Thursday, December 31, 2009

There's just no stopping me... Yet

Number three in the series takes us to 2001.

The long haul flight towards the end of that year took me to the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean.

Reunion is a French Department. Basically, if you go there you are in France. You spend Euros, if you fly in from Paris you on an internal flight, and it appeared that everyone drove French cars.

It was October 2001 - The Euro didn't yet start for another 10 weeks, but all the shelves in the supermarkets and stores were already dual priced in French Francs and in Euros. Not what I had expected when so close to the Equator.

This picture was taken very early in the morning approaching the summit of Piton des Neiges (at 3,070 metres above sea level, the highest point on the island). It's a reasonably tough walk, involving an overnight stay at a mountain gite.

This is another image taken on my pre-digital point and click camera. My SLR was in my rucksack - at approaching 3,000 meters I realised the sun was rising over the Indian Ocean, but had neither the time nor the energy to do anything other than point and click with my baby camera.

Each of the pictures I share is special for some reason. This one because (a) just getting that far up the mountain was hard work (the views from the top are spectacular) and (b) because it captures a moment in time that I simply had not planned.

Ghost Busters

For the last two mornings, I've had the station platform to myself.
This morning, someone else joined me for the lonely journey to work. The front two carriages of the train were totally empty, so our ghost busting skills were needed before it was safe to sit down.
I can only assume that solitary passengers had got on at each of the previous stations, to be quickly subsumed by the apparitions. [Either that or they had decided to stay in bed.]
Always travel in numbers! We have since been joined by a few more people, so I think we are safe now.
On a BAU front, Chiltern Railways are running a good service at present, with extra late night trains home tonight.
If you want a copy of the special timetable, do ask at your local staffed CR station, they've got loads. I think this is because the paper versions only arrived from the printers just in time for Christmas.
After some very early morning niggles, the London Underground service now appears to be running to plan.
I can also report that the M25 motorway is quiet and running well near the roadworks in the Junction 17 area.

Elf and Safety

This is the next in my series of memories from the last ten years.

The Autumn of 2000 took me to Central America. Specifically to Belize.

What a fantastic country! Belize is unexpectedly small. It has beautiful beaches and islands. It has wildlife in abundance. It has Lord Ashcroft. The country holds memories for many people who have served in the British Military and is an absolute treasure trove of Mayan Ruins.

I well remember the comment made by my Grandmother, having gallantly waded through a couple of hundred photographs. She looked up and said wistfully "I'm all templed out".

This picture was taken at the top of 'El Castillo', at the ancient Mayan site of Xunantunich, near the town of San Ignacio in the West of Belize.

The drop was as precipitous as the photograph might suggest. Can you imagine our elf and safety zealots allowing tourists to visit such a place without all manner of risk assessments and safety paraphernalia? I don't think so.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stepping back in time

As we approach the end of the first decade of the Twenty First Century, it seems that many people are taking stock of what has happened to them over the last ten years. Please indulge me while I do the same.

Ever since I was at school I have enjoyed photography. I used to spend hours in the darkroom developing black & white film after black & white film. Hardly anything got printed - I remember that film cost about a penny a frame whereas it cost at least five times that much for a sheet of photographic paper.

Moving forward to the last couple of weeks of the Twentieth Century, I learnt an important lesson about modern technology. Anything that needs power needs power. I know it's obvious, but I spent those weeks in the mountains of Nepal - a long way from electricity or any source of replacement batteries.

My old Minolta SLR camera sucked the juice out of AAA batteries like you wouldn't believe. Combine that with huge contrasts in temperature between day and night, and my camera quickly became all but inoperable. My little APS camera, with it's funny shaped film cassettes, just about lasted the course, though I did have to make sure that I kept it as warm as I could.

So, all in all, while a great trip, photographically speaking the holiday was not a resounding success.

This picture was taken on Christmas Day 1999. It was scanned from a long lost print on a scanner that came out of the ark.

It does however mean a lot to me. The peak with the cloud blowing off the top is Mount Everest. You will see many better pictures of the tallest mountain on the planet, but as far as memories go, it was a great place to spend the last days of the previous millennium.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Woops!

I know that the description block at the top of this page is not the most exciting in the world, but someone (including me) should have spotted the spelling mistake - it had only been there for four years!

It has now been corrected!

B.N.M.

I hope you had a good Christmas. I did, though I suspect that far too much turkey was consumed than was strictly necessary.

Back to the grindstone for me today.

I note that the Bakerloo Line is closed until 3rd January 2010 between Queens Park and Stonebridge Park for engineering work. It may slow my journey to work, we'll just have to wait and see.

Chiltern Railways are running an amended timetable today. The station car park was totally empty this morning and I was the only passenger on the platform.

Billy No Mates.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Just the two of us

Yes, that's just the two of us - in my carriage of what is usually the busiest commuter train into London from my local station.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The morning after the night before

Chiltern Railways appear to have pulled 'Contingency Plan Z' off the shelf this morning. There are a number of pre-planned cancellations this morning, you can get details from the usual sources (sorry no mobile linking).

I suspect the issue is with drivers who can't get to work rather than problems with the infrastructure or trains.

Trains very quiet.

High Wycombe no longer grid-locked.

Please see widget to right for current status of tubes. As at 0735, all are running OK except for the three sub-surface lines running through Baker Street.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Long time no see...

So I'd better talk about the weather!

There has been quite a bit of snow in the Chilterns this evening. More is forecast.

High Wycombe is currently grid-locked. Apart from one central valley, as the name implies, the town is a series of hills. Two wheel drive vehicles cannot currently get up any of the hills. No sign of any police or gritters.

The temperature briefly rose, but a sharp frost is now due, with more snow forecast. It will be bedlam in the morning.

Chiltern Railways have had a small number of cancellations this evening, but are generally running a good service. Trains are busy as people have abandoned their cars and are letting the train take the strain.

I have spoken to two friends who are having to sleep at work tonight - one in Camden and one in Slough.

This image of the local Tom Tom traffic report grabbed just now speaks volumes.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Quote of the day...

Very loudly: "Stand clear of the doors please!".

The train then pulls away..

"You have now delayed this train by one minute. This is not a taxi service."

Bravo.

Says a lot about Chiltern's approach to puctuality.

Source: 1228 AYS to MYB via HWY, Sun 6 Dec 2009. Start of journey.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Words that cannot be said...

Just got back from Worcester having seen Saracens winning Premiership streak come to end, with a 9-9 draw.

Is it just me, or do Saracens seem to play worse rugby when Borthwick is captain?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Addition to Blogroll

Sorry, but I really have had to add "The Diary of a Geek in Oxfordshire" to my blogroll.

I find the writing hilarious - it's like getting an updated Private Eye delivered to my in-box every day!

Enjoy.....


BTW - There are currently Severe Delays on the Central Line (07.55 am Thursday 26th November 2009). No updates will follow but see live update.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why next to me?


The winner of the 2009 Miss Piggy look-a-like competition has just sat next to me on the train.

She obviously lives somewhere with no flat surfaces, as the table has been brought into use as a make-up counter.

Sorry luv. It's not going to work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frustration

Today has been one of those days...

Got up at stupid o'clock (5.10am )to head off for a meeting first thing at Canary Wharf.

Delays on the Jubilee Line en-route, due to a passenger being taken ill.

Meeting cancelled, but organiser forgot to tell me.

Next meeting at 11.00am moved back to 2.00pm.

At 1.00pm I received a call to say that I should not attend the afternoon meeting.

Bottom line, I didn't need to get up at stupid o'clock and had no reason to go to London today.

Grrrr.

Back to normal

After a mega weekend of engineering works, all appear to be back to normal on the London Underground this morning.

Better than that - as of this moment in time (7.11am), the tfl live information is showing that there are no delays at all this morning. Amazing!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clarification

The National Rail Live Arrival/ Departure boards at Marylebone state that there are currently no Jubilee or Metropolitan Line services operating from the station, due to engineering week.

I have already mentioned that there is indeed much engineering work going on this weekend on the London Underground. This significantly affects most of North West London.

However, for the avoidance of doubt, the fact that the Jubilee and Metropolitan Lines are not stopping at Marylebone is not because of engineering work. Neither of those two lines ever stop at or go through Marylebone. However they do both normally serve nearby Baker Street.

Call me a pedant if you wish!

The Bakerloo Line is working normally, just be careful where you want to go.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More on Valour

My woefully inadequate pictures of the engine 'Valour' at Marylebone Station, prompted the PR department at Chiltern Railways to send me some photographs of the ceremonies that took place.

Ever mindful of the purpose of a PR Department, and the concept of viral marketing, I am more than happy to share the pictures with you here. Thank you kind lady at Chiltern Railways - I had almost forgotten that you like to keep an eye on me.

We must never forget the sacrifices made for us by the many.






Eeeek - and there is more!

There are loads of other engineering works going on this weekend (21 and 22 November 2009) on the London Underground (in addition to the partial closure of the Central Line closure that I mentioned last night).

Do please check all your options carefully, else you may get caught out when traveling around London this weekend.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

West End of Central Line to Close for Weekend of 21 & 22 November 2009

This weekend (21 November 2009 & 22 November 2009) there is no Central Line at all west of Marble Arch. That is a huge chunk of the Central Line that will not be working due to engineering work.

If you are traveling out from Central London heading to the West Ruislip branch this weekend, the advice is to travel to Willesden Junction on the Bakerloo Line. You will then be able to pick up one of a couple of rail replacement bus services.

If you are heading for Ealing Broadway, there is a replacement bus that starts at Sheperds Bush Market (Hammersmith & City Line), which also picks up at North Acton (where the West Ruislip branch buses will be able to drop you off to change buses). I think I'd rather travel out on the District Line or catch a First Great Western train from Paddington to Ealing Broadway.

Chiltern Railways also offer a regular but infrequent service to West Ruislip and South Ruslip from London Marylebone. There is also a half hourly service for most of Saturday from Paddington to Greenford. Do check National Rail times before you travel on a big train.

There are loads of alternative train, tube and bus routes - I can't possibly summarise them all, but it could be a good opportunity to check the accuracy of the tfl Journey Planner. I've just run a sample journey through it (work to where I used to live, on Saturday, and it was spot on for that sample).

I am glad that I chose to go to the Westfield Shopping Centre last Sunday and not this coming weekend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hurrah!

Well, tonight was a good evening. Saracens beat the South African Rugby Union touring side by 24 - 23. A crowd of 46,281 rugby supporters watched what turned out to be a most enjoyable match at Wembley Stadium.

At half time, the 'home' side were trailing by 18 points to 6. Saracens came back after the break with a new lease of life to achieve what had seemed like a highly improbable result.

Since the start of the season, Saracens have lost just two matches and are still unbeaten in the Guinness Premiership. Hopefully this run will continue when they play Wasps in a local derby at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Despite a thrilling game of rugby, what has caught most of the headlines today is the good luck / skill of spectator Stuart Tinner.

Spectators were encouraged to enter a text competition to be one of three people to have the chance to kick a ball during half-time, to hit the horizontal cross bar. Stuart kicked the ball, with no shoes on and hit the cross bar. He won £250,000.

I was sat looking directly down the line of the posts. I saw the ball arching through the air and thought "crikey, he's going to do it!". You should have heard the roar from the crowd.

All in all an excellent evening. Made all the better by the fact that there were no queues at all to get onto the Chiltern Railways platforms at Wembley Stadium afterwards, meaning that we were home back in rural Buckinghamshire only an hour and ten minutes after the match finished.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It was a bit better this evening

This morning's Bakerloo Line suspension was always going to have an adverse impact on the Jubilee Line.

Unfortunately, at roughly the time of this morning's post, a Jubilee Line train broke down at London Bridge.

The impact was horrendous.

There were queues at Baker Street to get onto the platforms and seven Southbound Jubilee Line trains went through before I could get on one.

My journey this morning from rural Buckinghamshire to South East London was somewhat wearisome.

The good news is, it has all been like clockwork this evening.

It is however raining. Oh and my glass is half empty.

Bakerloo goes phut. Again.

At present (just before 8.00am on Thursday 12 November 2009), the Bakerloo Line is totally suspended South of Queens Park. Oops. So far, that's two mornings this week that there have been no underground trains from Marylebone.

Apparently, the problem today is a signal failure at Baker Street.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Valour

On Sunday (Remembrance Day) and today(Armistice Day), Chiltern Railways made a special effort to mark the valour of the many people who have served this country in times of war.

They had arranged for the special train 'Valour' to be the centre of various ceremonies held on Platform 3 at London Marylebone on both days.


I was unable to be at either of the services, but was pleased to see that the locomotive was already in position before 9 am this morning.

As in many work places across the UK, we held two minutes of silence at 11 am. This has been a particularly bad year for our armed forces. The deaths are appalling, but the huge numbers of soldiers maimed and mutilated are often overlooked.

Today ought not to be a day for politics, whatever our own personal views of the rights and wrongs of current conflicts (and the way they are resourced). I find it hugely encouraging that the majority of people regard those who serve our country with such bravery with the utmost goodwill and respect.

I hope that the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal and charities such as Help for Heroes receive full support for the fantastic work that they do.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

If you missed it, you've missed it.
















For the last month there has been a rather unusual art installation on display in the Kingsway Tram Tunnel in the heart of London.

Conrad Shawcross has constructed two very large and complicated machines, consisting of hundreds of bobbins of coloured cord have been slowly rotating and, while moving apart, making a 100m long multicoloured rope, or "Chord".

The exhibition finished today. Thanks to Diamond Geezer bringing it to my attention, I was able to book a slot and visited the site late on Friday afternoon. It was a most unusual piece of art in an as unusual location.

Apparently the Chord is to be sold off in collectors pieces - I don't think I'll bother, but there will certainly be pictures to follow of the Tunnel itself. Part of London's heritage put to a different sort of use.

Silence ....






Please support the work of the Royal British Legion.

Thank you.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A nice warm Bath

I went with my parents today, to the lovely city of Bath.

We drove up past Stonehenge to Warminster. Then a packed First Great Western train there, and a South West Trains service (as packed & very late running) on the way back.

Saracens beat Bath 12 points to 11 (away) at The Rec. Not the most flowing game of rugby I have ever seen. However a win is a win, and we are still at the top of the table, unbeaten in the Premiership this season.

It was also a very mild afternoon. Bath is a very nice city...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Laziness has a cost

Like many modern households I have an automatic washing machine. It needs feeding with some form of detergent and perhaps also fabric softener.

When I moved a couple of years ago, the kitchen also had a dishwasher already built in - that too requires feeding with tablets and occasionally other concoctions.

All this feeding takes money. What I tend to do is, every few months, go out to a supermarket and buy all my cleaning consumables in one go. This usually results in my shopping basket of non-food costs me far more than the usual basket of edible consumables. The cost of laziness.

This morning I was however somewhat astounded to see how much more some mental laziness could potentially cost...

I visited Sainsburys in Beaconsfield who charge £2.45 for a 250ml bottle of Finish Rinse stuff. Adjacent to the same bottles were some special offer flashed packs suggesting that two 250ml bottles of the identical liquid be bought for £5.85. Sorry, but I am not paying 95 pence extra for the privilege of two bottles being bound together in even more packaging. Even I am not that stupid. I suspect however that many of the well heeled residents of Beaconsfield (I am neither well heeled or a resident of that town) will unnecessarily take advantage of this rubbish offer!

Many supermarkets clearly mark their shelves with an indication as to how much a product costs per item or per 100ml. If more people took note of those labels they could safe plenty of money. A sign of convenience shopping?

Beaconsfield is a strange place on a Sunday morning as half the world seems to go out for breakfast. At 10.05 am the cafe in the supermarket was nearly full, the Costa Coffee had a massive queue inside and the small independent Italian style cafe was bustling. Maybe it's not laziness, but it appears to me to be a sign of plenty of money!

If you want nature, not shopping, The Chilterns Conservation Board publishes a series of handy walking leaflets that offer walks of various lengths to and from train stations with services offered by Chiltern Railways. Whether you live in the Chilterns, want to escape from London, or are a visitor to these parts, they are to be recommended. Included in the series is a walk between Beaconsfield Station and nearby Seer Green & Jordans Station. A word of warning - most of the time, trains only stop at Seer Green once an hour in each direction so you are advised to start the walk from there.

The clocks have gone back

Across the UK everybody has had an hour extra overnight. That is because at 2.00 am British Summer Time the UK moved its clocks back an hour to 1.00 am Greenwich Mean Time.

I thank it means that the entire population will have either (a) had extra time in bed or (b) got up earlier than they needed to or (c) had to work an extra hour, because the world does not stop spinning.

For me it was (b).

There could be a fourth option in that some could have forgotten (or didn't know) about the change. If that is the case, the individuals concerned will find out soon enough and then presumably suffer a weird feeling of instant jet-lag.

There have been debates, as there always are, about whether the clocks should continue to go forward in the early hours of the last Sunday March, and back again in the early hours of the last Sunday in October. One such debate is the ongoing argument for Scotland to move to its own 'Tundra Time' with the rest of the UK moving to European Time.

Personally, I like getting up for a little while with some daylight - the evenings don't mean much to me at this time of year. My vote (not that we have one) is for keeping things as they are and to keep the existing programme of twice yearly clock changes.

Just a little point of further confusion - 'Daylight Saving Time' does not finish in the the USA and Canada until next weekend.

Hopefully the debate is now over, at least until the clocks go forward again on 29 March 2010.

Make the most of your day - it's light out there! Rural Buckinghamshire beckons to me- by the time I get back home late this afternoon, it will be pitch black, so I am going to make the most of it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Behaving with decorum

Look.. I know this is the first off-peak train of the day, so you probably don't travel to London every day.

You look well into middle age and are possibly a married couple.

So why the heck are you sitting on opposite sides of the carriage?

Ah. I get it. You are entering the national Dom Joly impersonation competition and don't want to drown out each others' shouting.

Note: Mobile telephones have sensitive microphones. There is really no need to be quite so inconsiderate.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick turn-around

My train into Marylebone just now arrived about 30 seconds before it was scheduled to leave for Birmingham.

Don't worry folks, you've got time to get on. The driver needs to get to the front. Please let us off!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You know it's Autumn when...

You get up and go outside, it is your normal time but the sky is still pitch black, except for the moon and the stars.

The only sound is that of a neighbour scraping the first frost of the season off their car windscreen.

Brrrr... It's a bit chilly out there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Making up the numbers?

Two weeks ago, Saracens beat Gloucester at home 19 - 16. The official match attendance was 7,777.

Today, Saracens were again at home. This time they won 36-12 against Rovigo. There were 5,678 people at the match.

Hmmm.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Can you imagine?

In the future, you might well be taking to a friend who lives thousands of miles away.

They say to you "So, what's the name of your President?"

"President?", you say. "We don't have a president - we have a Queen and a Prime Minister."

"Oh", they say. "I thought your President was Tony Bl...."

OMG is that what we are about to have dumped on us?

Pickled? Us? Stewed and well and truly skewered more like.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Busy Day

Today, I have been to Newcastle Upon Tyne for the day.

Two reasons - lunch with relatives, and to watch Saracens beat Newcastle Falcons away, 22 - 15.

I am not sure which was better, but it was a good day.

Departure from Chateau Centraluser in Rural Buckinghamshire was at 8.05 am this morning, arrival back was at 10.00pm just now. Not bad really seeing as we only landed at Heathrow at 9.09 pm and got off the plane at 9.21pm.


Can't rabbit on all night as I have to catch a train at stupid o'clock in the morning as it is to be, I think, my busiest day of the year at work.

Ho hum - well at least the rugby team I support are at the top of the table again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Island Life

When I referred to A Better Place, I didn't actually mean that it was better.

What I meant was that; There were hardly any people, the people that were there were friendly, the scenery was fantastic and varied, I didn't need my passport but it was like going abroad, and there is so little pollution in the air that on a clear night you can see many times more stars than you can in the crowded South-East corner of England.

OK, on many levels I did mean that it was better!

I have just returned from a few days on the beautiful Isle of Arran in Scotland. Now obviously the means of getting there and back will provide plenty of blogging fodder, but for now, all I can say is STUNNING!

Yes, we were lucky with the weather. My experiences of holidaying in Scotland tell me to take the waterproofs, and to count it as a bonus if you don't need to use them.

Anyhow, here is a very small selection of the photographs that I took while on the island. Hopefully they will give you a feel of the place:

A Highland Coo in Glen Rosa
According to my Ordnance Survey map, this is called Glenrosa Water or Garbh Allt. I call it picturesque.
Afternoon sun on the beach at Blackwaterfoot.
A still day at Lochranza

And finally, just to add a modicum of topicality, this is the CalMac ferry that took us to and from the island. The "Caledonian Isles" travels several times a day between Adrossan Harbour and Brodick, the largest settlement on Arran.

PS: At some stage I might jig the layout of this post around a bit. For now it will do as I have to head off to Watford for the rugby.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Simple Rules

I try to live my life by some simple rules. You know the ones; "Though shalt not steal", "Though shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife / oxen" and similar.

Two more:

-Eat chilli with rice, and
-Eat bolognese sauce with pasta

Unfortunately, having just put the rice on to boil, I have just discovered that the tub of chilli I have defrosted is actually a very tasty tub of home-made bolognese sauce.

Given that it is a Saturday evening, I suspect that there will many worse examples of rule breaking around our towns and cities tonight...

Monday, September 21, 2009

A better place

A fair bit of public transport over the last week or so - the best part being when it was taking me away from the South East of England.

Having taken loads of photographs, it will quickly become apparent where I have been - this picture is just to whet your appetites.

Regrettably I got more and more depressed this morning as I joined the hundreds of office drones walking between Marylebone and Baker Street. Still, work means I can pay for holidays.

Now, where was I? Oh yes....

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grumpy People

On a Saturday afternoon, Chiltern Railways usually run a Northbound 1727 service from High Wycombe, which calls next at Saunderton, then Princes Risborough and then Haddenham & Thame Parkway.

As I mentioned at the time, there was a rugby match last Saturday at Wembley Stadium, so Chiltern were running a tweaked timetable to cope with the extra passengers, of whom there were plenty.

The trouble was, the Northbound 1727 service last Saturday was a different train to usual, so it didn't actually stop between High Wycombe and Haddenham & Thame Parkway.

Cue lots of people who had an unexpectedly long ride courtesy of Chiltern Railways. You can't really blame them. Many were grumpy.

Usual timetable:





Last Saturday's stopping pattern:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Forty Four Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Two

Yes - That's 44,832 people at Wembley Stadium for a club Rugby Union match. The top tier at the stadium was empty, but it was still pretty impressive and there was a great atmosphere.

Yesterday's match finished 19 - 16 to Saracens, though it has to be said that Northampton Saints put up a great fight and it was nail biting right until the final whistle.

I have to say, I was impressed with the effort that Saracens, as a club, put into making the afternoon a fun event. They had 'Diversity' doing some dancing, a rock band, the Royal Marines and an abseiling camel.

The first time I went to the stadium it was to see a concert , so it was good to see it in use for a sporting event. Despite my qualms about degraded public transport all went well, though Chiltern Railways' staff did seem to be letting too few people onto the platform for each train - I missed mine by about twenty people and the next one had a nearly empty carriage when it left the station. Still at least it offers me a virtually door-to-door service.

Apologies for the poor picture and video quality - I've come to the conclusion that my mobile phone is a rubbish camera.

Saracens are currently second in the Guinness Premiership - hopefully that will last a while, but only time will tell.

videoDiversity
videoSarrie the Camel

videoThe Royal Marines

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wemberleey!

For a reason that I haven't really been able to fathom out, Saracens are playing this afternoon's rugby match against Northampton Saints at Wembley Stadium. Somewhere around 35,000 / 40,000 rugby fans are expected on what could be a Bluebird Day (if it had snowed last night, which obviously, it didn't).

It suits me fine as it save a drive to Watford and the dreaded Match Day Parking CPZ around Vicarage Road - Today I can let the train take the strain, and possible have a sherbert or two, something I cannot normally do.

Chiltern Railways have extra trains stopping at Wembley Stadium - great for me, but with engineering works on the Amersham branch, and no Metropolitan Line from Northwood to Wembley Park and the Jubilee Line also out for engineering works, I suspect that London Midland services (serving both Northampton and Watford) at Wembley Central will be a bit busy.

Hopefully the rugby will not play second fiddle and it should be a great afternoon.

It's not too late to go - tickets are £10 on the door, £5 for children. Shades and shorts required.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

So, what's my problem?

I have nothing against university, or of the concept of clever people studying hard to earn degrees that will help them push this country forward and far.

Many of the brightest graduates, or simply those clever enough to pass through an attribute based assessment centre process, are taken onto Graduate Training Programmes by large organisations. Mine included.

In my experience, some of the programme participants are rubbish. Most are good. A few are brilliant.

A brilliant colleague has just moved on, as have one from each of the other two categories.

Their replacements from this year's intake are to to arrive shortly.

My boss is teflon coated. My fear this morning was that I was about to be asked to line manage the newbies. I would really dislike doing that.

Fortunately, when my boss and I eventually spoke, he had other things on his mind.. Hopefully he was never going to ask me anyway.

The lovely ridge of high pressure currently sat over the UK means that it is now a truly glorious evening in Rural Buckinghamshire.

Seventeen Words

It's a beautiful sunny, morning. Not a cloud in the sky. I am walking from Marylebone to Baker Street.

My voicemail bleeps. Should I pick it up? I do.

Sigh. It's the boss.

"Hi xxx, it's xxx. Please could you give me a call? It's about the new grads. Thanks."

I have a sinking feeling.....

More later, and an explanation.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Ouch!

There are currently severe delays on the Central Line.

The next train from Northolt to West Ruislip is currently 23 minutes away and is at Queensway.

Ouch indeed.

Imagine if you will that..

... You have a full time job that involves working mixed shifts. The job is safety critical, with potentially dire consequences if you make a mistake.

The company you work for says that it will pay you double time if you volunteer to work exrra hours on Sundays.

After a period of time, the company decides that it no longer wants to pay you as much in return for you volunteering to work on Sundays.

You decide that you would rather spend the time with you family and friends.

Now imagine that you are a driver working for London Midland.

--
Sent from my mobile device

Sunday, September 06, 2009

It appears that some people couldn't run a bath

I am sure that many people will find this quite incredible.

London Midland is a train operating company with a fairly extensive network of services.

Today (Sunday 6th September 2009) nearly all of London Midland's train services have been cancelled, due to many staff not volunteering to work today.

According to Bob Crow, the failure to volunteer "was not organised action by workers but a case of the contractual right not to work being exercised".

I find this a little strange. I don't know how many people have failed to volunteer to work today, but it strikes me that if London Midland have had to cancel most of their trains, the number must be statistically significantly different to the norm. In my experience, such a significant variation in the behaviour of people is rarely un-coordinated, or without cause.

Which ever way you look at it, this appears to be a case of management incompetence at London Midland.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Sparse Pickings

It's the 4th of the month and the blog pickings are sparse.

Just had a skinful to help a really good colleague celebrate his departure and move onto pastures new.

Cornish Pasty from the station and half drunk bottle of water on the table, An attemt to rehydrate.

Tomorrow sees me picking up two friends at 1130 for the London Double Header at Twickenham. Should be a good day

A cunning plan is to unfold to get home quicker than anticipated tonight. The train from Marylebone is quiet.

A good weekend to one and all! Zzzzz....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some good news

A cursory glance at the Departure Boards for the Bakerloo Line would suggest that the 4 day suspension of service in Zone 1 (for engineering works) is over. That means that Bakerloo Line trains are once again running to all destinations.

Now for a depressing thought. Today (31st August 2009) is a bank holiday in the UK. The next time we have a bank holiday, you will have hopefully finished any Christmas shopping you were going to do.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Perfect Storm

Actually, that perhaps ought to read "The Perfect Millpond".

A bit like an unusual alignment of the planets, today we have;

- August
- School holidays
- A Bank Holiday weekend
- Friday
- The second day of no Bakerloo Line in Zone 1

I can report that this currently means loads of seats on Chiltern Railways' trains this morning, plus loads of space in their expensive car parks.

Oh, and traffic was flowing well just now through the roadworks on the North West bit of the M25. That will definitely change later.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bakerloo Line Closure - Zone 1 - 27 August to 30 August 2009

Don't forget.. the Bakerloo Line is closed for engineering works from today (27 August 2009) through to Sunday in the whole of Zone 1.

This means, no underground trains from Paddington through to Elephant & Castle today, or 28 August 2009 or 29 August 2009 or indeed 30 August 2009!

For now, Chiltern Railways have a useful link to the closure leaflet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Along the Central Line

Nowadays, it is something that I don't do very often - that is, travel "Along the Central Line".

There are four reasons for this:
  1. I no longer live two hundred yards from Northolt Underground Station. Northolt is on the Central Line in Travelcard Zone 5 - it used to be a simple journey to Tottenham Court Road station, the nearest station to where I usually work.
  2. Tottenham Court Road is currently in the early stages of a major rebuilding programme, as part of the building of Crossrail. This means that it is a little more difficult for me to enter and leave the station than was previously the case, so I tend to go elsewhere.
  3. I walk a lot more now than I used to. As most of my tube journeys are confined to Zone 1, walking is often a realistic option.
  4. One of my frequent journeys is from the West End (London's central shopping district) to Canary Wharf, the upstart business district in the East End. Escalator works at Bank station mean that travel via that station is often impractical, so I tend to go via Waterloo which means that I use the Jubilee Line in preference.
So, Saturday saw me traveling from Central London back out to Northolt.

It seemed that half of the Underground system was out of service this weekend due to engineering works. My journey down from Marylebone caused me to see; the closure of the Southern bit of the Metropolitan Line, the closure of the Jubilee Line and the closure of the Southern bit of the Victoria Line.

It was therefore of some relief that my journey out to Northolt was hassle free, quick, quiet and actually pretty enjoyable.

A couple of weeks ago, I'd heard on the radio one evening of serious road congestion in Northolt due to a serious fire.

Spot the difference:

Although the picture I took on my phone (below) is pretty rubbish, you will probably be able to tell that "serious fire" is probably a bit of an understatement.

The Plough in Northolt is currently closed.It was never my favourite pub, but for 18 years it was what I saw when I looked out of my window. For that reason alone it is sad to see it in it's current state. I suppose thatch and modern city life don't really mix.

Hopefully the brewery will rebuild and reopen the pub. Only time will tell whether or not it is improved.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

View from the back window

There I was, sitting slouched on the sofa, watching The X Factor. Shhh - don't tell anyone. The patio door was open and I heard a whooshing noise.*

No surprises - you can probably see the picture. Anyhow, this picture of a hot air balloon taking off in the Chiltern Hills in rural Buckinghamshire, was taken from my bedroom window at eight o'clock this evening.

I hope it wasn't going too far as it was beginning to get dark.

*Whooshing - The unmistakable noise of the burners used to chuck hot air into the balloon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

”Boing"...

... said Zebedee. "Time for bed." said Florence.

Indeed.

Just been to cinema for fourth time in eight days. Guess I'm seeking value from my Unlimited Cineworld card. One good, none bad.

No more people watching today - the station is deserted.

Mustn't forget to switch off the alarm clock off when I get home. Two days of not getting up at Stupid O'clock.

Goodnight.

Misplaced Geography

Another train... More people.

This time a middle aged American tourist and his teenage son. Laptop and GPS charging on the free onboard electricity.

They seem to be under the impression that Dover (Castle) is near Weymouth.

WRONG!

Am I Living in a Soap Opera?

OMG. This time, I am sat on a Chiltern Railways train from Marylebone back home to Rural Buckinghamshire.

Chiltern have substituted the usual posh Clubman for a slightly slower Turbo.

Surrounded by a mother and four daughters. Ages range from about 10 to 15.

All very well behaved, except for the eldest girl who has just had a blazing row with her mother about how many times she can see her boyfriend this weekend.

Chill. Chill. Chill. It's the weekend!

Unreasonably Grumpy

Yes, that's me this morning. Unreasonably grumpy.

It's Friday. Yesterday was a good day at work. The film I saw last night was OK. I got plenty of sleep...

What's the problem?

The train is sparsely populated and the two guys sitting next too me haven't stopped talking for half an hour. That's all.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lazy writing

One thing that I really dislike is companies and organisations being lazy when disseminating information for general public information.

Sometimes that laziness simply leads to information being wrong while quite often it leads to over-spin.

Overnight, my Bloglines RSS Feed brought me a news release from Saracens, the Rugby Union club at which I am a season ticket holder.

Saracens play at Wembley Stadium, against Northampton Saints, on Saturday 12th September. It should be a good afternoon out.

The news release is all about how to get to Wembley. It is more or less the usual pre-pack of blurb put out by Wembley. Among other things, it extols the virtues of the Metropolitan Line and the Jubilee Line.

The only problem is that both of these lines will be seriously affected by engineering works on 12th September, meaning that they are pretty useless if traveling from Watford, where Saracens usually play.

The engineering works are mentioned in a set of comprehensive asides, but so far down the article that you can only see them if you subscibe to the website! Grrr.

+Posted in a rush from my mobile+

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How to steal a train

This morning, I caught the Bakerloo Line down from Baker Street, before the ambient temperature got too high.

The air conditioning at work broke down. Very old fashioned method used to cool the building. We opened the windows.

Ice creams on the house this afternoon.

Meandered my way back to Marylebone. Tube Avoidance.

No. 18 bus along Marylebone Road uncomfortably rank and full.

Train like an icebox. Cancelled.

All shepherded to an alternate train several hundred yards away. One extra carriage, not quite as cool, nine minutes late.

Looks like we stole the 1751 MYB to HWY which I note has been cancelled.


+Posted from my mobile+

Monday, August 17, 2009

Escalators at Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is going through a major escalator refurbishment programme.

The latest phase has meant that it has been a slight inconvenience getting to or from the Bakerloo Line. However all escalators to/ from the Bakerloo are now running - they've now moved to one of the lower Piccadilly Line sets, which is likely to cause slightly more inconvenience at busy times. Progress.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hoorah for U2

U2 were playing at Wembley Stadium on Friday and Saturday evenings.

I went to the cinema, by train.

Upon my return, I expected to have to wait 30 minutes for a train. However, Chiltern Railways had a special timetable running to help cope with the estimated 86,000 concert goers.

Impact? I only had to wait six minutes for a train. Good result.

Oh, and the train was busy.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Bakerloo Line - Upcoming Weekday Closure

I spotted some posters at Baker Street on Friday that advised of some significant engineering work that will affect the Bakerloo Line on weekdays at the end of August.

From Thursday 27 until Sunday 30 August, inclusive, the Bakerloo Line will be suspended between Paddington and Elephant & Castle. This means that the line will be closed South of Paddington on two weekdays, which will no doubt catch many people unaware.

The word on the streets is that the work is towards reinstating the crossover at Piccadilly Circus. This will enable trains in the Southbound platform to reverse back over onto the Northbound Line. I do not work for London Underground so cannot confirm that this is the case.

I have no idea when or why the crossover was removed, but if it is to be reinstated it must be good news long term, as it will improve operational flexibility for the Bakerloo Line in times of stress.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Silent Running

This is the GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe running fast and quiet (with no rolling stock) on its way back to Tyseley this evening. The rolling stock went back up the line about an hour before.

The train would have done a reversing manoeuvre around the Greenford Triangle, so that it was facing in the right direction.

video

Tootling up and down the line - More Steam

GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe (a steam train) has been tootling up and down the Chiltern Line today.

It went this morning from Marylebone to Stratford-Upon-Avon this morning, calling at Beaconsfield on the way. It then came back late this afternoon and the engine, sans carriages, is now whizzing its way back up to Tyseley in the dark.

This video is of the train leaving Beaconsfield at about 7.20pm, on its way towards London.

video

Man on Wire

I've just seen a BBC Trailer to advise that "Man on Wire" is on BBC2 tomorrow night (Sunday 2nd August 2009) at 9.00pm.

If you didn't get the chance to see this film in the cinema or on DVD, I cannot recommend too strongly that you ought to watch or record the film tomorrow night.

I saw the film at a special screening at my local cinema earlier this year, immediately before the Baftas and the Academy Awards were dished out. I found it quite mesmerising. Hence the plethora of awards.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A good result

A quick trip to the pub after work tonight, in Soho.

Left slightly too late, delays on the Bakerloo Line, missed my train home from Marylebone by about 10 seconds. Grrr.

Decided to catch the next train to an adjacent station and wait for an age.

Was chatting to someone who was meeting a fellow passenger and was offered a lift to the bottom of my road, taking them two or three miles out of their way. Most kind, and I thus got home half an hour earlier than would otherwise have been the case. Thank you kind people.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Well, I never knew that!

Driving North and East past Heathrow Airport yesterday morning, for the first time ever, I noticed that arriving planes were using both the North and South Runways at the same time.

Five minutes of searching the interweb thingy has failed to reveal when this practice started, but I guess it must be a good thing if it helps get planes onto the ground quicker. Obviously it can only be done when there are relatively few departing aircraft.

During my only partially successful research I found this whizzy technical tool, Webtrak, guaranteed to give hours of endless fun to those so minded.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Music in the Rain

During the early part of each Summer, the Royal Military School of Music in Twickenham hosts a series of open air concerts titled "Concerts in the Park".

Tonight was the series finale, attended (along with maybe a couple of thousand others) by three generations of my family.

The theme tonight was 'Last Night of the Proms'. Whatever the theme, the concerts are always excellent and tonight was no exception.

Having checked the weather forecast yesterday, we decided not to eat al-fresco. Instead my sister fed us all beforehand, dessert provided by our mother. food move.

Waterproofs came in handy, though fortunately the rain was not persistent enough for the concert to be curtailed. The bands soldiered on and a good evening was had.

I suspect that a bit of elbow grease would have been used afterwards drying all the instruments - pity the bandsman responsible for the three xylophones!

Hopefully back to the same venue in a couple of months for the Rhythm Force Rock & Pop Concert, including an appearance by Jools Holland.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

HP anyone?

I don't particularly like HP Sauce, so as a moderately frequent cinema goer, the HP can only refer to Harry Potter.

I attempted to go to see the latest film "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" on Wednesday, the day the film came out.

I arrived at Cineworld in High Wycombe at 8.50 pm for the 9.00pm showing (ie 30 minutes before the film would actually start, after the adverts and trailers). I got the to top of the escalator to find about 200 people in a long line that meandered around the mezzanine area. Given that the ticket queue rarely has more than 10 people, I high tailed it home and deferred my cinematic experience to this evening.

There was a bit of Sauce in this HP and at 154 minutes long, the film didn't drag. However there didn't seem to be as much magic as usual though there was nothing wrong. Near the beginning there was a sign in an underground station scene that said "Platforms 4" which was either a really obvious goof (not currently mentioned at IMDB) or a subtle plot point that was too subtle for me.

Overall, nothing to write home about, but don't avoid on my say so.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Away from the city

I have a couple of days off work.

I am down in deepest Hampshire, having just returned from a most pleasant meal out with my parents.

No tubes till Monday, at least two days with no trains. Even the drive from home earlier was quite pleasant.

Why am I so chilled? That would be because I have four days of not being at work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tottenham Court Road - Update

TCR tube station is going through the mother of all upgrades - eventually it will be a mega interchange station between the existing Central and Northern Lines and Crossrail.

Anyhow, tfl have deemed it appropriate to issue a press release giving an update on what is going on. To be honest it's not exactly exiting, but it'll no doubt appear as a full page article in the Metro and will inevitably be regurgitated by lazy journalists in other news outlets as well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AVP - Part 3

Back in January, I visited the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway station. Not just on one day, but on two separate days.

Lord Adonis, the latest unelected functionary that the nice Mr Brown is allowing to play with our train set, visited AVP the week before last. His visit was to formally open the station (which actually opened seven months ago, albeit serviced by a row of temporary buildings.

I wasn't able to turn up on the day to visit the farmers market (laid on for the day), but can confirm that the frozen loos and building skips have long gone. The car park is huge (and empty), when I visited the station was deserted with non-functioning ticket machines, but it is nevertheless a new station, a new extended railway line and Chiltern Railways are to be applauded.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Japanese follow up

Someone at Chiltern Railways is clearly trying to help the influx of Japanese visitors that pour into Bicester North, en-route to the Bicester Village emporium of designer shops.

This notice is now stuck, in a prominent position, on the ticket machine by the entrance to the station.

I sense that no further translation is necessary.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Shadows stitch me up

This picture is of the South end of the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham. It's easy for me to get to as Moor Street Station is just across the road - Chiltern Railways call there twice an hour in each direction.

'Stitch me up' can mean 'Make me laugh'. By the quirkiness of the English Language it can also mean that someone had something pre-arranged for me.

In this context I am being ridiculous - The shadows stitched me up, and they didn't make me laugh.

Click on the picture and you'll see what I mean. The ability of the software on my computer to stitch together pictures only goes so far.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday night - I'm expecting the worst

Holborn. Busy interchange station connecting the Central Line and the Piccadilly Line.

Five twenty on a Friday night.

The gate line is busy. The downward escalators are busy. The concourse at the bottom seems to have literally hundreds of people milling around.

Walk along the passageway towards the Eastbound Central Line Platform to catch a train to Liverpool Street. It takes a while. Everyone is walking with pigeon steps.

Walk down the steps. It's slow - I hear a train pull in and then away.

Onto the platform, turn right. Within seconds another train pulls in. Gird myself for the crush.

Doors open.. What? Less than half the seats are taken. Room for everyone to sit down. I must be hallucinating, or the train only started at Marble Arch. One of the two.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Going where?

Approaching Oxford Circus on a Northbound Bakerloo Line.

Automated announcement comes out of the speakers; "The next station is Waterloo, change here for... blah blah".

Cue some puzzled looking tourists. Waterloo is four stations before Oxford Circus.

In my head the Bakerloo Line is so solid and chunky with old technology it should either work, or it goes phut. A bit like a Bakelite telephone.

I was therefore surprised (and I've never seen it happen before on the Brown Line) that the on-board announcements got out of sync with the stations. At least it has kicked the hiatus into touch.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Spin

Hundreds of thousands of people have bought tickets to some music concerts. Unfortunately the concerts have had to be cancelled - it is impossible for them to be rescheduled.

I read in the media this morning that ticket holders may either apply for refunds OR they may keep the tickets as souvenirs [and not get refunds].

I wish I could say that I find this approach to not refunding all ticket money unbelievable. Unfortunately it isn't.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shit really does happen

Geoff Marshall is a really good guy, who used to work for the BBC, who once held the world record for traveling around the entire tube network in the fastest time and is currently on a mission traveling round the USA.

Today the sky has fallen in and many of his material goods (the stuff he needs to do his job) have been stolen.

Grrrrr.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Context probably provides the answer...

A couple of weeks ago I posed an isolated question.

Here is the full picture:

The signs are indeed at Bicester North station in Oxfordshire.

Bicester is home to Bicester Village, a retail park stuffed full of designer shops. It seems very popular with Japanese visitors traveling out on Chiltern Railways' trains from London.

A fleet of mini-buses transport passengers between the station and the shops (for a fee) - It is safe to assume that it is those buses that the Japanese sign is alluding to.

Friday, June 19, 2009

People spotting

I work in the heart of media land in central London. My colleagues always seem to tell me of the famous people they see. I never see them. People always seem to me to look different, to me, in real life.

Anyhow, I saw Brendan Cole in my local Waitrose last Sunday and, as I type, Ann Widdecombe has just got on a Chiltern Railways train at Marylebone.

Ooh err!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bags

Today my journeys to and from London were on South West Trains as opposed to my usual Chiltern Railways.

When you get on a Chiltern peak hour service, most people put their bag(s) on the overhead luggage racks. On South West Trains this evening, mine was one of just two bags on the luggage racks.

I do wonder for the reasons for the difference in passenger behaviour.

I suspect it is down to the different train designs - We shall have to see.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bad news for football fans hoping to travel to Wembley on Wednesday 10th June 2009


In their infinite wisdom, Chiltern Railways have decided that no trains will stop at Wembley Stadium tomorrow after 12 Noon.

With the expected total shutdown of the London Underground, this will make it even more difficult for people to get to the England -v- Andorra match on Wednesday evening.

I merely observe, but on this occasion do not opine.

+Posted from my mobile+

48 Hour Tube Strike starting 7.00pm Tuesday 9th June 2009

This is a blog ostensibly about the London Underground.

Bob Crowe and his merry men have seen fit, once again, to attempt to hold London to ransom following a failure to successfully negotiate a pay rise with the management of London Underground. Oh well, that's nailed my flag to the mast.

In the interest of trying to retain some semblance of impartiality, it would appear that the Chairman of Transport for London (and Mayor of London), Boris Johnson, has done far too little far too late to try to resolve the industrial dispute.

Anyhow, bottom line is that services will severely degrade from 19.00 this evening (Tuesday 9th June 2009), with little likelihood of a sensible service resuming until the morning of Friday 12th June 2009.

Up to date information should be available on the tfl website.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Sir Nigel Gresley - 06 June 2009

Somewhat against my better judgement, I have been chasing a steam train today.

This is the Sir Nigel Gresley leaving Beaconsfield at 21.36 this evening, having picked up water on its way back from Chester to London Paddington. Maybe more to follow...
video

Here's a question for you


Ok... on my travels.

I took a picture of this sign today.

Where was I and what does it say? (I do know where it is and can guess what it says from the context.) I am just interested to know if anyone else has spotted the sign as I have never noticed it before.

Clue: My passport is at home, as is the car.

Pip pip!

Some weeks later: The answer (sort of) is here.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Not something you see very often


Chiltern Railways are generally able to offer a pretty reliable service.

That has all gone to pot this evening. There has been a signal failure somewhere in North West London affecting all trains out of Marylebone.

This screen grab is of the departure board at Princes Risborough a few minutes ago. It is completely un-typical of the usual reliability seen by passengers in the Chilterns.

It looks as though I got home just in time tonight.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

An absence of trains

I spent all three days of last (bank holiday) weekend at work.

The weather was great.

I could think of a thousand things that I could have done that would have been more enjoyable than being stuck in a Soho office, while everyone else was off enjoying themselves.

Anyhow, the consequences are that I haven't been to work since Wednesday.

The Sun Gods have been good. My garden is looking all the better for a little attention. I am now enjoying the weekend in deepest Hampshire, living life in the fast lane with family while enjoying the company of a new spotted member of the family.

The rat race resumes tomorrow.

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