Personal and undiluted views
Trains

530 days ago

A brave business worth backing if you fancy a trip to the North Yorkshire Moors

I have cousins in Scampston, Pickering and near Whitby and so know this part of the world well. It is gorgeous. A year ago, we were, in fact, on holiday in Pickering for a week – the whole family loved it even though Joshua was not impressed that the steam train was not running. If you are tempted and think that there is no basis at all for mask madness and lockdown lunacy and are looking for somewhere to stay, I suggest you need look no further than Rosedale. Back this business.

 

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559 days ago

Photo Article: Oops Joshua and I forced into emergency and chaotic Christmas Pudding making at the Welsh Hovel

I discovered last week that the one Christmas Pudding I had saved for two years and was planning to use this year had been got at. I am not sure when or where given that our two killer cats have made this a mouse-free zone. I suspect the damage was not caused by mice but by something else. Anyhow it is panic stations as, if various folks are happy to break the insane laws we live under, we will have two Christmases here: one with the in-laws and one with the younger generation later.

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3337 days ago

The Early Morning Train with Fred West

I would rather not have arrived at Moreton last Thursday at 11.30 PM. But there is always a thrill in being on a train on a warm but blacked out summers night as it hurtles through the countryside. Let down the window between the carriages and some cooler air rushes in as you speed along. But this morning it is the 4.47 from Bristol, the first train of the day and the only one before 8.30 where you avoid paying the GDP of Guatemala as your fare.

As we speed past Swindon and up towards the capital no-one outside the train seems awake. The sun is just starting to appear but still you cannot see the detail on buildings or on trees – they appear in start silhouette only. The street lamps are still turned on and the, largely empty, train is the only noise in town.

Having a whole bank of four seats and a table to myself is a rare treat. My partner is not so keen on me taking this train as it involves a 3.30 alarm call, something that in deluded lefty world is hard to imagine. I gather that it is a breach of her human rights under some European treaty. But I love this train. The shock of a 3.30 alarm call, a hasty shower and 10 minutes with an opinionated cabbie is not a great start to the day.  But thereafter the space to work, think and stretch your legs is a rare treat on Great First Western. And the English countryside at this time of day, before it is invaded by cars and populated by people is a delightful distraction from my laptop and the acres of train space I currently enjoy.

As we approach Didcot the fields are now clearly green as the Sun emerges from behind a cloud. Less than an hour to the hell hole that is London.

Incidentally the ticket collector bears a remarkable resemblance to the late Fred West. He sounds as if he might be from Gloucestershire. Would it be impolite to ask if they were related by any chance? I suspect that it would be and shall keep that thought to myself.

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3340 days ago

Paddington Bears & Foxy Rebecca S-H

And so it is off to see the deluded lefties of Sheep Street, my family in Shipston, Warwickshire. It should be an easy enough trip from Paddington to Moreton in the Marsh on the 7.22. But that assumes that First Great Western are remotely competent. Oh no.

At 7.15 we were warned of 20 minutes delays due to “a failure of railside equipment” at Hayes. At 8 PM it was 35 minutes. And so on. It is now 9.24 PM and at least I am now on the train but I doubt, if my taxi driver is still awake at Moreton that I will make it to Sheep Street before midnight. First Great Western I detest you.

And so how to kill almost three hours at Paddington? I have written a couple of pieces which, like this, I shall load on Friday. But by chance I bumped into a well-known bear (who else would you meet at Paddington) and so we enjoyed a drink and a discussion about Quindell (QPP) and Cupid (CUP). I sense things are moving apace on both stocks, both of which – as it happens are represented by foxy PR bird Rebecca S-H. She does know how to pick ‘em.

More on both of those fine upstanding members of the AIM cesspit community to follow.

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3347 days ago

First Great Western – Eva Braun on the tickets

If you travel before 8.30 up to London the cost is prohibitive. You need to take out a second mortgage to get a seat (if you are lucky) on one of its trains. After 8.30 the cost falls. And so that is my train. But rushing to get my return ticket from a machine that does not explain the options on Wednesday I seem to have purchased a super off peak rather than an off peak.

How many of you know the difference? The difference: an unsympathetic public rebuke and an extra £13. “I will just charge you the difference” said the ticket gauleiteress. The implication being that I was lucky not to be charged a penalty as well. How nice of you Ms Braun.

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3423 days ago

Pot smoking on First Great Western Trains

By the time we got past Chippenham on the 9.45 from Paddington last night the carriage was almost empty. The lager louts who had got on at Swindon had left the train, much to my delight, and all was calm. I sat there writing an article and across the aisle a mother and her young son chatted amicable. And then a clear smell wafted its way along from the gap to the next carriage, the very powerful smell of weed. The mother and I nodded at each other – we both recognised what was happening.

A couple of minutes later the smokers wandered along the corridor. A lanky fellow with glasses, greasy hair and wearing a suit lead the way laughing out loud. He looked as if the suit was not his normal gab. What do you call a weed smoking loser in a suit? The defendant. Behind him was a man with little hair, obvious tattoos, wearing a parker and clutching a can of cheap lager. The scowl on his face was an ugly one and he strode menacingly along the aisle. I made temporary eye contact and regretted it as his look said very clearly “what the f*** are you going to do about it?”

The answer, of course, is nothing. As I am reminded ad nauseam, First Great Western operates a strict no smoking policy and the someone like me would simply not consider smoking a Marlboro Light on one of its trains. I am used to the pompous H&S message repeated after every station as I try to sleep or write saying that if you see anything suspicious report it to a First Great Western train manager or a Policeman. But in reality there is no-one on board that train to stop folks not only breaking train bye-laws but the actual law of the land. It is all a pretence.

Law abiding nice people like me put up with all the silly rules. The trash at the bottom of society does not give a damn and do what they like and get away with it.

Perhaps it is time that First Great Western recognised this and changed the oft-repeated announcement to “First Great Western operates a strict no smoking of tobacco policy on all its trains but if you are a tattooed monster who wishes to take drugs (and probably has not even got a ticket) go ahead and do what you like because no-one dares stand up to you.”

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3453 days ago

The 11.30 From Paddington – Feeling a Bit Nervous ( snow)

My normal Friday sees me taking a very late train out to the West of England from Paddington. The 11.30 from Paddington sounds like an Agatha Christie but the novel that springs to mind as I contemplate today’s trip is Murder on the Orient express, when the train gets trapped in the snow half way across Yugoslavia.

Of course we will not see 10 foot snowdrifts in Southern England but it only needs a few inches of global warming to fall and Network Rail throws in the towel. I wonder what is the worst case scenario? To be told at Paddington that there are no trains and to be stranded in the capital? That would be bad enough. The trains are quite warm so getting stuck in a snowdrift would be acceptable. I think my real nightmare is the train stopping at either Didcot or Swindon at 1 AM. Neither station is warm and both are grim.

At least Swindon produced the delightful Melinda Messenger (who is now 41, can you believe it?) and (only until May I pray) is home to Paulo di Canio. None the less a night in its station waiting room is not a prospect I’d relish.

Overall today’s travel fills me with dread.

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3546 days ago

Insider Dealing on the 8.30 to Paddington

Folks are remarkably indiscreet on trains. I sit here quietly tapping away on my trusty old keyboard but all around me important conversations seem to be going on. It is hard not to see this as an opportunity.

On the other side of the aisle in “the entertainment carriage” of this First Great Western into Paddington, is an man with the sort of glasses yuppie geeks wear and no hair. He had a long chat about a programme to save £200 million over a couple of years before starting talking about “new retail paradigms.” I rather scoffed at that but see that he has notes out on his table and am half tempted to move seats and find out more.

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3554 days ago

Graham the Train Manager – what is a train manager?

When did a linesman become an assistant referee? When did a salesman become a sales “consultant?” I do not know but consultant sounds sort of important. Salesman…oooh you mean a bloke who speaks estuary English and tries to flog you things you do not want? No that is a sales consultant. But he can’t be like that because he is not a salesman he is a sales consultant. And that brings me to Graham.

Stepping on the Great First Western train Graham, who says that he is the “train manager” informs us all that we must read the safety instructions (also in Braille) next to our seat. I have never read them and the bloke opposite confesses that he has not either. We both agree that we want to live life dangerously. Has anyone ever read them?

After a long explanation

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3568 days ago

Feeling Old and Sad on a Saturday night train

And so I left London on Saturday night. Chocolate pizza with my daughter, a spot of business in Wandsworth and then the 9.30 from Paddington. Is there an Agatha Christie novel with a title a bit like that? Since I am now on the 4.47 AM from Bristol and cannot access the internet I do not know the answer. And feeling a bit tired ahead of a hard day in London I am not sure that I care.

The journey down to Bristol was one that made me feel old (as I was surrounded by young people) and sad (as they were all such morons.)

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3584 days ago

First Great Western and the Selfish Customer

“Apologies for the late departure from the last station – we were delayed by some selfish passengers who did not arrive on time.” That is what the ticket collector has just announced on my train. I am beginning to take a dislike to First Great Western as it attitude to customers is not really very impressive. My “customer experience” started badly. And then got worse.

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3584 days ago

What is it with Network Rail and daft signs?

I noted upon my return to Airstrip One, the obsession of Network Rail with bossy signs. But there are also the pointless ones that litter the stations, as if they breed like some genetically modified rabbit. And thus walking into a mainline station in London I am informed by a specially erected sign “There have been 13 accidents on this escalator in the past 3 months.” Unlucky for some I guess.

But how do you define an accident?

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