Rolling blog. An impromptu day out…

Tags

, , , , ,

10:37.

My original plan to work at home today has been altered by a change in the weather. The forecast for the next few days is lousy but today (so far) has bucked the trend – and the forecast – so I’m heading over to Manchester for a couple of hours in the hope of checking on progress on Trans-Pennine electrification and return clothes I bought from Uniqlo the other day. I’m flattered to say that ‘medium’ size is just too big!

Right now I’m on the train from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester Victoria. It’s a Chester bound service operated by a pair of 2-car Class 195s which is pretty busy for the time of day although I had no problem bagging a table seat to set up the mobile office. This is a lovely time of year to be traversing the Calder valley as the colours in the remaining leaves on the trees are glorious and the low winter light shows them at their most intense. I only hope the sunshine I’m seeing now stays with me. Let’s see. Expect some pictures soon…

11:15.

Neither my luck nor the weather’s held, so it’s time for a different mode of transport to Shank’s pony…

13:50.

That was an interestinginterlude! I caught a couple of trams out to Ashton-Under-Lyme which turned out to be a good idea as the rain persisted until a few minutes after I arrived. The plan was to have a look at progress electrifying the line from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge. This should have been completed years ago but it was one of the schemes delayed by political dithering. Now it’s well underway. Now, most of the masts and stanchions are in place.

802206 speeds through Ashton-under-Lyme en-route from Liverpool Lime St to Newcastle whilst the masts march towards Stalybridge.

16:00.

I chose to walk between Ashton and Stalybridge in order to check out the views from various bridges on the way. It was an interesting trip as it took me down all sorts of streets I’d never explore otherwise. The area’s a maze of brick-built, late Victorian terrace houses with patches of much wealthier properties. But not all’s well. In the space of a couple of hundred meters I passed three closed pubs. One was derelict, one was ‘closed until further notice’ and the other was up for sale.

I find derelict pubs terribly sad buildings as I can imagine all the happy times people must have had there in the past. They were community centres, but now they’re dying.

I arrived at ‘Stalyvegas’ station just as the rain did, so ended up with a soaking, but I dried out on the train back into central Manchester, where I am now, indulging in my least favourite activity. Shopping!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Rolling blog. Memorials and meandering…

Tags

, , , ,

07:37.

We’ve another misty morning here in West Yorkshire, where little cotton wool clouds cling to the sides of the valley. Not that t matters to me as I’m escaping for the day. Right now, I’m preparing to head down to Sowerby Bridge to catch a train across the Pennines. Let’s see how it goes…

08:18.

Another fun day on the railways. I walked down to Sowerby Bridge in plenty of time to catch the 08:23 to Chester. The service is having a torrid time. The station PIS shows the 07:23 was cancelled and the 09:23 is “delayed”. In contrast, the 08:23 turned up 7 minutes early and is now sat waiting time. Looking on Real Time Trains I see it left Leeds 6 minutes late and looks to have been diverted to run non-stop via Brighouse.

195119 approaches Sowerby Bridge on the Chester service, passing a Leeds bound set.

09:55

After arriving at Victoria I ambled theough central Manchester to Piccadilly. As I passed the gardens I heard a car making an awful racket. Then I saw a young guy driving (as fast as he could) a red hatchback with a smashed and flat front tyre and all the passenger side of the vehicle caved in. A few minutes later I passed this scene…

13:12.

We’ve unveiled the plaque to Paul Abell at Ashburys station in the area of Manchester Paul grew up in. Present were his Widow, Shirley, his sons Brian and Malcom and his daughter Anne. I’ll add more pictures later.

Paul composed this local history board which has been on the station since 2019.
The Abell family with Paul’s plaque. (L-R) Anne, Shirley (Paul’s widow) Brian and Malcolm. The plaque (chosen by the family) depicts one of the engines that used to operate station pilot duties at Manchester Piccadilly and original Manchester tram No 756, which was restored in 1985 and now resides on the Heaton Park tramway.

15:30.

Following the event, we headed off to Guide Bridge station for coffee and sandwiches kindly supplied by TfGM and hosted by Northern in the station offices. On leaving I headed off into the city as an old Network Rail friend was up from London for the day, liaising with stakeholders on forthcoming blockades, so I arranged to catch up with him for an hour before he headed back to London.

Earlier, I had managed to make the most of the sunshine by bimbling along to get a few shots along the notorious railway bottleneck of the Oxford St corridor. Here’s one of them.

15th November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , , , ,

Half-way through November already, where does the time go? In my case it’s gone very quickly here at Bigland Towers. After our Whitby wandering I’ve spent the past couple of days in the office, which has been no bad thing as the weather has been crap. Most of Monday was spent enveloped in fog, so sitting in my office blogging and picture editing was hardly a hardship. I didn’t even make it out to get my usual 5 mile walk in. Today was very much the same only with the addition of torrential rain. Combined with leaf-fall and Calderdale Council having neglected to clean any drains around here for years the roads turned into streams. So, when I got stir-crazy it was a case of donning the full waterproofs (including gaiters) to venture down to Sowerby Bridge to drop post off and pick up some food shopping.

That apart I’ve had a productive couple of days. There’s been some utter rubbish written about High Speed 2 by two of the usual suspects (Andrew Gilligan and Simon Jenkins) so it’s been great to have time to blog about their nonsense. I’ve also managed to (almost) clear the backlog of picture editing. All the images from my trip to Innotrans in Germany back in September are now on my Zenfolio website. You can find the Dutch railway ones here and the travel images here whilst the German rail ones are here.

Tomorrow I’m venturing out as I’m representing Community Rail Network at a little event to commemorate Paul Abell, the former Editor of Today’s Railways UK and fellow Community Rail Awards judge who passed away suddenly last year. I’d known Paul for several years as one of the small band of railway Journalists who would often meet up on press trips. Then Paul joined me as a Community Rail Awards judge. The pair of us would help judge the shortlist for the Photographic competition. Paul was always a pleasure to work with and never got ruffled by anything. I don’t ever remember him saying anything stronger than ‘Oh – heck!’- despite his service in the Royal Navy and many years as a teacher! No doubt I’ll post some pictures from what transpires tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s today’s picture, which is taken from my last batch of pictures from Berlin. This looks innocuous, unless you know the history. Here’s the Teufelsberg (Devil’s mountain in English) seen in September 2022 from the roof of one of the halls at the Messe.

Those ‘golf balls’ are part of an abandoned American spybase which was built to listen in on the Russians. It lasted until the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. The hill it’s standing on? That’s man-made. Rising to over 80 meters it’s constructed from the rubble of West Berlin left after the second world war. All the ruined building were cleared and the remains brought here to construct the hill.

It’s a sobering and very visible reminder of the war.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Simon Jenkins, HS2 and the tunnel that never was…

Tags

, , ,

It’s not often nowadays that I have the opportunity to fillet so much dishonest and fact-free nonsense about HS2 in the media nowadays, but I’ve been given the rare threat thanks to two people who’ve been writing trash about HS2 for years. Yesterday it was Andrew ‘transcription error’ Gilligan, one of the Tories client journalists who for many years was embedded in the heart of the Tory party as one of Boris Johnson’s coterie.

Today it’s the turn of the dyspeptic Simon Jenkins, whose penned his latest fact-free polemic in the Guardian, which you can find here. It’s up to his usual standard, loads of assertions with no facts to back it up and made-up numbers for the ‘true’ cost of HS2. I’ve examined Jenkins troubled relationship with facts before in this blog.

However, Jenkin’s goes one further than Gilligan and claims that ALL of HS2 should be cancelled immediately – even Phase 1 where construction is well advanced. To support his claim, Jenkins says this;

“A New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, famously halted a rail tunnel under the Hudson river by simply ordering the contractors to fill in the hole”.

There just one teeny problem with this claim. It’s complete and utter bollocks. Jenkins has made it up, and the reality shows Jenkins example of the ARC demonstrates that his idea is short-sighted and stupid in the extreme.

Here’s the reality. Chris Christie does exist. He was the Republican Governer of New Jersey between 2010 and 2018 when he lost to his Democrat challenger. He’d put his hat in the ring for his party’s Presidential nomination, he got nowhere, but Donald Trump did, Christie endorsed him and joined his team, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what about this tunnel? That didn’t exist. There *were* plans to build one (there still are). Known as ‘Access to the Regions Core’ (ARC) the plan was to build two new tunnels from New Jersey to Manhattan and a new railway station next to Penn Station which was at capacity. The original cost of the project was estimated at $8.7bn. Preparations for building the tunnels began in 2009 with a completion date of 2018, but in 2010 Christie effectively cancelled the project by withdrawing his part of the funding, citing ‘concerns’ about cost overruns. By the time the project was cancelled in October 2010 all that was built was the Palisades ‘tunnel’, an underpass under Tonnelle Ave in North Bergen. Contracts *had* been let for tunnelling, Skanska had won the design and build contract for the full Palisades Tunnel on May 5, 2010, just 5 months earlier but tunnelling proper hadn’t even begun.

That wasn’t the end of the story. The decision was controversial and Christie became embroiled in a series of legal actions over where the money went – especially Federal funding towards the project. The federal government demanded repayment of funding received by New Jersey Transit for the project. After litigation, an agreement was reached where part of the funds were returned while other monies were used on transit-related projects.

That wasn’t the end of the story. Christie’s administration was later investigated and fined $400,00 for diverting funds from the project to subsidise various roads projects. Plus, some of New Jersey’s funds earmarked for ARC were eventually diverted to the state transportation trust, normally funded by a gasoline tax, one of the lowest in the United States. This was believed by many to be a cynical attempt to subsidise motoring by avoiding raising gas tax,

In March 2012, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal agency, published a report entitled Commuter Rail Potential Impacts and Cost Estimates for the Cancelled Hudson River Tunnel Project, which concluded that Christie’s basis for cancellation was a misrepresentation and that he misstated the estimated costs, cost over-runs, and New Jersey’s obligation to pay them (see link)

So, was anything ‘filled in’ as Jenkins claims? No, because the project never really died because it was still needed. This need became ever more evident after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy caused damage to the existing 100 year old rail tunnels which led to flooding of the New York subway. It’s estimated $5bn damage was caused to the rail systems. Some of the completed design and engineering work has been used by Amtrak to develop the Gateway Programme, which will build yes – you’ve guessed it – new tunnels under the Hudson! The Gateway Project was unveiled on February 7, 2011, just 4 months after Christie cancelled ARC.

So, the project Jenkins cites isn’t dead at all. Nothing was filled in and the delays and political shenanigans have cost taxpayers dearly! The original ARC project was budgeted at $10 billion and was due to open in 2018-20. The Gateway programme’s 2022 projected cost of the tunnels and related projects is $16.1 billion.

What Jenkins completely fails to mention is cancelling a project where no main construction works and no Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) were running is a very different kettle of fish to HS2, where the Chiltern tunnels are already over 8 miles long, the Long Itchington Tunnel has one of the 1-mile-long tunnels completed and at West Rusilip there are two more TBMs already boring East into London. Oh, and that’s without the 3.5km long Colne Valley viaduct which is already well underway! Add in all the other civil engineering work along the phase 1 route and we’re talking of 10s of billions already spent or committed. To claim this can just be cancelled or ‘filled in’ is nothing more than idiocy. But then when did Jenkins ever deal in reality when it comes to HS2? The most amusing thing about Jenkins using the Hudson tunnels as an example of how you could scrap HS2 (apart from the fact it was bollocks) is it’s exactly the opposite. It’s a classic example of why you shouldn’t cancel these vital projects and how doing so comes back to bite you on the arse!

Unlike Jenkins US tunnel which was never started much less ‘filled in’. here’s one of the HS2 Chiltern tunnels under construction. This is now over 4 miles long, as is its next door neighbour. The Long Itchington tunnel is half-complete and the West Ruislip tunnels already have two TBMs running. That’s over 9 miles of tunnels bored already…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

More right-wing tosh about High Speed 2 from opaque lobbyists.

Tags

, , ,

Today the right-wing press and a few other media outlets are falling over themselves to report of the latest right-wing nonsense about HS2 from the secretive political lobbyists at ‘Policy Exchange’.

But who are ‘policy exchange’? none of the media bothers to ask.

Like other right-wing lobbyists, PE claim to be an educational charity. They bill themselves as “the UK’s most influential think tank”, an appellation awarded to them by the right-wing newspapers who lap up whatever they report. Yep, that’s the reason they’re ‘influential’. Their friends in the media push their agenda and the organistion has a revolving door with Tory Governments, with many of its members having been part of Tory administrations at advisory or Ministerial level!

How you can be an educational charity when it’s plain to anyone who does the slightest research that they’re actually political lobbyists is a sad indictment of the laws around charities and political lobbying. Sadly, the Charity Commission is both weak and feeble when it comes to allowing overtly political lobby groups to get away with claiming charitable status and availing themselves of the tax breaks that bestows. PE is also the opaquest of all the ‘think-tanks’ when it comes to revealing who funds it. You can read more about that here on the ‘Teacher Toolkit’ website.

PE was set up in 2002 by prominent Tories including Nicholeas Boles as its first Director. Micheal Gove as Chairman and also Francis Maude. There’s a long list of familiar names associated with the right-wing and PE, including one who wrote the latest hatchet job on HS2. Step forward, Andrew ‘transcription error’ Gilligan! Former advisor to Boris Johnson (both when he was Mayor of London and Prime Minister). Gilligan’s long had antipathy towards HS2, so his fingerprints being on this report ‘HS2: The kindest cut of all’ are hardly a surprise.

So, what does Gilligan claim? Nothing new at all, so no change there then! In fact, the report is just the usual rehash of old claims about HS2 the libertarian right have been bandying around for years. Gilligan has a long history of rehashing knocking copy about HS2, as I’ve blogged about in the past.

“By cancelling all sections of HS2 where main construction has not yet started, we can save around £3bn a year by 2027/8, and £44bn or more in total.”

And the evidence for this is? There’s none, apart from a few back of a fag-packet calculations and assumptions, each one is caveated with the phrase “likely to be an underestimate“. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? How is this meant to ‘fill’ a supposed black hole in the Government’s current budget? It can’t – obviously, this is pure spin on the part of the media who’re reporting on this. Not only would it not fill any holes in Government coffers, but Gilligan’s suggestion also to stop work at Euston would actually COST money as contracts would be cancelled and compensation paid and workers (who’re currently paying tax) would be laid off.

Whilst admitting it’s not possible to scrap phase 1 of HS2 are construction is already well underway and the costs and penalties would be astronomical he does suggest scrapping the line from Old Oak Common into Euston. What Gilligan completely ignores is the fact Old Oak Common can’t be used as a replacement for Euston station as it’s far, far too small and would hamstring any possibility of running a full service on HS2, thus rendering the project pointless. This is classic penny-pinching and either not understanding (or deliberately ignoring) why a 10-platform station at Euston is being built in the first place. Gilligan claims people can change onto the Elizabeth line and use that to get to Central London instead. In that he contradicts himself as earlier in the report he claims that to cope with the extra passenger numbers HS2 would bring to Euston we’d need Crossrail 2’s capacity. Yet Crossrail 1 (which wasn’t designed to cope with HS2 passengers) can somehow fit everyone on regardless! But then, consistency has never been Gilligan’s forte. Gilligan grudgingly admits that “Old Oak will, admittedly, be less convenient than Euston for passengers seeking to continue their journeys by taxi, car or foot, or going to the Eurostar terminal”. But he completely ignores another dimension and reason Euston was chosen as the HS2 terminus. It not only has East-West connectivity, but it also has something Old Oak doesn’t have – North-South connectivity, Euston serves the whole of London in a way Old Oak never could – even if it had the platform capacity! That a former transport advisor to the Mayor of London doesn’t understand this (or more likely, choses to ignore because it doesn’t fit his narrative) tells you a lot about Gilligan.

Building HS2 at Euston in October 2021. Gilligan completely ignores the reasons Euston was chosen as the terminus (connectivity) and the fact the railway systems are designed and developed, it’s only the oversite development where plans are in a state of flux.

We see other bald assertions such as “HS2’s real benefit-cost ratio may be somewhere between 0.4 and 0.7 – even at the official price” (note the word ‘may’ doing some very heavy lifting there’s no evidence for this claim is offered at all). Gilligan often quotes the BCR as being lower than 1, occasionally he admits this excludes the wider economic impacts (WEIs) but completely ignores the fact the WEI’s are woefully underestimated because they don’t include real environmental impacts such as tackling Climate Change. Transport is the biggest single emitter of carbon in the UK, but Gilligan hardly even mentions the environment in his ‘report’ except when he makes this evidence free assertion “Per pound spent, almost literally any other public transport project imaginable could achieve greater modal shift and CO2 reduction than HS2; that it takes vast sums away from such projects is another of its environmental harms”. Yet again we see the fabrication that HS2 is taking money “away” from other things. The truth? Cancelling HS2 wouldn’t release any money for anything else: the money just doesn’t exist until the government issues the bonds for it. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that (just as they did with HS1) the government can make money from selling the operating concession, which you can’t do if you don’t build it, or only build a rump of HS2 that makes the whole project pointless (which is what Gilligan wants).

Gilligan makes much play about the conservative %’s the Government use for modal shift from other modes of transport to HS2. As usual, these percentages have no context, saying what they’re percentages of. 3% of 100 is tiny, 3% of (say) 100 million is a very different proposition. Plus, what are the carbon savings by moving from high carbon travel (domestic air) to high-speed rail? Gilligan ignores that as it’s inconvenient. It’s also worth noting that whilst Gillian rubbishes any official figures he doesn’t like, the takes the governments modal shift numbers as holy writ, yet the Government’s forecast method is known to be weak. It specifically excludes any factors that favour rail over car or air. Plus, mainland Europe high-speed rail has much higher from-air percentage than the UK Governments figures All the UK modal shift claims are ridiculously low compared to what has actually happened with high-speed rail elsewhere – for which empirical evidence exists.

Reading the report it’s clear that Gilligan’s ignored the most important reasons for building HS2 (rail capacity and the environment) in order to focus solely on what always drives these libertarians. Money and ideology. He offers no alternatives to HS2 because that would mean admitting the central reasons for building it. Instead, he dismisses it purely on the grounds of cost with the spurious arguments that we ‘can’t afford’ HS2 and that the money can be used to fill holes elsewhere – even though that money doesn’t actually exist until it’s borrowed. There isn’t and never has been a big pot of money sat in the Treasury labelled ‘for HS2’ just waiting to be rebadged and spent on other things.

No doubt the usual suspects will fawn over Gilligan and his recycled report, despite it being the usual rehash he’s made a career out of. Will it stop HS2? Of course not. He never has. Because even this Government is starting to realise that it’s these ‘think-tanks’ and their loony libertarian thinking that doomed Truss and got the Tories into the mess they’re in now. If a ‘black hole’ does exist, it’s because of the ‘think tanks’ that Truss listened to! Cancelling HS2 would add another nail in the coffin of their reputation of economic competence and leave the UK looking even more like a laughing stock, unable to build infrastructure because the swivel-eyed loons on the right want small government (and tax cuts).

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Whitby weekend (pt 2)…

Tags

, ,

It’s late and I’m running out of time to post so I’ll restrict myself to pictures. Today we walked part of the Cleveland Way from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s only 6.5 miles, but it’s quite a challenging walk as it’s undulating with quite a few drops and climbs. Even so, it’s worth it because it offers some superb views of the coast. Here’s a few pictures from the trip.

The entrance to Whitby harbour seen from the cliffs by the Abbey.
Saltwick Nab seen from the Cleveland way.
Shipwreck by Black Nab
Fishing boat dropping lobster/crab pots.
Whitby lighthouse is still owned by Trinity House but the site incorporates holiday lets.
The beach at Robin Hoods bay, looking South.
Cliffs North of Robin Hoods bay in late afternoon light.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

Whitby weekend (pt 1)…

Tags

, , ,

13:00.

And things were going so well…

After a leisurely morning packing and sorting out a few chores before loading up the car to head off to Whitby. It being Friday we were pleasantly surprised by the traffic levels on the ‘cobbled motorway’ (aka the M62) and M1. It was only when we came off onto the A64 skirting to the South of York that it went ‘Pete Tong’ due to a crash. Right now we’re trapped in slow moving traffic approaching the hold-up and have been for the past 25 mins.

15:30.

Made it!

21:30.

Time to relax and put our feet up for the evening. We’ve had a great first day here in Whitby. Well, once we managed to get here anyway. To be honest, we were only about half an hour late. Thankfully, the accident on the A64 wasn’t that serious, it was just time consuming. On the bright side (literally) the weather was far better than was forecast. We had a lovely run across the North Yorkshire moors with the sun breaking through the waning clouds so when we crested the final hill before Whitby we were greeted by the sight of the town basking in sunshine. 10 minutes later we were checking into our hotel up on the North promenade overlooking the beach. We were keen to explore so as soon as we’d settled in we went out to explore. My God – it was windy! No wonder the clouds didn’t hang around long! That said, the weather’s also incredibly mild and as soon as we dropped down to the harbour the wind disappeared. The town looked gorgeous in the late afternoon sunlight making it an ideal time to be out with the camera. Neither of us have been back to Whitby since (we reckon) 2014 so it was great to explore the narrow backstreets and discover places neither of us remember visiting before. The town was busy, but not overbearingly so the way it can be at the height of the summer, which made our perambulations that more pleasant. We did take a break to try a couple of the pubs, one of which was the ‘Little Angel’, a friendly little real ale pub with a great selection of beers.

Dawn suggested we eat at the Magpie, which she’s heard was a cut above your average sit-down fish and chip shop. It was a brilliant choice. The food was excellent. Despite not having booked we managed to get a table on the top floor of the building which overlooks the harbour. We opted to share a starter, so I picked the battered Calamari, which was superb. served with a spicy dip it was melt in the mouth gorgeous! For our mains we both chose the same dish – local scampi in a basket (with chips). The portions were huge. The pair of us were defeated by the chips although I managed to consume all my scampi (washed down by a bottle of Farmers Blonde Ale). Dee had a cuppa to compliment her meal. The whole bill came to £42 which seemed pretty good for what we had – fresh, delicious seafood…

Here’s a few more photos to end the day…

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

I’m back!

Tags

, , , ,

Sorry for the latest hiatus in blogging. This one’s been due to scribbling for a living as I needed to complete round Britain trilogy for RAIL magazine. The last one was finished today so now I’m free to concentrate on other matters, such as writing for pleasure and travelling. I’ve various project in the pipeline for November which should keep you entertained as there’ll be plenty to write about, starting tomorrow. It’s our wedding anniversary on Saturday so I’ve booked us a couple of nights away in Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s relatively easy to get to from West Yorkshire, which is an advantage. Plus, the weather’s meant to be good, continuing the run of unseasonably mild weather we’ve been having throughout the month. Our plan is to spend our time walking and exploring the coast as well as indulging in some of the local seafood. I’m not a great fan of fish and chips but I may have to indulge as they’re one of the things Whitby’s famous for, so it would be rude not to! I’m sure all the walking we’re planning will work off any calorific excesses!

I’ve enjoyed writing up my trip for RAIL (the first part of which is in newsagents now) but it’s always a bit of a struggle fitting seven days into 12,000 words spread over three articles. It’s not that it’s difficult to write – far from it – it’s choosing what to mention and what to leave out. Truth be told, after a week travelling around the UK by rail I always have enough material to write a book. I always end up with bulging notebooks. Maybe, one day, when I ‘retire’ (ha!) I’ll have time to expand on the original articles using all the material I never had space for. They’d certainly make for some interesting blogs as I’ve been travelling the network ever since 2004, so you can imagine the changes I’ve seen. Sadly, I suspect that will never happen. I’ve enough to try and write about with the present day, but we’ll see…

Right now it’s time to come back to the present and leave you with a picture of the day. My ambition was to get all my old slides scanned by the end of this year, but that’s turned out to be a forlorn hope. I’ve still a couple of 1000 left to do, along with many scans that I haven’t yet edited. Here’s one. This was taken in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, Southern India in February 1998. The village is an amazing place as its full of stonemasons who make the most amazing statues. Carving has a long history here, and the 5 Rathas are a testament to that. Cut out of solid granite, these figurines and temples were made between 690–725 CE. This one’s the Bhima Ratha.

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

5th November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , ,

It’s very much a short blog from me today as the old adage ‘nothing to report’ springs to mind. Unless you count cutting back and tidying up the garden ready for winter and filling a few bags with leaves! Admittedly, I find that very therapeutic. I enjoy gardening as it reconnects me with more elemental forces which are very different to what I do for a living. There’s also the satisfaction of being able to see a positive change, unlike (say) clearing your email inbox. Today was a good day to be outdoors. It may have been wet at times but here in the Pennines it’s also surprisingly mild for the time of year – which is great when you consider the escalating costs of fuel bills at the moment.

Having filled a few bags with garden waste and dead leaves I retreated to the office to research some more travel options for the future. Christ on a bike – flights are getting expensive! Admittedly, I’d have much preferred to travel overland, but the part of the world I want to get to (Thailand) has been cut off to all but the bravest (or mad) overland travellers for a long time. OK, I possibly *could* still do it if I wanted to cross Iran from Turkey, but as I don’t have the luxury of unlimited time and that country’s going through a period of huge civil unrest that might eventually see the overthrow of a theocracy ’tis probably not the best time for a Brit to be there! Oh, then there’s Myanmar. So, flights it is then. Eventually…

Of course, today in the UK it’s ‘Bonfire night’ – or ‘Guy Fawkes night‘. The day we celebrate when a bunch of Catholics tried (and failed) to blow up the House of Parliament. Right now, I suspect quite a few people had wished they’d succeeded! As I kid, I loved bonfire night. I came from a big family, and we’d always have a big party in the back garden that involved loads of fireworks, food and drink. Admittedly, at that tender age all I was interested in was the fireworks and my mum’s home-made treacle-toffee. The adults had other entertainments! But, they’re great memories. Alright, there was one year in the 1960s when a party was invaded by some local youths and the police turned up as there was an allegation of a stabbing, which was a bit traumatic when you’re about 6 but hey ho. It’s funny, I’ve only thought about that after decades as I started typing this. I really must remember to ask my elder brothers about it. It’s one of those family stories (and we have a lot) I’ve never really nailed down.

OK digression over. I went out for an evening wander so that I could look over the valley and watch other people’s fireworks as they lit up the valley. Maybe Yorkshire’s rubbing off on me after all these years and I’ve become too tight to buy my own! It was lovely sitting up on the side of the valley and watching a mix of displays and private garden parties light up the skies whilst the gunpowder fog with its distinctive smells drifted across the valley.

Now I’m back in the office quaffing LA beer and realising there’s only one possible picture for today. I know many animals struggle with bonfire night, just as they do with thunderstorms. My mum and our pet dog ‘Dori’ were the same. Both used to be reduced to shaking wrecks by a thunderstorm, so much so that when one happened my mum would get a Valium tablet and cut it in half. She’s take one half and give the other half to the dog! Sorry – I’m digressing again. Right, my point was, not *every* animal I know is frightened of fireworks. Our aged and late lamented moggie (Jet) was one of them. He was inquisitive rather than frightened of fireworks. But the winner goes to this particular dog that I encountered in Tangalle in Sri Lanka back in December 2003. This dog actually tried to eat fireworks!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!

4th November picture of the day…

Tags

, , , , ,

It’s a short(ish) blog from me today as the day’s been rather a mixed one. It started out well enough, the weather was gorgeous with wall-to-wall sunshine and clear blue skies, so – after completing several chores and putting other stuff on the backburner I decided to venture out into the valley in the hope of getting some shots of trains amongst the glorious autumnal colours in the woodlands around Todmorden. Only my cunning plan was thwarted by geography. The Pennines are notorious for micro-climates. We can have great weather here in the Calder Valley only for it to be bucketing down next door in the Colne valley. It’s the same if you move just a few miles along the valleys too – as I found when I caught the train. By the time I arrived in Tod’ there were clouds as black as the ace of spades appearing from the North-West. It even started raining. To my surprise I found that staff had salted the station platforms, which didn’t fill me with much hope about the weather. What did they know I didn’t? As I’d planned to be stuck up a hillside for an hour or two, I decided ‘bugger this for a game of soldiers’ and turned tail back to Hebden Bridge, where I stopped to change trains and at least get a couple of shots in the can before catching a service into Halifax – where the weather was back to full sun!

Admitting defeat I wandered home, where I’ve spent the day catching up on work and looking at flight options for a trip to South-East Asia. The prices I’ve been quoted for the time I was thinking of going are painful as they’re in four figures – far more than pre-Covid prices, so it looks like I’m going to have to work out a plan B and alter my dates – and maybe destination. More research is certainly needed.

To cheer myself up I trotted along to our local pub to join friends and partake in the Friday evening quiz. It’s not a formal quiz, it’s just a few of us getting together to answer questions from the quizzes published in the ‘Pub Paper’ but it keeps us amused. This month I’m ‘on the wagon’ as I’ve decided to give my liver a holiday (and lose a few pounds) – so I couldn’t even drown my sorrows. Instead, I was quaffing the alcohol-free ‘Erdinger’ beer, which isn’t bad taste wise, meaning you don’t feel you’re missing out in the way you would if you were nursing a Coke. Now I’m back at home. After knocking up a Prawn Noodle stir-fry for the pair of us I’m now sat in the office sipping Brewdog’s low-alcohol version of their ‘Punk IPA’, which is one of the better LA beers. I I prefer their Nanny State but you can’t get it in any of our local supermarkets, so I have to stock up. Ah well, 4 days down and only 26 more to go. My liver better be bloody grateful…

Right, on to the picture of the day. But what to choose? I know! One of today’s shots from the picturesque Hebden Bridge station.

Here’s the first of the CAF built 3 car diesel units (195101) arriving at Hebden Bridge station on its way to Leeds via Halifax and Bradford Interchange. It’s a little gem of a station as it retains so many of its old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway features, even though that company ceased to exist in 1923!

I’ve a small favour to ask…
If you enjoy reading this or any of the other blogs I’ve written, please click on an advert or two. You don’t have to buy anything you don’t want to of course – although if you did find something that tickled your fancy that would be fab! – but the revenue from them helps me to cover some of the cost of maintaining this site (which isn’t cheap and comes out of my own pocket). Remember, 99% of the pictures used in my blogs can be purchased as prints from my other website –  https://paulbigland.zenfolio.com/

Or – you can now buy me a coffee! https://ko-fi.com/paulbigland68312

Thank you!