That London

I don't usually blog trips up to That London, but seeing as I do it so infrequently these days I suppose it counts as a day out. It was the annual pilgrimage to the Lexington to see my favourite band David Devant and his Spirit Wife, but I thought I'd go up early to catch an exhibition or two.

Leighton House

On my way to Leighton House to see the Perez Simon Collection, I had to change buses from a 52 from Victoria to a 9 or 10. I did so at the Royal Albert Hall, so popped into the RCA to see the 50 years of graphic design exhibition. It wasn't very thrilling, mainly posters hanging from bulldog clips. At Leighton House, it was 6 quid to get in, senior concession, and I took advantage of the free audio guide. Photography was not allowed. Not all the pictures had audio descriptions, so a bit of lingering was needed between numbers. First was a pastel of Rossetti's Venus Verticordia, the only one by him. There was one Millais, no Holman Hunts, and lots of the second and third division Pre-Raphs: Burne- Jones, Alma-Tadema, Waterhouse, Albert Moore, Arthur Hughes, John Strudwick and of course, Lord Leighton himself. There weren't as many nudes as I'd expected, the main one was Andromeda by Edward John Poynter, said to be the first Victorian painting to depict pubic hair! The climax of the show was the large Alma-Tadema The Roses of Heliogabalus, along with a study for it and lots of drawings of the props used (Alma-Tadema's couch was also in the show, underneath a painting where it was used).

Wellcome Collection

There was no cafe, so I headed back to Kensington Hight Street for a coffee at Cafe Tarte, by the bus stop, then hopped on to a Heatherwick number 10 bus, where I spotted a Cafe de Fred, just round the corner! At Euston, I remembered that there was a sex exhibition on at the Wellcome Foundation, opposite Euston station, so I hopped off the bus to investigate. This show was free but there was no photography here either. It was most amusing, with the original pencil drawings to The joy of sex, an orgone box and a Tijuana bible, alongside artefacts from ancient civilisations, India and Japan. The visitors seemed to be mostly young couples holding hands. It was my first visit to the Wellcome Collection - it has a nice cafe and bookshop so it's well worth another visit.

Aunty Mabel

The 73 bus to Kings Cross took ages, it was gridlock outside Euston station. We'd arranged to meet at the Queens Head, but when I got there it was rammed with Friday night, after-the-office drinkers. I managed to get a pint of porter and drank it outside. Richard Grimsdale-Yates hailed a cab to the Lexington and we met up with Brian, Alison and Rob H. Then with a pint of Flying Scotsman it was upstairs for Dream Themes, and eventually The Dave Devant Band. After the encore it was a dash across the road to the bus stop and a 73 to Victoria with Bongo Pete, taking in the lights of Oxford Street and Regents Street. We caught the 1am train and I finally got home around a quarter to three!


East Lancs Railway Autumn Steam Gala 18/19 October 2014

The Crab
The Crab at Ramsbottom (double headed with the A Clas)
The ELR trains weren't running on the Friday, but I had a quick peep past the Trackside and saw the Crab, resplendent in its maroon LMS livery in Bury bolton Street station. It was also the weekend of the Homegrown folk festival and that evening went to the Met to see Lucy Ward and the Keston Cobblers' Club. It was a standing gig, which meant I didn't see a lot of it - why don't they make the tall gits stand at the back! Had a nice couple of pints of Ruby, however.

Sir Nigel Gresley
60007 Sir Nigel Gresley at Bury
On Saturday 18 October I used my ELR membership card as a platform ticket and spotted the magnificent Sir Nigel Gresley in LNER/BR blue. There were two streaks to be seen and the full line up was:

LMS Jinty 16407
  • 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley
  • 60009 Union of South Africa
  • 61994 The Great Marquess
  • 13065 LMS 2-6-0 Crab
  • 12322 LMS 0-6-0 A Class
  • 16407 LMS 0-6-0 Jinty
  • 80080 Standard tank
  • 0-6-0ST W^D 3163/1943 Sapper and
  • 0-4-0ST May (in Yates Duxbury livery)
I had a bowl of chunky veg soup and a half of Darkness in the Trackside, then it was over to the Drill Hall for the wonderful Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band with Lucy Ward doing three numbers with them, support was squeezebox maestro John Spiers.

Union of South Africa
60009 Union of South Africa at Rawtenstall
 On Sunday it was back to the ELR this time with a round trip ticket. I just misses Sir Nigel going out so jumped onto  train heading for Heywood pulled by South Africa. Two trains were in the sidings just outside Ramsbottom: Sapper, 80080 and The Great Marquess, all in steam. At Rawtenstall it started raining. I jumped off at Ramsbottom, with the aim of catching Sir Nigel in an hours' time. On the other platform was a double header of the A Class and the Crab. I'd been told of the new craft brewery behind Morrisons, so in a very crowded Irwell Works Brewery I had a half of dark mild and a half of milk stout.
The A Class
Double header of the A Class and Crab at Ramsbottom
 Back at the station, Sir Nigel was in, en route to Rawtenstall, so I crossed the footbridge and joined the train pulled by the A Class, with the Crab as backwards banker.

The Crab and Sir Nigel Gresley
The Crab (as banker travelling backwards) and Sir Nigel at Ramsbottom

Back at Bury I just spotted South Africa pulling out en route to Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. On Monday I took the tram to Manchester, but had to get off at Market Street and walk to Piccadilly Gardens. Train to Euston via Crewe, 73 bus across London, half of Oyster Stout in Victoria Wetherspoon's and train home.

The Great Marquess
The Great Marquess at Bury

Other visits to the ELR:


Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 4

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Too windy to summit
Day 7: Snowdon, second attempt!
It was my last full day, so I had a second go at ascending Snowdon. Not such an early tart this time, so it was a mini full Welsh breakfast and down the hill to catch the 9.16 X5 to Caernarfon, via Bangor. At Caenarfon I caught the 88 (one an hour, on the hour) to Llanberis and got there in plenty of time. Unfortunately, it was too windy to travel to the top, so the train was only going 5/8 up - to Rocky Valley. Secretly I was a bit relieved as I'm not good with heights, especially when you're the highest thing for miles! With all my discounts the ticket worked out at £16.80 (I'd bought a Great Little Trains of Wales discount card and this gave me 20% off). So, to kill time until the 12.30 departure, I watched the film about the railway in the little cinema.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Inside the carriage
The coach was divided into compartments and I was in H. Just as we were about to set off a coach load of Japanese tourists arrive, with cameras and selfie sticks, and occupied the front of the train, we were by the engine, a diesel called George.
Snowdon Mountain Railway.
12 George
So, we trundled up the slope slowly, over viaducts and passing waterfalls until the landscape became quite barren. After passing another train coming down we stopped at Rocky Valley, then edged a little further on so we could see Llanberis Pass, from above. We weren't allowed out so had to take pictures through the glass windows.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Llanberis Pass - spot the road!
Back down on terra firma (we exited through the gift shop), I'd again missed the departure of the Lake railway so caught an S2 Sherpa bus through the Llanberis Pass trying to spot where we'd just been, up in the clouds. At Bews-y-Coed again I caught the X1 to Llandudno, had a coffee and toasted teacake in the Coffee Centre (there are lots of very old fashioned cafes there) and was temped by the 'veggie pie' advertised on a board outside the Alexandra Hotel (as featured on Hotel Inspector) and the smile of the waitress. It turned out to be a big pasty, filled with what could have been leftover veg in a cheesy mashed potato sauce. I was disappointed not to have had a Welsh rarebit in the time I'd been in Wales! After a pint in Wetherspoon's it was a walk in the rain back to the B&B to watch part 2 of The Apprentice.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Compartment H, at the top of our climb 
Day 8: to Bury
After a leisurely breakfast, I ambled to the station via a few charity shops to het the train to Manchester. I got the 135 bus to Bury and after a coffee and Bakewell tart (£3 deal) in the Art Gallery, made my way to my sister's.

More photos on Flickr.



Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 3

Llanfair PG
Llanfair PG station
Day 5: Llanfair PG and Conwy
Monday was cold and windy and I accompanied Chrissie to Llandudno Junction to see her off to Euston direct. I planned to visit Conwy but saw that my train was going to Llanfair PG, the station with the longest name in Europe, the journey would also take me across the Menai Strait to Anglesey. Irt was a request stop so I informed the guard and alighted, to take some snaps and buy a souvenir platform ticket (30p) from the Pringle outlet nearby, then it was arm out to stop the next train, and another request stop for Conwy.

Smallest house, Conwy
The smallest house in GB
Apart from the castle, Conwy is famous for having the smallest house in Great Britain, and its mussels. In fact there is supposed to be a mussel museum there, but I couldn't find it. Nowhere seemed to be serving the famous mussels either, so after a pint in the Blue Bell, I caught the bus back to Llandudno and some of Wetherspoon's finest five bean chilli.

Welsh Highland Railway
Garrett 138
Day 6: the Welsh Highland Railway
It was up at 7am and a bowl of porridge for me on Tuesday - I had to get to Caernarfon for the 10am train and the 5 bus left at 8am. The train was pulled by the same 138 I'd cabbed on Saturday and I spotted a green Garrett on the way. Instead of a return, I booked a 'Snowdonia Single' (£15.80 with various discounts) that would take me to Porthmadog and on to Blaenau Ffestiniog. The WHR journey takes 2 hours, but the Ffestiniog just an hour. At Porthmadog it was much quieter than the weekend so I had some leek and potato soup followed by bara brith in Spooners, then went looking for a cashpoint. The train uphill was pulled by Merddin Emrys. At Blaenau Ffestiniog I took the train back to Llandudno and had a coffee in the Mostyn modern art gallery just before it closed.
Ffestiniog Railway
Merddin Emrys

Then it was to the Palladium for two pints of Hawkshead Red and their sweet chilli noodles, and back to the B&B for Holby City and The Apprentice.

More photos on Flickr.

Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 2

Great Orme Tramway
Day 4: a lovely day in Llandudno
On Sunday we took the tram up the Great Orme. My landlord Keith had advised me of some vouchers in a leaflet that got us 15% off the £6 return. It trundled up the steep streets, past the King's Head. What we didn't realise was that the journey was in two halves: our tram stopped half way up and we had to walk to another tram to take us to the terminus. At the top we alighted and looked round the visitor centre before scaling the summit.

From the cable car
Chrissie persuaded me to have a go on the cable car, so we travelled down to Happy Valley, past some mountain goats, with a great view of the pier, had a coffee and then travelled back up, and then down again on the tram.

Llandudno tram
We then walked down the pier, past the dilapidated Grand Hotel, and sat for a while basking in the sunshine on one of the many benches that line the pier. Back on dry land, a boat - the Sea-Jay - was giving half-price (£2) trips round the bay, so I jumped aboard and Chrissie sat it out. It was only a half trip too, just about 20 minute round the pier, not venturing round the corner of the Orme.

We walked along the pristine front to the bandstand then ventured inland for another coffee. Back at the Wetherspoon's they had run out of Sunday roasts, so we schlepped up to the King's Head for an 'open' veggie lasagne, which was very tasty and not too filling.  After three pints (one Bass, two Spitfire) it was back to the B&B to watch Homeland series 4.

Llandudno pier
Llandudno Pier

More photos on Flickr.

Llandudno and the Snowdonia railways, part 1

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Ever since I went on my coach trip to North Wales in 2009, staying in Rhyl. I've wanted to return, but this time staying in the more attractive resort of Llandudno, with the twin objectives of doing the Snowdon Mountain Railway and travelling on the completed Welsh Highland Railway line all the way to Porthmadog. I was joined for the first part of the holiday by Chrissie, who through a train-driving friend at the Albion had wangled a couple of free tickets for the Ffestiniog. We travelled up on Thursday 9 October via Warrington, a station that could do with a few more destination boards, and by the time we arrived in Llandudno, at 4pm, everywhere was closing! I booked in at Anglesey House, right bang opposite the Tramway station, and she was in the Stella diagonally opposite. It was curry night at the rather splendid Wetherspoons, the Palladium, and I had a couple of pints of Dark side of the Moose.

Snowdon Mountain Railway.
Will we get a ride today?
Day 2: to Snowdon
We got the train to Bangor (I bought an 8-day North Wales Flexi-Rover ticket for £42.20, Chrissie got  £10 day rover) and then jumped on a bus to get us to the bus station. Bangor was another place lacking in information, so after asking a few bus drivers we established that we needed a yellow 85 from stand A and they were one an hour (a quarter to, we discovered). Arriving at Llanberis we saw the queue for the 1pm train, but our names were taken and if they could find 20 people we'd go up at 2pm. As it happened only 14 people registered so the train was cancelled! We'd also missed the Llanberis Lake Railway, which set off at 1.40, but we spotted an S2 Sherpa bus, heading for Betws -y- Coed so we jumped on.

 The journey through Llanberis Pass to Pen-y-pass was spectacular and made up for the disappointment. At Betws-y-Coed we visited the museum (£1 admission), where they had many model railways and a scale model of 70000 Britannia and got an X19 back to Llandudno and fish and chips at the Palladium and another pint at the King's Head, up near the tram station.

70000 Britannia model
Day 3: Ffestiniog Railway Victorian weekend
On Saturday we discovered there was a rail strike, so got the X1 bus to Blaenau Ffestiniog. We got there just as the train was coming in and exchanged our vouchers for free tickets. The train was hauled by David Lloyd George, one of those push-me pull-you designs, and we travelled down the hill to Porthmadog, where Chrissie was surprised to find her football friend Paul waiting.

Ffestiniog Railway
David Lloyd George
A beautiful Garrett, No. 138 from the Welsh Mountain Railway was also waiting on the platform, and Paul arranged for me to step up into the cab. He also arranged for us to travel back First Class in the observation coach.

Cabbing 138
Garrett 138 with me on board!
On the way back up, we stopped to allow a gravity train to pass by, populated by volunteers sitting in slate wagons with their legs hanging over the side of the loco-less train.

Gravity train
Gravity train
We had to make the last X1 bus at 16.30, but we had plenty of time and back at Blaenau Ffestiniog had a coffee in a nearby cafe. In Llandudno, we had a pint at the Cottage Loaf, and a Chinese at Jasmine House, then it was back to the B&B for Dr Who and Casualty.

First class
Travelling First Class
More photos on Flickr.


Pipes on film

Paul Light's video Changing Lanes - The Story Of Lewes Road For Clean Air, about improvements to the Lewes Road cycle lanes. I'm interviewed 10 minutes in! Above, that's me and Caroline Lucas MP.


Folkestone Triennial 2014: Day 3

The Wind Lift

So, I splashed out £9.50 for a full English breakfast and was shown to my table for two. It was the weekend buffet service, rather than the extensive menu waiter service the morning before. The veggie sausages were the type made from vegetables! Not impressed. Very kindly, Chris gave me a lift to The Wind Lift (Marjetica Potrč and Ooze), which was working! There was a Host at the bottom operating a button and a Host in the lift with you explaining it all. Half way up he stopped it to see if I was OK. I'm not good with heights, so was a little nervous. We went to the top, almost level with the viaduct, but after a minute or so I asked if we could go down now. An exhilarating experience!

  Host of The Wind Lift

Round the corner was everyone's favourite, Jyll Bradley's Green/Light on the site of an old gas works. It weaves hop poles and twine amongst the neon lights and is apparently spectacular at night. I checked another headless cock Whithervane (rootoftwo) off my list (they also light up at night depending on their mood) and a final Pent House.

Jyll Bradley
Then it was a walk back to the station where I saw the two I'd missed on Day 1: Strange Cargo's The luckiest place on earth, with its penny wish machine, and Yoko Ono's Earth Peace poster.

 Strange cargo: penny wish machine

Yoko Ono at the station

The train was going to be ages so I jumped onto a Javelin HS1 train to Dover for the journey, and got a Victoria train back and onwards to Ashford where I had a coffee waiting for the Brighton train. Back home I jumped onto my bike to catch Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain, down the seafront.

Julien Vermote: The winner of stage 7

The Triennial is on until 2 November, give it a go! More photos on Flickr.

Folkestone Triennial 2014: Day 2

Art lovers

After pinching a piece of toast from Chris's breakfast plate, we set off down the Zig Zag path in search of more art. I was expecting just a regular zig zag path, but what we got was a Victorian (built in 1921?) fantasy in Pulhamite artificial stone, which looked remarkably like bungeroosh. In one of the grottoes was Krijn de Koning's Dwelling, a sort of de Stijl construction in vibrant colours.

Krijn de Koning: Dwelling

Dotted about the descent there were also lots of playgrounds for children (and adults - see Flickr). At sea level and further west we found the Beach hut in the style of Nicholas Hawkesmoor by Pablo Bronstein, a fabulous steampunk lighthouse, but we were not allowed inside.

Pablo Bronstein: Beach hut in the style of Nicholas Hawksmoor

Then it was a long long walk to the harbour (they need a Dotto train!), passing various remnants of past Triennials. To recover, I popped into a dark room to watch Look out! by the Folkestone Futures Choir, a mix of Parkinsons sufferers, OAPs and children voicing their complains to 'the council' among others. The rest went to explore the station and lighthouse, while I had a wander up the Old High Street to see the other Andy Goldsworthy place Clay steps, clay window, and a wonderful shop called Rennies where I bought a checklist of Picture Puffin books.

Andy Goldworthy:  Clay steps

After a quick look at Emma Hart's Giving it all that (Oi! Mate!), the rest headed North; I headed to the nearest bus stop heading for Dover, from which I was treated to fabulous views of both towns. Once there, I hopped on to a bus to Deal, where I admired the pier, had a coffee and teacake at King's Coffee House and bought a book from Oxfam.

Deal pier

Back in Folkestone I just had time to have a go on the Leas Lift (80p down and another 80p back up again) - one of the few water-powered funiculars left in Britain - before joining the others at the Lifeboat Inn for a couple of pints in the garden. We got a cab back to the hotel and ate out at Hop Kweng, a Chinese laid out in booths, patronised by Bob Monkhouse and Jim Davidson. The food, and company, was excellent. Over dinner we'd been discussing magic shows, particularly Paul Daniel's trick of making a man stick to his chair. I said it must have been a willing assistant of some sort. When the fortune cookies arrived, mine said 'Disbelief destroys the magic'. Spooky! I went to bed while the rest crossed over to the Grand hoping to see a Victorian magic show, but it wasn't...

The Leas Cliff Railway

The triennial is on until 2 November.


Folkestone Triennial 2014: Day 1

Reading Dan's blog reminded me that I'd been meaning to see the Triennial, and a quick shout out on Facebook established that Bongo Pete and Way-out Wolfie - surely the world's best tour guides - had booked two nights at the Burlington Hotel. In 2008 I went for the day, which was not enough - and I missed the last one completely, so off we went. They were getting there in Chris and Judy's motor car, so the idea was to travel by train with Pete's sister Sarah. Except… there were two rail fatalities on Thursday morning cancelling my connecting train from London Road to Lewes, so I jumped on a Brighton train and arrived only to see the 10.32 Ashford diesel pulling out! So, it was back on the train to Lewes, another to Hastings and I ended up on the one I would have caught an hour later from Brighton. At Folkestone Central at last I walked past two pieces of art without noticing (Look Out!) on the way to a bus stop. From the bus station I headed for the top of the Road of Remembrance where I bumped into Sarah!

Knitted poppies

At the harbour, we saw our first art - Gabriel Lester's The electrified line, a bamboo observation tower straddling the old railway lines. But first we had coffee and toasted teacakes at The Hatch cafe, where we failed to spot our first Pent House, where the lost River Pent pours into the sea. The Host at the bamboo deck was very helpful (all the hosts we met were friendly and informative), pointing out all the other art we'd missed. But where were Pete and Lisa?

Gabriel Lester: The electrified line

After popping along to the deserted station to see the neon Tim Etchells Is why the place, we had a quick token dig on the sandy beach to find the gold bars Michael Sailstorfer had buried, to no avail and found our way to the Visitor Centre at the bottom of Tontine Street, where I recommend you watch the short videos so you'll know what to look out for (also keep an eye out for the green triangles). Here we were joined by Pete, Lisa, Chris and Judy and we all went to examine the second Pent House (Diane Dever and Jonathan Wright) - a big wooden water tower you could climb into.

 Pent House

Further up the street was a small wild garden, the site of a WW1 bombing raid that killed 60 people and destroyed the bakery there. Here was Amina Menia's Undélaissé ghost signs, right next door to a decorative pub turned art school annexe. And then it was across the road to the Andy Goldworthy pop-up gallery. It was almost 5 pm and everywhere was closing, but we managed to see Something & Son's Amusefood, a self-contained recycling 'farm' for producing fish, chips and mushy peas hydroponically, sadly not yet available to eat!  After a pint or two of Harvey's at the Guildhall, it was a long stroll to the cliff-top hotel, and thence out to The Meze House nearby for a delicious Greek supper.

Something and Son: Amusefood

The Folkestone Triennial runs until 2 November.