolio website before we had other things to do as today was a bit of a ‘mercy mission’ to get shopping for Dawn’s parents.

John and Norah are 85 and 79 and there’s no way we want them traipsing round supermarkets, so we’re doing their shopping for them. Yes, in theory, all this can be done online. In practise it’s nigh on impossible as some supermarkets have stopped taking new sign-ups and even if they hadn’t the delivery times are so long the best thing you could order right now is your Xmas hamper.

As her folks live just outside Huddersfield we killed several birds with one stone. Dee needed to pick up some paperwork from the ACoRP office by the station, so we called there first. It was very strange seeing the square outside the station so deserted, but it did allow me to get this picture. The only occupants of the square were the statue of Harold Wilson and an elderly street-drinker on one of the benches…

Our next stop was the local Sainsbury’s. I’ll give them full credit as they’d got a very slick ‘social distancing’ organisation in place. Barriers had been erected outside and people were supervised and kept at the right distance by several members of staff who were limiting the number allowed in at any one time. We only had to queue for 5 minutes, although it was hardly an ordeal as it was a gorgeous spring day anyway.

Once inside we found that most shelves were well-stocked, so there were few items on John & Norah’s shopping list that we couldn’t get and alternatives were available for the ones we couldn’t. The only shelves that were still taking a pasting were the toilet roll isle (why? Haven’t you all got enough now? Ed) and the booze shelves.

There were some surreal and amusing moments in the supermarket. It was a veritable ballet performance as people tried to choregraph their shopping trolley maneuverers around others whilst still trying to maintain social distancing! That said, no-one was kicking off about it or being arses. A few people still struggled to understand the difference between 2 feet and 2 metres, but otherwise…

Shopping done, we dropped off the goodies at Dawn’s parents whilst maintaining our distance – which felt very strange, but the habit’s starting to become hard-wired now. Bizarre, isn’t it? If someone had told you two months ago this is what we’d all be doing, would you have believed them?

Driving back we passed a perfect spot for photography in ideal weather conditions, so I stretched the boundaries of the lockdown just a teeny-weeny bit by stopping for 5 minutes to get a couple of shots of Trans-Pennine services running through the Colne Valley.

Whilst the level of services have been cut the ones I saw running had all been strengthened from 3 to 6 cars.

Heading back home we had two more calls to make. Firstly, at out local Tesco’s to pick up some bits we’d not been able to get over in Huddersfield. Since our last visit they’d also introduced a queuing and limited access system – although it was a little more ragged than Sainsbury’s. I did the shopping whilst Dawn stayed in the car as there was no point in us both being exposed. Our final call was to pick up something from a friends house. This…

Having a friend who owns a brewery has its advantages! As Tony can’t sell the beer he’d already produced he’s passing it on to friends and we’re all making a donation to local charities as payment.

We almost felt guilty by the time we got back home as we’d been away for so long, but it was all for very good reasons and we’d strictly adhered to all the social-distancing protocols. The bright sides? Dawn’s folks don’t need to risk going anywhere near a supermarket and neither do we for a while. Especially as I now have this in the kitchen…

Lockdown. day 2.

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Is it really only day two? Maybe it’s because I’ve been binge-watching old episodes of ‘Dr Who’ whilst scanning slides, but time seems to be rather elastic at the moment. One minute I’m looking at pictures from 1991, then watching a ‘Dr Who’ from 2006, then I’m back in the present day, not that the present seems any more real than anything else!

Both Dawn and I are trying to establish a routine. Dee’s up before 6am to do a Joe Wick’s workout routine in the living room whilst I take it slightly easier by having a coffee and checking the news before beginning the first picture scanning of the day. Then we normally get together for a meditation session before heading off to our respective home offices and knuckle down to several hours work. I’m lucky in that I have a bit more flexibility. Mainly because I have no commissioned work at the moment, which is obviously a double-edged sword. I didn’t mind quite as much today as the weather’s been gorgeous, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures that meant I could peel off several layers of clothing. It really did feel like Spring today, so I had a few hours tidying up the front garden before catching up on reading the latest RAIL magazine in the sunshine. For a moment I got lost. The only noise was the birds singing in the trees opposite, the sun was warming my skin and all was well with the world for one brief moment before I realised where I was and snapped back into reality.

There was no need for us to venture to the shops today so the pair of us enjoyed a walk together unfettered by the need to carry rucsacs. We’re lucky that we have a lovely bit of woodland to walk through on the road we live on. This takes us up to the Promenade on the edge of Halifax that looks across the Calder Valley. It’s a lovely place, but it gets abused by young people who drive out there to sit and smoke dope and/or congregate and play loud music – totally ignoring the residents who live across the road. Despite the supposed ‘lockdown’, this is still happening. I’m beginning to think that it’s going to take a couple of needless deaths from Coronavirus in the younger community before the message sinks in through some thick skulls.

It feels like many in Calderdale are complacent. To date there’s only been 7 confirmed cases in a population of over 210,000. It’s way below average, but I really don’t believe the stats present the true picture. I can’t help wondering how much of this is due to a lack of testing. Time will tell…

Meanwhile, here’s a more light-hearted moment although with a serious message. The Chiropodist in Siwerby Bridge has two skeletons that they use to put in various poses in order to get (often light-hearted) messages across. Here’s their current pose.

Lockdown. Day 1.

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After days of speculation, the fact we’re now finally in this situation was a bit of a relief. All we’ve got to do now is work out exactly what ‘lockdown’ means in practise as it’s fiendishly difficult to implement in a developed country as there’s always going to be exceptions, muddles and ambiguities – and so it’s proved. Many people have been asking simple questions such as “can I still get my car MOT’d”? Others have asked if – as it’s OK to get outdoor exercise – can they not drive outside a crowded city for a few minutes to walk in the great outdoors free of the suburban masses? Plus, the self-employed and freelancers like myself still don’t know where we stand, only that advice is ‘on its way’…

To be honest, this was always going to be the case and I’m not going to criticise the Government for not having all the answers to everything straight away. I notice that they revised and watered down their statement that only ‘key’ workers should go to work within a couple of hours as it was obvious they couldn’t define what the definition of ‘key’ was. It’s going to take a few days for all these things to become clearer. But – the advice is obviously having an effect already. To be honest, trying to enforce a total lockdown would be a logistical and policing nightmare. We don’t have the same sort of paramilitary police or the sheer numbers of officers that countries like France do – especially after 12 years of austerity.

So, day 1 has felt rather weird in that our routine hasn’t really changed at all. The pair of us have been busy working at home, it was only in the mid afternoon that we took a break. As the weather was sunny and warm we decided to combine an afternoon constitutional with a walk to the supermarket, meaning we only had to leave the house once and we didn’t need to use the car.

We passed several people on our roundabout way to the supermarket, all of whom were sticking to the guidelines on keeping their distance. After walking through Scarr Woods up to the promenade (which was pretty much free of promenaders) we bumped into a trio of people we knew and stopped for a chat. Anyone who didn’t know what was going on would have though we were weird as the five of us formed a circle at the requisite distance – even though four of us were couples!

Heading across Savile Park we strolled on to Tesco’s. The lockdown meant it was the quietest we’ve experienced since the shit started to hit the fan. Even better – there was still stuff left on the shelves! We managed to get the fresh vegetables we’d run short of, as well as coffee – which I was perilously low on. New restrictions had been added to the amount of alcohol you could buy (3 bottles each) so there was still a few decent beers available for me to buy. Tesco staff were doing their best to get people to stick to the 2 metres apart rule and to be fair, so were most customers. There’s always one or two who’re either too dim or too self-absorbed for such simple things to sink in, but that’s life. The groceries we managed to pick up mean we can avoid shops for several days now. We have the fresh ingredients we need to cook and eat well.

Being allowed to get out for exercise does make a huge difference as we feared we’d be trapped indoors for the duration (although if the fcukwits carry on the way they are and the infection rate skyrockets that could still happen). We’re better placed than many to cope as we have exercise equipment (weights etc) at home. Whatever happens we’re determined not to turn into couch potato’s. People are likely to go one of two ways, lose weight because they can’t go to the pub/takeaway as often so see it as a chance to get healthier – or go the opposite and binge on processed food and snacks as they confine themselves to the settee in front of the TV. The next few months are going to be an interesting sociological experiment. Only time will tell…

It’s not all been doom and gloom. It’s very early days yet, but the FTSE has gained 9% today. Is this the start of a financial recovery? Who knows, but it’s encouraging to see the rise which makes a change from the kamikaze trend we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Not that we’re anyway near out of the woods yet. The infection rate and death toll is only going to get worse. The $50,000 question is – when will it peak and start to fall back? We’re not going to know the answer to that for some time yet, but if I was a betting man, I’d certainly have money on the lockdown lasting longer than the 3 weeks the Government’s talking about right now.

Interesting times. Part 6.

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So there we have it. The Government has announced that the UK is now in ‘lockdown’ due to the Coronavirus – although not in complete lockdown as people are still allowed to be out to do several things. Go to work, go to buy food or – to exercise once a day. The caveats? No gatherings bigger than two people or household groups if everyone lives together. All non-essential shops are to be closed, as are playgrounds and places of worship. Mind you, for some people, clothes shops are places of worship, so for them it’s going to be a double-whammy! All wedding and christenings are off, but funerals are OK – just don’t go to one, unless it’s your own, obviously – although if I had the choice that’s the one I definitely would avoid! You can find the full list of closures and don’ts here in the Governments press release. The police will be given powers to break up any gatherings that don’t conform to the new rules, which will be reviewed after three weeks. I think most of us suspected this was coming. We’ve had the social screws slowly tightened over the past week, but the sights of the weekend, when thousands ignored the calls to self isolate have made it easier for the Government to act as – in general – people agree with the actions they’re taking, despite this being the most draconian cut in people’s civil liberties since WW2 as it will actually save lives.

Tomorrow we’ll see the reaction of the stock markets, although that can’t get much worse as the FTSE100 has already fallen by 3.79% today. The economic damage this pandemic is causing are going to be far-reaching and any resolution is too far in the future to see. The markets have lost 30% of their value in the past month, which is causing a lot of financial pain for many people and companies.

All we can do now is live for the present. That said, most of what I’m doing is living for the past as the present and future’s very much on hold! I finished writing my latest piece on HS2 and the Curzon St archeological excavations for RAIL magazine today so now I’m going to be concentrating on scanning yet more pictures from the 1990s. I always said I needed to find the time to do this, now I’ve had that time thrust upon me – like it or not. I’ve got two albums of rail pictures with me at home, plus another half dozen travel ones containing pictures from around the world. I’m tempted to vary my output. If I’m going to be stuck in these four walls for most of the day it might be a nice distraction to look upon pictures of sun-kissed beaches and exotic locations – or it could drive me batty as I realise what I’m missing out on. Only time will tell!

Here’s a little sample of the latest additions from today.

This scene from 1991 is unrecognisable today. There are the low level platforms at Stratford, East London, which were on the route to North Woolwich, which closed in 2004. The lines now been converted to become part of the Docklands Light railway. The station itself has undergone several reconstructions since. This part of the line is now inside the huge new main station building whilst the area to the left is the terminus of the Jubilee line. Only the inspection saloon and the locomotive (73209) still exist. ‘Caroline’ as the saloon’s been named is based at Derby whilst the loco is operated by GBRf and used on Caledonian Sleeper trains up in Scotland.
Paddington station on the 25th April 1991 was a dingy place. The station roof was dirty and stained – as were many of the locomotives that choked the place with diesel fumes. Network Southeast liveried 47715 was a refugee from Scotland, having been transferred after the end of push-pull services between Edinburgh and Glasgow. 47843 was used on Cross-country services, having arrived from the Midlands. Notice all the parcels trolleys full of mail bags to the right of the train – another sight that’s long gone.

Tomorrow I’ll be ploughing through another batch of pictures from 1991 and also digging out some more modern digital shots for a future RAIL article. I may be confined to barracks, but I’ve no shortage of things to do…

Interesting times. Part 5.

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The pair of us are ‘enjoying’ our first weekend in a new Coronavirus world where the country is gradually shutting down, bit by bit. Now the pubs clubs and cafe’s have closed. Sadly, it seems a lot of people still haven’t got the memo – or think it doesn’t actually apply to them.

Saturday actually started with a rare luxury – a lie in. Well, what was the rush when much of the country’s in shutdown? Where are we gonna go, join a supermarket queue? Instead Dawn prepared breakfast whilst I finished editing some more old slides from 1991 and the new pictures of a deserted rail network that I’d taken on Friday. Here’s a sample of each.

It sure as hell doesn’t look like this anymore! On the 25th April 1991 73209 is seen at Stratford Low Level alongside 313010 which was working a North Woolwich – Richmond service. The Class 73, which was normally to be found working Gatwick Express airport services was in the area with an inspection saloon.
Despite the Coronavirus and plummeting passenger numbers, the future’s not all doom and gloom. Here’s the new platform at Leeds station taking shape.

Despite the surreality of the situation we find ourselves in we decided to make the most of the improving weather by driving up to Norland Moor to enjoy a long walk in solitary conditions. Whilst the Moor’s popular with dog walkers and mountain bikers, Hyde Park it ain’t!

The view from Norland Moor looking back across the Calder Valley to the Wainhouse Tower as it was last August.

We encountered a few people but it was mostly couples like ourselves, all who understood the need for distance right now. The only problem we encountered was the fact the moor’s so exposed there was an eye-watering biting wind blowing across it – which made us less keen to tarry! Having enjoyed a constitutional and a break from being cooped up we dropped into Sowerby Bridge and the local Lidl to pick up some supplies. Sadly, many of the shelves had been stripped bare of the stuff we needed. We’ll be damned if we’re going to join ridiculous queues early in the morning, so if it’s not on the shelves we’ll do without. I still find it bizarre the way people are panic buying and some of the shit they’re picking up. OK, alcohol and certain foods I can understand, but shampoo and washing powder? You’re meant to be at home self-isolating – just how many changes of bloody clothes do you need? You could sit at home in only your undies for all most people care – just as long as you remember to turn off your webcam when you’re in those conference calls!

Back at home we hunkered down for the evening and enjoyed cooking as therapy. Dawn prepped some veg for me, after which I cooked up a big batch of Cucumber curry to eat that evening and to add to the freezer. I can just imagine some of you saying to yourselves “Cucumber curry, seriously?” but it’s actually a gorgeous South Indian dish made with cucumber, red peppers and peanuts in a cream coconut sauce, finished off with a variety of fried spices.

Suitably sated, we binge-watched a few episodes of an Aussie series on Netflix called ‘The Glitch” which is about a group of people returning from the dead. We weren’t sure what to make of it at first, but it’s curiously addictive as it has several plot twists. It certainly takes your mind off other things…

Today (Sunday) initially began as a re-run of Saturday with me scanning pictures and Dawn preparing breakfast but the weather was so gorgeous we decided to shelve some of the chores we’d planned to get out again whilst we still can as it looks like further restrictions on movement are inevitable due to the sheer number of clowns still congregating.

The fact today’s Mother’s Day made it even more daft. I wonder how many people who’ve ignored the advice have now seen their mother for the last time? Whilst my parents passed away years ago Dawn is fortunate enough that both hers are still alive – but there’s no way on God’s green earth we were going to go anywhere near them today. Her Father’s 85 and Mother 79. Both of them are active yet both of them are heeding the advice to self-quarantine as they understand the risks.

Instead, the pair of us decided to go for a stroll locally along the Calder and Hebble navigation, which is the canal below us in the valley bottom. We walked as far as the locks at Salterhebble, where there’s boat moorings with park benches, the perfect place to sit and enjoy the beer we’d brought with us and watch the world go by for half an hour before walking home. The canal towpath wasn’t very busy and the people we met were all conscious of giving each other a wide berth so it was a stress free time.

Quiet, isn’t it? This is the Copley viaduct where the railway from Halifax (off to the right) crosses the road, the canal – and later the river Calder off to the left before meeting the line from Brighouse at Milner Royd Junction.

In fact, the weather was so pleasant we actually sat outside the cottage on our front garden wooden bench for the first time this year, soaking up the sun whilst listening to the birds in the trees across the road, who seemed to be enjoying the good weather as much as we were. If you closed your eyes, it was possible for a few brief moments to forget all the trouble in the world and indulge your senses, enjoying the simple pleasures of the heat of the sun on your skin and the melodic birdsong gracing your ears.

Next week will be a curious one as it’ll be the first full week where the pair of us will be self-isolating by working from home. The picture in the outside world’s still fluid so who knows how things will look by Friday, or what will happen in the intervening days, but right now all we can do is take one day at a time. The forthcoming weeks and months are in the lap of the Gods…

More ineffective stopHs2 nonsense…

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To say the tiny bunch of self-appointed ‘eco-warriors’ have lost the plot in these troubled times is putting it mildly. Right now they’ve deployed weapons-grade hypocrisy and rank stupidity in equal measures. Just take a look at this video.

Literally nothing they claim in this video is true. The irony of all their claims about being assaulted? They’re being watched by half a dozen police officers (who really do have much better things to do with their time right now). Said officers just might know a bit more about the law than these protesters with their histrionics.

Their hypocritical claims that the HS2 security workers are ‘breaking the law’ by not keeping 2 metres apart? There is no such law (it’s advice that doesn’t apply in this situation).

Oh, and watch serially failed Green Party Candidate Mark Keir getting right into the faces of the security people as he more and more frequently loses his rag (a not uncommon sight nowadays, how long before he’s nicked for threatening behaviour I wonder)? This is the man I highlighted in my latest crazy anti Hs2 campaigner blog as the ultimate hypocrite. Social distancing my arse! This is the clown who was berating men for not keeping their distance yet here he can be seen pressed up against them, covering them in his spittle as he rants and rages!

The ultimate irony? Without these increasingly futile and idiotic protests none of the police or security guards would need to be there and several million pounds of taxpayers money could be spent elsewhere. On things like the NHS perhaps?

It’s time those who’re financially supporting these idiotic antics by ineffective barrack-room lawyers and faux ‘eco-warriors’ (have you seen the mess their ‘protest’ camps make in woodland?) take a good look at what they’re funding and the utter pointlessness of it. Because this isn’t saving woodland, or the planet. Exactly the opposite in fact.

Because, without Hs2, we simply don’t have the rail capacity for the future to get people & freight off roads and cut transport Co2 emissions to tackle Climate Change. Stopping HS2 isn’t ‘green’, it’s exactly the opposite. These people can’t see the woods for the trees.

Interesting times: Part 4.

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I spent the early part of today scanning old slides, responding to emails and helping Dawn set up her home office by converting part of the living room into a workspace. That way I work upstairs and the pair of us don’t disturb each others concentration. We’re now set up for the future which is good as I’ve had the last outside job in the diary cancelled today. Thankfully, I have several writing jobs and I can’t thank my colleagues at RAIL enough for understanding the strain that the present situation places of Freelances like myself and standing by us.

With the weather being cold but sunny the pair of us ventured out for an hour in order to try and pick up some fresh produce and a some tinned goods for the weekend. Oh, and some of Tesco’s finest alcohol free Prosecco, which is one of the best of its type. Sadly, we were unsuccessful on most fronts as both the supermarket in Halifax and the one in Sowerby Bridge has already been pretty much stripped clean. There’s tentative signs that some things are easing as people’s deep-freezes and store cupboards must be packed by now. You could still buy some eggs – and bread but in the immortal words of Magician Paul Daniels “not a lot”. A novelty was that the checkouts now have yellow tape on the floor marking out the minimum distance people are being asked to keep from each other (2 metres) – and this applies to customers and cashiers too!

Back home my plans changed when I found that my bank had settled a PPI claim. It was certainly a case of serendipity as the money couldn’t have arrived at a better time. The irony? They sent me a cheque. My bank, whom have all my bank details – sent me a cheque through the post! FFS!…

As their mobile app allowing you to scan and pay them online isn’t yet up and running I had to walk into central Halifax and pay it into a bank branch. It’s so long since I last visited that I was surprised to see they’d closed all their counters and replaced them with machines and a few roving staff. Gone are they days when you stood in a line to see a bank teller behind a bullet-proof screen. I can’t help wondering how long the NatWest will hold on to such an enormous building that was built for a very different banking age, when such institutions used architectural pomp to present power and stability. It must cost a pretty penny to operate yet the footfall will be tiny compared to just a decade ago, never mind its heyday.

As I was in town I decided I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb so I caught the train into Manchester. I was fully equipped with hand-sanitiser and on my Jack Jones so there was no problems with social isolation! My plans changed when I realised just how many services Northern were cancelling due to staff shortages. I’d an inkling this was happening as both my Facebook and Twitter feeds were busy with rail industry friends saying they were starting to self-isolate due to having diabetes. I’d never picked up that this was such an issue before, nor the fact that the problem is so common. Instead of Manchester, I found myself checking out a deserted Leeds station and an unheard of situation, especially on a Friday – the Wetherspoons was deserted!

The front of Leeds station at 14:51. Not how you expect to see it on a Friday…

As a plan B I caught a pretty empty Trans-Pennine Express service across to Manchester in order to be able to relate a tale of two cities. It was very instructive as it’s clear more and more people are starting to self isolate as the magnitude of the problem finally sinks in. The train was quiet with around a 8-10 people in the carriage after we left Huddersfield. In Manchester there were still people around but nothing like the numbers I saw earlier in the week. The demographic seemed to have changed too. It was much younger, with far less older people about. Most station retail outlets were deserted and many on the mezzanine floor of Piccadilly had already closed down for the duration, with areas taped off to the public. Others had become refuges for railstaff taking breaks who wanted to self-isolate. That message is really getting through. Here’s how Manchester’s two main stations looked in the Friday ‘rush’…

Manchester Piccadilly, 16:38.
Manchester Victoria. 17:11

I headed back across the Pennines on the 17:20 from Manchester Victoria which would normally be packed but it was eerily quiet with around a dozen people in my car. On arrival at Halifax I walked back and decided that – as I was passing – I’d pop into my local supermarket on the way home. The news that the Government was telling all cafes, pubs and clubs to close from this evening had obviously already got through as the drinks isle was almost bare of wines and beers had disappeared completely! It looks like we’re in for turbulent few weeks…I’m now back at home and settling in for the duration. Dawn and I will still get out and about of course, we’re not going to become hermits but we are going to be practising social isolation. I’ll tell you what though, it’s going to be one heck of a day when the pubs re-open! Well, most of them anyway.

Allow me a certain amount of schadenfreude at the discomfort of Tim Martin, boss of Wetherspoons, who earlier today complained closing pubs was ‘over the top’ and the equivalent to ‘shutting down Parliament’. Suddenly, the man who was treated as an economic expert by the media over Brexit and who helped foist that shambles upon us is now being treated as an expert on contagious diseases. Of course, the irony is that by closing his establishments they Government has probably saved his business as many of his pubs have a reputation for being ‘care in the community’ day-centres, just with alcohol. Many of his punters are in the demographic that the Coronavirus would decimate!

The country may well look a little different by the time we come out of all this…

Crazy anti Hs2 campaigner of the week. No 25.

It’s absolutely ages since I’ve highlighted one of these, but today I’ve seen such a fantastic bit of idiocy and lack of self-awareness that I had to ressurect it.

This weeks award goes to serially failed Green Party candidate Mark Keir, one of a bare handful of ‘eco-warriors’ trying (and utterly failing) to stop HS2.

For the past couple of days Keir has been whining about the beefed up security on one of the sites where his ineffectual band have turned up. Clearly, the security team have developed a strategy to deal with Keir’s band and are using football tactics of ‘man-marking’ to frustrate the protesters, rendeing them incapable of causing any problems whilst still allowing them the freedom of movement they’re entitled to have on public rights of way.

You can find his latest Facebook video here.

As you can see, the security team’s tactics are working, much to Keir’s obvious frustration as he gets very verbal in his videos. Today, he’s surpassed himself by shouting at the workers and security team that they’re breaking the law by ignoring Government advice about Covid-19 and gatherings! It’s complete bollocks, but that’s Keir for you. What he knows about the law could fit on the back of a stamp, the rest he just makes up!

And the ultimate stupidity here? On the video he asks “why are there so many people here?” It never crosses Keir’s tiny mind that – if it wasn’t for him and his tiny band, most of these people wouldn’t be! The only reason security teams are needed in the first place is because of idiotic and ineffectual protests like his!

Honestly, is it any wonder that the anti HS2 movement has been such an utter failure? To use an old expression, “If his brains were dynamite he wouldn’t have enough to blow his hat off”. The protesters might not be able to stop Hs2, but they are providing some more moments of pure comedy gold!

Interesting times: Part 3.

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Considering that I’ve had jobs and events cancelled left, right and centre – I should be a man of leisure, but life never works out the way you think it might. Instead, I’ve found myself busy with trying to arrange work to fill the gaps, continue scanning old pictues and (safely) escape from quarantine to enjoy the fact Spring’s on it’s way and enjoy little victories.

Shopping around here is still a bizarre experience. Our local supermarkets have the look of places that have been visited by looters! Today I celebrated a small success by popping into one on the off-chance and being at the right time to pick up a dozen eggs. Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it? A couple of weeks ago, who would have thought that this would even have been an issue? I still can’t get my head around the whole bog roll shortage. Today I was amused to see that the shelves in a local Tesco’s had been stripped clean of cans and bottles of shit lagers, which is possibly an indicator of who’s doing the panic buying. There was still plenty of decent beers, wines and spirits to be had but the piss was in short supply…

Like many others, I’m still trying to come to terms with all this. To put things in perspective, by the end of today there had been a grand total of three confirmed cases of Coronavirus across the whole of Calderdale – out of a population of 210,000. We’re in the group of the lowest in the UK. Sure, there’s bound to be more undiagnosed cases here, but it’s not exactly the Black Death.

I’m not trying to make light of things here, just add some perspective – honest! Let’s face it, we need some humour at the moment and if the likes of Monty Python can’t supply it, who can? With the boot on the other foot I was morbidly fascinated to see how many older people still couldn’t resist the lure of Wetherspoons in Sowerby Bridge earlier, despite all the warnings about gatherings. We could be seeing an interesting experiment in self-inflicted social Darwinism playing out over the next few months.

Back from my mission to buy eggs I’ve been continuing to be productive by scannning more old slides from what now seems a much simpler age to my Zenfolio website. Here’s a couple of samples.

It’s Sunday the 14th April 1991 and Romanian built 56026 keeps UK built 47473 company in platform 7 of the old St Pancras station where they’d been stabled for the weekend. St Pancras was a BR traincrew depot and in those days driver still signed both passenger and freight traction.

Meanwhile, just down the road at Farringdon..

31511 heads up a wiring train at Farringdon on the cross-London Thameslink route. Diesel locomotives were extremely rare in this neck of the woods.