She had a ticket to ride

Oh fine, this blog is going to amuse my younger readers, for sure! People are so used to just booking everything by phone, or online nowadays, that the concept of this might just blow a few minds!

Back in the mid/late 70’s, after I’d started work for the first time, I also started taking holidays by myself for the first time, which was fun. Now, back in those days, when the railways over here were still government owned, it was possible to travel the whole country by train, under the auspices of one rail company all over the country. And back then, it was made even easier by the fact you could buy one ticket, called a rail rover, and for 7 glorious days, the rail network was your limit. I started off doing the regional Southern version, and planning trips that I could do in a day, and get back home again for the night.

But before long, all those remote, and intriguing lines further afield, in deepest Wales, Scotland and the like took my eye, but to do that, I’d need the national version, and I wouldnt be able to get home every night. So I did! The main thing that would amuse my readers now, was that you couldnt just book these hotels online, like you can now, you either had to pick up a phone (which wasnt as cheap back then) and call them, or, write a letter! And yes, I tended to do the latter.

So armed with a very bulky British Rail timetable, and an AA hotel guide, I’d plot out my routes, plot out where I wanted to stay, then write a pile of letters booking my hotels. In truth, it was very rare not to get my first choice, but as I was tending to book in the ‘less obvious’ places, that may have been why.

One place I set my eyes on, was a very winding, very lightly served line in the north of Scotland. Funnily enough, nowadays, its called the Far North line, and runs from Inverness to Thurso, and Wick. Back in those days, the train divided at a remote station called Georgemas Junction, and a couple of coaches ran to each terminal. Nowadays a single train serves both! The thing is, its a very long line, and there are only 3 or 4 trains a day during the week, so its not easy to do. Also, it takes forever to cover the full length of the line.

So I looked for an interim place to stay, somewhere different, somewhere a little quirky, and found it. The Forsinard hotel was very close by to the railway station, which was ideal, but apart from a few other residences, that was it! By the time I got there, being summer in the North of Scotland, it was quite late, but not yet dark. A meal, a room with a bed, and breakfast in the morning, before heading back to the station, taking a train to Thurso (as I hadnt been there, but had been to Wick), having about 40 minutes to dash through town, before getting the same train south all the way back to Inverness!

Anyway, for some reason best known to myself, I decided to have a look, and see how much they charged for a room nowadays, as it cant have been too expensive back then, as I was on a budget, of course. Sadly, its closed, closed about 4 years ago, as much as I can tell, presumably through lack of trade. I know, I was never likely to go back in truth, but the sad thought that I cant do so now, still gripped me. Of course, I suspect they didnt have many other residents the night I was there, but after 40 years, I dont remember.

But yes, its probably the most remote place I’ve ever spent a night, and probably always will be. But still a shame that I will never stay in Forsinard again, all the same.

(I have passed an equally remote hotel while in a train, the Izaak Walton Inn, in Montana, but sadly never stayed there)

Video. I cant believe I’ve never used this before, but the tags say I havent, so lets have some very early Carpenters tonight

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If you offered me one train journey…?

I’m going to make it a long one. How does over 1,000 miles, most of it single track, with little intermediate population sound to you? I know, horrible probably, but if there is one railway line that tugs on my heart, that fits this bill, its the one that winds north from Winnipeg, to Churchill, in the frozen north (especially at this time of year) in Canada.

I know, there’s the Trans Siberian, or the chances to cross the US, or Canada, from ocean to ocean, and plenty more, but if you offered me one, and only one, this crazy Canadian railway, that you can only traverse in full, twice a week, is the one I would choose. It would certainly be different from travelling from Huddersfield, to Leeds or Bradford, for sure!

In truth, when I was young, the experience of travelling overnight from London, to Fort William, or Inverness, in the highlands of Scotland seemed like going by train forever. But since then, I’ve made that look like a sprint, travelling to Philadelphia, from Seattle, and back, which was about 3 days each way, with a change in Chicago! A few years later, I travelled from Philadelphia, to Atlantic City, allowing me to finally complete the crossing of America by train, ocean to ocean.

Oh, and fine, if someone arranged for me to travel from Moscow, to Vladivostok on the Trans Siberian, I wouldnt say no. To follow in the footsteps, even if it is now a very different route to hers, of Annette Meakin, would just be amazing.

But yes, secretly, this strange railway line from Winnipeg, to Churchill, and hopefully back, if given the choice, would be the one I’d do. Why, no idea? Its not even like I’m a massive fan of polar bears, or anything, but its there, and I’d so love to do it. And fine, its more practical for me to do than by dog sled between Anchorage and Nome! I could fly that, and might, given the chance, but seriously, if I was to do that Canadian trip, I wouldnt even look at air flight schedules!

Yes, hopefully, one day, I will do it!

Right, two videos, ooh! Firstly, the classic Canadian train song, even if its not about this line, and its nothing more than a few images, but yes, if you think of such songs, this one is probably the best

Secondly, a brief travel tale of the line I’ve just mentioned. I have to say the narrator doesnt sound overly enthusiastic about it, but anyway…

Taking the teal train

Yes, fine, non Californians, humor me, but its ages since I did a LA related blog, and given whats happening next week, and the fact that I had no other bright ideas that Americans would get, I’m going with this! I am free to suggestions, if anyone wants to make any, mind.

Thats right, starting next Friday, the Metro system gets extended. And unlike the Gold line extension earlier this year, this one is a bit special to me! Why? Because of where this extension takes the train to, Santa Monica! Yes, I want to ride it, though at present, I have no idea when, or how thats going to happen. If any generous beneficiary wants to make that possible, please do!

Several times, I’ve experienced the ‘delight’ that is taking a bus to Santa Monica, from either LA, or Hollywood. Believe me, using Metro at least, its not fun! Lengthy, winding route, that seemingly takes forever. Well, well over an hour at least, even at good times, and when you approach, or get into rush hour, you really dont want to know! Even the Big Blue Bus (express, higher fare) which goes on the Interstate for most of the journey hits plenty of stationary traffic, especially at the wrong time of day!

But, from Friday onwards, you can catch the train! Well, the metro type trains, at least. Did you know, the last time there was a train service to Santa Monica? 1953! Only for a few more days though, and then…Yes, the Expo line extension, which is shown in a teal color on maps (hence the blog name) finally opens beyond Culver City, all the way to the sea! Well, almost all the way, a few hundred yards walk will still be needed, but besides that…

So yes, if and when I get back to LA, I wont have to battle my way to Santa Monica by a slow moving bus, I can go by train! And given I enjoy visiting Santa Monica, that will be a massive bonus for me. Hopefully, some day soon, I can get to make that trip, fingers crossed.

No, sadly, as far as I know, there are no plans to have a branch on the Red line up Beechwood Canyon, ah well…

There is talk of trying to get the Airport connected to the Metro in the next few years, that will certainly be a blessing when it happens, I must say. Fine, I might still get a shuttle to wherever I’m staying, but at least I could go and use a certain wonderfully designed restaurant area at the Airport, if it was easier to get there!

Right, the video. A jazz classic, with a modern twist, provided by Diana Krall. There is a slight clue in the blog title, but if you’ve got this far, you’ve seen what it is already, I guess?

How not to get to work, in one easy lesson!

Honestly, if I never travel with Trans Pennine Express again, after 3 weeks time, it will still be too soon. Though to be fair to them, it would be right to say that today they were only 50% to blame, the other half falling firmly on the shoulders of National Rail.

But, if TPE had been honest on the situation a little earlier, instead of 30 minutes after the train was due, I might have been able to rescue matters. Of course, if I had, you wouldnt be getting this bonus blog rant, so…

So, the story of my morning was as follows…

I left here at 8.30 this morning, to walk across (just under 10 minutes) to where I have to get the bus, when I make an early start on a Sunday morning, as the first bus from the estate is 9.08. As it happens, I could have got the 9.38, but more on that shortly.

The train was due at 9.18. At 9.12, it was showing as on time, quite a rare sight with TPE. But then, it started showing as later, and later, until…at 9.42 an announcement was made. Seemingly, there was a ‘slight’ over run on the engineering works between Manchester and Huddersfield, and to quote the announcer, they had no idea when a train might turn up, but they would let us know later, if, and when one would.

So, I did a rapid dash to a nearby Hills shop, rang work to let them know I wasnt going to be in by 10.00, funnily enough. I went back to the station, nothing had changed. So I gave up the fight, got a bus home, and gave up on the day, and a days wages. I might, even then have got to work very late, with a lift, but blamelessly (not knowing what a joke TPE was today) Nicole had made other plans, so that was that!

I know, I cant blame TPE for over running engineering works, and I dont. But what I can blame them for, is the lack of useful information. All they were doing on the departure board, was every minute, adding another minute to the expected arrival time. In the end, seemingly, the train arrived 61 minutes late! I expect it was ‘slightly crowded’ by then, rolls eyes!

So, TPE, please, just let us passengers, who you rip off so regularly know whats really happening with their trains.

No, given their utter incompetence, its not going to happen!

Yes, the video is dedicated to what I was doing today, waiting for the train that never came!

Completing the Harlow look

Well, alright, fine, if Jean had reached 56, she might have looked just like me! Probably not, but anyway…

Yes, tomorrow marks the day when I go back down south, for my top up to be done to my permanent make up tribute to Jean Harlow (except for those awful eyebrows), and this time around, get the fluttery Harlow eyelashes to boot! Sadly, they only last about 3 weeks, so will be gone by the time I go to Hollywood, but I cant have everything, can I?

Not that I suspect that even with those super eyelashes that I can get the men rushing to woo me, but we will see!

But do you know the funniest thing about it being done tomorrow? It’s Jean Harlow’s birthday! Yes, on March 3rd, 1911, in Kansas City, a baby girl named Harlean Harlow Carpenter was born into the world. Sadly that candle only briefly fluttered, for a mere 26 years, but seemingly, she will never be forgotten.

Yes, honest, I will post some pictures of the new me, complete with eyelashes, when its been done. As far as I know, I wont be thinking I’m Jean, or so I’m told at least lol!

My one regret, I really should have booked that hotel for the next 2 nights in the name of Harlean Carpenter, but I only thought of it when it was too late. Thats right, no passport checks made when you check in, so I could have done it. Ah well…

The other irony, until the recent job interview, I hadnt been to London in years. Now, through events, I’m returning again already! I was travelling down the centre of the country, but then the earth moved, quite literally near Banbury, and that line is closed. So now, its the East Coast line to London, then hop on the tube, then down to Newbury that way.

The difference, the last time I did it, it was on the publicly owned east Coast Railways. As of yesterday, that line is now back in private hands, Virgin East Coast. Going by reports today, the change, so far at least, is not for the better, but we shall see…

One thing for sure, I may not travel in black dress, and high heels this time around!

The video, no, I wont be this, even post transformation, but might be a little bit closer, who knows?

One thing I wont miss about redundancy

Well, I guess that comment isnt strictly true, I’ll miss the monthly wage (until I find something new), and I’ll miss some people at work too. But equally, I wont miss the crazy early starts, the very late finishes, and…Trans Pennine Express!

Yes, I know, I might have to go to work again in Leeds, but mentally, and physically, I’m hoping I can find something nearer to home. Might be easier said than done, but we will see. Fingers crossed, and if there are any Yorkshire folk reading this, who know of call centre, data input, or similar openings in the Huddersfield area, especially those that dont appear on the main websites, please let me know. Happily start on 27th April, in all honesty. Could start before, but I’m going to Hollywood on the 18th April, regardless, just saying. Temp work in the meanwhile for March/early April would be good too. Yes, I dont finish until the 28th, so nothing before then!

Of course, if any Hollywood studio wants to sign me up to play a member of the Harlow family in a movie…even better!

OK, personal ad over, lets start on the one thing I really wont miss if I dont have to commute to Leeds, Trans Pennine Express.

I’d love to say they are the worst train company in the world, and I might not even be exaggerating. Fine, somewhere in deepest Africa, there is probably one worst, but in the UK, no contest! Overcrowded trains, which are regularly delayed, sometimes by minutes, often by a lot more, and overpriced fares are just a few of their bad points. I’d love to name some good ones, but cant think of any!

So yes, if my new job means I no longer have to commute with this truly incompetent company, I will not miss them in the slightest! To be honest, the best thing related to them, is a wonderful Twitter site @ notTPE, which is dedicated to their incompetencies, in a funny, and delightful way. Unsurprisingly, the real TPE are not fans, as he tells the truth, unlike their Customer Service Dept. Fine, some of it isnt true, but its closer to the mark than the TPE version.

As I say, there may be some things I miss when I leave the job, but Trans Pennine Express wont be one of them.

The video, a train journey, in Norway, with the ideal Abba song

Its been a crazy world

Yes, I am back! Sorry, but the last 10 days or so have been a bit crazy (to put it mildly), and I really havent felt in the right state of mind to post things, for various reasons. Hey, I’m not sure I am now, but lets give it a whirl.

Firstly, the body work job! Yes, that worked wonderfully, really, really pleased with it, though I must admit, it was a few days before my lips recovered, even after the rest of the body looked fine. But everything is great now, in that sense, and as promised, I will post a photo at some point, just havent got any at the moment that I can use, so… But yes, the whole thing made me realise maybe how physically frail I am, as on top of the bug, the whole thing just knocked me over completely. Lets just say I slept well, and leave it at that.

There had been rumours at work of changes being made in staffing, most of which didnt sound good to me. So, when I got an email late Tuesday evening, asking me to ring one of the bosses, I had an inkling, I didnt want to know. Due to my lack of mobile phone, and a lengthy delay on the train, care of Cross Country (over an hour, compensation requested, though nothing heard yet on that front), it was actually about 4.45 on Wednesday before I heard the news, that my section of the department would soon be no more. Various options available, so on to Plan B, more of which later.

Yes, that bug, virus or whatever it was, combined with everything else, has still been laying me low, until the last couple of days. Even now, the cough isnt entirely gone, just better, but…

But as I say, Plan B. A job had caught my eye anyway, that was just the push needed to really do something about it. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had a phone interview on Sunday morning, and I’ve got a ‘proper’ interview in London, on Monday. Would be quite something if I can get that, and get the redundancy money from my current job, but these sort of things dont usually happen for me, so…lets wait and see.

Looks like the black dress will be coming out again, though I’m not sure if I can face wearing heels all the way to London and back. Might take them with me, might just wear my wedge heels (no balance issues), or I might go mad! Suspect the first option is the most likely one.

Apart from all that, the only other big event was Nicole’s birthday, also on Sunday. Dinner out etc, had a wonderful time.

And really, thats it, or the edited version of it, anyway. As you can see, its been a bit crazy, a bit tiring on the middle aged body, but finally, I’ve appeared again.

The video, not the greatest Abba song of all time, but it seemed apt.

Due to work shifts, and things, its quite possible it will be next Wednesday before I write again. My only day off in that period is Monday, and well, I’ve got an interesting trip to make then!

Oh, I forgot, the wonders of online shopping, and the like. Due to the snow today, I didnt get out as planned. Therefore I thought I’d get my railway ticket online, using my pre paid card, once topped up. Only thing is, it didnt work! Got an error message on the East Coast website when I went to buy, but the system has taken the money off the card, but no tickets! Seemingly, it will be about 7 days before this corrects itself. So in the meantime, I’ve got to pay again for the railway ticket, and then I’ll have money on the card that I dont need! Aargh!