Posted in London on Friday 16th July 2004 at 9:27pm

Feeling much better and well rested, set out early to avoid the breakfast at my hotel and to get some decent coffee. Off to Senate House to register. Despite over a year of membership of the IES and previous conferences, I still find approaching this building (which was used for 'The Minstry of Truth' in the film version of 1984) slightly forbidding.

Senate House
University of London - Senate House

Registered, and headed for the first Plenary session. I always like to arrive early, select a seat in an unobtrusive part of the room, and watch people arrive. This was an interesting bunch - very cosmopolitan, including delegates and speakers from Russia, South Africa, Australia, Poland, the US and Canada among others. In fact, I met a number of very nice people in the first session alone.

The keynote, delivered by Professor Chris Jenks on 'The Flâneur as Urban Ethnograper' absolutely hooked me in. I'm always convinced before these events that things will be completely beyond my comprehension, but this seemed to pull together all sorts of questions and readings from the past few years.

I hope to put my many pages of notes into some form of order, so not too much more detail - no doubt to the reader's relief - but for the rest of the morning I delighted in hearding about the sublimity of sewers, London as the new Jerusalem, why the Martians attacked suburbia in The War of the Worlds, discovered new names for my ever-growing reading list and explored topographies of both shame and poverty.

A brief lunch and much needed pint, then back for more. The 'Spectropolis' panel had sounded fun, and I wasn't disappointed - firstly a paper on Will Self, a favourite for me among modern authors, then a paper on 'The Necropolis Trope in London Writing' which provided some fascinating stuff about cemetaries, and included reference to James Thompson BV. A couple more papers with dystopian and suburban themes, and the first day was over. Out and about briefly, but I was too exhausted to get up to much of the customary conference overindulgence. In fact a few of us decided on a quiet evening, and I eventually retired relatively early, but very happy.


Posted in London on Thursday 15th July 2004 at 9:13pm

First day of my holiday, and predictably I wake feeling like crap! Medicate myself for hayfever and headaches and complete packing. Off on the 0908, changing at Bristol for the 1010. Absolutely faultless running, with a slightly early arrival. Straight to my usual hotel - its a back-to-basics experience, but its cheap and perfectly located.

Having ditched the bags, out into the humid afternoon for some wandering about and to seek food. Almost unconciously find myself heading to Clerkenwell Green. Pleasant time sitting watching lunchtime workers and investigating a "London's Lost Rivers" exhibition which was pretty well done - down to a 'simulated' river of pungent green litter-filled water in the middle of Vine Street Bridge.

Time for a quick beer in the City Pride, listening to Guardian hacks comparing notes, then back to the hotel since I was still feeling pretty grim. Ventured out again later - striking east for a long walk to more old haunts, including Whitecross Street and a couple of pubs - probably not the best idea in the circumstances. Pretty exhausted, so returned on the train for an early night. Hoping to feel better tomorrow.

Movebook Link

Posted in Railways on Saturday 10th July 2004 at 8:07pm

Whilst I have many obsessions, niggling irritations and obsessive compulsions, I don't really have many ambitions. Getting to Fishguard Harbour on a real train has become all of the above. People who know me in real life will know the frustration this has caused me, and regular readers will have seen my previous attempts fail.

So today, having little else planned and wishing to make a quick escape. I decided to try again. After hearing last week of 37417 failing and the train being cancelled completely, I figured that the law of averages pointed to things working out today. To be safe, bought a day return to Cardiff Central for starters. Changed swiftly at Bristol onto a Wales-bound 158. Just prior to departure a veritable armada of Spanish students swamped the train, providing an uncomfortable, cramped and noisy ride to Cardiff.

Arrived at Central to find the station in some disarray due to flooding overnight. The ticket office was closed completely, having suffered a torrent of water which worked its way through the trackbed above and into the building due to the persistent heavy rain. Purchased provisions and then got a day return to Fishguard from the solitary man with a ticket machine who was deputising for the entire booking office today!

Approaching 1016 and still the display showed Platform 7, there were no obvious replacement units on the station, and the growing crowd of notable faces indicated it might just happen. At just a minute or so past the alloted time, trusty 37419 rumbled in.

There isn't much more I can write about the journey to and from Fishguard which I haven't covered before, except perhaps to clarify the route of the return leg. It isn't booked via The Vale of Glamorgan at all - in fact the service runs via the South Wales Mainline to Leckwith Junction, then sits around outside Canton Depot for almost 45 minutes before heading into Central and thence to Rhymney. As we pressed on westward, the rain ceased and the sun came out. A pleasant run all-in-all. Its a pretty poor photograph, but for the sake of completeness here is a shot of 37419 having arrived, taken from as close as possible to the same spot as the previous picture of 158826.

37419 at Fishguard Harbour
37419 at Fishguard Harbour
Sleepy ride back, including a change at Bridgend - a long fester at Canton might have been interesting but I just wasn't in the mood for it today! Noticed my occasional presence but relative silence has made me an object of note and some ridicule, but not unduly bothered. Pleased just to have managed to get this journey under my belt!

Movebook Link


Posted in Updates on Saturday 10th July 2004 at 7:04pm

It seems that my employer is considering a change of image. So, perhaps soon we will see the back of the subdued dark green and burgundy which reportedly appear 'unapproachable' and 'complacent'. In their place, new vibrant hues reflecting dynamism and progress. Perhaps the council should really push the boat out and invest in an ever changing coruscation of colours reflecting the current mood and status of its services - a real-time 'key performance indicator' for the information-on-demand age?

This got me thinking again about the corporate insignia - what future does it have, and more pressingly - what really is it?

North Somerset Council

The emblem - commonly referred to as a Dragon by most employees has its origins in the arms of the County of Somerset. Granted in 1911, the blazon of the arms is 'Or, a Dragon Rampant Gules holding in the claws a Mace erect Azure'. So, it is indeed a 'Golden Dragon'- heraldic splendour hijacked by the chinese takeaway? A battered version of this emblem, the mace cruelly truncated, can still be seen on the Magistrates' Court building in Weston-super-Mare, close by the new, stylised North Somerset flag. Risking an Anti-social Behaviour Order, you could throw a stone from the Town Hall to the courthouse.

Somerset County CouncilAmrs of County of Somerset

Others, who have little better to do than consider such things, refer to the emblem as a Gryphon. These mythical mongrels are 'beasts like lions, with the wings and beak of an eagle' according to Pausanias. It is perhaps hard to make the case for the Gryphon (or Griffin) as the figure bears little resemblance to a lion in any respect, and clearly sports a lizard-like tongue placing it firmly outside the realm of birds.

Having ruled out the Gryphon, I note that locally, the Wyvern too is a common name for schools and businesses. This 'fabulous two-legged, winged creature, like a cockatrice, but having the head of a dragon, and without spurs' is usually depicted with a long, barbed tail which it bears in a knot. This casts some doubt on the heraldic description of Somerset County's arms - as the creature depicted is almost certainly a Wyvern, a dragon being a four-legged beast. However, Somerset's mace-wielding monster clearly wears spurs. If we accept that this odd heraldic hybrid is a wyvern, it would go some way to explaining the use of the word locally in Weston and elsewhere in the existing and former county areas.

To solve the mystery however, heraldry is our only hope. North Somerset's unusually rightward facing (and therefore 'forward looking') insignia has no legs whatsoever. In heraldry, a dragon without feet is a Serpent.

So, is the Serpent a fitting emblem for our council? It seems to preserve our historic links with Somerset, and beyond to ancient legend. It is said to be 'forward looking', which I think most of my colleagues at least, seem to be. However, its worth remembering that a serpent is also 'a subtle, treacherous, malicious person'. You know who you are!


Pimbley's Directory of Heraldry
Gryphon Pages
Celebrating Somerset - The Coat of Arms
Somerset County Council
North Somerset Council

Movebook Link


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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