Silver screen

What a dark miserable drizzly day! Well, it's Tuesday so that means Silver Screen day at the grand old Duke of York's. It's half-price for pensioners, plus you get a free cuppa tea and a biscuit (my first time so I wasn't sure how many biscuits one is allowed!). Was it packed out then? No! The film was Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited. A film about a train (sadly not steam), three estranged brothers and huge set of posh luggage (designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, with 'suitcase wildlife drawings' by Wes's brother Eric)! I loved it – just the right mixture of comedy and pathos. A feast for the eyes, and a great soundtrack too. It also comes with its own sexy built-in short Hotel Chevalier. A great way to spend a rainy afternoon. The only problem with film, however, is that you can't rewind the bits you miss, like you can on my Topfield.


Frank Sidebottom

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I can't remember the last time I saw Frank Sidebottom, but it was over 20 years ago. I don't think his act has changed much, but that's why we like him so much. Being allowed to sing Beatles tracks and Manchester classics like 'There is a light that never goes out' or 'Love will tear us apart' club style, to a jaunty John Shuttleworth keyboard accompaniment, with proper improved (Frank) endings, is a pure joy. And I've never been so close to the great man, and Little Frank, in the sweaty packed-out upstairs Prince Albert (where they are at last doing Harvey's on tap downstairs). Frank must have been boiling in his big head, especially when he kept adding clothes! Check out the Wikipedia page for more titbits on the Timperley troubadour. Support act was the banjotastic hillbilly band Leonard and Bubba’s Delicious Goo-Goo Cluster, starring the Albert's resident sound man on drums.

Meanwhile, the big debate over Led Zeppelin's first UK gig rages on. Leaving aside whether they were Led Zep by then or still the New Yardbirds, the date in question is 15 October 1968 (or 25 October on the Led Zep website). Now, I'm pretty sure I was there, but... by October I would have left Surrey Uni, and I was at the Battersea campus in any case! Was it at Battersea or Guildford? The internet seems to think Guildford, a fair assumption as that's where Surrey Uni is now, but the Great Hall there wasn't built until 1969, and only smallish Boogle gigs (organised by Adrian Boot) were held in the basement of the Chem Eng block! BTW I was just emailed by Peter Panayi, bass player in Helix. Rumours of a Helix reunion are bound to start. Save up for a ticket now!


No win for Clarion :(

A big thank you to all who voted for my Clarion website in the SCIP Brighton Web Awards, but it wasn't to be. Worse news is that neither Myf Nixon's fantastic Draw Anyway website or David O'Connor's Cavalaire Hotel website won anything either!! Deserving winner in my category was Amaze. No free T-hirt, no free drinks, but we did get a goodie bag from the Argus containing... a copy of the Argus, a couple of lectures on user experience and accessibility, and splendid entertainment by the The Ukes of Hazzard.


Vintage bus day at the Bluebell

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

On Sunday it was vintage bus day on the Bluebell Railway, so I stuck my hand out at St Peter's and got a free ride into the past. I was just in time to see the 'Golden Arrow' of Pullman dining cars pulled by SR U-class 2-6-0 1638 (no name) setting off. My regular train to Kingscote, pulled by O1 Class No 65 was a bit late setting off, but I was treated to the sight of dozens of pheasants, bunnies and two deer along the way. At Horsted Keynes, I copped West Country class pacific 34028 Eddystone going the other way. In the yard at Sheffield Park were SECR Wainwright C-class goods loco No 592, West Country class 34007 Wadebridge, 21C123 Blackmoor Vale and BR Standard 73082 Camelot along with all the other regulars. Bumped into Nick Sayers and family getting off the train! I just missed the 16.05 bus back to Brighton and had half an hour wait, so supped a pint of Bluebell and was driven back in the same not-so-vintage bus through the dark back to Brighton.


Vote for moi!

You have until Wednesday 14 November to vote for my Clarion website in the SCIP Brighton Web Awards. If you're stuck for who else to vote for, Myf Nixon's Draw Anyway website (which deserves Best in show, in my opinion) and David O'Connor's Cavalaire Hotel website are both worthy contenders, done by friends of mine. It was way back in 2002 that I won a T-shirt in the same awards for my Weird Cycle Lanes website!!


Up North part 2: Derby

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

The plan was to visit Derby to research my ancestors. My great-great-grandfather Samuel had owned a saw mill there, but after he died my great-grandfather George moved to Liverpool, via Salford, thence to Bury. On Sunday I visited my niece in Little Lever ('C'mon baby, do the Locomotion'), who coincidentally would be spending the next few days in Battle, down here! I got a lift to Bury and spent some time on the station watching the steam trains and drinking beer. Monday morning, it was a bus and a tram and then a train to Broadbottom (past a station called Flowery Field!) where Lois's son Joe was doing gymnastics. Then a fantastic drive through Glossop, along the Snake Pass, to Castleton, there to ascend Peveril Castle. Tea and parkin, then back to New Mills.

On Tuesday I got the scenic TransPeak bus across the Peak District. Couldn't get on at The Swan cos of road works so Lois dashed to Furness Vale (Soldier Dick) and I jumped on. The driver however had printed the Wayfarer ticket before I could utter 'concession' so I paid full price of £8.30, still a bargain. The bus/coach went through Buxton, Bakewell and Matlock, with autumnal scenery all around. At Derby I trundled off to find the B&B. I was bursting for the loo, so popped into the Soul Deli for a coffee. The owner asked me if I was an artist and gave me loads of info on where to go. After checking in at the Chambers House, opposite a gothic ex-art school (For Sale), I walked up Macklin Street, where George had lived (oddly there was a Gerard Street just around the corner), then caught a bus to Uttoxeter New Road to check out Sycamore Villa. But where it should have been (no 131) was no 155! What was going on? Towards Derby, past the old cemetery, the houses were 101, 103 etc. Where had the house gone? I bussed back to Derby and to the Local Studies Library to try find out. I looked at newspapers on microfilm, directories and maps and deduced the road had been renumbered! Why didn't I take a photo when I could have? I'd have to go back tomorrow. I popped into the Silk Mill industrial museum briefly thence to Ye Olde Dolphin Inn for a pint of Spooky, a veg moussaka, and a pint of Aleoween. Phoned Paul (friend of Avy) back at the B&B and he suggested a pint at... the Dolphin. So another Spooky then a walk to the Flowerpot and a pint of something or other. I'd asked Phil Dobson to recommend some pubs in Derby and I'd done two of them already.

Wednesday, I had my unimaginative veggie brekky (beans, tinned tomatoes, egg and hash browns) then set off for the art gallery to check out the Joseph Wrights. Then back to the Local Studies Library to finish off a few checks. I'd discovered that Sam's steam saw mill was between City and Mansfield Roads. No loo at the library so I popped into the Cathedral coffee shop for a coffee and soup, then across to the cathedral proper for a quick look. Over the bridge was where the saw mill should have been, but it was a housing estate. Back over the bridge to North Parade where Sam had just bought a house before he'd died in St Alkmund's churchyard (demolished in the 1960s to build the ring road). I didn't know the number but took a snap of those fine Georgian buildings anyway. Final task was to locate Whitecross Street - I traipsed for miles to find it was now a modern housing estate. I should have checked these out on Google Earth first! Bus back to Derby, then bus back to Sycamore Villa to take a snap, then to M&S in the massive brand new Westfield mall. Supper at Paul and Jane's (who live near the bus stop I ended up at when tracing Whitecross Street), taxi home.

Thursday, checked out at 10am, walked to station via Westfield again. The whole south of Derby seems to be new, so there was no point checking out Siddals and Copeland Streets. At the station, discovered that there was an ASLEF strike so no 12.04 to London (I had hours to wait anyway) so popped along to the Brunswick Inn (another Phil recommendation, and the best) the other side of some lovely railway cottages - a pub and a brewery! I had a lovely pint of Father Mike's 5.8% at £2.60 and a bowl of soup. This and the cottages were to be demolished but were thankfully saved. Full train back to the new hi-tech St Pancras ( a student next to me very kindly let me watch a Bruce Willis film 'Hostage' on his iPod), and another full Thameslink home.

Up North part 1: Bury

Originally uploaded by fred pipes.

I nearly didn't get to the autumn steam gala at the East Lancs Railway in Bury. The train from London Road was 8 minutes late, which meant I missed the fast train to Victoria and got to Euston with only 2 minutes to spare. Luckily the ticket man took pity on me and only charged me an extra fiver for the next train. The ticket to Manchester only cost £8.25. Compare that with four quid for the tube ride across London (must charge up that Oyster!) and £3.20 for the tram ride to Bury! On Saturday I got the bus into Bury, went on the market to buy some V-Pud vegetarian black puddings from Chadwick's, some black peas, and a hot butter pie from Stone's in Hornby Buildings, The Rock, which is due to be demolished soon, along with the Odeon next door, to make way for a new Debenhams and yuppy flats. The old slice of Bury opposite the Odeon (including Thompson's chippy) has already been flattened so there will be little left of the town soon! So, down to the trains, passing a couple of vintage buses (a red Rawtenstall and a green Salford) outside Bolton Street Station. LMS 5690 Leander was pulling freight, so I hopped on the train to Heywood pulled by the gorgeous LNER V2 4771 Green Arrow in apple green livery. Back at Bury the loco was changed to BR standard class 4 2-6-0 76079 which took us to Rawtenstall and back, via Ramsbottom. I had a nice bottle of Moorehouse's Black Cat on the train. Also running was a GWR double header of 2-8-0 3802 and 4936 Kinlet Hall. I also spotted an LMS tank pottering about, which I assume was Jinty 47324. There's a complete list of locos at the ELR here. So to the Trackside bar (which always has a fine selection of real ales) for a pint of Knocker Up and to watch the engines shunt in the twilight. Then it was back to my sister's for black peas, parkin and a firework display.