More trains

After the excesses of yesterday, spent most of Boxing day reading, finishing off Platform Souls by Nicholas Whittaker. This was an impulse buy at the Ian Allan shop by Manchester Piccadilly station on 1 November 1996 (just after the paperback had come out - I still have the till receipt) and has been lying around, like loads of other books I still mean to read, unread until a day or two ago, when I went searching for it spurred on by finishing Parallel Lines. It was a compelling read, much more focussed than Ian Marchant's book (tho Marchant admits to having less interest in locos than the permanent way itself). Whittaker came to trainspotting in the mid-1960s just as steam was being replaced by diesels, and as the diesels were replaced by electrics ten years later. He was based in Burton, LMS but also well placed for excursions into Great Western and LNER territory. The regional differences in loco nicknames was fascinating: what he calls Blackies (Black Fives), we called Mickies (mixed traffic 4-6-0 Class 5MT) - and isn't that a mickey (44871) that Jinx is standing by on p84, not an 8-freight? - we said Jubs for Jubilees, Brits for Britannias, and I think what he called Ozzies (Austerity) we called Dubdees (WDs). He doesn't mention Pats or Duchesses (or Princesses) but maybe they were on the way out by then. Jinties, 92-ers and Crabs (named after the way they moved) were the same, but what on earth an Egg Timer or Duck Six was, I've no idea! I was trainspotting in the late-50s early-60s and do remember the thrill of seeing the prototype Deltic (in blue livery with white chevrons, just like an American diesel) on the East Coast line at Doncaster, and travelling to Sheffield through the Woodhead tunnel to cop (and I suppose 'bash') the 1.5kV DC electric class EM2 locos 27000 to 27006, all namers (how I wish I still had the photos I took with my Boots 35mm camera - and all my ABC Combines!). Neverthless, I never did see anything special in diesels or electrics! My favourite trips were to Crewe (usually on a platform ticket from Manchester) with Roy Henshall to see the Duchesses, Princesses and Scots, or to Doncaster to cop Streaks and all those exotic A1s, A2s and A3s, plus lowlier V2 namers, each with strange cropped windshields. But what was I doing at the end of steam in 1968? Presumably I'd lost interest by then, an interest only rekindled by nostagia. Like Whittaker, I'm ambivalent about heritage railways (too clean) and don't feel I fit in with the regular spotters. I'd love to go on a railway holiday to Poland or New Zealand, but fear I wouldn't have anything much to say to my fellow passengers!


Xmas swimmers

Xmas swimmers, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Mid-day swimmers by the West Pier, Brighton, on Xmas day, a surprisingly mild day.


Corner parking

Corner parking, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Corner parking vigilantes strike back on the corner of Ditchling Rise and Gerard Street. Corner parking, usually at 45 degrees, is a new phenomenon around here!

Burning The Clocks: from the Argus

Thousands join Burning The Clocks procession: the Argus's take on the event.


Burning the clocks

Burning the clocks, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Burning the Clocks is the ancient ceremony invented by Same Sky 11 years ago to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Kiddies (and artists) with lanterns parade round the cold streets of Brighton only to burn their creations on a beach bonfire along Madeira Drive. Spectators were genuinely needy for a meaning to all this and were speculating all kinds of things, mainly that it was a traditional pagan rite, but did they in fact have clocks before the year zero? I think not. More photos on Flickr.


Bexhill sunset

Bexhill sunset, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Went on a small train journey to Bexhill on Sea to see the De La Warr Pavilion for the first time since its restoration (it was originally commissioned by the 9th Earl De La Warr in 1935 and designed by architects Eric Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff). Full of video art and with a tasteful retail experience I wonder what the folks of Bexhill think of it - some disaffected youths were cycling and skateboarding amongst the no cycling and no skateboarding signs outside. Saw this amazing sunset over Beachy Head - a warning to any potential suicides?


Embassy Court

Embassy Court, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Nice to see Embassy Court has a brand new entrance and sign (more in keeping than the poor typography used on the renovated Saltdean Lido) - the foyer looks a little bare, no sign of the E McKnight Kauffer mural once there.... See my previous blog entry.


George Best RIP

George Best RIP, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

It's a week or two since George Best died, but this graff has appeared on the wall of The Prince Albert, next to Banksy's kissing policemen.


Field of dreams

Field of dreams, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The Field of Dreams - site for the new Brighton and Hove Albion stadium. I'm pretty sure this is the site - between the University of Brighton and the southern half of Falmer village (the bit with the pond), bounded by two roads. Seagulls!



Just finished reading Parallel lines by Ian Marchant, which I really enjoyed. It was recommended on Dave Shelton's blog, so someone must read them! It's about trains (hurrah!), but it also has a Brighton connection, a Lancashire connection, diatribes about drugs, access fathers and hippy yurts (two reasons why he doesn't do sweat lodges: one, he didn't want to look at hippies' penises, and two he didn't wany foxy hippy chicks looking at his!) and a cover by Jonny Hannah, who is currently exhibiting in Judy Stevens' Open House at 6 Clifton Street. I'm not a great book reader, doing most of my reading on trains, strangely enough! I recently wimped out of a girly book group cos I couldn't manage a book a month. The last proper book I read all the way through was the autobiography of Wreckless Eric, another local lad. This library book took ages to read, despite being so entertaining - it's one of those post-modern books, in which the author talks about himself a lot, and I do wish he'd cut down on the smoking. Nevertheless, it makes me want to go on some great small train journeys of my own (rail bashing). I have happy memories of trainspotting at Crewe and Doncaster in the 1950s (with the odd excursion to Chester to cop some Westerns), but do find the heritage railways like the Bluebell up the road and the East Lancs in my home town of Bury a bit too clean. And how did he miss the gorgeous Bayer-Garratt at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry? I'm no great fan of narrow gauge railways either, but I did visit the Talyllyn and Ffestiniog railways when I were a lad at Butlin's Pwllheli . There was a miniature railway there too (and the real full-size Princess Elizabeth, as a static display to climb all over!), and the book brought back fond memories of little tiny train journeys round a corner of Stoke Park, Guildford and around Blackpool Pleasure Beach (where there's another Princess Elizabeth I seem to remember) and my Tri-ang 00 (or is that OO) train set (yes, I had Princess Elizabeth too). Happy days.



Snowman, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

So here it is, Merry Chrismas, everybody's having fun! Giant inflatable snowman outside Tastables, London Road, Brighton.


Remains of pier on the brink

Remains of pier on the brink: "A crashing wave left the last surviving building on the battered and burnt West Pier on the verge of collapse." It's gone now - I caught a glimpse of it Friday night in a precarious position. Time to call it a day on 'restoration'? Best to leave it as a picturesque ruin for the starlings and as a reef underwater.

Starlings on the West Pier

Starlings on the West Pier, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The little white kiosk may have slipped into the sea during this weekend's wind, but the starlings still swarm and make fantastic amorphous shapes at sunset, a sight Bill Oddy said was one of the free wonders of the world. Leave the West Pier for them, and as a reef for the creatures beneath the waves.


Brian Grimwood

Brian Grimwood, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Britain's greatest living illustrator Brian Grimwood is currently showing his prints and paintings, including homages to Alfred Wallis and Picasso at The Dragonfly House, 48 Ditchling Road, Brighton, as part of the Xmas Open Houses this weekend (3 and 4 December) and next (10 and 11 December) 11am until 6pm. Betty Bib and Yours Truly will also be on show. Come and say hello. More photos as ever on Flickr.