Guildhall and Pokemon Go

It was Romans day for the kids
I've been living in or near London for nigh on 50 years. I've visited the National Gallery, the Tates, you name it. But thanks to a heads-up on Facebook by Mary-Lou, on Tuesday I was about to visit an Art Gallery I'd never even heard of, the Guildhall Art Gallery, in the City of London.

The 1999 exterior
What attracted me was a photo of Rossetti's La Ghirlandata, a gorgeous picture of Alexa Wilding, with May Morris (Jane's 10-year old daughter) posing as the angels above. It's full of symbolism, described in detail to a small group of us taking the free guided tour. The only thing Rossetti got wrong were the flowers at the bottom of the picture. I didn't expect a lot more to be honest, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Photography was allowed too.

Rossetti and others
Almost every Pre-Raphaelite and follower is represented: Holman Hunt's Eve of St Agnes, a smaller version to that in the Walker; Millais' The woodsman's daughter and the pair of Sermons, My First and My Second. Then there are other treasures, such as Lord Leighton's The music lesson [Fun fact: Leighton became a Lord on his deathbed, the shortest peerage in history, just one day], and Paul Delaroche's The execution of Lady Jane Grey, our forgotten queen, so poignant as she was tried for treason in the Guildhall next door, and William Shakespeare Burton's The wounded Cavalier, also full of symbolism.

Burton and Holman Hunt
Take the free guided tour (Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) and you'll be taken to all the nooks and crannies (mind you, I'm convinced I missed a room under the main gallery, where the bottom half of John Singleton Copley's The defeat of the floating batteries at Gibraltar, 1782 resides. What a whopper, the largest painting in Britain. There are several big 'uns on display. I was taken by the more formal The ninth of November, 1888 by William Logsdail depicting the Lord Mayor's procession. Beautifully painted, it looks almost 3D. The collection of London paintings are down below, and even deeper is a Roman amphitheatre!

Another whopper: Michele Tedesco A Pythagorean school attacked by Sybarites
The building itself, though founded in 1886, was reopened in 1999, after being mostly destroyed in the Blitz. I got the bus from London Bridge and spent the rest of the day chasing Unown and Kangaskhan in the Pokemon Go city event. They were not as plentiful as I'd been led to believe, but tracked down a Kanga at Victoria station and a couple more at Green Park. My one and only Unown was found in Lincoln's Inn Fields. And I was so pleased that I treated myself to a pint of something welsh-sounding at a nearby Wetherspoons, Penderel's Oak, named after another Cavalier.

BTW the last exhibition I went up to London for was Alma-Tadema: At home in Antiquity at Leighton House, back on 12 July, the day of the David Devant and his Spirit Wife gig at the Monarch in Camden Town. No photography allowed, but a fine exhibition. [Fun fact: Alama-Tadema was born plain Mr Tadema, he added the Alma so he would come first in catalogues.] There's an Alma-Tadema in the Guildhall catalogue but not on display, or maybe on loan to Leighton House*, or maybe in that room I might have missed!

* A Pyrrhic Dance was indeed in the Leighton House exhibition.


Ludlow, SVR and Ironbridge

Bridge over the River Teme
Bridge over the River Teme
I'd been invited to Jane's surprise 60th in Ludlow, so I thought I'd tag on a visit to the Severn Valley Railway in Kidderminster, a bus pass trip to see the Iron Bridge and a visit to my Uncle and Aunty in Shifnal. So, on Saturday 13 May, Ellen drove Jackie, Deborah and me up to our creaky Air B&B right in the centre of town. The surprise party, organised by Jane's kids, worked out remarkably well, but it was a long walk back to the B&B.

Ludlow market
Sunday we spent wandering round town and around the castle - there was a food festival on - and had lunch at the Green Cafe down by the river. Jane nearly fell in whilst texting along an eroded muddy river bank! We bought food from the market to eat back at Jane's again.

On Monday I walked with Jackie down to the railway station, had a coffee in Tesco's then I flagged down the 2L bus to Kidderminster for a very scenic journey up and over the green Shropshire hills. I'd booked two nights at the Premier Inn, which was a converted mill with lovely brickwork. The hotel was right by the bus station, so after a quick pint at the Penny Black, I did a recce of the railway station, and I got lost choosing the wrong exit from an underpass! Phone and Google Maps got me to the stations, where I had a chat with a bearded volunteer,  grabbed some leaflets, then caught a bus back to the Wetherspoons for four bean chilli and another cheap pint.

Tuesday I took a bus to the station and bought a day rover ticket for £18.80. First train of the day was steam at 10.15am - an 0-6-0 pannier tank No. 1501. A coach party had bagged most of the carriages but I got a nice enough seat. We passed a safari park at Bewdley and I saw some elephants and a rhino, then No. 7802 Bradley Manor in the station!

No. 1501
No. 1501
I alighted at Highley to visit the Engine House locos in the new Visitor Centre, including 2-10-0 No. 600 'Gordon', Ex-Longmoor Military Railway, and Standard tank No. 80079, built in Brighton 1954. The next one built, 80080, is currently working at the East Lancs railway!

Severn Valley Railway
No. 48773 and No. 600 Gordon
Severn Valley Railway
Standard tank No. 80079
After a quick cup of tea, I jumped on the next train, pulled by a diesel No. 271, to Bridgnorth, where there were lots of locos to admire outside the sheds, including No. 34053 Sir Keith Park, also built in Brighton. Now I've been to Bridgnorth before, in 2008 on a coach trip, and all I remember was that scary bridge linking the station to the town.

Bridgnorth foot bridge
Bridgnorth foot bridge

I wanted to visit the Cliff Railway, so marched across it and turned right downhill to Low Town, where I found a pie and mash cafe called BamBoo with a bewildering number of options! After lunch (broccoli and mushroom pie (small - a bit dry) with cheesy mash, mushy peas, carrots and veggie gravy, since you ask) and a pint of Hobson's, I crossed over the road and bought a return ticket for £1.60 (no singles) for a ride on England's steepest inland funicular, in its 50s style coaches up to High Town.
Bridgnorth cliff railway
Cliff Railway
Then it was a walk round the other side of the castle, over that bridge again, and onto a train hauled by GWR 2-8-0 No. 2857 back to Kidderminster where I had a pint of mild in the King and Castle followed by a bus ride back to the hotel.

0-8-0 GWR No. 2857
GWR 2-8-0 No. 2857
On Wednesday 17 May, I took a 297 bus to Bridgnorth, and for the first time saw the town centre and High Street. Bought a sandwich at Tesco's and boarded the 114 to Telford, where I had a hour to kill. It was raining so  investigated the shopping mall, bought some stamps and a bottle of wine at Asda then set off on the 96 to Ironbridge, where I had half an hour to take some snaps, cross the bridge, and have a half of Hobson's in the Tontine Hotel before being collected by my cousin and taken back to Shifnal.

Iron Bridge
Thomas Telford's Iron Bridge
They very kindly took me to eat at a pub The Fox, opposite where Jeremy Corbyn once lived (Yew Tree Manor), and on Thursday my Uncle gave me a lift to Shifnal station, to travel home via Wolverhampton and the London rush hour. I arrived back just in time for a Beyond the Level party at Moe's Cafe!


Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 2. Steam and pace-egging

City of Wells
City of Wells at Ramsbottom
On Good Friday I made my way to the East Lancs Railway and got a free round-trip members' ticket. I intended to go straight to Ramsbottom, but it was a diesel, so I got the train to Heywood, hauled by City of Wells. At Rammy, I was taking some photos when I bumped into my Facebook friend Stephen Porter and we retired to The Railway for a pint. We were then joined by the Bury Pace-Eggers, who performed their play. All mummers plays follow a similar pattern: St George fights the Turk, gets killed, then the Doctor appears and cures him. There is then a rematch and St George triumphs! It's all about resurrection.

Bury Pace-eggers at Ramsbottom
Bury Pace-Eggers at Ramsbottom
We followed the pace-eggers to the Irwell Works Brewery which was rammed, and after they finished, enjoyed another pint. I caught the Union of South Africa train back to Bury, and the bus back to my sister's.

Union of South Africa
60009 Union of South Africa
On Easter Saturday, it was a bus to Bury, then to Bacup. The last time I visited this mill town was when a DMU from Bury started running there. As I arrived, I saw a small crowd in the town square - I'd just missed them. So, I had a wander round, found the shortest street in England, and to my delight discovered a vegan pie shop in the market! Then it was a leisurely walk out of town where the Coconutters performed in several locations, accompanied by the Stacksteads Brass Band playing some very catchy tunes.

Britannia Coco-nut dancers, Bacup
Britannia Coconut Dancers at Bacup
They start with a bit of listening and pointing, then off they skip tapping their 'coconuts' in time with their clogs. At the Irwell Inn (closed) they headed back into town where after a dance in the town square they split into two sides, and I bumped into my niece's friend Adele and family. They gave me a lift back, via a micro-pub Hop in Rawtenstall, where I had a pint of coconut chocolate porter. A great day out.

Middleton pace-eggers
Middleton Pace-Eggers
After doing nowt much on Easter Sunday, I popped in to Bury Art Gallery for a quick look on Easter Monday and was pleased to find the little cafe was in business again. I then travelled to Middleton  to see their Pace-Eggers. They were meant to start at 12 at the Dusty Miller, but there was no sight, I bought myself a half (pints £2.10!) and in they came, loads of them. I saw the play four times, ending up at the Wetherspoons, where I had another pint (of Swordfish). They were being filmed by BBC4 for a series on Utopias. So, it was back to Bury, and on Tuesday caught the tram to Manchester and home. I was disappointed to find the Ian Allan shop had closed, but all in all it was a fantastic week in the North.

Blacking up
Now then, the blacking up of morris dancers and mummers has become a contentious issue, with the Coconutters being barrred from The Shrewsbury Folk Festival. If I ruled the world I'd do what some morris sides have done and choose another colour of face paint, blue say. It's no good hiding behind 'tradition' when blackface does offend some people today, however unintentionally. The idea is that it was originally a disguise to protect workers from bosses, using coal or cinders. However the Moorish connection does rather undermine that excuse.

More photos on Flickr

Some videos on Youtube

Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 1. Art

Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 1. Art

I've wanted to see the Britannia Coconut Dancers for a long time, and this year made an effort to fulfil this ambition. The only guaranteed gig is Easter Saturday on their home turf of Bacup, a bus ride away from Bury. I also discovered from a Facebook group called Bury Olden Days that the Bury Pace-Eggers would be performing in Ramsbottom on Good Friday. And that the Middleton Pace-Eggers would be doing their longer mummers play with more characters on Easter Monday. And that it was Pacific weekend on the East Lancs Railway featuring A4 Union of South Africa and West Country Class City of Wells. But first, some Northern art...

Tiffany glass vase
I've been ticking off Northern art galleries - last time it was Blackburn, this time it was the turn of Accrington and Burnley... two in one day! I travelled up to Bury on Tuesday 11 April via the Doric Arch bar at Euston station. Had a rest day on Wednesday and on Thursday set off to the Haworth Art Gallery as you go into Accrington. I arrived at 11am, but it didn't open until 12. Luckily the cafe was open and there were Pokemons to catch in the grounds. The Haworth has the finest collection of Tiffany glass this side of New York, taking up the whole upstairs of the hall, thanks to Joseph Briggs who in 1891, aged only 17, left Accrington to seek his fortune in America. He worked with Tiffany all his working life and sent his collection back to his home town in 1933. They do have a small collection of Victorian art too, but most of the downstairs was taken up by local artists.

Towneley Art Gallery, Burnley
So, it was on to the central bus station and the M3 bus to Burnley. I knew getting to the Towneley Art Gallery would be tough, as it was in the middle of a park, but underestimated the amount of walking I had to do. Their website said bus no. 1 went near, but it was not that close - a dog walker said it'd take me half an hour to get there! So, plodding along the side of a stream, I finally made it to the stately home and got in free with my Art Fund card (a fiver to anyone else). After a few wrong turns (turn right at the mummy, the front desk woman said) I found the art gallery floor, and a splendid collection it was: with Burne-Jones, Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Poynter, Waterhouse and many other minor pre-Raphaelites represented. They also had a fine collection of Pilkington pots, and the postcards were only 25p each! Photography was forbidden, but the attendant allowed me to take some general views.

Pilkington Royal Lancastrian pottery
On my way out, I asked the ticket woman the best way to the nearest bus stop and she told me people generally call for a taxi. Oh, if only I'd taken her advice... I got totally disoriented and even the GPS on my phone was no use. At least it wasn't raining. But eventually I skirted a golf course and caught a bus back to Burnley bus station - and stayed on it as it travelled back to Bury.

 < Clogs, steam, art and pace-eggers: Part 2. steam and pace-egging


Islay and Oban: Part 2 Oban

Oban sunset

So, my 16.10 arrival at Oban was dramatic, with a sudden heavy downpour after a pleasant day's sailing. Luckily there was a Wetherspoons on the quay, The Corryvreckan, so I sheltered there for a while to check out the Pokemon situation. After it eased off, I found a cashpoint and wandered over to the Royal Hotel, one of those hotels popular with coach parties, and had seen better days. I was in Room 218 with a view out the back.

The Green Shack

I went back out to the harbour and, tempted by a free hot mussel, ordered a £3.95 portion from the famous green shack, eating them in the rain, under an umbrella - not easy! Then it was back to Wetherspoons for another pint and, after watching the sun set, back to the hotel for a £5 tot of Oban.


On Sunday, after a breakfast of beans, fried egg and potato scones, with tea served quickly by unflustered staff, I made my way to the distillery, where I showed my classic malts passport and got a free tour. The distillery is much smaller than Laphroaig, with half the stills - I did learn that the yeast came from Hull. At the end of the tour we got to sample 13-year old whisky, then the 14-year old in the shop, where we got another free glass. I used my £5 off voucher to buy a bottle, for £40. There was no photography allowed on the distillery tour. They have a tasting bar open until 6.30 serving wee drams for a bargain £3 a shot.

Oban Distillery

I dropped off the bottle at the hotel, checked out the free wifi in the lounge bar, then walked to the harbour. There was a big queue at the Green Shack, so I tried the Fishhouse upstairs, where they were doing a two-course lunch deal for £13.99. I had smoked haddock chowder and roasted local coley on a bed of prawn and leek risotto, washed down with a local beer - Skelpt Lug dark ale!

Purple Heather seal boat

I'd been debating whether or not to go on the boat to see the seals, but as the rain had stopped  I just had time to get there by 2pm, just as they were casting off. It was £10 and we headed for the steam ship monument, past the 1950s cathedral and finally to a rock full of seals. We also saw a pair of sea eagles and an M&S salmon farm.


After a pint at Wetherspoons (Sirius Dog Star) and a portion of chips with curry sauce, I wandered back to the hotel to find a keyboard and accordion duo playing for a coach party of Canadians. Then from nowhere, entered a very loud piper! marching up and down swinging his kilt!

Free beer in 1st class

Monday, it was an early start to get the 8.57 train to Glasgow, another scenic journey. I walked from Queen Street, past Robert Peel, to Central where I had a longish wait in the Virgin First Class Lounge! Yes my £46.20 ticket back to Brighton was first class! I had two cappuccinos (from a machine), loads of biscuits and popcorn and played Pokemon until it was time to board my delayed train (floods near Preston). On board I had free cans of beers (Wreckless), a dry tuna salad and lots of pretzels. The Gatwick Express at Victoria was late too, and when I got back to Brighton there was an hours wait for a Seaford train, so it was a taxi home!

  Tickets home

More photos on Flickr.

< Part 1 Islay
< Edinburgh 2016


Islay and Oban: Part 1 Islay

Islay ferry MV Finlaggan

While I'm up in Scotland, I always like to tag on a little extra journey: this year it was the whisky island of Islay and a town I've always wanted to visit - Oban. I discovered that twice a week there's a ferry for Islay to Oban (even though I couldn't find it on the inscrutable CalMac timetables). So Thursday morning 18 August I walked down to Haymarket station and bought a ticket to Glasgow Queen Street. After a pint at a convenient Wetherspooons, I set off to find Buchanan bus station (no trains go that way). What I didn't know was that the Citylink coach was going to Campbeltown! Anyway I found it and the journey was very scenic, past the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, Loch Long and Loch Fyne, where we had a comfort stop at Inveraray.

Loch Fyne at Inveraray

At Kennacraig I bought my two ferry tickets as a £15.80 HopScotch deal (bargain!) and boarded MV Finlaggan for the 2-hour journey, where I consumed a couple of bottles of Islay beer and a bowl of chips. At Port Ellen it was a short walk to the White Hart Hotel, where to my surprise the bar and restaurant were closed - but the key to room 3 was waiting for me at reception. The room was fine and I had a view of the sea. I walked to a rowdy pub, the only pub, the Ardview Arms, drank a pint of McEwans and checked my wifi in a quiet room to the right. After a wee dram of Laphroaig Quarter Cask (£5.80) i wandered back to the hotel to watch the olympics.

Lagavulin distillery

The White Hart lived up to its Fawlty Towers reputation at breakfast, where two extremely flustered women tried to keep a minibus full of Poles and a celebrated musician happy with poached eggs. Mine - beans, fried egg and potato scones - was fine however. I walked to the bus stop - I wasn't sure of the times as I'd found two different timetables on the internet, but one arrived heading towards Ardbeg so I jumped on and bought a £10 day ticket. It passed Laphroaig and Lagavulin distilleries (which were supposed to be just a short walk from Port Ellen) and turned round at Ardbeg. I decided to jump off at Lagavulin and try to get on a tour. No luck, they were full, but I got my passport stamped. So, after failing to get a lift, it was a trek through the drizzle along the cycle path back to Laphroaig.

Tasting at Laphroaig distillery

Not a lot of people know this, but I own a plot of land on Islay, thanks to Laphroaig whisky and I was able to print out a map of its location. I also got 'rent' in the form of a wee bottle. The £6 tour was great - unusually they do their own malting - but I still had a two hour wait for the next bus, so I sat down in the comfy lounge, tasted a few more drams and played Pokemon Go with their free wifi!

Laphroaig plots

The bus took me along long straight roads across the island to Port Askaig, via Laphroaig's peat bogs by the airport, where a raucous group of men up for a charity football match (one played for Arsenal!) were waiting, but the bus had to do a school run, so we went to the pub (Port Askaig Hotel) and I had a surprisingly nice pint of Tennents 60/- Light (more like dark mild). After a sing song on the bus, and them calling me Ronnie, they got off at Bowmore and I travelled back to Port Ellen in peace.

I gave the posh restaurant at the Islay Hotel a go for a cappuccino, and stayed to eat in the bar, where they had Islay Ales on draught. I had roasted scallops followed by chunky fish pie. Excellent!

View from the White Hart Hotel

Saturday 13 August, morning, the women at the White Hart were even more flustered, giving me bacon instead of tatty scones, but never mind. At check out, one of them told me the hotel was up for sale and the owners didn't want to lose his licence hence the bar downstairs being dark. I caught the 9.40 bus to Port Askaig and met two old girls who'd been on the bus the day before. I had an hour and a half to kill so jumped on the ferry to Jura (£1.30 return) with the women and back on my own, then a cup of tea and wifi in the Port Askaig Hotel.

Jura ferry

The big ferry was MV Hebridean Isles and the four-hour cruise took us past many islands, with a stop at Colonsay, most were uninhabited - in fact we didn't see any houses until almost at Oban. I had minestrone soup and more Islay beer. The weather was glorious until we arrived at Oban, where it threw it dowm. Luckily there was a Wetherspoons nearby...

Arriving in Oban

More photos on Flickr.

Part 2 Oban >
< Edinburgh 2016


Edinburgh 2016

Edinburgh freebies

Again, not much more than an itinerary:

Friday 12 August 2016
Travel up by train. Because Southern is so unreliable, get taxi to the station. Virgin East Coast delayed due to person on line at Newark, so had a half at the Parcel Office. Arrive Haymarket an hour and a half late, pint with Sam at Lock25 and go and inspect new BBC venue at George Heriot School. Raining.

Saturday 13 August 2016
£4 bus day ticket to Stand 3 for
12:00 Daniel Kitson presents an insufficient number of undeveloped ideas over ninety testing minutes, basically him talking to biologists on the front row, very funny though, and he's so quick witted.

Dazzle Ship at Leith

Bus to Serrano Manchego on Leith Walk for tapas, then to Leith docks for the Dazzle Ship. Bus back to Pleasance, thence to Mandarin House/Star Sea for chinese food and Blue Blazer for drinks then back to Stand 3 (same seats) for
22:05 David Kay, the self-effacing Scottish stand up. 

Sunday 14 August 2016
Taxi to Pleasance for 
13.45 Teatro Delusio by Familie Flöz - puppets and mine in masks, backstage at the opera.
Walk to Summerhall for

Meet Fred at Summerhall

15.55 Meet Fred by Hijinx Theatre - another puppet becomes self-aware helped by learning disabled actor Martin Vick.

Hole in the Meadows I fell down

Pint of porter and a quick look round the art before walking through the Meadows looking for Pokemon, where I put my right leg down a dangerous hole!

Surrealism at the modern art museum

Monday 15 August 2016
Art day. After a quick look round Daubigny Monet Van Gogh at the Mound with Mad, 14.30 art bus to Modern Art for Surreal Encounters: Collecting the marvellous to re-acquaint myself with all the paintings from the  Edward James collection that used to be in Brighton, now in Rotterdam. Back to Summerhall for more art and with a comp from Max, saw 
17.40 Molhados & Secos - Wet and Dry at Zoo - Argentinian physical theatre

Walked to Pleasance where I bumped into Jo Neary and Pad and saw
20.00 Pete Firman Trix at Pleasance Beyond - magic, with Sam dragged on stage!

Tuesday 16 August 2016
Brisk walk to Traverse for
13:15 Mark Thomas : The Red Shed - socialist comedy where we got to sing The Red Flag, Wakefield style.

Sunny walk to Book Festival, then bus to Dovecote and Talbot Rice galleries, then walk to George Square Gardens where we met Millie flyering, and home after a pint or two and a bowl of chips - spotted Paul Zenon and Alisdair Darling.

Best of Fest

Wednesday 17 August
Walk to George Square Gardens for 
12.30 'Best' of the Fest in Spiegeltent Palais de Variete - with drunken woman (Holly Burn), conjurer Chris Dugdale, Regency comedian Penny Ashton and Hoola Hoops by Flip FabriQue from Attrape Moi, all compered by Lloyd Griffith, who does impressive impressions of diy tape.

To Tanjore for Indian 'pizza' (uthappam) then back to Summerhall for
17.15 Adler & Gibb a play by Tim Crouch about a student doing a dissertation about a woman making a film about a reclusive American artist and her partner and an art dog (played by a child). Powerful stuff, as you'd expect. Then half an hour later it was back into the same room for
19.15 Robert Newman: The Brain Show - with Rob disagreeing with the experts and playing his banjolele

Then it was a final pint and a Mac and Cheese toastie and home. This year I didn't get to see Simon Munnery, nor the Fruitmarket, nor did I walk down the Royal Mile!

Mac and cheese toastie at Summerhall

Thursday 18 August 2016: Off to the western isles...


Mumbles and South Wales

Explore South Wales Pass
Explore South Wales Pass
When Jackie and Rob, Pam and Steve said they'd rented a cottage in June on the edge of the Gower, I jumped at the chance to mop up a couple of heritage railways and art galleries. All did not go to plan, however, and I'm not talking about the weather! At Swansea station, I bought an Explore South Wales Pass, which would give me four days of rail travel and eight days of buses, though many of the bus drivers I encountered had never seen one before and were wary! It cost £45.55 with my senior railcard. I subsequently found out that with my English bus pass, I could have got a day saver on the buses for £3. The Welsh, by the way, get their bus passes at age 60.

Vintage Gatwick Express at Barry Island!
Gatwick Express at Barry Island
We travelled down on Saturday, changing at Bristol Parkway and getting a taxi from Swansea station,  and Sunday 12 June was the only day the Barry Island Tourist Railway would be open. Sunday was also a day of few buses, so getting to Swansea bus station, then the not-nearby railway station was a trial. Anyway I got to Barry Island to find that the train running was a vintage Gatwick Express, operating as a Park and Ride shuttle - it was also the day of Barry Festival of Transport, with the Red Arrows (who didn't turn up due to weather). Anyway it was only £2 and on the way back (driven from the guard's van) I had the train more or less to myself.

View of Mumbles pier from Oystermouth Castle, South Wales
view of Mumbles Pier from Oystermouth Castle
Monday it was a trip round nearby Oystermouth Castle, up and down lots of steps and spiral staircases, and a look at Mumbles Pier (closed), coincidentally meeting up with Rob and Steve, then Jackie at The Pilot of Mumbles for a pint, sheltering from the rain. I caught a bus into town to buy some kippers and cockles from Swansea Market.

Me and Magritte, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Me and Magritte
Tuesday it was a trip to Cardiff for the National Museum of Wales, getting off at Cathays station. Unfortunately seven galleries were closed due to industrial action, including 19th Century British and the Blaschka glass sea creatures. Plenty of good stuff though: lots of Augustus and Gwen John and a big exhibition about the Battle of Mametz Wood. But I did get to meet my Facebook friends Nerea and Jo, who took me for a pint of Brains at the Old Arcade. They live up the Rhondda at Treherbert so suggested I stay over Wednesday then they'd drive me to the Brecon Mountain Railway on Thursday.

Trevethick replica at National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
Replica Trevithick loco
So Wednesday it was into Swansea for the National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum - I knew in advance that the Glynn Vivian art gallery would be closed. First though, there was supposed to be a guided tour of the Brangwyn Hall and Guildhall at 10am. I turned up, but it'd been cancelled due to lack of numbers, so I booked in for Friday. The Waterfront museum is modern, with big things like the replica Trevithick loco on the ground floor, and smaller pieces upstairs, including a first world war postcard exhibition. I had a coffee in the cafe first, then braved the various school parties visiting. It was raining stair rods outside!

Sign in Tram shed, Swansea Museum
Swansea Tram Shed
When it stopped, I popped in to the Tram Shed annexe of the Swansea Museum to see the trams, then on to the main building, which again had a big WW1 exhibition. Two galleries upstairs were closed, leaving only Egyptology and the Swansea Mummy. I was told that on Wednesdays, the Swansea Museum’s store, housed in the former Hafod / Morfa Copper Works in Landore is open to the public,  but I didn't have time to find it.
Replacement diesel at Brecon Mountain Railway
Diesel replacement at the Brecon Mountain Railway
So it was on the train up the Rhondda valley, a chippy tea and some tv at Nerea and Jo's. On Thursday we drove over the mountain, past old mines and wind turbines to find that the German steam loco at the Brecon Mountain Railway had broken and there was a diesel replacement. Ah well, it was a fabulous journey anyway, but it would have been nice to hear a steamer working hard up those inclines. We saw the other US locos in the shed (through windows) and the viewing gallery over the workshop, plus another two in the Steam Museum at the cafe stop. Then it was a lift to Merthyr Tydfil (home of Trevithick) and the train back to Swansea.
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea Guildhall
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Friday was the guided tour of the 1934 Guildhall, with its viking theme, and especially the Brangwyn Hall and murals. Frank Brangwyn was commissioned to decorate the House of Lords with panels depicting the British Empire, but they were considered a bit too colourful and lively and were rejected. After a showing at the Ideal Home exhibition, they were snapped up by Swansea, and the half-built Hall was altered to accommodate them. They are magnificent, with lots of topless women, all painted in Ditchling using local models! Then, after welsh cakes and tea, it was a bus ride to lots of places beginning Ll... in the Gower, a Coffee Crunch cone at Joe's Ice Cream Parlour and a pint of Plum Porter at the Mumbles Ale House, thence home without incident on the Saturday.

More photos on Flickr.