Wednesday, 10 March 2010

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Monday, 22 February 2010

An historical question

Having visited Kenilworth today and over the last few years a large number of other ruined castles an interesting question is posed regarding one of the most device men in British History.

Did Oliver Cromwell effectively create English Heritage?

A large number of castles around the country were destroyed, or slighted, on the orders of Cromwell following the Civil War so that they couldn’t be used again to hold out against “the will of parliament”.

Over time these have become picturesque ruins which have then become tourist attractions and today have spawned the heritage industry.

So rather than the curmudgeonly, Irish massacring, Christmas hating, puritanical dictator that history has left us with, perhaps we should remember him as the founding father of today’s Heritage Industry.

This does of course mean he is also responsible for “living history”, inane audio guides and battle re-enactments.

Digging up his corpse was too good for him (to paraphrase the Daily Mail)

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

At least co-ordinate your lies

It’s the usual story, a small amount of snow falls in the UK and the transport infrastructure grinds to a halt.

I got up early today because I wanted to have the maximum time in Stratford-upon-Avon. As the first train to Birmingham wasn’t until 08:37 it wasn’t that early, but 07:30 on a Sunday is still unpleasant.

When I woke up I looked out of the window and noticed that there was a small amount of the white stuff on the ground, so I had an idea that there might be disruption.

I got to Coventry station and the train was still showing as being on time.

It was still showing as being on time at 08:39. Then it started to update itself, first to 08:42, then at 08:43 to 08:47, at 08:49 it disappeared from the display at which point someone finally decided it might be useful to make an announcement.

The train was still running, but it would now be leaving from another platform in four minutes time, so we all troop over the bridge to platform 2.

Four minutes later, still no train. Finally just a couple of minutes before 9 as the train pulled into the station there was an announcement apologising for the delay caused by frozen points just outside the station.

OK, we had a reason, we had a train, I wouldn’t have thought much about it, until a minute or so later as the train pulled out the guard apologies for the delay caused by the train that was supposed to be forming this service having broken down and having to get a replacement.

So London Midland, what was it, frozen points or a broken train. If you are going to lie to your customers at least get everyone telling the same lie.

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

The industry to be in

There might be a recession on (OK so we have supposedly come out of recession but it still feels like there is a recession on), but there is one industry which appears to be thriving, growing, almost as rapidly as Swine Flu didn’t

In the time it took me to walk the ½ mile or so from the station to the hotel I lost count, they were everywhere...

The Pound Shop

Poundland, Everything a Pound, PoundWorld, The £1 store, Poundzilla (actually I’ve made the last one up, but if anyone does open the chain I want it made clear that I thought of the name!)

There are even the sub pound – 99p store, Everything 99p

All these, several of them with multiple stores, in that short walk.

I know that Coventry has been particularly hit by the down turn of manufacturing, but even then, how does a town support that number of £1 store without destroying all of the rest of its stores.

I have this horrible image of Coventry in a couple of year’s time just made up of pound stores.

Oh, and Greggs, there were several hundred of them as well!

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Sort it out Boris!

I suppose it is partly my fault for assuming that the tube would be running OK, that on a day when several London football clubs were playing at home TfL wouldn’t have most of the tube closed for engineering works.

Unfortunately, TfL did have engineering works, lots of engineering works, in fact the Victoria line was about the only line which didn’t have line closures and consequently was very busy.

This in itself wouldn’t have been a problem, except that when it gets busy the train bunch up and the have big gaps between them. The big gaps mean lots more people waiting on the platform and that then means the next train is even fuller, more people get left behind and the platforms slowly get so full it’s dangerous.

That’s pretty much exactly what had happened a minute or so before I arrived at Victoria tube station (with 50 minutes to spare to make the 10 minute journey), and when I got to the ticket barriers they had all been locked off.

They kept announcing that we would be let in very shortly as soon as the next train cleared the platform.

Unfortunately, for a line where there are supposed to be trains every 3 minutes or so, there appeared to be several missing, as the next train took over 10 minutes to arrive, and strangely, was absolutely bursting at the seams so not very many people were able to get on and they had to wait another 5 minutes for the next train to arrive to empty most of the platform.

By the time they finally released the gates my comfortable 50 minutes had shrunk to a less comfortable 25 minutes.

The next train was due in 2 minutes and then 12 minutes. I knew full well that if I didn’t get on the first tube I would almost certainly miss my train at Euston.

So I called upon all my years of being a Londoner put my head down, elbows out and piled into the scrum around the door, managing, just to squeeze both myself and my luggage into the train, displacing a couple of people heading to Highbury for the Arsenal match, though having to bend into an awkward shape to avoid being trapped in the doors as they closed.

As the train was so full it, of course, took longer at each station to empty and load so by the time I surfaced onto the concourse at Euston I was down to just 10 minutes to my train (and very thankful that I had made it onto the first train I could)

Now I’m willing to accept that it’s partly my fault for not checking in advance and taking the inevitable disruption into account when I decided what time to set off, but at the same time it is slowly getting impossible to travel round London at the weekend as more and more bits get closed down.

Perhaps it’s time that the blond haired buffoon actually did something rather than just doing Hugh Grant impressions!

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Friday, 22 January 2010

A confession

I’m going to put my hands up to making a very basic error, and one that has taken me over two years to realise.

When I visited Swansea back in August 2007 I went for the afternoon to Carmarthen. Part of the reason for going was to look at the castle, because I had heard lots of people going on about how good the castle was.

I didn’t think much of it, all there appeared to be were a couple of walls and a small bit of rampart. I thought I must have missed some really big site (to be fair I had already been to Kidwelly castle that day, and had to get back to Swansea to pick up my luggage and the train home, so I didn’t have lots of time to investigate.)

It was only with the planning of my current trip to Holyhead that it suddenly dawned on me that rather than Carmarthen castle people might have been talking about Caernarfon castle.

And yes, Caernarfon castle is spectacular.

To paraphrase a well respected Russian – Aleksandr Orlov
Carmarthen, Caernarfon, don’t even sound the same, Simples!

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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Not drunken Stag parties

The problem with Travelodge’s are that they are fantastically cheap, and consequently are first choice for anyone looking to book lots of rooms.

This does mean that in some towns (Newcastle, Edinburgh) you can be woken up at 2 or 3 in the morning by the sounds of groups of drunken people coming in from a stag or hen do.

Things at Holyhead are a little different.

I can’t think that anyone who’s not from Holyhead, or the surrounding area, would actively choose the place for a Stag/Hen do. It’s a very nice town, but it’s not renowned for its range of bars or nightlife (unlike a Newcastle for example).

Consequently you aren’t woken up in the very early hours by people coming in from bars. You are woken up though by people on their way out.

Both yesterday and today I’ve been woken up at 4 am by people leaving.

For this is the curse of a port town. Whilst there may not be stag parties, there are people hoping to catch the 5am sailing to Dublin, and if you don’t live in Holyhead, or want a night kipping in the departures lounge, then the hotel is probably your only choice.

I’d just wish some of them would realise that not all of us want the ferry to Dublin, some just want their sleep.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Why make it easy

There are two buses an hour between Holyhead and Bangor

However, they are not at half hourly intervals

One is the X4, it’s supposedly the express route, but wanders around the houses quite a bit

The other is the 4, except it doesn’t go to Bangor it goes to the town of Llangefni where you can connect onto Bangor on the 4A, except in Llangefni the 4 just becomes the 4A without anyone mentioning it. (Is your head hurting yet!)

Neither route goes down the direct route to Bangor, both crossing over the A55 main road on multiple occasions heading off down to random villages (I know that’s the purpose of a bus route, not sure its the purpose of an express route though).

At one point we even went through a village called Llanddaniel Fab. I don’t think Fab has the same meaning in Welsh as it does in English though.

I thought that the locals would know what was going on, but on several occasions I heard comments like “Oh, this ones going this way today”.

Perhaps I should have just taken the train instead!

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Heavy Snow

Is falling somewhere in Britain tonight, but its not in North Wales.

As the train entered Wales the clouds started to clear, and as we ran along the edge of the North Wales Coast sunlight was sparkling off the still sea and the distant wind farm.

By the time I got to Holyhead this had turned to haze rather than full sun, but it was still better than had been predicted.

Of course, I know I am just being lulled into a false sense of security and by tomorrow evening will be suffering from acute trench-foot.

However, this evening, with the blue sea lapping gently on the beach, the sun setting behind Holyhead mountain and the light breeze rustling the ropes on the masts of the sailing boats in the Marina it was easy to forget that less than a week ago it took me more than 10 times the normal length of time to commute into work because of the snow.

And then I was woken out of the relaxing picture of the sun, sea and light breeze by the sound of a jet fighter roaring overhead as it headed back into RAF Valley on the edge of Anglesey.

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Why Holyhead in January?

This is a question which I have started to ask myself over the last week or so as I’ve been keeping an eye on the weather.

I booked last June based on the last couple of years when January has been crisp, cold at times, but generally very dry.

I thought that there might be a pattern developing, that January might be becoming a very good month to visit the UK.

Then the Met Office started to jinx it all

First they predicted that 2009 was going to be a barbeque summer with long hot days.

“The UK is "odds on for a barbecue summer", with no repeat of the washouts of the last two years, according to Met Office forecasters.”

Queue one of the dampest summers on record.

Then they predicted that the winter was going to be mild, queue the worst winter in 30 years.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that the weather has taken a turn for the worst, and earlier this week the predictions were for “Continuous Torrential Downpours across Wales with the potential for serious flooding”

As my train leaves Crewe the weather forecast has been upgraded to light showers and some sun later in the week, so I’m expecting snow drifts!

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