Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Regency Javelin Tour

A few weeks ago, I was looking at railtours, like you do, and found this one, which was not too expensive, involved a Javelin train (okay, not so romantic as a steam train), and was on a day when we had nothing else planned.  So the Swan Whisperer bought tickets, and this morning we got up very early and made our way to St Pancras via the Victoria Line.  The train was waiting for us on the platform - when we finally found Platform 12, we discovered we had come a very long way round, but we had been able to buy a coffee at Costa en route.

Our seats were in either the first or the last carriage, depending on which way we were going!  And there were several route reversals during the day.  They gave us a printed itinerary, so we knew where we were and whether we were in time or not.

It was a very grey and dreary November day, with very little colour about.  As always, perhaps the nicest part of the journey was the Mid-Sussex line, aka the Arun Valley Line, which runs through the water-meadows of the Arun valley, and passes Arundel Castle.
But it was fun going out on HS1, which we have only ever done on Eurostars (I did once go between Stratford International and St Pancras on a Javelin, because I could, but it only takes 2 minutes or so....).  We went down via Rochester and Strood to Tonbridge, and then along the line to Redhill, and thence to the Arun Valley Line once we reached Three Bridges.  Then at Littlehampton it reversed again to go along the West Coastway line, which I know like the back of my hand, so not as interesting as it might have been....  However, instead of running straight into Brighton, it went up the Clifton Curve to Preston Park, and then down into Brighton from there - not sure where.  Brighton was basically lunch time - I'd brought sandwiches, and then we went and got the Swan Whisperer a coffee - and after it we headed off to Hastings, via Eastbourne (where we reversed again, only I'd fallen asleep by then, and missed it).  I think these semaphore signals were at Hastings:

After Hastings, we headed back to - I was going to say Birmingham by way of Bethnal Green - but back to St Pancras via places like Sevenoaks, St Mary Cray, and then Rochester again to rejoin HS1 at Ebbsfleet.  It was dark by then, of course, so one couldn't see much, and I was a bit stiff after sitting all day, but we had had plenty of opportunities to get up and move around and stretch, so it wasn't as bad as it might have been!

All in all, a very enjoyable day, and on-train sales, raffle tickets (no joy, of course) and a silent auction which I didn't participate in raised about £2,500 for the Royal British Legion.

But would somebody please tell me why it is easy to find the King's Cross exit from the Victoria Line platforms, very close to it, but utterly impossible to find the Victoria Line platforms from the King's Cross entrance?????  There seems to be a wormhole that means whatever way you go you have to walk down endless claustrophobia-inducing tunnels with horrible lighting.....

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Regent Street Motor Show

Tomorrow is the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, and, in preparation for this, today was the Regent Street Motor Show.  This event is one of those occasions when Regent Street is closed to normal traffic, although the shops stay open.

We nearly didn't go - the Rostelecom Cup was on all afternoon - but dragged ourselves away from the television after the ice dance, and got a 159 bus up to Piccadilly Circus.  This was nearly a mistake as it took about half an hour to cross Westminster Bridge, which seems to have been reduced to one lane in each direction.  However, once it had done that, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square were relatively free, and we got off at Regent Street/St James and walked across Piccadilly Circus to the start of the show.

The actual vintage cars only took up part of the street; the first part was about vintage racing cars, rather dull really, except there was the late great James Hunt's racing car.
Then there were some sponsors' vehicles, and a couple of old coaches/charabancs before the Veteran Car Concours d’Elegance, as it was called. 
And then came the veteran cars, all dressed in their best.  Only about 1/4 of the ones that will be running tomorrow, but they were very splendid indeed!
Then came one car that has obviously languished somewhere for years and years and is presumably about to receive some TLC very soon:
And that section ended with a wonderful vintage charabanc!
Then there was a section of low-emission cars, which was quite interesting, and some Minis, and finally some ride or other sponsored by Top Gear.  At which point we had arrived at Oxford Circus, so we wandered off to find a Prets to have lunch, and then the 137 bus back home, where we arrived in time for the end of the Pairs, and all of the Ladies' Free!

It was quite interesting - probably not worth a special trip to London, but certainly worth a visit.  Presumably this happens on the first Saturday in November every year, so there will be other occasions. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Nunhead Cemetery

It is All Saints' Day, so what better place to spend the afternoon than in a cemetery?  Nunhead cemetery, to be exact.  It was part of a guided walk organised by the Cooltan Arts Centre, not as exciting as the blurb suggests - the guide to the cemetery wasn't available until 2:30, and then he was held up, so really, touring the cemetery was all we had time for.

The walk started off outside Nunhead Library, which is closed for redevelopment until 5 December, but is really rather an enchanting building.  We then stopped on Nunhead Green to talk about the area - a craft beer shop and an enormous estate agents providing proof of gentrification!  Then it was along Linden Grove (where Charles Dickens apparently installed one of his mistresses) to the cemetery.

It was really lovely!  It is, of course, on of the Magnificent Seven suburban cemeteries established in the 1830s and 1840s when London's churchyards were overflowing.  It was used for burials for over 100 years, but closed in 1969.  And left to rot for the next 20 years, while wildlife and nature took over.  And, of course, there was a lot of urban exploration, drug-taking, and downright vandalism going on.  Eventually the cemetery was bought by Southwark Council for £1, and eventually it was restored - there are Friends of the Cemetery who volunteer to help keep the walkways open and so on. 
Because it was All Saints' Day, some of the graves had fresh flowers, and some had flameless candles on them.  Not all, by any manner of means, but enough to show that people still care.  There was one modern grave that just said "Harold and Tim RIP" (it might not have been those names) with no date; we wondered whether it  had been an unofficial burial while the cemetery was closed, in an era when Harold and Tim might not have been welcome to be buried together elsewhere.
There was a very moving memorial to some scouts who had drowned in a disaster off the Isle of Sheppey, near a World War 1 cemetery. 

From the top of the hill, there is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral, but it was too foggy to see it today!
And then we walked back downhill to the exit. 

Contrary to popular perception, it wasn't in the slightest bit spooky - it was lovely and peaceful.  Apart from people walking their dogs, of course, but then, how lovely that they should have such a big space available for to do that in!  It really is a lovely place, and I would happily go back if it wasn't slightly awkward to get to!