11th February picture of the day…

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I had a day off (of sorts) yesterday. Well, from blogging anyway. The pair of us were up early as the both of us had work to do in Huddersfield. Dee was at the Community Rail Network office whilst I had a fascinating couple of hours with a charity (Platform 1) who’re also based at the railway station. I won’t go into too much detail now as my article will be appearing in a future edition of RAIL magazine – but it won’t be about trains. Charities like Platform 1 have really stepped up to the plate to provide services to some of the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. Their work’s invaluable at the best of times, but these are the worst of times.

Back at home in the warm (remember, I’m not used to spending January/February in the UK) I spent the afternoon writing up my notes and continuing to scan old slides – a process I’ve continued today as I’m back in the bosom of the Calder Valley with nowhere else to go! Well, in the real world anyway. Picture-wise I’ve been to Merseyside, Denmark, Essex, Sussex, back in London – then Greece – in my own personal time-machine which has transported me back to the year 2000.

This has given me a huge range of images to choose from for the picture of the day, which has been a difficult choice. In the end, I plumped for this. Of all the places, I’ve gone back to the town I grew up in, but that’s because the picture’s worthwhile. I took this shot on the 15th April 2000 whilst visiting my family. This is the old Southport pier being demolished.

But, fear not. It was being demolished in order to be rebuilt. The original 1860 iron structure was rotten after 140 years of being exposed to the elements – and the sea. Yes, I know the old jokes about the sea never coming in at Southport, but it does – honest! Once upon a time you could catch steamships from the end of the 1000m long structure (the 2nd longest pier in the UK) to resorts on the North Wales coast. Nowadays it’s a lot quieter, but it still provides some wonderful views along the coast. If you want to see some more pictures of the pier during and after rebuilding, you can find them here.

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9th February picture of the day…

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We’re well and truly back in ‘Groundhog Day’ mode this week with freezing weather, icy winds and snow showers throughout the day that just make you want to stay indoors, keep warm and wait for the world to reopen – which (apart from a foray to get some shopping and a bit of exercise) was pretty much what I did. Most of my time’s been spent scanning dozens more old pictures whilst catching up on other work projects for the future. My office was cozy and the pictures I was dealing with took me to all sorts of exotic locations, which made up for some of the stir-craziness. I’ve not had chance to edit them yet, that’ll be done over the next few days, but I have selected one as the picture of the day, just to remind you that there is a wider world out there and winter’s just a season.

I took this shot of Rosthwaite and the Borrowdale fells in the Lake District on the 16th June 2000. A group of us had driven up from London for a long weekend in the lakes and our timing couldn’t have been better as the weather was superb.

I’ve a mixture of pictures from India, Denmark and the UK to add to my website this week, but when the English ones are done you’ll be able to find them in this gallery.

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8th February picture of the day…

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We’ve had another perishing day here in West Yorkshire, with temperatures that never got above freezing, coupled with biting winds and snow flurries throughout the day. Fortunately, the worst snow fell on the hilltops above us, so we’ve remained pretty much unscathed.

The week’s not started off in great fashion as we had to take Jet, our cat back to the vets for a check-up and found he needed antibiotics for a mouth infection. The boy old boy’s been through the mill over the past week, so we could have done without that – but hey ho…

On our return we both decided ‘sod it’ and took time out for a drive out in the snow for a change of routine and scenery, anything the break up the monotony of yet another ‘Groundhog Day’. Venturing up to Mount Tabor we caught the full force of a snowstorm blowing in, which was quite spectacular as the road started disappearing in minutes. Fortunately is soon blew itself out so we ventured further afield to the opposite side of the Calder valley up above Rishworth to areas we hadn’t explored before, then joined the A58 Rochdale road to venture across the border into Lancashire at Littleborough before swinging East to come home. We didn’t leave the car at any point so we didn’t feel bad about bending the lockdown rules slightly. Besides, it was great for our sanity to be able to see something and somewhere outside of the everyday routine.

The weather forecast is predicting more snow over the next few days. We’ll have to see how that goes as we’re both meant to be working in Huddersfield on Wednesday. Time (and the weather) will tell…

Back at the ranch we we grateful to be in the warm and I continued with sorting through old slides, which has provided me with the picture of the day – one of the latest batch from India. It’s also a reminder that – despite whatever problems we’re experiencing, others have life harder. I took this shot in Ahmedabad, the capital of the Indian state of Gujarat on the 21st February 2000. Ahmedabad was an Indian version of Manchester 60 years ago with the city skyline dominated by factory chimneys. At one time I counted almost 50 of them from the roof of my hotel, although by 2000 this number was in decline. The cotton trade and other heavy industries meant that there was a lot of demand for goods to be carted around the city and human muscle-power moved a lot of it as men, women and children pulled hand-carts like this through the traffic-clogged and polluted streets.

You’ll be able to find the full selection of Indian pictures in this gallery on my website. The latest batch include an Indian wedding as well as more shots from Ahmedabad. I’ve only a few dozen more to add, then we move on to a selection from somewhere very different to India. Denmark!

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7th February picture of the day…

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There’s an old Jethro Tull song about ‘a cold wind to Valhalla’ – and that’s certainly how it’s felt today. The weather’s been perishing. We’ve escaped the latest snowfall where we are, but only by about 100 metres as you can see the tops of the valley around us capped in white. Despite this I was determined to get out and make up for my lack of exercise yesterday – and so I did – because it may have been bloody cold but that meant there was no rain. Instead we had desultory attempts at snow that were easily brushed aside.

My perishing perambulations took me down into Sowerby Bridge to pick up some shopping before returning to ‘chill’ in my office and sort out some more old slide scans, hence the latest picture of the day. After suffering what’s been very much a monochrome world here’s something very different. I took this picture at the ‘flea market’ in Anjuna, Goa, India on the 2nd February 2000.

Here’s a tribal family selling home-made clothing of the sort that catches many a European’s eye. They’ll happily sport such attire around India, but you just know it gets consigned to the back of the wardrobe (or charity shop) when they get home! No matter, it provided a steady income for these Indian families and helped keep some old crafts alive.

I always enjoyed the flea market at Anjuna as it was such a fantastic place to people watch. You can find more pictures from the market in this gallery.

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6th February picture of the day…

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Well, today’s been a bit of a washout – literally! The rain has been unceasing, morning noon and night. So much so that this is the only day so far this year where my exercise level is well below par. I did venture out in the late afternoon when it became obvious the rain wasn’t going to give up as I had some food shopping to do, but conditions were so bad I ended up getting soaked despite being bedecked in waterproofs. Today was definitely one for curling up in front of a fire with a drink and a good book.

Instead, I’ve spent most of it scanning old slides in an effort to feel that I’ve at least achieved something, although it’s quite frustrating being trapped (in more ways than one) whilst looking through a collection of photographs from exotic, warm and sunny climes!

Still, it’s provided me with an new picture of the day. In fact, it’s been hard to choose which one to use as there’s plenty that would make the cut, but I’ve finally plumped for this shot. I took this shot in from the Nehru bridge over the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad, in the Gujarat, India on the 15th February 2000. For me, the contrast summed up much of India.

Whilst a new Holiday Inn dominates the skyline, slums line the bank of the river where an enterprising chap has built a simple Ferris wheel for children as a way of eking out a living. I wonder what the guests at the hotel though when they gazed out of the window of their plush hotel only to find the vista wasn’t quite what was suggested in the brochure?

The scene’s changed since 2000 of course. The hotel’s still there, only it’s no longer a Holiday Inn but a ‘Lemon Tree’. The slums have been swept away and who knows what’s happened to the people. Now a new road (Riverfront Rd) and a walkway line the Sabermati’s banks.

If you want to see more picture from India I’m adding them to this gallery. I’ve still a hundred plus to add over the next week or two…

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4th February picture of the day…

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Today’s a day that’s been dominated by Jet, our cat, who’s been at the vets for the past 24 hours. Tonight we brought him home. The boy old boy’s returned with stitches in his mouth as the vets had discovered the two mandibles that make up his lower jaw had become separated and misaligned, which was causing him a lot of discomfort and stopped him eating. Now he’s rehydrated and fed he’s regained some weight. It’s Dawn and I that’s lost several pounds (and then some)! Nonetheless, it’s lovely to have him home and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have managed to get some work done, but not as much as I’d liked. Dawn’s on a ‘virtual retreat’ this weekend, so I’m going to use the time to catch up with work and chores. Well, let’s face it – it’s not as if I’ve got a flight to catch, is it?

What I have managed to do this evening is get a few slides scanned, which has provided the picture of the day. Yesterday’s was a view of the ‘little beach’ in Goa, India. Here’s looking the other way…

This is the view of the magnificent main beach at was was then still a fairly sleepy little fishing village of Arambol in North Goa. You can see the boats pulled up all along the beach. The shacks that you can see at the back of the beach appear during the tourist season to sell food and drink to tourists, then disappeared once the season ended. The main part of the village is beneath the palm trees behind them. The beach stretches Southwards for miles so it was always easy to find a quiet spot to sit and sunbathe before splashing around in a sea which didn’t develop any real waves (unlike the little beach, which could be much more fun). This wasn’t paradise by any means, but it certainly deserved an honorable mention!

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The fake environmentalists of Hs2Rebellion let their mask slip…

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I’ve always said that Extinction Rebellion and HS2Rebellion are anything but real environmentalists. Both organisations have jumped on the ‘green’ bandwagon to further a wider (anti-capitalist) agenda and nothing more – hence some of their mad tactics that do nothing to promote tackling climate change. Exactly the opposite in fact. One only has to look at the way XR have frequently disrupted public transport in the UK, even going as far as disrupting electric public transport by gluing themselves to trains on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) or standing on the roofs of Underground trains!

HS2Rebellion are doing the same with High-Speed 2, opposing a green railway that is the only way we’ll have the rail capacity to get modal shift from road air to rail to cut our biggest source of Co2 emissions (transport) and meet our international obligations to tackle Climate Change.

Today, HS2Rebellion let the cat out of the bag by showing they either don’t understand the issues – or just don’t care. Their target was the news that Malaysia has cancelled the proposed High-Speed rail project between Kuala-Lumpur and Singapore and they used this (superficial) report on the BBC from a freelance journo based in Singapore. In the report it mentions that there are 30,000 local flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur per annum – as well as a 24 hour bus service. Here’s what XRebellion have to say on their Facebook page.

Yet again we have supposed ‘environmentalists’ playing along to the right-wing libertarian narrative about costs. This is bizarre. After all, aren’t they the ones who’re always telling us that there is no ‘Planet B’ and that the environment is priceless? Not if you’re intending to build High-Speed rail it seems (roads? No problem – carry on!).

What is it that these ‘environmentalists’ are deliberately ignoring? Simple, just how much carbon those different modes of transport generate. Take a look at this and compare domestic flights, buses and high-speed rail (mentioned as ‘Eurostar’ on this chart).

Here you have the blatant hypocrisy of XR and HS2Rebeliion exposed in black and white in one simple chart.

Over in the UK there’s a similar picture. The biggest market for domestic aviation is between Scotland and London’s airports. HS2 (like HS1 before it with flights to Brussels and Paris) will make severe inroads into that market by speeding up Anglo-Scottish services, as Chris Ogilvie often points out.

I have to declare an interest here. I know Malaysia (and Singapore) well. I’ve been travelling there since 1992 and maintain a keen interest in the areas political, economic and transport issues. In the past, I interviewed the then head of Malaysian Railways for the International Railway Journal and I maintain contacts inside both countries, which is why I know the BBC story isn’t the full story by any means. Even so, for ‘environmentalists’ to gloat over the failure to building a carbon-neutral alternative to 30,000 horribly polluting domestic flights a year (never mind all those 24 hour, 5 hour coach trips) is mad – but then, these people aren’t real environmentalists. What’s depressing is the number of genuine ‘green’ groups and people who’ve been taken in by them. We’ve now gone from saving the planet by any means to saving the planet – just as long as the price is right! This is why I’ve long maintained that the the UKs ‘green’ movement (or what passes for it) simply isn’t fit for purpose as they’ve become just another limb of the libertarian right. You have to ask, how (and why) did ‘greens’ suddenly start celebrating the failure of plans for high-speed rail networks whenever and wherever in the world they happen, and how on Earth can they still call themselves greens?

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3rd February picture of the day…

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Well, that wasn’t the day I was expecting! Much of the morning (from the early hours) was taken up with looking after a poorly Moggie. ‘Jet’ is 19 going on 20. I’d say he’s getting long in the tooth if it wasn’t for the fact he’s only got two left! For the past few days we’ve been aware that there’s been something wrong with the old boy so he’s already had one trip to the vets for what we thought was an ear infection, only it turns out the problem is likely to lie with his mouth, which explains why he’s refused to take his tablets, despite hiding them in food – which normally works a treat. So back to the vet he went and he’s been there all day and remains overnight tonight as they rehydrate him and top up his meds. We thought we might lose him but – despite his age – he’s not ready to go yet and still has life left in him.

To add to the fun the weather’s been crap all day. The snow’s turned to slush as persistent rain’s arrived to make conditions underfoot unpleasant and treacherous, so my usual walks have been curtailed to the bare minimum, which has chafed a bit.

On the bright side, today’s day 31 of my ‘dry’ January as I didn’t start until January 3rd. I thought with the arrival of the Brexitshambles trying to cut out alcohol on January 1st might have been a bridge too far! Despite these testing times I’ve made it through the whole 31 days without once reaching for the bottle, which I consider a bit of an achievement! I’ve not wanted to mention it before as I’m not a great one for ‘virtue signalling’ so I’ve just got on with it without fanfare, although I have to acknowledge the support of Dawn – and also Adnams alcohol-free ‘Ghost Ship’ and Erdinger’s Wiessbier, without whom the journey would have been a lot less fun! Oh, I’ve also lost 8 pounds in weight! Not that I needed to as my BMI is fine, but I feel more comfortable at the lower end of my band than the higher. This wasn’t just due to sobriety, I’ve upped my exercise by 50% and also adjusted my diet to ingest less carbohydrates. Now the challenge is to keep up the adjustments to my lifestyle, although I am looking forward to savoring a ‘proper’ beer tomorrow!

Right, on to the picture of the day. The slide scanning marathon’s taken a bit of a backseat recently as I’ve had other work to do. However, I have started a new selection of travel shots taken in India in 2000. So, here’s a real contrast to all those snow scenes I’ve been publishing recently…

I took this shot of the little beach and freshwater lake in Arambol, North Goa on the 31st January 2000.

I first got to know this place in December 1985 during my first trip to India. As a penniless backpacker in those days I ended up living on this beach for six weeks. I made some local friends in the village who looked after my passport and valuables whilst day to day stuff I kept buried in a huge old biscuit tin under some rocks at the back of the beach. My bed was a pit in the sand which I’d dig each night before lining it with a mat and covering myself with a sarong. In those days the beach was largely a nudist beach, so in the morning you’d just rise out of your pit (literally) and walk straight into the sea for a play in the waves before washing the salt off in the freshwater lagoon at the back of the beach. Happy days! Sadly, those days are long gone and the beach has changed dramatically because of the growth of tourism, new roads making travel easier and also the expansion of business as both Goans and Indians from other states cash in on opportunities.

I’ve not been back since 2004. Part of me really wants to as I had many friends their in both the local and expat communities, but part of me wants to remember it as it was – like this – and doesn’t want those memories tarnished. One thing’s for certain, until this pandemic is resolved, I can’t see me being in a position to have to angst about making the decision…

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There’s snow place like home…

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After enjoying some glorious sunshine yesterday I was rather surprised when Dawn said to me yesterday evening ‘oh, there’s heavy snow forecast for tonight’. I poo-poohed the idea and thought we’d probably get a smattering that would disappear within a few hours. Ha – that’ll teach me! This was the sight that greeted me when I opened the bedroom blinds this morning!

I love fresh snow like like this – especially when there’s no wind so it clings to trees and telephone wires. We’ had a good 5-6 inches overnight so I changed my plans and decided to make the best of the weather whilst I could. Here’s a few images to illustrate conditions here in the Calder Valley.

The trees look beautiful, but beware! Walking down our road was very much like running the gauntlet as you never knew when a branch would release a snow-bomb and score a direct hit on you!
Looking across the Calder Valley. Norland is up there somewhere, lost in the low cloud that added to the freezing conditions. It was also excellent at muffling sound, so the world really felt rather eerie.
The wonderful snowy shapes to be found in Long Wood, a short walk from home.

What the snow wasn’t so good for was travelling. Many side roads and steep hills were impassable and the railways were suffering too. From early morning until early afternoon there were no train services through the Calder valley towards either Manchester or Burnley. I hiked through Halifax to Dryclough Junction in the hope of getting a few shots of trains in the snow and I was fortunate enough to get this unusual shot.

Class 195115 working ‘bang road’ (wrong line) as 1G71, the 10.10 from Sowerby Bridge to Leeds. The set should have been working through to Manchester but it was turned around at Sowerby Bridge due to the line being blocked by the snow. Most services from Leeds were being turned back at Halifax, although the hourly service to Huddersfield (which uses the lines to the right) was running most of the time. A later 195 did run as empty stock as far as Todmorden before returning, presumably to see if it was possible to get through to Manchester, Services didn’t restart until early afternoon, although many trains were still cancelled.

This evening the rain had set in and the pristine snow soon turned to slush so I was glad I got out when I did to grab some shots whilst the snow was at its best. Tomorrow the forecast is for the rain to continue so its looking like a good day for staying at home in the warm. I’ve had two very different days out with the camera, so I can’t really complain! You can find the full selection of today’s scenic snow shots in this gallery, and the railway related ones in this gallery.

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1st February picture of the day…

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The first day of the month and the first day of the week arriving together along with some glorious sunshine gave me the impetus to break away from my usual routine today. Abandoning the computer I swapped it for the camera and enjoyed a long walk, just to blow the cobwebs away and do something different for a change.

For the first time this year I walked into Halifax itself, which was existing in that sort of strange half-life many towns and cities are enduring right now. The only things that were open were food outlets, banks and the odd shop selling the bare necessities of life. Still, it gave me time to look upwards to admire some of the fine buildings without worrying about walking into people as there were bugger-all people to walk into!

Despite the fact the low winter sun had already moved around and wasn’t in the best position for some pictures I began the trek from the town centre up the steep climb to the top of Beacon hill, which gives superb views across the town and out into the surrounding hills and valleys, so here’s the picture of the day, taken today from the top of the hill looking down into the town itself.

The square building at the bottom right of the picture behind the church spire is the superb Piece Hall. Above it in the centre of the picture you can see the Octagonal dome of Halifax Borough market which opened in 1896. Above the market to the right is a white fronted building with a dome. That’s the rather ostentatious Natwest bank, showing off in a town dominated by a building Society! I’m looking North-West here, so beyond the town you can see Mount Tabor and the moors around Ogden in the background.

I’ve added many other views of Halifax and surrounds taken today to this gallery. Enjoy!

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