Isle of Wight

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
For my second coach adventure (I have yet to use my national bus pass!) I travelled to the Isle of Wight (never been there before) on Sunday with Worthing Coaches. I really really hate getting up early, but managed to cycle down to town for the 7.40am start and felt pretty rough as it trundled west, picking up passengers from towns mentioned in Lemon Jelly's 'Ramblin' Man' - Rustington, Southwick, Goring, Ferring, Angmering (well, not really, only Angmering is mentioned in the song and we didn't stop there). After passing Arundel and Chichester we arrived at the Southsea ferry terminal for the 10am cruise. I avoided the tea queue and sat on deck drinking miso soup from my flask and watching strange round forts float by in the misty distance. It's only a short half-hour hop (even quicker by hovercraft) and you can see the other side as soon as you take off! We docked at Fishbourne and were quickly on the road to Ryde and along the southern edge of the island, which was much hillier than I'd imagined. We stopped for lunch at steep Shanklin (never did discover where the beach was!), so I bought postcards of the Six or Seven Wonders (depending on which postcard) of the Isle of Wight (Needles you cannot thread, etc), and waited for The Crab to open at 12. Grabbed a pint of Goddard's and ordered a crab sandwich, which was huge. It was warm enough to sit outside, but generally the weather was a bit overcast and damp. Then we were off west down narrow lanes to see the real thing. The view of The Needles from Alum Bay is not great - to get a good view you really need to take a boat trip. Then it was back west, stopping at Godshill for tea. It's one of those villages invented for coach trips, with a huge car park and nearly every building a tea shop. I was attracted by the offer in The Hollies of a toasted tea cake and cup of tea for two quid. I followed this with a two quid ice cream (rum 'n' raisin) made by the Minghella family. I didn't pay to go in the toy museum, nor the model village, but did buy two scuptural looking succulents for 70p each. Then it was back to Fishbourne for the ferry. The weather was getting rough and I snapped a rainbow over Ryde pier before a squall came whipping in, so watched the water sloshing round the decks from inside with a can of McEwens (no draught beer). We followed a big Brittany ferry into Portsmouth, where we got a glimpse of the Spinnaker Tower and HMS Warrior, then home to catch the last episode of Foyle's War. Thanks Dave! I gave him a two quid tip. I'm not sure about these things, but seem to remember that you always tip the coach driver!


Rails Peaks and Fells

Originally uploaded by fred pipes
When you become a pensioner it's compulsory to go on coach tours. An ad from Newmarket in the Argus caught my eye - Rails Peaks and Fells - I love railways (ironic isn't it) and some of the heritage ones are a bit difficult to access by public transport, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was also incredibly cheap (£150 for two nights in a hotel, all the tickets and three-days travel). Friday was tedious - I had to get myself down to the pier by 7.25, and I was the only one from Brighton. Then it was hours of pick-ups, from Burgess Hill and Crawley to Staines and Hemel Hempstead, then being stuck in traffic jams on the M6, lots of visits to motorway services, and finally our hotel - the Britannia in Bolton! The food was surprisingly tasty and it was happy hour in the bar (£1.50 for a pint of John Smiths) both nights until 9pm - the TV was crap tho (no Freeview), so it was Torchwood and an early night.

Saturday was tons better. We set off at 9am through north Lancs to Settle, with some lovely scenery on the way. Weather was bright and we had a good ride on the Settle to Carlisle route on the regular diesel, with our guide Eric. Shame we couldn't have seen the route by helicopter - caught only the briefest glimpse of Ribblehead Viaduct. In Carlisle had lunch in the cathedral tearoom with Tessa the unaccompanied lady (we three waifs and strays - me , Andrew and Tessa - sat together at meals) and a browse round the charity shops (bought a book on the 1938 Empire exhibition at Oxfam) then it was back on the coach to the Lakes. The Kirkstone Pass and views of Ullswater were breathtaking - you need a coach to see that! Windermere and Bowness were basically a tea break (but I did buy a flat cap for £3.99 plus 10% discount!), then it was back to Bolton, where I managed to escape for an hour of two after dinner to see my family in Bury. We'd seen boxing bunnies, magpies, baby ba-lambs, pheasants, lots of plastic bags in trees, a grouse (well, it looked like the bird on the whisky bottle), snow, daffs, primroses, waterfalls and lots of steep hills.

Sunday we went straight down to the potteries to take in the factory shops at Spode and Wedgwood. We should have done them Friday, but cos of motorway delays it was today. I actually bought something (a bowl and mug - some china made in China)! Then after a brief stop in Telford services where the sandwiches were too dear to contemplate, it was off to the two-level town of Bridgenorth and the Severn Valley Railway. After a bowl of chips in the cafe and a wander round taking snaps of locos (45110, 48773 and 7802 Bradley Manor were in the yard), I grabbed a pint of Dark Raven and jumped on the 2.30 to Kidderminster. We were pulled by 88 (53808), a 2-8-0 from Minehead in the colours of the Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway. I had my head out of the window right by the front of this magnificent loco (it was going backwards) and it made a gorgeous sound (got told off for making a draught!). Coming into the station as we were leaving was 7812 Erlestoke Manor, and on the way we saw GWR pannier tank 7714, mickey 42968, and Prairie 4566, which was taking the train back to Bridgend. Six locos were in steam that day! Full list of locos on Wikipedia. Then it was off home, with a pint of Abbot ale in Crawley (I was told to remove my wooly hat in the pub!) while driver Don got his 30 minute EU regulation break. He kindly dropped me off at the bottom of Ditchling Rise, so it was home for Casualty 1907.

The verdict: despite the tedium of Friday, it was a very pleasant experience overall. Coach travel is very comfortable and you're taken everywhere door to door. We had a helpful Janet the Tour Manager and the hotel, whilst being remote (by the motorway for businessmen), was comfortable and the food surprisingly good, with meat, fish and veggie both nights. Evenings could have been a problem - must get the laptop sorted. We could have had longer on the railways, but it was a great taster, and we saw lots you probably wouldn't see as an independent traveller.


Peter Saville

Popped along to The Space at the Jooglebury last night to see Peter Saville interviewed. First we were treated to the very jolly Spaniard Vicente Todoli, Director of Tate Modern, who didn't believe in visions (he was brought up a Franco Catholic) nor favourites and only got the job because art was his third love (after books and film). Live music was from a rather dull The Scarlet Street Resistance. Saville, no relation to Jimmy, was inevitably asked about Ian Curtis and Tony Wilson and some factions of the audience were rather sniffy about his work for Wham! He said when he went to the studios to get the credit info for 'Wake me up before you Go-Go' (cheers from audience) from George Michael, he thought it'd take ages. 'The overweight 20-year-old' said: it's simple, just put: Written, arranged and produced by George Michael. And he meant it! Saville said he was glad of the work cos he was banned by most record companies - he was always late, he was expensive and the stuff was difficult to produce. Melita asked about the golden age of vinyl covers and Saville pointed out that album covers completely comprised youth culture in those days - there were no magazines, websites, whatever there are nowadays. But album covers don't pay the rent and he moved into more corporate work. He said he was notorious for spending his fees three times, something that resonated with the freelancers in the audience: when he first got a job, he'd spend the money; when he invoiced the job, he'd spend it again; and when he finally got the cheque, he'd spend it all again! I took along my copy of Unknown Pleasures for him to sign (I won nothing in the raffle!)- he said it was too valuable to sign!! I said no, no, no! and he very carefully signed it under the credits on the inner sleeve. My hero! Dan Thompson has been chasing me about not updating my blog enough. He's opened a record shop in Worthing called Revolutionary Records (was Random Rules). I popped over there on Saturday to be delighted by free badges and live acoustic sets by Ben Salter and some of the Bamboo Band, including James Fryer on a Venezuelan cuatro. Treated myself to some veggie pies from Worthing's fabulous Waitrose on the way home. Off Up North on a coach trip this weekend, now that Time Team has finished for another season! RIMG0002.JPG Dan and Ben Salter And I forgot to mention that I went on a coach trip to Aldermaston (atom bomb factory) on Easter Monday, to 'Ban the Bomb'. Much amusement was caused by the sign that prohibited photography - and sketching! The police were serious too, even tho all that could be seen through the fence were nondescript buildings! Lots of stirring speeches and a grand day out. RIMG0002.JPG