Posted in Railways on Saturday 28th July 2012 at 10:07pm
I woke up this morning feeling like I had a hangover. I'd not imbibed a single drop of alcohol last night, and had settled down early to watch the circus around the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Perhaps it was the overload of images, provoked emotions and confusing messages which gave me the headache? This morning there were messages suggesting I "probably wasn't such a cynic now, eh?". I checked. I certainly was - though Danny Boyle's gently subversive take on a Britain stuck somewhere in the mid-2000s was oddly inspiring. I fell asleep somewhere during the parade of nations, and caught up guiltily with the rest this morning before setting off. Today then, was about escape. About going in the opposite direction to the Games, and about heeding that long-drummed in advice to travel differently. On that basis I'd headed north - not without it's risks as the football matches were scattered all over the country, but from initial indications reasonably quiet. Certainly, aside from the bonkers 'seat stealing' bloke, the first train was a little busier than usual due to being just two coaches, but 1M21 was mostly empty. I settled in for a lazy spin to Birmingham, hoping to shift my fuzzy head on the way.
With not long to change at New Street, I prioritised. Straight to the coffee shop then down to the Nottingham train. Again rather quiet, as I managed to find my way accidentally to my booked seat. Again the trip was hazy and sleepy, but I was beginning to feel human again. The sun had risen unexpectedly given the forecast and any hope of snoozing was dashed by a local with a gratingly noisy West Midlands accent who sat a few seats away, moaning at his dad mournfully about energy drinks. We reversed at Derby, where I'll be again next week on very different business indeed. Even here things didn't really get too busy, so I dared to hope the next journey might be OK too. After a passing of the Railway Technical Centre which is always interesting, we made the slow creep around Trent Junction before accelerating towards Nottingham. The station is in something of a transformative stage, and is due to close entirely at some point for this purpose. But for now it's cordoned off, temporary toilets and hardboard hoardings on the platforms. Amongst this, things function pretty normally - the Skegness unit was as ever two coaches for a huge crowd. This didn't bode well. However, a good deal before due time, a pairing of a 156 and 158 arrived on our platform. Plumped for the 158 because of the aircon and found a seat at the back of the unit. Amazingly, as we departed Nottingham, there were just two of us in the back coach. Granted, the front unit was busier - but this was rather surprising given previous experience on these services. The plan was to stay on all the way to Liverpool - something I'd not done for about six years on the way back from an All-Line Rover trip. After a scud along the Erewash Valley we reversed at Sheffield. Still the unit was pretty quiet, as we did the fast run over the Pennines through remarkable summer scenery. West of the hills things weren't quite so summery, but after a pause at Stockport we pressed on for Manchester. The expected crowds once again failed to materialise and we departed for the last leg of the trip to Liverpool with just a group of boisterous lads sitting nearby.
Arrival at Lime Street was dogged with difficulties - getting off the train was hard enough as I became entangled with my seat, then had to negotiate the bottleneck on the barrier-controlled section of the station. As I wandered towards the exit the standard "Be careful in today's wet weather" announcement could be heard. I sniggered at how they'd got mixed up - until I realised that the loud noise in the background was the station roof being pelted with heavy rain. A huge summer storm swept across the city, the now opened out glass front of the station providing a panoramic view of people dashing for cover. Nearby, a hen party dressed in flimsy costumes looked worried. I was almost as ill-prepared without a coat. Decided to get some lunch and see how things worked out. In the end, I managed to make a dash between showers to my usual coffee haunt in Bold Street, and then back to the station getting a little damp in the process. This circuit of the city always feels strangely therapeutic for some reason. Hopped onto the late-arriving stock for the 15:34 back to Birmingham. Once out of Liverpool the skies cleared and it was a pleasant, slightly busier trip down to the Midlands, retracing last weeks steps to some extent.
Switching to the usual routine home after another break to watch the world go by on the concourse, I wondered at how quiet the network was today. Were people really keeping away as they'd been told to? Or were they just busy watching sport at home? Today's trip really didn't take me anywhere new - but it was a long, relaxing spin around the network, and especially to parts and services I don't often see these days. It was a world away from the events which still occupied my mind in Stratford, but it had also stilled my odd urge to head for London at the worst possible time.
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.