10th January picture of the day…

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After the glorious winter’s day we had on Saturday, today was very much an anti-climax and back to the usual routine of low cloud and mists accompanied by drizzle that slowly eroded the remaining snow, leaving the ground sodden and muddy. Hardly great for walking but I forced myself to go out and complete my full seven days of exercise even if I did come back somewhat bedraggled! At least it gave me a sense of achievement – as did having added another huge tranche of old travel slides to my ’round the world’ gallery. Rather than give you a link to the gallery, here’s a link to the first of the new pictures. You can find your way from there.

I’ve plodded on throughout the day scanning more. It’s a time-consuming, mechanical process yet I’m slowly but surely coming to the end. The bright spot is that I get to see pictures of times and places I’d forgotten about, so it can brighten up a dull day, despite the repetitive nature of the task. Even so, I’ll be glad when it’s finished and I can concentrate on the future and new pictures rather than the old.

I’m looking forward to a bit more variety this week and the opportunity to escape the confines of the Calder Valley as part of a commission, even though I won’t be going far. Let’s see what happens. I’d like to have a day out with the camera but the weather forecast isn’t looking promising so I expect to be housebound for most of the week – but taking a break from scanning slides. I let my eBay account run out of goodies to sell at Christmas, so it’s time to resurrect that to start disposing of more surplus slides and assorted railway memorabilia which has the bonus of freeing up cupboard space as well as making some money. Watch this space…

OK, on to the picture of the day. I took this in Lovina, Bali, Indonesia at the end of October 1998. Bali is famous for its dancers and their exotic and colourful costumes. Visiting a temple of an evening to watch some of these performances is always a fascinating experience. The routines are highly stylized and the dancers are accompanied by Gamelan music from a live band, so they’re real theatrical performances Here’s a young man performing the Baris (warrior) dance.

I’ll be adding this and many other pictures from Bali to my Zenfolio website tomorrow until the end of the week when I should have the album finished.

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9th January picture of the day…

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Just like ‘Lockdown 1.0’ the latest version has rendered the weekend superflous for many of us – it’s morphed from something special into just another day. All the events people could look forward to attending (be it sporting events, restaurants or just going to the pub) have all been taken away. The only thing remaining is the ability to have a lie-in as you don’t have to go to work.

That situation’s rather different for us freelances as work is something that’s been taken away from many of us too! Despite that, I was up early to keep up my weekly routine of starting the day by editing or scanning pictures in an effort to feel something had been achieved. I must admit, I’ve rather enjoyed these early mornings and the chance to watch the sun rise across the valley – which it did with aplomb this morning as the skies remained clear and the valley fog-free. The pair of us decided to make the most of the conditions and enjoy a long stroll to an area we don’t normally walk to. High above Sowerby Bridge is the very edge of Halifax and an area called Norton Tower. Along with the nearby village of Warley, we could see that both were in the snowline that had spared us, so we went for a wander and discovered places we never knew existed, along with a stunning view. So, today’s picture is contemporary rather than historical. I took it this afternoon. It shows the view from Norton Tower, looking back towards where we live, with the Wainhouse Tower marking the spot.

What would have made our winter walk complete would have been the chance to pop into a pub on the way home for a warm and a drink – but I can’t see that pleasure returning for some time yet. Even so, the pair of us really enjoyed exploring, and the view was stunning.

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Thank you!

8th January picture of the day…

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There’s few words from me tonight as today’s hardly been the most exciting day – unless you count hoping the snow showers we’ve had on and off all day would deliver a decent deluge and we’d be covered in the white stuff for the weekend. I was looking forward to getting some shots of snow-covered trees in our local woods, but it wasn’t to be. We’re just that little bit too low on the valley side so whilst nearby Warley looked picturesque, we were left with muddy footpaths and wet woods. Maybe tomorrow!

The pictures I’ve been scanning today couldn’t be more different, as this one shows. I took this shot in the last few days of September 1998 on a tiny little Island called Kanawa which is a boat trip from the town and ferry port of Labuanbajo on the Western end of the Island of Flores, Indonesia. We were staying in the little resort you can see by the beach, although ‘resort’ is rather a grand term for a collection of a dozen stilt bungalows and a restaurant! But, it was a fantastic place to kick back and relax. This was in the days when mobile phones was a luxury and the internet was dial-up and could only be found in major cities. There was no TV here either. Lynn and I had a short-wave radio with us and that was our only contact with the outside world. Here, you sunbathed, swam, snorkelled and slept. Supplies were brought in by boat daily from the mainland and after a couple of days you learned not to order breakfast until you saw the boat arrive and what was on it. But everything was fresh, especially the fish – and the chicken as the birds scratched a living from the ground around the resort. I remember one day someone ordered chicken for the evening meal. The chef disappeared out of the back and there was a helluva commotion accompanied by lots of flapping, clucking and squawking. 20 minutes later the cook came back and said to the couple. “Sorry, you can’t have chicken”. “Why not?” they asked. “I can’t catch one” was his reply! At least you didn’t have to catch your own…

Looking down on our little haven with the Island of Flores beyond. Happy days…

I’ve dozens of pictures scanned and ready for editing before adding to my website tomorrow. When they are, you’ll be able to find them in this gallery. They’ll include shots of both Flores and Bali as we were heading West to Java before flying to Australia to spend Christmas with friends we’d made earlier in the trip, although first, we were meeting up with a group from the UK who were coming out to join us in Bali for a holiday.

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7th January picture of the day…

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The stunning winter weather we enjoyed yesterday lasted until sunset, then the temperatures dropped overnight so this morning we awoke to gloomy skies and a miasma that stayed with is all day, along with occasional snow flurries that thickened through the day, leaving us with a dusting of snow. More’s expected tomorrow.

Indoors my world was far less monochrome as I was busy scanning old slides and researching articles. The slide scanning’s progressing well. I’ve polished off another album, my final one of foreign rail images, dating back to 2003. This morning I added old Irish rail pictures to this gallery. Tomorrow I’ll add the last ones which were taken in Singapore and France. There’s still a few scratched images to restore (slowly) and there might be the odd image lurking in an album here and there, but to all intents and purposes that the rail stuff finally done! That just leaves me with the travel and social issues images to get through and I’ve made a start on them today.

Next in line are the travel pictures from the round the world trip that Lynn and I did in 1997-99. I’d got as far as Australia but there was an album out of sync that I’ve dug out of storage to prioritise – so we’ve leapt back in time and space a few months to return to the Indonesian Islands of Flores, Bali and Java! So, here’s the picture of the day. I took this shot in mid September 1998 atop Kelimutu, a volcano on the Island of Flores. Kelimutu is famous for three volcanic lakes which regularly change colour. When I was there in 1998, one was black, the other Turquoise. In this image you can just see the Turquoise lake behind this one. It’s a stunning and unique place to visit and worth getting up early to ascend the volcano to see the sunrise.

Tomorrow (once I’ve had chance to edit the scans) I’ll add them to this gallery which will contain all the pictures from our trip. Well, eventually…

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Thank you!

6th January picture of the day…

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Well, we may be back in lockdown, but today was one of those days where I really didn’t mind being stuck around home as the weather was absolutely glorious! It was a crisp winter day with wall-to-wall sunshine that made it a pleasure to take my daily constitutional. Most of the snow has disappeared now, apart from the occasional patch in the shadows, although it tarries on the very high moors.

Either side of my stroll was spent at home working, either wading through yet more old slides from Ireland, Spain and Singapore (they’ll appear on my website tomorrow) or researching my next article for RAIL magazine. This will be rather different as the focus isn’t really on the railways, but you’ll see what I mean when it comes out.

Rather than select a vintage picture for today I thought I’d show you what life in the Calder Valley was like today. Here’s the view from the Promenade above our local woods whilst I was out strolling. Apologies for the quality as it was taken on my phone!

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Chris Packham’s wasting his time (again)…

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Still smarting from his spanking in the courts, ‘celebrity’ conservationist Chris Packham has come up with another wheeze to try and stop HS2, the UK’s new high speed railway, of which phase 1 from North of Birmingham to London is already under construction. This time Packham hasn’t needed to persuade people to donate money for his expensive vanity project as he’s fallen back on an old StopHs2 favorite by starting a petition on the Government website! There’s a rag-bag of other names associated with the petition, but the only ones worthy of note are the veteran human rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC (who lives near the route), plus Richard Walker, Managing Director of Iceland Foods, charity trustee and Ambassador for the Wildlife Trusts (by the way, that’s some of the same Wildlife Trusts that environmentalist George Monbiot flayed for ‘greenwashing’ road and housing projects in Buckinghamshire).

Packham and his friends have been busy since last week drumming up media support for the petition and exploiting his social media connections. So far, they’ve had quite a bit of success. As I write this, the petition has reached 47,000 signatures, nearly half-way to its target of 100,000 which it needs to hit by the closing date of 17th June 2021. On that performance, it stands a very good chance of being the very first anti HS2 petition to ever reach the magical 100,00 signatures.

There’s just one teeny, tiny problem that Packham and his fellow signatories aren’t admitting in their daft assertions and breathless bluster…

Parliament “must” vote! Really? Says who? No-one. Certainly not the Government petitions website, which points out that these petitions can’t make Parliament *do* anything, as they explain here.

So this may not be debated in June as there’s already been numerous debates (and primary legislation in the shape of 2 Hybrid Bills) already. Still, there’ll be a vote on repealing the HS2 Hybrid Bills AFTER the debate, won’t there?

Nope…

Oh, has Packham not mentioned that? How remiss of him!

You see, the petitions debates are held in Westminster Hall, not the main chamber of the House of Commons – and they’re just that – a debate. Or, to put it in simpler terms – it’s a talking shop! As the Westminster Hall website explains:

“Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate’ motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]’. Amendments to such motions cannot be tabled. Divisions (votes) cannot take place in Westminster Hall.”

So, in short, there’s no way on God’s green earth that the Government’s Parliamentary Managers – or Parliamentary process would allow this (or any other petition) to go to a division (vote) in the Commons. It’s a dead duck! Packham’s peddling the fiction that if 100,000 people sign this petition, MPs will stream into the House of Commons and (en-masse) vote to repeal both HS2 Hybrid Bills! It’s a fantasy that relies on the gullibility of people to have no idea how their Parliamentary democracy actually works.

So, let’s indulge ourselves in a flight of fancy just for one minute. What if there WAS a vote in the Commons on HS2? The Government would win it hands down – for several reasons…

  1. Parliamentary mathematics.
  2. HS2 has massive cross-party support and the Tories would almost certainly ‘whip’ their MPs to vote in favour. So, even in the even more ridiculous and fantastical scenario of everybody else’s MPs voting to oppose HS2 the Government have an 80 seat majority and can’t fail. But, as the only people who oppose HS2 are a handful of Plaid Cymru MPs and the solitary Green, that ain’t gonna happen – but then, neither’s the vote!
  3. The number of MPs who oppose HS2 has fallen in recent years as many of those who did back in 2014 have lost their seats or simply left Parliament, so I refer you back to 1.

In short, this petition’s a complete waste of time. It’s just another myth that Packham’s peddling – like his Court case which was eviscerated as a waste of time with no chance of success by the Judges. This time he’s peddling the fantasy that MPs in Parliament would (if they could) vote to repeal the HS2 bill when they can’t – and wouldn’t.

Oh, there’s also the small matter that by the time this petition ends in June, two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will already be several miles into their progress digging the Chiltern Tunnels and there’s going to be a lot of earthworks and new bridges being created along the 140 mile route of the line! This is not like pulling the plug in a computer system no-one’s ever seen, and if you think the Government will allow such a visible, physical monument to failure to be left behind you really do need to give your head a wobble! The only monument to failure you’ll be seeing here has Chris Packham’s name written all over it.

I have to say, it’s sad to see that the UK ‘Green’ movement has been hijacked by ‘conservationists’ with no thoughts for the science of climate change, whose only answer to any practical solution to tackle cutting carbon emissions is “but, Trees!” It’s this blinkered, ‘lose not one tree, not one blade of grass’ fundamentalism that’s making them part of the problem, not the solution, and it’s playing right into the oil/road lobby’s hands.

Oh, I take it back when I say this petition’s a ‘complete’ waste of time. It does have a couple of uses, but Packham won’t like either of them.

Firstly, these petitions come with a handy map showing which constituencies the people who’ve signed it live in. This will allow me to map the decline in signatures of people who live in areas HS2 passes through as I have a wealth of data from years and years of other failed petitions!

Secondly, it allows us to see what people acre about MORE than HS2! For example, here’s the top 10 active petitions at the moment.

In comparison to these, Packham and it friends have a mountain to climb. Oh, and that’s without mentioning that the petition to stop Brexit had over 6.1 MILLION signatures. That worked well…

Enjoy watching HS2 being built! If I have time tomorrow I’ll be blogging an update on progress with its construction.

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Thank you!

4th January picture of the day…

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Many people returned to work today for the first time after the Xmas and New Year break – only to find out in tonight’s announcement from the Prime Minister that that return is going to be short lived as England’s going back into another Covid lockdown. I have to admit to having lost track – it this the 2nd, 3rd or 4th? It all gets rather confusing – especially as the rules vary so much. Here in West Yorkshire shops have been open but the pubs shut months ago, so I’m never quite sure what ‘flavour’ of lockdown we’re meant to be having. In many ways it makes little difference to Dawn and I as we’ve maintained as much distance from people as possible as it is! The only people we’ve seen in the flesh on a regular basis are the other occupants of our ‘bubble’ (Dawn’s parents). Sadly, this latest announcement will stop us celebrating Norah’s 80th in the way we’d hoped, but otherwise it’s not going to make a huge difference to us as far as I can see as we’d planned to be pretty reclusive this month anyway.

At least we can still get out for exercise, which is part of our plan. I managed a couple rambles through our local woods which gave me chance to get my steps in and take a break for staring at a computer screen all day. I’m trying to make the most of my incarceration by ramping up my working hours to make up for Festive down-time and catch-up with work. After all, there’s not a lot else to do…

Which brings me on to the picture of the day. I’m on the edge of another milestone as I’m within spitting distance of having all my foreign railway slides scanned and uploaded to my Zenfolio website. This was one of today’s batch. I took this picture on in Sri Lanka on the 6th January 2003. This is the view from the ‘Podi Menike’ express train from Kandy through to Badulla as it twists and turns its way along the hill railway and through all the tea plantations that cover a vast area of this part of the Island. Oh, to be there now, leaning out of a coach door to grab a shot of the train as it snakes around the sharp curves.

The hill railway really is like stepping back in time with its pretty little stations that have changed little since the Victorian Era when the railway was built although in recent years loco-hauled trains like this have been displaced on express services by modern Diesel Multiple Units. What remains unchanged is the fantastic scenery! You can find the scenic pictures (and many more rail shots) by clicking on this link.

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2nd January picture of the day…

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I’m back! Happy 2021 folks…

I took a day off from blogging yesterday as there’d been sweet bugger-all to blog about. Let’s face it – it’s not as if I was going to write about gallivanting around the country, is it? Sedentary is the word that best describes yesterday.

Today was a little more exciting as the weather’s changed again and we’ve had several snow flurries – enough to stop us thinking about driving out into the hills to go walking. Instead we hoofed it from home through our local woods (which looked lovely in their dusting of snow) down to the valley bottom for a stroll along the canal from Copley into Sowerby Bridge. We were both surprised to see just how much of the canal was frozen over. As dwellers of the high valley side we see more sun, so it’s sometimes a shock to see the way the cold congregates on the valley floor.

Despite the weather we had a lovely walk which (despite its length) got us home in plenty of time for a relaxing evening at home, playing Scrabble and watching films. I suspect this is going to be the shape of weekends for sometime yet. Well, maybe minus the snow.

On top of everything else I did manage to get a few more old slides scanned, which has provided the picture of the day. I took this on the train trip from Colombo to Kandy (Sri Lanka) on the 30th December 2002.

I love the way many railway stations in Sri Lanka have such a wonderful display of potted plants! I wish we could get some of the involved in the Community Rail Awards, although I suspect Community Rail Network might have a heart-attack at the cost of flying a couple of us judges out all that way!

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Thank you!

2020 vision. What a year to look back on!

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Somehow, I suspect few people will be glad to see the back of this tumultuous year. It was always going to be a rocky one due to Brexit, but who knew that the next letter in the alphabet would come along with an even bigger challenge? Covid has pretty much cancelled out 2020 as its decimated the calender from March onwards, expunging events, holidays, jobs and even people. It’s been a year of terrible losses and anxieties, but there have been bright spots and positives too.

Not that it felt that way when the Covid storm arrived. I could see the way things were going and that a lockdown was imminent back in March. I managed one last job in Birmingham visiting the HS2 high-speed railway construction site at the end of March, just a few days before lockdown was announced. Then everything dried up. As a freelancer it was a bloody awful time. All the events I can normally rely on were cancelled outright or postponed indefinitely with no realistic chance of them being rescheduled so my income dried up. To make matters worse, the plummeting markets wiped out a large chunk of my investments. I’ll be honest, when you see £44k disappear in the space of a few weeks it causes some sleepless nights! Our good fortune was that Dawn’s job was secure and she continued working throughout – albeit based at home. We converted a corner of the living room into an office so that Dee could work downstairs whilst I worked upstairs. What saved me was the fact that I have more than one string to my bow. I’m a writer as well as a photographer and RAIL magazine gave me a string of commissions that kept me busy scribbling (and sane). The other project that’s kept me busy has been scanning 1000s of old railway and travel slides. The lockdown’s have given me the space to plug away at getting them onto my website and into the public eye – in some cases over 30 years after I first took them! Now, I’m within sight of the finishing line and expect to have them all finished by summer 2021 at the latest. If there’s one positive from Covid, it’s this! Plus, I still have several writing jobs to keep me occupied, so even if lockdown is re-imposed I can survive. This year I’ve managed to add over 6,200 rail and travel pictures to my Zenfolio website, which is a record – despite the fact I’ve spent so little tine travelling. You can find the most recent additions by following this link.

Gradually, as the year went on, my investments recovered. Ironically, this is partly due to Brexit! Because I could see what was likely to happen in 2019 I consolidated all my investments back with a new firm who were very proactive and who’ve done an excellent job managing them throughout the economic shit-storm caused by Covid. At least now I can be optimistic about 2021. The people I really feel for are the ones who haven’t got any financial cushion and who were living from one pay-check to another. These really have been tough times and they’re not going to get any easier for the foreseeable future.

As for Brexit, well, what can I say? The positive is that I was one of the many who could see what was going to happen so I’m not under any illusions. No doubt there will be some people celebrating tonight but they’ll be the really dim ones who think blue passports are a ‘win’. Sadly, a lot of our media have done a very poor job of explaining what Johnson’s deal with the EU means. Some (like the Daily Mail) have outright lied about it – but then so has Johnson himself. It’s been left to the media outside the UK to do the real analysis, along with some UK bloggers. Here’s some of the home truths the New York Times explained to its readers.

Sadly, it’s going to take quite some time for the truth to dawn on a lot of people. There’s not going to be one single revelation that will make folk see that the promises the Brexiters made were lies. Remember this one?

Or this?

Nor is tomorrow the ‘end’ of Brexit, it’s actually just the start of years of wrangling over trade with the EU and other nations who we no longer have trade deals with. The Tories, the party who used to boast about making ‘bonfires of red tape’ have now tied us up with masses of it – and with absolutely nothing positive to show for it. So, 2021 is going to be an interesting experiment in ‘lightbulb’ moments as those who so enthusiastically cheered for Brexit start to understand what ‘Caveat Emptor’ really means. Sadly with a lot of those people I’m afraid the lightbulbs are rather a low wattage…

A blogger who’s explained the realities of Brexit at great length is Chris Grey, Emeritus Professor of Organization Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. I’d urge you to read his blogs, starting with this one “So this is Brexit?”

The fact that we have such an incompetent and lying Government led by a lazy and incompetent liar for PM doesn’t exactly fill me with high-hopes for 2021, but then the great things about having low expectations is that you can’t really be disappointed. I’ve got plenty to look forward to in 2021 so that’s what I’ll be focusing on and keeping my head down and cracking on with other stuff in the meantime. The news that the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has been approved and will start to be rolled out from Monday is excellent and brings hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Personally, I expect things to get worse before they get better (another reason for keeping ones head down) and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if things don’t start to pick up until Easter. But I’m prepared for that.

I’m also looking forward to catching up on some blogging in 2021. 2020 has been a record year. I’ve had 40,000 visitors reading over 83,000 pages of my rambles and spleen venting, so thank you for having nothing better to do! I hope I can keep you even more entertained in 2021. Thank you one and all!

Right, it’s time for me to go. We’re not doing anything exciting this evening other than staying in with the TV. We did get out for a ramble in the snow earlier, but now I’m on cooking duties and I’ve a pickled chicken curry to prepare.

I hope you all have the best year possible, wherever you are – as I’m amazed at how many countries appear on my readers list. In fact, some of you will already be in 2021!

Happy New Year!

Paul

PS, picture of the day will return tomorrow.

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Thank you!

29th December picture of the day…

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On rolling up the bedroom blinds this morning I found we’d had the first real dusting of snow of the winter. Unlike last month the snowline was low enough to include us although the valley bottom was still clear of the white stuff. Even so, the view from the house was rather attractive – especially as I knew I didn’t need to venture out to slip and slide my way to work!

Instead, the pair of us have spent most of the day indulging in some DIY in order to rejig the bedroom and create more space in the cottage by relocating some shelves over the bed. A simple task normally, but this is an 1850s cottage that doesn’t contain a straight line/flat surface anywhere! Just drilling a hole into a wall as an adventure as you never know what you might find, or rather – not find. I sometimes think the interior walls were made of Emmental cheese that someone just roughly slapped plaster over. Hoping for a solid surface to drill into is like playing Russian roulette in reverse! Still, we got there in the end and the relocated shelves look rather dandy.

Having carried out my DIY duties and whilst Dawn finished some decluttering I ventured out for my daily constitutional before dark descended – although it was a close-call. The Mercury was already plummeting and the roads and pavements were becoming glasslike. Even so, it was lovely to be out for an hour as everything is really peaceful at the moment because so few people are sallying forth. I didn’t encounter anyone in our local woods and the promenade overlooking the valley contained little more than a couple of folks walking their dogs, so I was left to admire the valley views on my own. These Covid times to have their compensations…

Having been busy all day with other chores I’ve had no time to scan more old pictures, although I did break out more and install them in glass mounts ready for action. So, today’s picture is topical to say the least – if more mundane than most I’ve been posting recently. It’s the view from our bedroom window this morning…

I’ll be back at the grindstone tomorrow as I’ve a couple of blogs I want to write before we finally wave goodbye to (or put two fingers up at) 2020…

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Thank you!