Vintage bus day at the Bluebell

Getting to the Bluebell Railway by public transport is problematic, so I look forward to the vintage bus days, when I can get a free ride from St Peter's church right to Sheffield Park. This time I was joined by Peter Chrisp, Lisa Wolfe and Susan Sainsbury. So, we waited at St Peter's and along came a cream and green Southdown single decker.

Southdown bus

I wasn't holding out much hope for interesting locos - the roster said it would be guest Black 5 No. 45231 The Sherwood Forester plus the South Eastern & Chatham Railway No. 263 and SECR Wainwright goods No. 592, but arriving at Sheffield Park, we were delighted to see that the mighty 9F 92212 from the Watercress Line was in steam. I took a photo of Peter with 263, which was hauling the Golden Arrow dining train, and he waxed lyrically about poppet valves and compound locos, inspired by Flann O'Brien.

  263 pulls the diners

So, after a pint of Harvey's in the buffet and a look round the sheds, we crossed the footbridge and boarded the train to East Grinstead. The rolling stock on the Bluebell is always perfectly matched with lovely upholstery. The trip there and back was very pleasant, tho we saw little wildlife apart from pheasants, and we caught a glimpse of the Black 5 (which are common as muck Up North) at Horsted Keynes. Back at Sheffield Park we waited in the bus park until a rather boring and bumpy green single decker started up to take us back to Brighton - to await the great storm.

  The mighty 9F

The boring green bus that took us home can be seen the other side of the fence in this photo of a rather splendid Eastbourne bus:

Eastbourne bus

Previous trips to the Bluebell:

Duchess of Sutherland at the ELR

It was October and time to travel Up North for the East Lancs Railway's autumn steam gala on 19 and 20 October (and see the relatives, of course!). The Manchester train was diverted via Crewe, so I managed a glimpse of the Duke of Gloucester on the way up, plus a couple of black locos in the sidings. The draw this year at the ELR was a visit by 46233 Duchess of Sutherland, a never streamlined semi. In fact I don't think I have ever been on a train pulled by a semi, ever!

With a couple of days to kill, I had a wander round Bury and was sad to see that demolition of the Art Deco Odeon had started. I visited Bury art gallery and eavesdropped on a class of  primary kids getting a talk about Bury's coat of arms and industry. Thankfully, the Art Picture House is now a JD Wetherspoons pub, so I admired the interior as I supped a bargain pint. On the Friday I was taken out by my niece to Bolton - for fish and chips ('just enough' portion) at the Olympus, and a visit to Bolton FM. In the evening we went to see Seth Lakeman and others at Bury Drill Hall, a building I'd never hitherto been in.

61994 The Great Marquess

On Saturday, at Bury Bolton Street, I was greeted by a plethora of locos in steam: jinty 47584 and 61994 The Great Marquess were in a double header, and standard tank 80080 was also in the station, both trains heading for Rawtenstall. I caught a flash of green through a carriage window heading of Heywood and in a panic thought it was the Duchess, so I crossed the footbridge and jumped aboard. But at Heywood I discovered it was just a couple of tanks: W^D 132 Sapper and the guest GWR pannier 1501. After studying my timetable, I discovered that the Duchess would be back at Bury, as the next train to Heywood, so I travelled back and - at last - was being hauled by one of the most beautiful locos ever built! This was a bit naughty of me as I'd only bought a round trip, not a Rover, but my ticket hadn't been clipped, and I got away with it. So, I travelled to Rawtenstall and back with the Duchess, double headed with 80080. Finally a pint or two at the Trackside with nephew.

Duchess of Sutherland

On Sunday I was back for more. This time I'd studied the timetable properly, and set off on the 12.05 to Rawtentall with the Super D 49395 pulling and the Duchess at the back as banker. Just one round trip this time, and back at Bury from Heywood I positioned myself in the photographers' pit to catch The Great Marquess double head with the Duchess out of Bury, heading to Burrs where my sister and brother-in-law walk the dog (Issy) and on to Rawtenstall. The photo of them under the bridge was against the light so looked bit arty - plus my phone had changed the setting to 'noir'!!

The Great Marquess and Duchess of Sutherland double header at Bury

On Monday I travelled by bus to Manchester to see the Jeremy Deller exhibition All that is solid melts into air. Is it art? Might be! Basically he's curated an exhibition about the industrial revolution and the disgruntled working class, along with various family trees of Noddy Holder, Brian Ferry and Shaun Ryder. In a film, someone sings a lovely broadside about how wonderful it'll be in 1973. Thence to New Mills to stay over with my old friend from Guildford, Lois. It was raining on Tuesday so I got the scenic train to Sheffield - via Edale and Hope - to visit the Millennium Gallery and its Ruskin collection - unfortunately the Graves gallery where the Victorian collection resides was closed. Back to Bury on the 135 bus and home to sunny Brighton on the Wednesday.

Previous visits to the ELR:
April 2013
August 2012
October 2012
September 2011
October 2010
November 2009
April 2009
October 2008
November 2007
September 2006


Now that's what I call entertainment...


I've just had a weekend of what you might call less popular entertainment, albeit almost certainly popular with Jeremy Deller. On Saturday, I travelled by bus to Lewes, for the Lewes Folk Festival day of dance. On the Thursday I'd been (by train) to the Royal Oak to hear a talk by Shirley Collins on BBC collector Bob Copper, and to have a sing song with the Copper Family from Rotten Dean in the second half. That's what's missing from most entertainment these days - the opportunity to sing along!

I have a lot to thank folk music for: it got me in a pub age 16 (the Albion in Bury, I think it was) - I even stood up and sang a song accompanied by my grandad's mandolin (where is it now?). That exerience got me involved with the folk club at Battersea, and that led to my 15 minutes of fame in Helix. One of the first records I bought was an EP by A L Lloyd singing All for me grog.

Kettle Bridge Clogs

So, on Saturday I was greeted by some clog dancers as soon as I got off the bus outside Waitrose. Despite Bill Tidy's cartoon strip, The Cloggies, clogging seems to be the domain of the women dancers and Saturday promised at least four clogging sides in action. I wandered round the corner to another set of sides, to the John Harvey Tavern, thence to the Dorset at the far end of town where I succumbed to a pint of Harvey's Old, well you have to. Already dancing were the Kettle Bridge Clogs with their almost militaristic marching, with bells on their green clogs.

  Oyster Girls

Then there were the Oyster Girls from the Isle of Wight, and finally the non-clog-wearing locals The Knots of May, whose band included a Serpent! I love the repetitive music, particularly if the squeezebox and fiddle are augmented by a tuba and drums - and we all love the Morris Dancers smashing sticks to bits. On the way back to the bus stop, I caught the tail end of a side dancing in plain black clogs without bells, which seemed a bit more authentically Northern. I was yearning to ask one of them if I could photo their clogs, but afraid of being thought a foot fetishist!

Men banging sticks from Alan Fred Pipes on Vimeo.

In case you don't know what Morris Dancing looks like, here's a video of Brighton Morris banging sticks.

Compton theatre organ

On a rainy Sunday I was off to Portslade Town Hall to hear a mighty Compton theatre organ. At a recent Dome open day (14 September) I'd come across an organ recital by Dave Davies and was captivated. The organ must be the loudest acoustic instrument there is, and what with added bells and drums - invoked via foot pedals (see below) - makes a magnificent sound. At Portslade it was Christian Cartwright on organist duty, who looked a bit like Peter Kay and told christmas cracker jokes at the end of each set. He's assistant organist at the Pipes in the Peaks.

  Christian Cartwright

I must have been the youngest in the small but enthusiastic audience - we even had tea and KitKats at half time. The Portslade organ is a hybrid of several cinema organs with the original non-working Victorian facade of pipes - and what a sound! You have to experience a theatre organ live. He started with a Buddy Holly medley, including the appropriate Raining in my heart, then went on to the obligatory Dam Busters March, songs from the shows, a Beatles selection and a moving You'll never walk alone. The encore was New York, New York.

The theatre organ can also be the pub singer of musical instruments and sometimes it takes a while to unravel the tune from all the notes! It is also one of the few performance in which the performer has his/her back to the audience - a closed circuit Tv however was looking down at the keyboard, to be projected on a big screen so the side of the stage. Portslade Town Hall seems to be a very underused resource, let's hope the organ recitals are enough to keep it open. Next one is on 10 November: John Mann at 3pm.

Compton special effects



Southampton Central station

I have been through Southampton on the train many times, en route for the New Forest or Exeter, but never stepped outside the station. For this week's mini city break I decided to visit the city's art gallery and maybe the new SeaCity museum. It was another journey just shy of two hours, but costing half the price of Luton. So, on the folding bike and after consulting Ivy Arch's blog, I knew to check out the mosaic mural on the bridge (Sue Ridge, 1988) and leave by the south Art Deco entrance.

Elod - paper artist

Up and over the railway and I was in Southampton's Cultural Quarter, a big slab of 1930s white stone with a tower on top. Round the back was the library, and upstairs, the art gallery. At first glance, it doesn't look much, a large airy space with paintings hung on every surface. I was first taken by an L S Lowry - The Floating Bridge, Southampton (1956) showing a contraption that once conveyed people and buses across the water. After looking at paintings from the whole of art history I arrived at the front windows where artist Elod Beregszaszi was installing a cardboard mobile (part of the forthcoming The First Cut - paper at the cutting edge). I said it reminded me of Mondrian, and he said 'spot on'. He also directed me to the side rooms, which I could easily have missed.

The Baring room

There I found some contemporary exhibits, then the Perseus Room! Now, I'm not a big fan of Burne-Jones, but this is something else: a recreation of the room where they were to hang, using mahogany panels from Barings bank. These ten gouaches are the preliminary cartoons; the finished oil paintings are in Stuttgart.

Jamie Shovlin - How most of what you know is reconstruction

On the other side of the main hall, was a series of rooms devoted to Jamie Shovlin's How most of what you know is reconstruction (I thought at first they were three different installations), which included a room of interventions with paintings from the permanent collection (Frank Auerbach, Ewan Uglow, Richard Long) and in the last biggest room some huge paintings of spurious imaginary book covers from the Fontana Modern Masters series. Other paintings that caught my eye included Ford Maddox Brown's Cordelia's Portion (1867-75) and Spencer Frederick Gore's Brighton Pier, which is presumably the West Pier. Photography was not allowed (tho I sneaked a couple) so I'm grateful to the BBC's Your Paintings for providing the images!

The cafe in the art gallery was closed so I popped next door to the new SeaCity museum, which you could use without paying the entrance fee. I'm always a bit suspicious of new museums that charge to go in, I suspect there might be lots of boards to read and videos to watch, so I didn't bother. As far as I could tell, there's a model of the Queen Mary and a watch from the Titanic in there. In the empty cafe, next to the gift shop, the Crank's sandwich (£3.50) was a little soggy and the cappuccino weak, and the person behind the counter seemed more interested in polishing her spoons to notice a customer (I was served eventually by a pleasant young man who got me a plate for the sandwich) so it wasn't a great experience. Free wifi, though! I'm afraid I didn't have time to enjoy more of Southampton. Next time I shall explore the Hythe ferry and Solent Sky museum. But the art gallery is a gem and well worth visiting.


Luton to Dunstable Busway

Look no hands!

A friend on Facebook - Jenny from the wonderful band Spacedog - mentioned she'd travelled to work on the new guided busway that joins Luton to nearby Dunstable, apparently the biggest town in England without a railway station. She also linked to the rather fascinating blog all about Luton, Yoga World and Pesto, a website almost as captivating as The Lost Promenade, which I urge you all to follow. It occurred to me that I could get to Luton direct from Brighton, via St Pancras, on what was once known as the Thameslink. It would take less than two hours and cost less than 20 quid, so I thought I'd go and check it out.

The 'A' bus to Luton Airport
The journey up was painless, there was a lovely signalbox at St Albans to spot, but no steam interest. Luton station seems to divide Luton from Hightown, the subject of the above mentioned blog, but I didn't get that side of the tracks, instead headed for the bus stop where I could see an 'A' bus had just arrived. And yes, my bus pass was valid! But it was raining and I didn't get a prime seat for photography, so just enjoyed the journey. I'd heard of busways before but never seen or been on one.

I got off at the High Street in Dunstable and followed the cast-iron signposts to the tourist information, spotted an Art Deco cinema turned conference centre, but ended up in Asda car park! However, across the road was a futuristic JD Wetherspoons pub, the Gary Cooper, and so had a pint of Growler Priory Mild for £2.15! Didn't fancy a curry, so popped across the road and caught the next bus (another 'A') back to Luton. This time I got the seat at the front next to the driver. I could see that when he'd been funnelled into the busway, he could take his hands off the steering wheel, but not for long, there were junctions and crossings to negotiate.

The way back from Dunstable

I didn't go all the way to the airport, but back at Luton trotted along to the beginning of the busway to see how it worked. Basically it's a concrete railway, built along an old railway line, with car traps to keep the traffic out.

Bus heading for Luton
A puzzled woman approached me and asked why? I said because they're faster than normal roads, and the buses have the advantage over trams or light railways in that they can also drive on regular roads when the busway ends. Later I noticed the little guide wheel at the front that does the business.

  The guide wheel

I then decided to explore Luton so headed towards the tower of the impressive town hall. I found the tourist information in the library and picked up leaflets and maps, but walked all round the Mall looking for the indoor market.

Luton town hall

On the way back to the station, I experienced 'Loho' the rather seedy ‘tri-street area of Guildford / Bute St / Cheapside’ according to the above blog and, attracted by an A-board chalk sign that said FREE (wifi) / (awesome) COFFEE, popped into the Hat Factory, now an arts centre, where I had a salad sandwich (on white - I should have asked for brown!) and a cappuccino. But it did indeed have wifi, so I was able to see what was happening on Facebook!

  Tiles on a tattoo s

The journey back was quite busy once we hit London Bridge, and it was only 4.30! Do people leave work earlier these days?

More photos on Flickr - or just click on one of the above snaps.


Edinburgh 2013

No, I didn't get to see Major Tom!
As usual, just a list, as much for my benefit as yours!

Wednesday 14 August
Meal at Ong Gie: very tasty Korean food - but large portions so I took half of it home for breakfast!

Thursday 15 August:
3.25 Simon Munnery's Fylm, at Stand 1. Same format as last year - Simon and video camera in the audience with cardboard puppetry and guitarist. One old bloke walked out and demanded his money back cos Munnery wasn't on stage!
5.55 Blam! Pleasance. What to call this - physical theatre? parkour? mime? dance? comedy? It's spot the action film as these four Danish guys turn an office into a battleground - loud noises and office equipment as weaponry!
8pm Terry Alderton Season 4, Pleasance. Old school Fringe fare, funny but slightly sinister, We got a 2for1 one on this.

Dave and Ross (here with random bloke) shook our hands on the way out
Friday 16 August
12.15 Big Daddy vs. Giant Haystacks, Assembly George Square, The Box. A cut-down version of the Brighton show by Mitchell and Nixon, in a container! Ross Gurney-Randall and Dave Mounfield were magnificent. Go see it, wherever it's on! Guaranteed entertainment.
7.30 Clare in the Community, BBC Pottersrow. Bumped into Harry Venning at the Pleasance (as you do) and he got us in to this free but sold-out show recording for radio. Sally Phillips was gorgeous, with two bloke actors.

Saturday 17 August
No shows - just some art, see below.

Sunday 18 August
12.40 Tony Law Nonsense overdrive Stand 1. Space (without reading any books), the Olden Days (when there were a lot of firsts), scary roads of Peru, and puppets (Owlcat, etc operated by fans) for this madcap stream of consciousness.
Lunch at Valvona and Crolla's Vincaffe. Tucked away behind Harvey Nick's in a street of fashion, the upstairs restaurant is superb.
4.45 Stewart Lee Much A-Stew about Nothing, Stand 3. Two half-hour try-outs for his forthcoming TV show: one about the tories, the other about UKIP and prejudice, featuring Latvian trousers. Always a must-see at Edinburgh. Missed Baconface tho...

Monday 19 August
1.20 Scotsman best of the fest, Spiegeltent Palazzo, George Square. Hmm, ironically my least enjoyable show. Four acts compered by the likeable Damian Clark: Eastend Cabaret, who pulled the guy sitting next to me - Paul - on stage, but he gave as good as he got (position 68); Adam Kay, who sang silly songs (eg. Iranian Men); Spanish drummers and tap dancers Cambuyon; and cross dressing magicians Briefs. Luck of the draw!
5.50 David Kay, Stand 3. Gentle Scottish humour from the scone-based comedian - not to be confused with the weapons inspector - only doing two nights.

Tuesday 20 August
12 Motherland Vincent Dance Theatre, Summerhall Dissection Room. Two hours of dance and music on the subject of gender. Adrian was meant to be appearing in this after a freak stiletto heel accident with the cellist's arm, but he soldiered on, so Ade came home. Lots of dirt, blood, sweat and repetition - quite enthralling however.
6pm Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, Gilded Balloon Teviot Debating Hall. Though not as technically accomplished as the Ukulele Orchestra of GB, they made up for it with South Seas brio and colourful costumes. Everyone loves a good old sing-song!
Meal at Sweet Melinda's seafood restaurant in Marchmont.

Wednesday 21 August
1.30 Sid and Valerie Summerhall Red Lecture Theatre. Sue MacLaine and Emma Kilbey play father and daughter in this slightly unsettling play. Free Werther's Originals toffees (made in Germany).
6.30 What happens to the hope at the end of the evening Forest Fringe at Out of the Blue Drill Hall. Travelled to Leith on the off-chance I could get in to this free yet sold-out show at a new venue, and I did. Tim Crouch and a smith's latest play is magnificent on so many levels, yet deceptively simple in presentation. So glad I got to see it. A great climax to my week in Edinburgh.
Meal at Locanda De Gusti on Belle!

Kenny Watson's The Days and Fascia
The first installation I saw (after visiting the Book Festival) was on Rose Street: Kenny Watson's The Days and Fascia - lots of billboards from  the local paper, none as funny as the Argus though. In the same location were videos of  The Complaints Choir from various parts of the world (never got to see them live).

Michael Nyman makes an appearance
You could spend days at Summerhall just looking at art. The stand-out for me was the Michael Nyman installation Man with a movie camera (Images were introduced) - a remake of the Russian silent film on 10 screens with a superb sound system. It's 1h 20min long so couldn't see it all first visit, but went back another day to catch the whole thing.

Stuart McCaffer
I was also taken by Fiona Banner's post-modern The Vanity Press, and The art barber Stuart McCaffer was in the courtyard cutting hair for a bargain tenner. The brochure calls him Stewart and mistakenly said he'll use the hair to make candles! Also in the courtyard, Tony Singh was cooking up spicy street food and I spotted him having a temp tattoo in the hut next door. Potentially interesting stuff in the Demarco archives, but an absence of labels! And you could hear (and feel) the mighty Tesla coil sub-woofer from Robbie Thompson's Ecstatic Arc shaking the whole building. I finally got to see what was down the basement on the final day. In Gregor Schneider's Süßer Duft you're let in one at a time for a max of 5 minutes. Inside, there's a room so white you think it's full of mist, then a black room full of... You'll have to see for yourself!

Wind Pipes for Edinburgh
Elsewhere there was an installation by Sarah Kenchington in St Stephen's apse entitled Wind Pipes for Edinburgh. I thought there might be a photo opportunity there, what with the title, but none presented! It was basically organ pipes connected by plumbing to six giant bellows. One visitor valiantly attempted to play Somewhere over the rainbow, but I couldn't help thinking a keyboard would be more helpful than all those little valves. At the Fruitmarket, Gabriel Orozco had been drawing lots of circles, and at the Scottish National Gallery, Peter Doig painted huge sloppy canvases in Gaugin colours. Not impressed. At the Talbot Rice, it was good to see the old electrical kit and robots made by Nam June Paik, but the videos just looked dreadfully dated. Managed to see the Man Ray exhibition I missed in London at the National Portrait Gallery - great to see the tiny original prints of 1920s hipsters instead of the usual blown-up modern reprints you often see at photography exhibitions these days. Apart from one or two minor ones on Cockburn Street and in the Museum of Scotland (Ilana Halperin's fabulous geological calcified sculptures), that's about it - didn't manage to get to the Modern Art Gallery this year or the Art School.


Six surviving streaks reunited at York

The turntable

I'm an LMS man, born and bred, but couldn't resist the prospect of copping all six surviving A4s in one spot - the National Railway Museum in York. It was the Great Gathering, 3-17 July, commemorating Mallard's world speed record of 126mph on 3 July 1938. I arrived on the second day and expected it to be heaving, but there was no queue and a relatively sparse crowd, so I was able to get some reasonable snaps. They were arranged around the turntable as follows:
  • 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley* (4498) in BR Blue
  • 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower (formerly 4496 Golden Shuttle) in BR Brunswick Green
  • 60009 Union of South Africa* (4488) in BR Brunswick Green
  • 4464 Bittern* (60019) in LNER Garter Blue
  • 4468 Mallard (60022) in LNER Garter Blue
  • 4489 Dominion of Canada (60010, formerly Woodcock) in LNER Garter Blue
* operational

Bittern, Mallard and Canada

60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower had been shipped over from the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin and 4489 Dominion of Canada was brought over from the Canadian Railway Museum, near Montreal. Both received cosmetic restoration at the NRM in Shilton. 4464 Bittern had arrived under its own steam, setting a new record for a British preserved steam locomotive on the main line, when it achieved a maximum speed of 92.5 mph.

4464 Bittern

I had the pleasure of riding behind Bittern on the Watercress Line, back in 2008 when it was in green BR livery. I'd only ever glimpsed Sir Nigel and Union of South Africa before (though I may have copped them back in the day, who knows, my Ian Allen combined volumes are long gone!).

Flying Scotsman in The Works

After a quick look at Flying Scotsman in the Works and a cappuccino in the Mallard Cafe, I repaired to my hotel, the swanky Hampton at the Hilton nearby, thence to meet Sam and his chums at the Maltings for a pint of Baron Saturday.

Friday morning, the NRM opened at 10am, and this time there was a queue! There were also more people getting in the way of photographs. It must have been really crowded at the weekend. It was getting scorchio in there so I relocated to the Container Cafe outside and met up with Sam et al for a coffee, a quick look round the Station Hall, with Queen Victoria's train and a splendid LMS crab No. 13000, then back to the station and home, via St Pancras. The damp men had finished in my kitchen and bathroom and everything seemed to be functioning!

LMS Crab 13000

 More photos on Flickr.


Devonshire by bus (and tram)

Podbury's Cottage, Harpford

Our annual June cottage holiday this year was at Podbury's Cottage in Harpford, Devon. Rob and Jackie, Pam and Steve and I all travelled on Friday 14 June to Exeter by train via Westbury, lunched at The Old Firehouse, and travelled to Newton Poppleford by 52 bus, thence by foot with one-wheel suitcase the quarter of a mile up Lower Way (there's also a Higher Way) to Harpford. It was my turn to cook so got it over with with a quick pasta dish.

Harpford bridge (over the Otter)

On Saturday 15 June, after a walk into Newton Poppleford via the bridge over the Otter and a pint at the Cannon Inn, we all travelled to Sidmouth on the 157 bus from Exmouth and visited the little museum, which featured a display on the illustrator Lawson Wood, who retired there, as well as stuff about the railway. I started watching a video but the volunteer informed me it was an hour and half long, so gave up. After a crab sandwich at the Tasty Baguette we headed back to the cottage on the 52, which went past Waitrose. That night we had Steve's asparagus risotto.

The oldest tram in the fleet

Sunday 16 June was Fathers' Day and I travelled to Seaton on the X53 to see the Tramway. Because I was a dad, I got a free ticket, even without the evidence! The first tram to arrive was the pink Car No. 11 and as it was raining, we all crammed in downstairs. The journey to Colyton takes you through wetlands and by the River Axe, so plenty of birds to see. At Colyton I had some soup and was treated to the worst jazz band I'd ever heard - Swing of the Axe - the sax player (male) couldn't even play Happy Birthday to a party in there. On the way back I caught the oldest tram in the fleet, the luxurious single decker No. 14 (built in 1904). Highly recommended.

West Bay

It was a long wait until the bus back, so I caught another X53 going further east and worked out I could have an hour in West Bay, the location for ITV's thriller Broadchurch. I took some photos and had a pint of Palmers Copper Ale in the George Hotel. Pam made nut roast for supper.

Marines yomp through Budleigh Salterton

On Monday 17 June, we took a 157 to Budleigh Salterton. The others got off at East Budleigh to see some Raleigh locations, but I carried on to have leisurely saunter through the charity shops. I bought a crab roll (£1.80) at G & K Sanders fishmongers, then after a look at the beach and some Marines yomping, took tea at the Cosy Tea Pot, sitting outside with some dog owners. When the Fairlynch museum opened at 2pm, I had a browse round, then after a rum and raisin ice cream cone from the Creamery, headed to the bus stop by the library, where I met up with the others. That night we walked a mile or so to Tipton St John for a meal with Jackie's sundial friends at the Golden Lion. I had scallops (4 small) and chunky fish soup as a main- very nice!

Tea and cake at Beer

Tuesday 18 June was to be a day for sketching and I got the X53 to Beer (great name!). It's a lovely place with streams each side of the road down to the harbour. There was a sea mist but I sat down outside Kenno's cafe with a mug of tea and a coconut and jam cake (was it called a Marlborough?) and drew the east chalk cliff. Afterwards I treated myself to a pint in the pub garden of the Anchor Inn, where I bumped into my second cousin Gillian, her husband Tony and their dog, who were staying in Colyton. Back at the bus stop, I discovered a new bus - the Axe Valley 899 from Seaton to Sidmouth, via Beer and Branscombe (see below). Later Jackie made pizza.

Female CD uniform

Wednesday's bus journey (19 June) was rather intricate: the usual 11.32 X53 to Beer, then the 889 to Sidmouth and finally the 157 to Exmouth. Pam and Steve joined me on the first leg en route to Bridport. The community bus arrived soon after we arrived at Beer and was a jolly ride, with everyone knowing everyone else. It climbed the back streets of Beer then plunged down a steep hill to Branscombe, but not as far as the bay! It then went past an interesting turreted church and a pub with a skull over the door - The Fountain Head. At Sidmouth I quickly used the public loo, then hopped on the 157 back to Newton Poppleford and on to Exmouth via a detour to Otterton (with its obelisk and ancient stone cross). I'm sure I spotted Rob and Jackie entering the pub there after painting some sandstone stacks at the bay. At Exmouth I visited the tiny museum (entrance £1) with its CD uniform and more on the railway and thence the beach, which like Littlehampton, is a brisk walk from the town centre, before having a cappuccino and custard tart at the Crusty Cob by the square. This was the only sunny day! Rob cooked a bean casserole.

Fred's Kitchen, Exeter Farmers' market

Thursday 20 June I visited Exeter on the 52, looking for a suitcase to replace the one with the wonky wheel. After a spicy veg pasty from the Real Cornish Pasty Co in the rain, a quick look at the cathedral (£6 to get in!), I bought some piccalilly from Freds Kitchen (sic) at a farmers' market, then to the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (ramm) to look at the permanent picture collection (small), an exhibition of photos of the last oak bark tanners (in Colyton) and Gillian Ayers (no relation to Pam). There's lots to see, including a stuffed tiger shot by George V, an elephant, giraffe and polar bear, a collection of collections, and a male CD uniform. I was rather taken with the bee wheelie suitcases they loaned to children visitors. Then it was back to the cathedral for a pint in the Well House. That night it was leftovers night - shepherd's pie, assembled by Rob from the remnants of Pam's nut roast.

Wren's nest in porch

Friday morning we had to be out by 10am. We also discovered a wren's nest inside the porch with maybe four hungry mouths inside. Jude came to pick me (and more leftovers) up and back to Farringdon. Dave had had a cataract op but was looking good. Trout for tea from Dave's archaeologist friend Stewart (I also got one to take home). Saturday we went to Exmouth on the 56 to trawl the charity shops and have a Tasty 3 (beans, mushrooms and egg plus toast, £3.90) at the Harbour View cafe. Dave did a great job fixing my suitcase with araldite. Sunday we went for a walk on Aylesbeare Common with Katy and Stewart looking for orchids and other wild flowers. We spotted three bee orchids and loads of common spotteds. The peanut bird feeder in Dave and Jude's garden attracts all kinds of tits, a robin and a nuthatch, but more often than not they all flew away as soon as I got my camera out.

Bee orchid

Monday morning I was taken to the bus stop by Dave with my bags in a wheelbarrow and put on a 56 with dodgy electrics: no display on the front and ticket machine not working. He terminated at the bus station so had to get a 51 to St David's and home, via Westbury and Southampton. Popped down to Aldi to get some wine, and guess what? - they were selling suitcases! I got one similar to my broken one for £17. Back at the ranch it was in a real state - I was having the damp seen to - but some chaps came round Tuesday morning and moved things around so I could access the bath, cooker, kettle and fridge!

Great tits


Brighton Festival 2013, part the third

Just to round things off, the Fringe this year went on for an extra week, until 2 June... and so did the five pound fringe. This is what I saw on the tail end of the 2013 festival:

Friday 31 May
Buddhism: is it just for losers, The Nightingale. This also doubled as Tim Pilcher's birthday celebration so how could I not go. I saw Matt Rudkin of Inconvenient Spoof do Naive Dance Masterclass at Edinburgh (reprised in part at the AOH launch) and was very impressed. No Silvia this time, tho she was in the building, but Matt was joined by two other chaps who initially graded us by height into different rows of the theatre, splitting up couples as they went along. Then we had a mixture of puppets, silly costumes and nonsense poetry - losing me a bit in the middle - but it all came good in the end, despite a prop malfunction on the night!

Saturday 1 June
Glen Richardson’s ‘Sing-Along-A-The-White-Album’…One More Time! The Lord Nelson Inn.
I thought I'd missed this, but Brian of the Five pound fringe put on an extra show, so I was delighted. In the afternoon I got out my copy of the White Album and played it on the record deck to get me in the mood. Only two tables worth of punters at the beginning, but it gradually filled up, ultimately with a stag party wearing shower caps! Glen was joined by Tom Arnold on drum box and he went through the double album track by track, sometimes on keyboard, others on guitar (never knew he could play!). Phew! what a marathon virtuoso performance, even tho he did forget to turn the 'song sheet' over most of the time. Apparently there were more guest singers the previous night, but we were treated to Claire (?) singing Sexy Sadie, and Emily Hell singing Revolution Number 1. How Glen tackled Revolution Number 9 was a master stroke. Great beer too and a fitting end to the festival.

Sunday 2 June
Lucky Jim at the Battle of Trafalgar. Not strictly a festival event, but free, with Harvey's on tap, and some great company.

One of the events I saw right at the start of the festival won an award! Horlicks And Armageddon was voted Most groundbreaking act! Well done Sarah and Colin.

My Edinburgh week is booked, and I'm looking forward to seeing more great Brighton stuff up there...


Brighton Festival 2013 part 2

Well, it's not quite over yet - the Fringe runs until 2 June - but my ticketed events are at an end, and so is the Open Houses. This is what I've seen since the last posting:

Monday 13 May
Tony Haase in The day the fairy dust landed, at the Old Market, Hove. Totally bonkers psychedelic semi-animation ('stillmation'?) Yellow Submarine style and a restless monologue that got more surreal by the second. Could have done with more songs in my humble opinion.

Thursday 16 May
Seven studies in salesmanship at the Lord Nelson Inn. I love the plays of Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon, so here we get seven sketches over two hours in a pub serving the best beer in the world. And it's only a fiver to get in. Four actors, including Dave Mounfield, doing funny but thought-provoking stuff.

Friday 17 May
Emma Critchley installation in a container by the beach. Part of House festival. Underwater swimming video. Some amusing street drinkers nearby enjoying the music!
Bullet Catch in the Spiegeltent, written and performed by Rob Drummond. I got my ale from the beer tent first this time then joined the long queue, but Sarah Chrisp and family had kindly saved me a seat in one of the alcoves. This was a big disappointment - the tricks were pretty ordinary and there was too much clutter on stage. OK, he's an actor really, playing William Wonder, but he wasn't at all convincing as a magician, and the character he referred to in the spiel was made up - why didn't he use the real magician, Chung Ling Soo, who'd died doing the famous trick, instead? What's more the gun jammed the night I was there and the stage manager had to go on stage to fix it!

Saturday 18 May Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road. Then later:
Trumpton comes alive at the Lord Nelson Inn. This is the third time I've seen this wonderful production. Tonight Stephen Wrigley was in the sidelines doing sound effects as his broken heel meant he couldn't play classical guitar. So, who do we get as substitute? The amazing Richard Durrant. Pure bliss, and Harvey's beer. Another triumph for the Five Pound Fringe.

Sunday 19 May
Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road Open House.

Wednesday 22 May
A tricky night this as it was the Brighton Illustrators Group pub quiz (hosted by Harry Venning) upstairs at the Caxton Arms, while The Spud Guns (Andy Roberts, Jerry Rulf & Laurie Hilton-Ash) were playing downstairs! Luckily, the quiz ended just before the second set started! Our team (Four sheets to the wind) came second! Part of the Five Pound Fringe, but only £3!

Saturday 25 May
Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road.
Pete Howells 60th birthday at the Battle of Trafalgar after, where many Brighton musos - including Adrian Oxaal - were playing Dylan and the blues.

Sunday 26 May
Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road. The final day! Three of my paintings received bids!

Tuesday 28 May
At 12.30 Van Buren & Gandey's Victorian Wonders Carnival in a tent by the Ladyboys on Victoria Gardens. Only a half an hour for £5 - a series of three tableaux, Freak Show style: the disembodied head of Scherazade, the headless lady - and the Time Machine, where unlucky Bob disappeared into the future! All good fun.
At 7.45. Jo Neary and George Egg at the marvellous if intimate Bom-Banes. An all-new show: sketches in the first half and a radio play in the second, starring Celia and Fred's adventures in a Dudley supermarket. Great Nuts in May Open House goer sketch in the first half - and we even got a comic to take home. Post-modern comedy at its most mirthful!


Brighton Festival 2013

Things I've been to so far:

Friday 3 May (Festival eve): Brighton Beach Boys at the Lord Nelson, part of the Five Pound Fringe so terrific value and great Harvey's beer.

Sunday 5 May invigilating at 17 Clyde Road, part of the Artists' Open Houses, Beyond the Level trail.
PVs at the Dragonfly House and 30 Gerard Street.

Monday 6 May: PV at the Sundial House.

Tuesday 7 May: Horlicks and Armageddon, in the creepy Police cells under the Town Hall. Talk by Sarah Angliss and Colin Uttley about the Cold War, fallout shelters and radioactivity, interspersed by Sarah and the robots singing electronic songs.

Wednesday 8 May: PV at 17 Clyde Road, with entertainments by Foster and Gilvan, Curtis Tappenden and others.

Thursday 9 May: 50 shades of suit, a situationist film of Dave Suit's birthday by Claire Raftery, Caxton Arms, also part of the Five Pound Fringe.

Friday 10 May: Felix's Machines at the Brighton Uni Gallery, free. Heath Robinson percussion instruments controlled by computer, a bit monotonous after a while, was hoping they'd break into a tune!
Major Tom by Victoria Melody at The Basement. A beauty queen and a real live Basset hound - what more could you wish for?

Saturday 11 May: Invigilating at Stuff, 46 Clyde Road.
Tony Benn, Brighthelm Centre, with Ellie Mae O'Hagan (John McDonnell MP was taken ill), organised by Brighton LRC  - a legend!
High in the Saddle with Hank Wangford and Brad Breath aka Andy Roberts - together with Dusty Evski (Jerry Rulf) on bass and special guest - pedal steel maestro BJ Cole. A hour was not enough, and beer (Heineken!) £ 4.20 a pint, but a highlight of the festival without a doubt.

Sunday 12 May: Invigilating at 17 Clyde Road.
The Angina Monologue by Doug Devaney, at brand new venue Emporium (formerly the Methodist Church on London Road). My first proper play, albeit autobiographical... with added ukulele.

Tonight is Tony Haase in The day the fairy dust landed, at the Old Market, Hove.


East Grinstead by bus

U-class 1638 at Sheffield Park

Over Easter, the Bluebell Railway celebrated rejoining to the main line at East Grinstead. Back in the 1960s the council had used the cuttings between there and Kingscote as landfill tips and over the past few years, at great expense, the volunteers have been digging it all out! The Bluebell is notoriously difficult to get to from Brighton by public transport - in previous years I've been making use of the free vintage bus days to travel there via Lewes. This time I thought I'd try out the Metrobus route 270, via Haywards Heath. So, armed with a shareholder's voucher for a free round trip, I caught the bus from Preston Circus at 10.29.

Water tower progress

The bus ride would take an hour and half and was scheduled to get in to East Grinstead at 12.02. The trouble was there was only one train on and it was timetabled to leave East Grinstead at 12. Not to worry, heritage railways are always a little behind... but not this time! The bus journey was very pleasant, visiting lovely Sussex villages such as Lindfield with its picturesque pond, and Forest Row, even passing the National Cat Centre at Ashdown Forest! Indeed it passes through Horsted Keynes, a station on the Bluebell line, but only visits the way-out-of-town station on Saturdays!

Predictably I'd missed the train, so I popped into the Travel Centre to get my ticket (disappointingly, a hand-written paper one - I hadn't spotted the proper ticket office which would have the proper cardboard ones). The poor wee Edinburgh woman in the travel centre was contending with the world's most boring old man, so I went next door to the splendid Grinsteade Buffet in an old coach for a cup of tea and a sandwich (egg mayo and cress). When I heard the boring man had followed me in and was interrogating the cafe woman, it was time to leave.

Buffet at East Grinstead

The plan was to get a bus back up the hill to the olde worlde High Street and kill time until the next train at  2.15. But the buses were few and far between, so I ended up hanging round the travel centre portacabin reading tourist brochures until the alloted time when I braved the howling wind to get a place on the platform. However, the train was delayed by half an hour, due to a failed brake in a carriage (grrr), so that meant more waiting, out of the wind.

Evacuees at Sheffield Park

Eventually Maunsell U-class 2-6-0 No. 1638, built in 1931, rolled into the station. I took some photos - it was windy but sunny - and got on board. Theoretically the round trip would bring me back to East Grinstead for 4.11 and my last bus to Brighton was 4.15. Hmmm, ah well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. At the travel centre I'd checked that there were no buses going anywhere nearby from any of the other stations during the week. I'd chosen to come on a weekday because I thought it'd be quieter - wrong! Weekdays are taken up by coach trips wanting cream teas, so the train (minus one coach) was crowded. At Sheffield Park I should have had half an hour to look round the shed, but when we got there, the platform was crammed with millions of hungry pensioners, and with a party of 'evacuees' that got on at Horsted Keynes, it was going to be crowded going back. I did mange a whirlwind tour of the new museum, where I saw London Jack, died 1931, who used to be on Woking station (I think) collecting for the Southern Railway Orphanage.

London Jack in the museum

I did get a seat on the way back, opposite a moaning life member and wife who thought they should have used more carriages, despite the waitresses frantically putting Reserved signs on every available table for the cream teas, and I got back to East Grinstead in time for the 5.15 270 bus, which only goes as far as Burgess Hill. I alighted at Haywards Heath and got the train back to Brighton (bumped into Ross Gurney-Randall), grabbing a cheese and mushroom pasty at the station and a pint of Revelation at the Evening Star, ready for Dave Suit's situationist film '50 shades of suit' in the 5 pound fringe at the Caxton Arms. Then it was back to the station and because of a potentially long wait for a London Road train, I hopped on to a 7 to North Street and then a long wait (grrr) for a no. 5 home to nod off to Question Time.

And yes, I did see some bluebells (and deer and pheasants), but they were better from the bus!