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


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!


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."


Says a lot about Chiltern's approach to puctuality.

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