Posted in Updates on Saturday 22nd April 2006 at 8:52pm
For me, a lazy sort of day - up late and not out onto the railway station until after 9am! Our party soon began to assemble, and a neat total of eight meant two GroupSave tickets - half price travel in effect. To my slight dismay, a lone class 150 rolled into sight at almost exactly 09:25. Not a comfortable journey, but unusually in my terms this was more about the destination!
Arrived in Newton Abbot a little before 11:00 after a quiet and event-free journey. First part of the plan was to head into town for breakfast at a Wetherspoon's pub. Excellent value for money, and a much needed preparation for the day ahead. Only one of our party succumbed to the lure of a local ale at this early stage - not me I hasten to add! Once fed, it was a short walk back through town to Tucker's Maltings. The Maltings is a huge 19th century building on several levels, but the beer festival takes place on the ground floor where on a working day the soaked grain is left to begin germination. The long, dark low room was packed from end to end with casks of beer - nearly 250 in all, almost all from the South West of England. Once issued with a glass, it was down to the difficult task of choosing where to start.
Our group finally found a small haven in the corner of the SIBA marquee, and set out our picnic. From here, we'd wander into the building at regular intervals, each of us returning with some new find. Prize for strangest must go to Stonehenge's Sign of Spring - a green beer, brewed to emulate a Danish custom of colouring food and drink green to celebrate the onset of spring! It tasted rather good, despite it's appearance. My own pleasant surprise were the Bristol Beer Factory beers - something on my doorstep which I've been curious about for a while.
As the day wore on, the weather improved until it was quite bright outside. A spirited game of football was being played alongside the Maltings, with the teams wondering why they had so many spectators no doubt. Inside, there was entertainment from a singer who doubled as a stand-up act. Overall a really well organised day.
Far too soon, but probably just in time to prevent severe inebriation, we headed back to the station for the train back - another class 150, all shacks this time! I had an enjoyable and sociable day - and I'm really pleased to have been invited. The title, by the way, comes courtesy of Rocking Rod and the Strychnines.
Posted in Updates on Sunday 1st January 2006 at 9:43pm
Since the millenium, I've not customarily observed the new year celebration. This year, I wandered out for a couple of pints, but soon found I was a little out of place propping up the bar on such a festive night. Returned home to watch TV and eat too much. This year London's fireworks were impressive, finally making up for the damp squib of 2000 when the world was puzzled by our alleged 'River of Fire' which failed to burn. Otherwise, it was a case of attempting to decipher the strange ramblings of Andrew Marr - the BBC's man in Edinburgh - as he ranted incomprehensibly about hogmonay to Natasha Kaplinsky!
Having returned to work for the strange limbo days between Christmas and New Year, I'm restless for the rest of the world to return to normality, and along with it for the railway to return to its usual timetable. I've spent much of the holiday season happily helping out my family and contentedly spending time with my nephew, but I'm sorely in need of a rail trip to blow away some cobwebs and generally just see different places. Naturally, these past few months I've felt reluctant to take leave, and I suspect that this will remain the case for a while longer. I miss the strange expeditions which I usually make on weekdays when the rest of the world is busy with its usual activity. So I'm loosely planning a trip to Northampton tomorrow based on a poorly-remembered journey ten years ago and curiousity aroused by mentions in Iain Sinclair's Edge of the Orison.
There are some immediately obvious challenges this coming year, and despite some shaky times over Christmas where nervous contemplation of the year to come overcame me, I think I'm probably ready for them. In my usual way however, I'll be worrying about the tiny details while the big issues are looming overhead!
Posted in Updates on Monday 26th December 2005 at 7:16pm
I recall writing about the rather humbling realisation last year that the festive season was important, if only for the sense of belonging to a family. The past year has tested everyone one in my family beyond expectation, but despite even the most recent setbacks, we all turned out for what was perhaps the strangest Christmas Day on record for us. We overcame some of the practical problems, and managed to involve my father who was uncomfortably nursing his injured foot elsewhere in the house. Once again, my nephew stole the show and kept everyone on their toes. Perhaps the most rewarding time was a half-hour spent sitting on the kitchen floor playing with magnetic numbers on the freezer, with him repeating the numbers after me before sweeping them onto the floor. Surreally, he pronounced the 'equals' sign as 'eagles' which appealed to my sense of humour and ended with us both giggling uncontrollably.
Despite mostly living so close to each other, we're not often together for more than a few minutes at a time. Thinking back over the past year, and looking forward with a degree of trepidation, I'll confess there were moments when I could barely control my emotions this Christmas. Channelled some of this excess of energy into an endeavour my mother has long wished to undertake - the tracing of the family tree. So, spent much of today knee deep in Census records and mananged to trace a couple of the branches back to the 1850s, with the help of my grandmother's unfailing memory. I sense this project will start to involve and obsess us increasingly - and I'm already feeling a pull towards a small village in Worcestershire which seems to hold the key to my origins. Once again I'm substituting topography for spirituality.
I suspect that as a result of this entry I'll be asked once again if I'm a 'convert to Christmas'. Well, I'm not - there has been no Dickensian visitation here to cause a turnaround. I'm more convinced, in fact, than ever about my atheism. But a holiday when no-one has anywhere else to be but here is always going to be a good thing in my book.
Posted in Updates on Thursday 17th November 2005 at 7:23pm
I'm sick of being ill. Weirdly, I don't actually feel too bad - just a little tired and aching. But I have a ferocious cough which scared a small child on the train home tonight. I've stumbled through this week, not really noticing much beyond my immediate surroundings. It's been a strange routine of getting up, going to work, coming home and going directly to bed again. I briefly surfaced from the fug for an important meeting on Tuesday, and then a welcome chance to catch up with people I've missed more than I realised for a long time. In the eight years or so I've been away from here, despite being just a little way up the coast, I've realised how important local history really is.
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.