Posted in SHOFT on Sunday 13th May 2012 at 5:05pm

Lonely Tourist - I Live Where You AreThere is something compelling but dangerous about holding a mirror up to your life. Most of us stumble around weaving a fairly comprehensive web of self-deception which gets us through the week, stops us losing our minds and generally makes the everyday bits of life bearable. But imagine a record which exposes all of those awkward, hidden moments and makes them the stuff of song? Holding up a mirror and sharing the reflection is in some ways exactly what Lonely Tourist does. On this, his second album of self-contained mini-epics of realism and downbeat humour, Paul Tierney has developed the scratchy acoustic guitar and vocals sound he has deployed successfully in the past into a surprisingly full, often almost lush pop sound, which carries his lyrics of examination and resignation to new pastures. It's easy to think this kind of thing would get tired, and you'd find yourself telling Tierney to lighten-up, but it's done with such genuine pathos and good humour that you find yourself carried along with him, a strangely unsuspecting hero in these often self-deprecating songs.

The album opens with the spirited, twanging country-pop of it's title track, which I wrote about here recently. It signals something of a shift in Tierney's palette on this second album as Lonely Tourist which allows the full band sound to dominate a little more. There's certainly more variation in tone and texture this time around, and this has allowed the subject matter and lyrical preoccupations of these new songs to broaden too. However, they never stray far from the Lonely Tourist canon, and there is comforting familiarity in the themes of "A Lonely Tourist" which concerns itself with encroaching middle age and resentment for the opportunities and irresponsibilities of the young. Reflecting on a "bowl of fruit/bought and left" this lands at just the right time for me and I'm able to share in some of Tierney's frustration. The song builds, growing with his indignation before it suddenly slows to a waltz and he reasons "I can't go back/i'm a lonely tourist now". It's of course equally dangerous to assume that this is all completely autobiographical, but those little touches of local knowledge, and the focus on familiar places evident in Lonely Tourist's songs is always a source of delight to me. On "Rattling Around" the title refers back to "a lager can on the top deck of a 41", the revised route of this old stalwart bus now plying its trade between Avonmouth and Old Market. Not since Sarah Records featured catalogue number appropriate routes on their 7" labels has the local transport network found a musical outlet. But significantly, it's a little bit of Bristol registering in the songs of this expat-Glaswegian songwriter who elsewhere professes not to miss his city. But stylistically and lyrically it still looms large over "I Live Where You Are". This striving for recognition, becoming part of the "street furniture of this town" and this battle against indifference is echoed by the song's ending as it drifts away into bar chatter and clinking glasses. It's a fate many a musician will have experienced, and I sense that perhaps eulogising this in song is Lonely Tourists's way of dealing with it.

Shuddering in with a gnarled, fuzzy guitar line and reverb washed vocals "Jesus, The Don and The Dee" is a bitter break-up song, where once again travel and distance loom large in Tierney's story telling. Staged in the West End of Glasgow and involving a desertion to Aberdeen, metallic guitars kick this along at a steady pace towards a killer chorus. Swooning vocals and knots of agitated guitar provide a wonderfully bitter, resigned tone to this gem of a song which just won't shift itself from my head at present. Also memorable, I recall "The Greatest Ever Lines" from the recent set at The ABC in Glasgow. Played a little slower here, and with surprising tenderness given the subject matter, this is a dramatized first person take on plagiarism. Uncovered as our hero crashes into success and is deified as "the new Neil young", there is a paranoid dreamlike quality to this curious tale, but in another sense it's just another opportunity for Tierney to add to the unnecessary apologia for his craft as he takes on his own "fake sincerity". There's something about this lyric, and indeed the Lonely Tourist ethic which summons up for me B.S.Johnson's poem "The Short Fear" where observing that everything's already been said by someone somewhere, "The short fear is that even saying it in my own way is equally pointless". It's not the first time that Johnson and Lonely Tourist have aligned in my mind either.

"(they are on to you)" is a curious thing - a fragment which drifts in and out of the middle of the record. A bass-heavy, circular melody which reels around a scratchy electric guitar provides room for a regret tinged vocal delivery. It wheels prettily, with a shimmer of backing vocals, tangles of bright guitar and subtle beats. The lyric, a collection of observations about escape which unusually don't have a connecting narrative, slips away and then the whole thing is gone, fading into silence. For his next trick Lonely Tourist channels the spirit of George Harrison, and in the plaintively echoing vocals on "Oh My Father" he manages to create a maudlin reflection on family life. The drift of guitars and a classic pop melody allows Tierney's voice more space to reach notes his more urgently delivered songs just don't. The tale here hints at domestic strife, regret at missed opportunities, and a wish for final reconciliations. This part of the album hinges on a trio of more traditional Lonely Tourist songs where things get a little gloomier perhaps, and the poor guy gives himself a hell of a battering. On "Sick of This Winter" it's the Glasgow weather which doubles as the villain. Exploring the idea of being a stranger in your home town, Tierney resolves that the trick is in never looking back, and this song explores the merits of drifting and wasting time alongside upping sticks and moving away. It's delivered in the form of an urgent, up tempo stomping pop song which in common with the other upbeat pieces here, is incredibly infectious. Next up, opening with slurred, sampled vocals and sonorous piano chords "The Last Glass" tackles excess and willpower through the lens of a New Year's Eve promise. The stirring, organ driven chorus has something of that resolve and a sense of striving for change which hogmanay brings, but there's an unhealthy dose of fatalism in there too with the observation that "it's four deep at the bar/that's six feet down". Finally "Found Out" takes Lonely Tourist directly back to his roots with an urgently strummed, scratched out dose of bitter self-examination. It's a one-man character self-assassination which finds his own weak points, and once he has declared that he is found wanting as man and musician, he proceeds to stick the verbal boot in. Ultimately the message is that everyone will disappoint you - not least yourself - as he muses that "I wouldn't trust me". But "Found Out" hints at a redemptive character in the background keeping him on the straight and narrow. If these songs are snippers of autobiography, then for his own sake I hope there is just that.

But things aren't quite done yet - and the album comes to a close with the unlikely soundscape of "Viking Jazz" - essentially a rumbling, full-bodied post-rock anthem which turns expectations on their heads once again. Sampled voices drift around the mix, while a nagging bass melody urges the piece towards an explosion of guitars and static. This squarely challenges the idea which has been built over the course of this and his last album - namely that Lonely Tourist is just a mild-mannered, darkly self-deprecating guy with a guitar - and makes us reconsider this in terms of what "I Live Where You Are" perhaps really is: an album of wonderfully executed, classic pop songs with thoughtful if sometimes pithy and self-immolatory lyrical preoccupations. The simple fact that this is all done with grace, quick wit and ready humour prevents a descent into uneasy voyeurism or tiresomeness. While the trials and tribulations of going it alone in the cruel jungle of the music business don't perhaps loom quite as large over this second collection of Lonely Tourist songs, this time the process is turned inside out and the craft of the songwriter is exposed. It's still strangely compelling stuff.

Lonely Tourist - Jesus, The Don and The Dee

Lonely Tourist will launch "I Live Where You Are" at the Stag & Hounds in Bristol on 25th May. The album will be available from 28th May on CD or as a download from various sites, including Bandcamp.


Posted in Railways on Saturday 12th May 2012 at 11:05pm

Considering how much I gripe about the line from Bristol to Southampton, I've found myself using it a fair amount again lately. It's mostly the huge potential for overcrowding on the service which means using it for my leisurely meanderings isn't always much fun - but also that interminably long, dull section between Warminster and Salisbury which is always a drag. I recall one of my earliest trips after returning to the rails went this way using a Replacement Bus service - and even that godforsaken mode of travel seemed preferable to this bit of the run. Considering how I love rail travel and promote it, I amuse myself by how outspoken I am about some dull lines - not least this and the truly dull Settle and Carlisle run which despite its scenery, is a long, slow drag. So it was strange to find myself willingly subjecting to this run a second time in a week!

But there was a purpose. In the absence of other goals, and with a freebie First Great Western ticket in hand, I decided to do a multi-modal skip across the South Coast, ending up in Brighton and getting the once much favoured 1V96 back. This meant an early start and a run up to Bristol for breakfast. Once again, despite having a while to wait around the station's Starbucks failed to open even at its much later advertised time. Settled for an alternative and boarded the 07:22 - about the only train on the Portsmouth Harbour route which doesn't get rammed here or at Bath. I managed to snooze for much of the less interesting bit of the run, waking in time to alight at Fareham. The weather had turned out to be really fantastic, and as I made the slow transit to the station bus stop under the subway, I enjoyed the sunshine. The aim here was the Eclipse service which uses a dedicated busway towards Gosport. This is significant because it occupies the former railway alignment into the town, and thus as soon as it opened my curiosity got the better of me. Tracing the route by map, there was a fair amount of evidence of its former status too. The bus when it arrived, was very impressive. Leather seats and a bright, clean interior. Destination displays and free onboard wi-fi completed the sense of a modern services. I found a seat and settled in for the run to journey's end at Gosport Ferry. Once off the main road we turned onto the busway. A two-lane carriageway which cut directly through the tangle of streets. No guideway like in Cambridge, and the route is shared with cyclists - and at least one errant or perhaps just truculent motorist too. However, speeds are reasonable and the stops were showing signs of reasonable use - even on a sleepy, warm Saturday morning. Suddenly just under the Tichborne Way bridge we slowed and took a sharp curve via the 'Tichborne Link' back to the conventional streets at Fareham Road. The way onward hinted at Phase 2 to be completed soon. Having tried this out, I think I'll come back too - because once back on the road network the advantages became starkly clear. The long-wheelbase buses struggling around parked cars, over traffic calming bumps and through endless traffic lights showing the huge advantages of the busway for this journey. However, the trip into town meant passing the strange naval forts and signs for the curiously named 'Explosion Museum'. Occasionally the route came tantalisingly close to the former rail route too as we wound through the suburbs. While a busway is definitely not my preferred option for these things, I have to say this works pretty well.

The future of bus travel? Eclipse to Gosport
The future of bus travel? Eclipse to Gosport

The centre of Gosport looked busy and prosperous despite some evidence of run down looking areas on the way into town, however today I stayed on to the rather 1970s vintage bus station and made the short walk to the Ferry terminal, buying a ticket from the man in a tiny booth with his old-fashioned dispenser. The ferry service is frequent and fairly keenly priced - and for these reasons appears well used. Queueing on the covered gangway, the ferry was expertly guided alongside and the gates opened allowing swift disembarking and boarding at opposite ends of the vessel. Given the sunshine, everyone dashed upstairs onto the open deck, but I found a window below in the curved bow and settled in for the short ten minute trip across to Portsmouth Harbour. It was quite an experience - as water travel always is these days - and one I'm glad I'd opted for. Arrival at the Harbour means only a short walk up to the station platforms too. I had some time here though, so I had a little lunch, watched the world go by and enjoyed the sunshine.

The next leg took me on one of Southern's very well used West Coastway services to Brighton. These get far too busy for my liking, and soon the train was fairly full. I also suffered the indignity of being asked to turn my music down on this leg of the trip - something I don't think has ever happened to me before. I felt rather sullen and pathetically wronged after this. Looking back I can chuckle - but at the time I felt surprisingly silly and down about it. I surprise myself with my oddness at times. Arriving at Brighton meant decanting a lot of people via the narrow Platform 1 and 2 island, then squashing around to the ticket gates. The Great Escape festival was on in town this weekend, using a range of local venues - and thus the station was incredibly busy. To speed things up, staff opened the gates and let us tumble through. I aimed straight for the exit, and some recommendations for shops I'd been offered - including the excellent Resident Music tucked away in The Laines. It was years since I'd wandered in Brighton, and it still had the slightly strange but very pleasant edge which I'd immediately liked on my early trips here. After browsing the friendly, and somewhat enlightened environs of Resident for a while, I decided on coffee and a chance to reflect. With Brighton delighting in lots of artisan type places, the large Starbucks I found was reasonably quiet and importantly nice and cool in the growing heat of the day.

Gosport Ferry, from Portsmouth Harbour
Gosport Ferry, from Portsmouth Harbour

Having some time now, I decided to head for the Volks Electric Railway. I'd never made it to this tourist favourite before, and it was a fair walk - but not an unpleasant one milling among the festival crowds. On getting there, the queue for the tiny single-car trains was huge and I calculated I couldn't easily wait in the queue and safely make it back to my mainline train so after watching a departure, I resolved to revisit at a less touristy, sunny time and do the line. The walk back to the station was a hot, long and irritating slog through huge crowds. Once at the station I improvised a meal while listening to a band playing in a venue next door. No idea who it was, but they were pretty good. Finally over to Platform 2 to beat the crowds and wait for the First Great Western unit to be opened up. Some amusing scenes as a Southern unit occupied the end of the platform ahead of my train, and people debated the idea of front train, first train and 'First' train as written on the side of the unit. Did some impromptu directing, before getting a seat on the unit.

It was strange to be back on 1V96. I'd used this train once or twice to visit friends here many years back, and also when I returned to the rails and it was Class 31 hauled on Fridays. I recalled particularly the last ever 31 hauled diagram in December 2004, and realised with some horror just how long ago that was, and that it was probably the last time I'd spent more than a few minutes in Brighton! The run back was pleasant and lazy - with me feeling ultra paranoid about music volume. The train didn't get hugely busy, even at Southampton - a fact I filed away for future use. The guard was fine with my odd combination of tickets too, and I settled in for the long winding route back to Bath Spa. Changing here meant a short wait for 1C27 from Paddington, a frequently used train home which I could have picked up at Bristol as I often do. It was nice though to relax for the last leg. Amazingly my multi-modal run had gone very smoothly, and the bus and boat rides had impressed me hugely. It's days like these which restore faith in public transport along with being entertaining trips in their own right.

Movebook Link

Posted in SHOFT on Tuesday 8th May 2012 at 11:05pm

Slow Club - The FleeceIt was strange wandering around Bristol this evening on my way to The Fleece. The first day back after a Bank Holiday weekend is always a resentment-filled, depressing occasion and watching the harassed commuters stumbling along, eyes fixed down on the slick pavements didn't fill me with confidence for how this evening might pan out. Wet Tuesday evenings in Bristol aren't known for producing big audiences, and with the local crowd still coming down from the Simple Things festival at the weekend, I was worried it would be a small bunch of us turning out tonight. In the event, I needn't have worried - and this is perhaps testament to just how far tonight's headliners Slow Club have progressed in reaching new ears over the past year or so. However, once again The Fleece's odd talent for picking some incongruous support acts made for a curiously uneven evening of entertainment. Arriving late from what seems to have been a taxing journey from Leeds, Antibang appear to be taking the frustration out on the odd mixture of instruments up on the stage. They trade in a curious - and not always wholly successful - mixture of genuinely enthusiastic, raucously silly pop and deliberately off-the-wall moments of challenge. The band centres on their shouting, ranting vocalist/drummer hybrid, who gestures, moans and howls his way through the cacophony. He is supported by a second drummer, a guitarist in a cape and silver lycra leggings, and perhaps the lynch-pin of the band in the operator of their burbling, warped synthesiser sounds who also adds a female vocal counterpoint to this bewildering brew. This works best at the end of a long composition where both voices work around a theme of 'you're such a loner' and the sound coalesces into dreamy pop. Despite the meandering songs occasional crashing into outbursts of clapping, whistling, and singing in-the-round, the Bristol audience stays characteristically restrained throughout, though the band get a decent end-of-set send off. The dense, busy songs here tonight might fare a little better with considered listening on record. Antibang worked best this evening when their songs wound up into thudding, brassy confused endings. Otherwise I found Antibang a deliberately odd and occasionally uncomfortably contrived proposition. Perhaps I'm just a little bit too jaded tonight for this ranty, agit-jazz thing? Silver lycra and messianic drummer-vocalists aside, I sense there might be complicated and interesting music buried under the gimmicks and the overplayed wackiness.

Given my policy of generally not writing about things I don't completely enjoy, I've struggled with describing my experience of the previous act, and also more surprisingly with watching We Were Evergreen play tonight. On paper at least, they ought to appeal to me but I'll start with the obvious - this band is perfect. Uncomfortably, irritatingly and mind-numbingly so. The three faultlessly pretty people which form We Were Evergreen take to the stage and with an air of studied geek chic, to produce shiny, clean folk-pop which I have to confess the audience in The Fleece appears to adore. The sounds hinges on the electronic backdrops provided by Fabienne who hunches over her kit for long enough to get things going before joining in the twee dancing on stage. Singer and ukelele player Michael croons and strums between his own outbursts of joyful jigging, and it all fits seamlessly together. When they aim for Beatles-like harmonies, they land perfectly. When they add a little hint of europop fizz, it bubbles through the audience just how they wanted it to. The songs begin to blur into one for me mid-set, and I realise that this music has no edges - no peaks and dips to give me a journey to travel with the band, no surprises or twists to make me sit up and listen. Its a long, slick stream of beautifully designed but ultimately anodyne pop. There are elements here which, taken alone are fun and interesting - some of the cheesy beats which underlie the songs are infectious and I spy a little dancing at the front, and occasionally when they harmonise it makes for a pleasantly folky sound. I pick up hints of Even As We Speak but not their knack for writing engaging lyrics sadly. Ultimately I feel like I'm being conned here, and I can't quite put my finger on why. I also feel like I'm being hugely unfair, like I'm kicking a puppy which was only trying to make me happy. But this just wasn't for me. Live music is about the clicks and buzzes, spilled drinks, broken strings and false starts. It loses it's soul when it's this unblemished. We Were Evergreen are talented souls I'm certain, but I feel like they need to have their hearts broken before they'll ever truly reach mine.

I've written a great deal about Slow Club before, and I wondered how I'd add anything to my previous feverish declarations of love for the band's music. But one of the most engaging and endearing things about Charles and Rebecca's take on things is that sometimes it appears to all stumble together quite accidentally, and anything could happen on the way. Augmented tonight by their now practically full-time band comprised of Avvon and Stephen of Sweet Baboo, they take the stage with Rebecca arriving last to a huge reception. It's around now that I realise that Slow Club are reaching a much wider audience, and a glance around the now much increased all-ages audience shows a truly bewildering range of punters. It's here that as someone writing about music I should probably get sniffily elitist and suggest that these people weren't there at all the best gigs. But it genuinely never feels like that with this band - it's just really inspiring to see people listening and loving the music, and I want everyone to see why I bang relentlessly on about them. The band are also in that strange position where they are touring between releases. With last year's "Paradise" figuring heavily in the set, there are also several new songs which will form an as yet unrecorded EP. These songs are a little darker, a little slower perhaps, and interestingly Rebecca's voice is remoulded again when she sings them - switching character to become a wounded, country heroine this time around. Despite her professed "funny tummy" she is completely on form tonight - her voice reaching wonderful high notes and gravelly lows, and her between song jibes at ever-suffering Charles as barbed and witty as ever. It's really encouraging to hear these new songs get a boisterous reception from the audience alongside older material.

The highlight of the set is a truly beguiling "Hackney Marsh" where Rebecca and Charles come forward from their microphones and let their unamplified voices fill the room. The Fleece can be a pretty noisy space at the best of times, but there is pin-drop silence as they strip the song back to its roots. Even a false start and a fit of giggles can't break the spell, and neither the band nor the rapt audience are quite ready for what happens next. As the song moves into the section which is normally adorned on record by a saxophone solo, a bit of a clatter behind us signals Stephen Black clambering onto the bar and blasting out that solo as he crabwalks his way unsteadily towards the stage with a strange echo of Lisa in the opening credits of The Simpsons. Watching the surprise and delight in the room - in the audience, in the normally stoic Fleece bar staff, and up on stage - I realise it's one of those moments that you know you're going to talk about for years, and that you'll never quite do justice to in your description. With audience now hanging on every note, the set closes with "Giving Up On Love" delivered in riotous, triumphant style by the whole band again. Sometimes Bristol gigs feel a bit like a battle of wits, with the band determined to win over an audience who are doing their utmost to repel all boarders. Tonight, Slow Club had won from the moment they struck the first note, and what started as a fairly inauspicious night turned into perhaps my favourite show of the year so far.

Movebook Link


Posted in Railways on Saturday 5th May 2012 at 11:20pm

I'm playing catch-up with these entries after a very strange and directionless few weeks where I've managed to think about doing lots and actually achieve very little. In the middle of this period came the welcome opportunity to get away and travel - always something I value, as much for the chance to observe the world at large as anything else. But this trip had a purpose too, which was this curious tour to points south. Completely illogically of course, I started out yesterday by heading in the opposite direction - north to Crewe. Class 20s aren't my favourite traction by any means, but they're unusual enough to warrant a bit of a trip to get some mileage with them - especially as you have to wonder just how long they can carry on hauling trains like this on the mainline. A fitful night and an early start made for a rather bleary-eyed walk to the station where I met familiar faces including my travelling companion for the day. In fact, the tables we occupied became a pretty sociable little knot in the middle of a rather quiet carriage, which is always a good thing in my book.

Despite predictions of failure or non-availability the pair of 20s, one required and one not, turned up on time and shot away from Crewe in surprisingly rocket-like fashion. We sped south taking a route skirting the Midlands to join the route to Banbury and Oxford. I've used this route surprisingly often this year, having not needed to in recent times - and I'm always impressed by how quietly but surely, Chiltern Trains have delivered on their Project Evergreen promises - faster alignments, restrictions eliminated - little improvements that sum up to a better experience all round. At Aynho Junction we headed for Didcot, and the Foxhall curve onto the mainline. There had been two separate foul-ups on the Great Western this morning - one around Paddington and the other in South Wales - which meant some of the participants who were due on the train were behind schedule. Given some space due to gaps in service, we were unusually allowed to wait a while, and a rammed Gloucester-Swindon unit and a busy HST soon turned up with the missing folks. We headed off again, via Thingley Junction to the rarely used Melksham route and onto the Portsmouth line. Here, my usual ennui descended and I dozed and chatted as far as Southampton Maritime. I also realised I'd rather strangely chosen to replicate this route next week too!

Arrival in Hampshire meant we'd reached the focus of the tour - a little but significant crop of very unusual lines around the county, starting with a call at Eastleigh to let off passengers who wanted a short break. Out of the station northwards and onto the Romsey branch where we reversed at a signal, and headed back through the station non-stop with the trailing 37 in the lead now, and into Eastleigh Works. I'd been here before, but we used a different line - one that disappointingly had a fair amount of former Metropolitan Line stock stored on it - although to be honest they all did at present! This meant many people didn't get far past the gates, but the First Class end was well positioned and the usual tide of 'vestibule creamers' made their showing as we came to a halt. The original plan had been a traversal of the depot loop which hadn't been possible in the end. I was lucky enough to have done this too, so it wasn't a great loss - but it did mean we ended up with a fair number of very odd reversals here - which began to take their toll on people's sanity! So our next reversal took us back through the station with the aim of halting at Allbrook Junction. In the event, we ended up back on the Romsey branch. This is where things got a little hazy and the driver seemed to lose track. Returning to the station we were signalled onto the Down Through line, leaving a large group of bewildered patrons stranded on the platform. Coming to a shuddering halt short of Southampton Airport Parkway, we eventually headed back into the platform, collected our punters and continued towards Southampton. A very odd and slightly amusing interlude!

Underway again, rather than taking the severe curve towards Southampton Central we continued straight past Northam Traincare and onto the docks branch. This more direct route served an impressive terminus at one point, the rather grand buildings of which remained evident. Passing multi-storey storage areas for the motor industry, row after row of Minis and Landrovers were evident. Also in dock was the vast Queen Victoria, a huge and impressive sight beside the line. Pressing on and winding through the Eastern Docks, we finally came to the QEII landing stage. I'd been here before - on foot from Southampton after an edgy night in a B&B miles from town - or so it seemed. That time, I was meeting people arriving by boat to live here. Today, I was just passing through as we pressed on to the very end of the line. An excellent result, though we were urged not to get out because the fee for 'use of the station' was huge!

Queen Victoria, Southampton Eastern Docks
Queen Victoria, Southampton Eastern Docks

Reversing again after a very efficient change of ends, we headed back to Northam Traincare, using the Reception Line there to reverse once again and head through Southampton Central to reach the gates of Western Docks. This shorter branch led through a more industrial scene, curving away from the mainline and through piles of sand and building materials to double back towards the point we'd reached on the Eastern Dock branch. There had been a through connection at some point, but this had long since gone and we soon found our way to the end of the short branch, again reaching the furthest possible point. It had been a very successful day from a track bashing point of view - and being at the right end of the train for the branches was a very welcome change!

The return trip wasn't without incident either. Firstly we headed towards Guildford using the rather dull line via Petersfield. This was a sleepy bit of the journey with little happening, although it was interesting to watch how we made up and then lost time. We weren't seriously late though, and I was content to laze my way along the line. Getting lost in the tangle of lines around Ascot, we were due to pause at Ash Vale - ostensibly for a photo stop on an otherwise long day on the train. This stop was curtailed to keep us on time, and de-training via the front four coaches would have meant it was unlikely we'd manage even to get off in the time allowed! From here we took the route to Reading, using the connection which climbs from the Southern tracks to the Great Western mainline - something I don't recall doing before. Work on reviving the underpass which will allow trains to reach the other side of the revitalised station seemed to be progressing very well too - and I wondered if we'd have used that route if it had been available? Our first set-down was at Didcot, in lieu of Swindon on the outward run. Except we didn't stop. Taking the curve through the station at speed, once again a number of passengers looking rather stunned as the platforms zoomed by. Those poor Swindon punters who'd been inconvenienced by the early issues were once again the victims as we made a call at Oxford for them to alight and head back to Didcot.

 20312 and 20308 back at Crewe
20312 and 20308 back at Crewe

The run back to Crewe was quiet and pleasant in the summery evening, and was only marred by the activities of a couple of BLS people who I probably shouldn't name, working the train and stirring up feelings against a former colleague. If nothing else, this solidified my resolve that resigning from the News Team had been the right thing to do. Otherwise it had been a successful, sociable and interesting day. There are so few good tours operating this summer that these days are increasingly precious and important.

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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