Posted in Railways on Saturday 20th August 2011 at 10:51pm
I'm beginning to see how this strange hobby of mine goes in cycles. Last week saw me needing to turn lost days and cancelled trips into something of a coherent journey. It didn't work hugely well, and there were times when the need to be somewhere else without purpose made me pretty miserable. But this week, I'm back to the idea of being somewhere else without purpose for fun. When travelling, and the experiences and thoughts it throws up are the backdrop to pretty much everything I do, perhaps I should just embrace these periods of strangely dull eventlessness, and enjoy the strange opportunities they engender?
Take this week for an example. A trip without a destination as such - setting off early, a pleasant wait at Temple Meads for a train to Salisbury. The route less travelled onto the Southern as it's usually so busy, but pleasantly bearable at 07:23 on a Summer Saturday. A quick switch at Salisbury onto a London-bound unit, and again the route less travelled via Andover to Waterloo. I doze, listen and read - it's bright and sunny out, and it's nice just to be going in a direction I don't often travel nowadays. Once, when it was the cheapest way to get to London I used it a lot, and accepted the shorter day I'd get in the capital. Even today, oddly, the first class fare was cheaper than the standard. Zooming through Woking and the suburbs reminded me of a railtour to come, and got me pondering where to head on arrival.
On getting to Waterloo I made something of an error and headed for the bus far too early. I should have hung around the busy station a little longer. Instead, hoped onto a Euston bound service - but thought better of it at Tavistock Square and alighted to get coffee in the same spot I'd visited a week or two back. Quiet, and frequented by Spanish tourists who tumbled out of the cheap and cheerful hotels around the area, this was an odd, high-windowed spot where people watching was confined to indoors. Wrote and thought a bit, getting myself a little down in the process. Was this strange pointless dash what I was now confined to? Would the next few weeks be just as oddly lacking in direction? Decided to stroll into the area I've grown to love around Judd Street and up to the Euston Road. Could happily have gone further, but decided that it was time to visit the station. Shopped a bit, finding a new convenience store into the bargain, then headed down to the platform to see the London Midland service to Crewe arriving.
These slow services on the West Coast have intrigued me for years. In Silverlink days they were split into two separate services at Northampton, with few travelling through to Birmingham directly. Now there is a more interesting pattern, with units being uncoupled and heading for Birmingham, while the rest of the train heads along the Trent Valley, calling at smaller stops before taking in Stafford, Stoke and the loop back to Crewe via Alsager. The new, fairly nippy Class 350s are comfortable enough - but begin to get a little hard on the back after a couple of hours. Nevertheless, had a lazy run along the coast, seeing scenery I miss from a Pendolino porthole. Arrived at Stafford to find it quiet, but heavily Policed - later realising this was due to the Weston Park arm of the double-venued V Festival. Did something I've never done before, but which these less focused trips facilitate, and wandered into Stafford. Greeted by a beautifully well-kept public park surrounding the canal with an ornate bridge, then a walk between impressive civic buildings, a church and overhanging black-and-white town houses into the pedestrian area. Little there to distinguish it from other places, but a pleasantly busy town nonetheless. Wandered a little and thought about stopping for coffee, but I only had an hour - so the station seemed a better bet. Arrived to find the coffee machine broken, so ended up nursing a hot, weak cup of tea and listening in to the Police chatting about the festival.
The train home arrived on time and surprisingly quiet. Found my seat and settled in for the journey home, early than usual. The clouds closed in a little which created some spectacular sunset scenes as we headed into the golden glow over the West Country. On reflection, it had been an interesting and relaxing day. Isn't that, after all, what it's all about?
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.