Taking my morning train

A fortnight today, the biggest shake up to rail timetables in the UK in a very long time is happening. I wont actually be here to see it, the only ‘trains’ I’ll be worrying about on that date will be the Seattle Light Rail, to get me to the baseball!

In a sense, I’m told, it offers a massive improvement in rail services, which would be nice, but in truth, given Trans Pennine Express’s inability to run a decent service now, how they are going to run an improved one, no idea!

In honesty, I hardly use the trains nowadays, generally just once a week, on a Saturday morning, as there are bigger gaps in the bus schedule early on a Saturday morning, compared to the weekdays, or indeed, later in the day on a Saturday. So the 7.50 train to Bradford served me quite nicely! Sadly, its only going to do it one more time! As from 26th May, or if you like 2nd June as will concern me, that train will leave at 8.09, no use whatsoever! There is a bus at 8.00 which will beat that easily, but make it a very tight squeeze to get to work for 9.00. Previous bus? 7.30, which would have me in work by 8.30, but would mean leaving here 20 minutes earlier, and its an early enough start as it is! So no, doesnt work as an improvement for me.

And funnily enough… I actually now have a return visit planned to Blackpool in June, and formerly, there was a train from Bradford (or Halifax) that went all the way to Blackpool North, without changing. No, I’m not yet that physically limited, but someone who will be ‘chaperoning’ me is, so the change at Preston will be a nuisance for him. No, he’s not really chaperoning me, but a train trip, a couple of nights away, and a day riding the trams, he’s not going to turn that down. Irony, the Sunday service coming back, still a direct train, something at least!

So yes, in theory, all these train travel benefits, and they do nothing but hamper my plans! Ah well…

Right, video time. A spot of live Monkees. Well, 3 of them at least, as its a 1996 performance.

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Didnt I have a lovely time, the day I went to Blackpool?

Well, hopefully a few of you at least have been eagerly waiting for the report from Friday night. If you werent, you’re getting it anyway! 😛

Beyond a few moments of, err, entertainment on the last section of the journey, from Preston, to Blackpool, in truth the journey was relatively unexciting. The ‘entertainment’, some very loud children, and the fact that we had 2 wheelchair passengers, as opposed to the train designed 1, caused some fun. But in truth, we arrived pretty much on time.

The hotel was pretty much standard budget hotel, with thin walls which we noticed overnight (people talking outside the room), and though in theory we had a second bed, it was so designed that neither of us, in perfect health conditions would have been able to get out, and besides, we had no bedding for it anyway! Survey comments done, lol! But fine, thats not what you want to hear about, is it? So after a meal together, Eric went back to the Trams, I went off to the Winter Garden, and through the time travel portal. Fine, not literally, but you get the drift? After an early false start, the staff worked out where we needed to go, and lo and behold, I was soon in a lovely, and short pink flapper dress. Fine, I wasnt going to care about length for one night, but more on that shortly. Thing is, flappers werent designed to have boobs, or big shoulders, and the zip wouldnt do up properly at the back. Anyway, as you will see shortly, I was quickly changed into another dress which was longer, with no zip issues, perfection! Well, I was flashing someleg, but…

Oh fine, like this!

Me in Blackpool

There is a better one of me, but it has someone else in the picture, and I’m loathe to use that without her permission. I suspect she wouldnt care, but to be on the safe side… If she grants it in hindsight, I will add it to the posting. So if you come here in 6 months time, see 2 photos, and are confused, you know why!

The evening was great fun, lots of lovely people that I was working with, equally a lot of nice people in the audience, including 1 wonderful gentleman I talked to for a while, who had originally come from Bradford! However, having flirted as an Usher prior to performance, stood on the stairs, we eventually got told that part of our work was done. I decided to give the film, Some Like It Hot a chance, but it didnt grab me much, so after an hour or so, I headed back to the refreshment area, got myself a coffee, and started chatting with a few others, until it was time for part 2, getting those who had paid for it, to the party upstairs.

All went smoothly, then a few of us went up to the Balcony, put on a bit of a show (very tame dancing, by Flapper standards, I suspect) for the guests for a while, then I, and a few others went back and changed into modern life again. One treat I had for a while, was to do something I’d never done before (and no, it wasnt to dance the Charleston), which was to wear a pair of those long gloves that go up to your elbow, and maybe beyond. I’d seen pictures of them, always wanted to wear them, and now I have!

End result, everything, and everyone was so lovely, I’m already planning on going back next year, however crazy, and unpractical that is. Might be a different era, but as long as it doesnt mean wearing something as revealing as what my past life self, the chorus line dancing, Clara Johnson had to wear, all should be fine. But no, I’m not going to suggest 42nd Street, or the like, just in case, lol! But beyond that, I’ll definitely be back. Fine, if it is that, I will probably still go back!

The journey home by ‘modern trains’ was a bit more entertaining. The train from Preston, back to Manchester was very crowded, but ‘Queen Bitch’ soon pushed a way through for me, and Eric, to our reserved seats, and someone was already sat in them! Yes, they got moved, probably not my most diplomatic moment of my life, but hey, its principle, and neither of us could have stood, anyway!

Then we get back to Manchester, running late, so going to be a tight push, or no go for our booked train back to Huddersfield. Only…I looked at the departure board, it had been cancelled! So anyway, the next train was going to be very crowded, (2 sets of passengers, plus loads of football fans), but I lined Eric up roughly where I thought the doors would be, and we grabbed 2 seats very quickly!

After that, out last night, with Ella as well, for the birthday meal. I wore the same dress as last week again, so I stayed in Flapper mode for the weekend. Oh, should I mention, this was all done in lots of snow!

In theory I’m back to work tomorrow, but if it had been today, I’m certain it would have been a ‘snow day’ off, with my physical issues. Tomorrow, who knows? Hopefully its better in the morning, I must say. Not just because I’m due back, but because I need to learn something for the following week, which I will probably relate later in the week, but until then…?

Yes, I hurt, partly because of Friday, partly because of the current weather. When (or strictly at this point, I guess, if) I do this next year, I’ll pace it better, all that travel, on top of everything else, in 1 day, was just too much now. Go down the day before, build to it, and have a day off afterwards to recover, before coming back, far wiser! But hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Video time. The frightening thing for me, this song is 50 years old, and I remember it being released!

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

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?