Up North again

Doing the NaNoWriMo in November made me a bit behind with my blog, but I did it! 50,000 words in less than 30 days! What I discovered about fiction, as opposed to non-fiction is that you can make things up! According to Julia Crouch I'll have to wait until January before I look at it again.

Just before November I made another trip to Bury for my Brother-in-Law's 60th birthday celebrations, and to take in the East Lancs Railway Autumn Steam Gala. I travelled up on the Saturday, so only had Sunday to enjoy the trains. The big disappointment was that 71000 Duke of Gloucester was stuck somewhere and wouldn't be on (but he'd be back the following weekend, hoorah!).

Yates Duxbury tank

The ELR seems to be running out of locos so it was a pretty humdrum selection, the star of which was 49395 - the so-called Super-D. The only other big loco on was a Mickey, 45231 The Sherwood Forester. The rest were industrial tanks: Peckett and Sons 1370 May in Yates Duxbury paper mill livery, Manchester Ship Canal 32 Gothenburg in the guise of Thomas the Tank Engine, and WD132 Sapper.

Ford Maddox Brown

On the Tuesday I took the tram to Manchester to see the Ford Madox Brown exhibition at the Manchester (City) Art Gallery. As you may know I'm a big fan of the Pre-Raphs and as Brown was a honorary member, and Rossetti's teacher, it was a must. Although I've seen all his major works before : Work, Manfred on the Jungfrau, and The last of England - there were lots of studies and sketches to see, including the drawings for his Manchester Town Hall murals. His faces always worry me though, they look so sinister some of them. If the later ones look a bit unfinished its because he suffered a stroke and had to finish them using his left hand!

On Wednesday my niece took me out to Bolton, where we stopped by at Fred Dibnah's house, now a heritage centre - there are tours but you have to book in advance. After fish and chips at Russells we looked at the magnificent Victorian market hall, now a shopping mall, and other architectural gems.

Bleak Cumbrian coast

On Thursday I chose the day with the worst weather to take the Cumbrian Round Robin rail journey: train from Bolton to Carlisle, then back down the coast through Workington, Whitehaven, Sellafield, Barrow-in-Furness and Carnforth. Unfortunately the train north I was on caught fire (engine under central carriage) near Shap summit and I missed my connection, so it was dark as I reached Morecambe Bay. If I did it again, I'd only go up as far as Barrow, or maybe Sellafield if you like weird places. Whitehaven looked reasonably nice; but Workington was a wasteland. Ulverston, between Barrow and Carnforth, had a very impressive station with clock tower.

Duke of Gloucester

Friday was spent on Bury market buying Northern food, including black peas and black puddings. Saturday I took my Bruv-in-law on the steam trains while my sister's gaff was being decked out ready for the party. We drove to Ramsbottom and did a round trip, pulled by 45231 The Sherwood Forester. At Heywood we observed a party of VIPs, including the Mayor of Rochdale, inspect the train. On Sunday, the Duke was back in action, so I spent the day in a comfy carriage behind that most magnificent loco.


NaNoWriMo and my Hon Degree

In case you've been wondering where I've been, I've had my head down writing a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo and you'll be glad to know that I'm just over half-way through. It's all Julia Crouch's fault - she did it three years ago and the result was her published novel Cuckoo, with another two on the way. I'm not sure there's a publishable novel in me, but it seemed like a good idea at the time, and easier than growing a moustache.

After my trip Up North, the second this year, which I have yet to blog, I travelled up to Guildford, along with thousands of others, to receive an honorary degree. No it wasn't for my outstanding contribution to social media, it was a B Univ given to all and sundry who spent time at Battersea, before the college became an University and moved to Guildford. It would have made more sense if they'd given it to those who just got an external London degree, but I did get a Surrey degree, and now I have two!

I met Chris Chelu (who took the photo), Tina, Groovy Rob Thomasson, and Wal - who missed the boat on a ticket for the ceremony so came as my guest - long with Maurice Valoir, Chris Taper, Phil Garel-Jones, Pete Baylis - and Sir David Varney! Plus many others. I shook hands with HRH the Duke of Kent and we had a slap-up reception with canapes and wine after.