Posted in Railways on Saturday 22nd January 2011 at 10:51pm

In these strange days early in the year, I seem to have developed a set of trips which I repeat. Seemingly it's about a two year cycle, but with some variations and the general pleasure just of being out and about again after the disruption of the festive season, it feels new and interesting all over again. So, it's a couple of years since I last went to Stansted Airport although of course if last year's Class 40 trip had made it, I might have thought twice about revisiting so soon. Today's trip, circling in the opposite direction to my first visit, effectively meant I'd used all of the track into the station. This of course wasn't the aim particularly, I just wanted to get out and about after a rather grim and testing week at work, and this was how I planned to do it.

First up, the traditional combination of the first train off Highbridge and the 07:00 from Bristol. My routine was in danger of falling at the first hurdle as breakfast looked to be in jeopardy, but found an alternative outlet and soon settled into the journey north with music and coffee. It was good to be out and about, the sun barely rising as we headed through Gloucestershire. Pondered the tricky week, and the minor victories which had occurred as we trundled slowly into New Street. Time here for a coffee and to watch the world go by on the concourse. Haven't done that for a while, and it was good to be back - if a little chilly when the icy wind blew through the doors and whipped around the busy ticket counters. Down to the platform for the Stansted service, surprised by a small group of men carrying armour and spears. Figured they weren't revenue protection people, but kept my ticket handy just in case!

One of the great pleasures of this journey is the trip across the fens in the misty winter sunshine. However, there wasn't much sunshine in evidence as we climbed over the West Coast Mainline to call at Nuneaton. Snoozed a bit towards Leicester, as far as I could given a very shrill young lady who sat a little in front of me with her boyfriend. He told her she had a 'cute' voice - but her girlish shrieks actually made my eyes hurt. Slipped on the headphones again, but this seemed to irritate another couple who joined at the next station. I'm not sure the gentle sounds of James Yorkston would have been too alarming - but I heard her check with the guard that I actually did belong in First Class with them. When he assured her I was entitled to be seated there, she simply hissed "disgusting!" at me. Too sleepy and relaxed to be irritated, and I decided to just enjoy the run through Ely and into Cambridge where she and her rather mouselike partner left the train!

A Goat in Spitalfields
A Goat in Spitalfields

Once at the airport, made for the same coffee shop I'd visited last time, and watched the drama around the ticket's for Fence Records' 'Homegame' play out on the internet. This ended up in some very silly online banter which resulted in my taking a slightly later London-bound train than planned. Had no desire to hang around the airport though, so dashed for the 14:15 which was operated by the ominously number 317666. After being sold overpriced refreshments by a very polite chap, I settled in for the journey - thankfully alone after my irritating selection of accidental companions so far today. Hadn't really thought through what to do with the several hours in London however - beyond visiting the newly aligned and extended Blackfriars. A weekend closure put paid to this, and rather than spending hours at the station on arriving at Liverpool Street I opted to wander over to Shoreditch High Street. This took me on a familiar winter journey along Brick Lane, full of more annoying people today though. Felt like screaming at the top of my lungs that "Excuse me!" was a genuine request to get by, not some sort of post-modern quip! On the way, passed the curious "I Goat" sculpture by Kenny Hunter, atop packing crates symbolising the recurring immigration into the area. From Shoreditch, took the East London Line south to Crystal Palace. Steps retraced, but good to see the line busy as they light started to fade from the sky. Work email kept my attention away from the rooftops though, and I surfaced just in time for the slog up the stairs at the terminus, and over to a Victoria-bound train.

After snaking through the twighlight, I arrived at a very dark but still busy Victoria with little in the way of a plan for the final leg to Paddington. Given the closures on the Circle and District, opted for a 436 bus from Grosvenor Gardens. Waited only a couple of minutes, and was soon heading past Buckingham Palace, up Park Lane and towards Paddington. Time for more coffee and people-watching before boarding the 19:00 home, with a bunch of rail staff heading home from the football crowded into the seats beside me. Today had been an odd, somewhat unsatisfying day where the general public had been pretty irritating and I'd found myself not relaxing as much as I should. However, it was good to be out - and I actually start to miss these winter trips once the railtour season starts!

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I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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