The latest in a series of strikes around the country are set to hit rail operators who are pushing for DOO (driver-only operation) in a drive to eliminate guards on their trains. For the operators, it’s all about saving money – a leaked report put that beyond doubt.
For unions, the key issue is the critical role played by their members in the safety of rail users and the general public – even the leaked report on cost savings acknowledges the risk of more – and more severe – accidents if guards are eliminated.
The rail operators, at least publicly, claim that the guards’ role is non-essential and that putting a customer-service manager on some trains is enough – but considering that they don’t think their trains need guards, they seem to be going to extensive lengths to cover shifts of guards during the strike action.
A photographic account of Downham Market, an old market town in Norfolk.
As those of you who read the post I put up earlier today will know I spent part of Saturday in the town of Downham Market. These post showcases everything I saw there other than the Town Hall.
This was my first visit to Downham Market, as opposed to passing through the station en route to further afield destinations. The pictures here were taken at two distinct periods, in the morning immediately post arrival, and in the afternoon when I had rather more time to kill than I would have wished. The only way across the tracks at Downham Market is by way of a level crossing, and the train from London to King’s Lynn arrives just before the one going the other way. The crossing gates close a couple of minutes before the King’s Lynn train arrives and stay closed until the London train has departed, which means that if you are looking to catch the King’s Lynn train, which departs from the far platform from the town centre and the crossing gates close you have missed it, and such was my fate on Saturday. For those affected this also explains both my later than usual arrival at the venue for Musical Keys and the fact that I was a tad breathless when I got there – I had stepped off a train at 15:20 at King’s Lynn and walked straight out to the Scout Hut in something of a hurry.
THE REST OF DOWNHAM MARKET
I start with two pictures to set the scene, a huge pictorial map which can be seen in the town centre and the information board about the railway:
The ‘Downham’ part of Downham Market comes from Anglo-Saxon (afterall, we are in the lands of the North Folk of the East Angles) and literally means ‘homestead on a hill’, and indeed the market town that grew up around that homestead (it has been a market town since Anglo-Saxon times) is slightly elevated from the surrounding countryside, which in Norfolk constitutes being on a hill! These photos are presented in the order in which they were taken.
I realised that there could be only one explanation for a signpost in cengtral Downham Market giving the distance to the town of Civray, namely that the two towns are twinned. Civray for the record is pretty much exactly halfway between Poitiers and Angouleme, due east of La Rochelle. I include a map as well as a close up of the sign.
An account of running the NAS West Norfolk stall at the Downham Market Community Fair on Saturday.
NAS West Norfolk were invited to run a stall at the Downham Market Community Fair, which took place on Saturday, with stalls setting up from 9AM and the event itself running from 10AM to 2PM. This post is my account from my perspective running the NASWN stall on the day. There will be plenty of photographs. I have stated elsewherethat while it is not ideal to have a stall covered by only one person if NAS West Norfolk are going to have only one person running the stall that person should be me.
I travelled to Downham Market by train (£3 return when making the journey at the weekend), selecting the 7:54AM, which would see me arrive at the station at about 8:10AM. I saw sufficiently much to take the eye as I walked through the town that I shall be putting up a separate post about that. I arrived outside the Town Hall at 8:35AM, giving me plenty of time to take some photographs of the outside of the building.
THE NASWN STALL
As arranged the person bringing the stall and some new leaflets arrived at 9AM, and the setup was swiftly accomplished. This was the first occasion in which the aspi.blog calendars for 2018 were on public display.
AROUND THE HALL
Obviously, being in sole charge of the stall I did not have much opportunity for moving about once the event was underway, but I did get sufficient pictures from a combination of the occasions on which I did move about and those taken from the stall to give a feel for the event. We start with some general pictures of the inside of the building.
Moving on to inidviudal stalls, I got pictures of the Downham Market Horticultural Society stall, the RBL stall, and various others. The most impressive stall of the day was that being run by the King’s Lynn and District Astronomy Society. They had a big screen displaying some very impressive slides as well their display board. The Cats Protection group had a stall, that like the NASWN stall was being run by a single person.
These are all the pictures of stalls other than the Astronomy Society one that I got, and it is to that group that I now turn:
THE NAS WEST NORFOLK STALL
The event was not massively attended, but I did see quite a few people at the NASWN stall, and the experience was overwhelmingly positive. My calendars impressed a few people but not sufficiently for any to sell. From an NASWN perspective, the main point of the day of course was to improve understanding of autism and to publicise the existence of our group. We succeeded as well as could have been hoped for in both regards, with a number of the new leaflets being taken, and quite a few people leaving the event better informed about autism than they had been before it started. I also got to explain about the rainbow coloured infinity symbol, and the fact that it is a symbol chosen by autistic people to represent the autistic spectrum. I consider that this event was a good use of a significant part of my Saturday. To finish, here is our stall for a second time:
Two shots showing views of the hall
This parapet is presumably the front of an upstairs seating area.
The last two shots in this selection feature artwork on the walls just outside the hall.
Some thoughts on shared space streets and Exhibition Road in particular.
Much of this post will also be appearing on my London Transport themed website as well as here because of the location of the particular shared space road that brought this issue to my attention. That location is of course Exhibition Road, London – a location very familiar to me from when I lived in London and was a regular visitor to museums. Here is a map for you to orient yourselves:
WHAT IS A SHARED SPACE ROAD?
A shared space road is a road without pavements, with no clear distinctions between where cars, cyclists and pedestrians should be. According to some this arrangement reduces accidents. However, a recent incident on London’s Exhibition Road has called this into question. Here is a tweet from campaign group Transport for All:
This (to me) raises two questions to be taken in turn:
CAN SHARED SPACE ROADS WORK?
I am uncertain on this one and will welcome evidence from people with experience of shared space roads in their localities. My own view is that they could work but the following is necessary:
Clear signage explaining what a shared space road is and what that means.
A very low speed limit for motor vehicles (even lower than the 20mph which is now commonplace in the vicinity of schools) fiercely enforced – speeding on a shared space street should be punished more severely than speeding elsewhere because of the greater risk of hitting someone.
Referring back to my first bullet point it needs to made clear that motorists are always expected to give way to cyclists and pedestrians.
Given what I know of London drivers I do not think that London is the right city to be trialling these (although Rome and Paris would both clearly by even worse options!)
This week was auction week at James and Sons. This post covers the events of the three days.
MONDAY – JAMES AND SONS PREMISES
I arrived at our premises in Fakenham at about 7:15AM, and made a cup of coffee, checked my emails and attended to IT setup. I had time to take a few photographs before anyone else arrived.
LOTS 1-250 (POSTCARDS)
These fared reasonably thanks to the internet. Three lots in particular went way above estimate. Lots 175 was estimated at £8-12, but courtesy of an internet battle soared to £28. Lot 213 with a modest estimate of £5-8 went for £25. Lot 227 had an estimate of £8-12 and sold for £30. Here are the items in question.
All these pictures incidentally are scans, at 200dpi.
LOTS 251-400 – EPHEMERA
No high prices from this section, although lot 353 went for significantly over estimate. Lot 321 fell my way unopposed, and lot 399, which I had had an eye on also fell to me (I ventured a hopeful bid, not expecting for an instant to get the item, only because lot 353 which I had assessed as the more likely bet went elsewhere).
CIGARETTE/ TRADE CARDS – LOTS 401-500
Nothing noteworthy happened in this section. The auction finished, it was still necessary to move the items from this sale upstairs and to bring the stock (save the very large stuff) for the next day’s sale downstairs.
TUESDAY – JAMES AND SONS PREMISES
Again an early arrival gave me time to do a bit before anyone else was there. I also had time for a few pre-auction photographs.
LOTS 601-900 – POSTAL HISTORY AND STAMPS
Although this was in absolute terms a quiet period, this items fared much better than usual. The headline grabber was lot 850, which had an estimate of £40-50 but sold in the end for £85.
COINS AND BANKNOTES – LOTS 901-1100
Lot 947, which was an 1809 Demi-Franc, had an estimate of £30-50, but some vigorous internet bidding pushed the price up to £130. Lot 980, a brass token from Long Sutton had an esimate of £8-12, but attracted sufficient interest to sell for £20.
The auction concluded, it remained to render the premises something that looked more like a shop and of course to ensure that the IT stuff got the racecourse, where the stock bar a dolls house that was still in the shop had already been laid out.
WEDNESDAY – FAKENHAM RACECOURSE
My first action an arrival the venue inadvertently caused a problem. I had been equipped with a key to the venue, as it was highly likely that I would be the first James and Sons employee on the scene. Unfortunately I had not been told that an alarm had been set, much less what the alarm code was. I only realised this when I unlocked the door and heard the telltale bleep of an alarm that needed to be deactivated. Fortunately that was the only significant problem I was to have in the course of the day. The fact that I had to use my employer’s laptop as the master machine because my machine has nowhere to attach the cable that connects the big screen to a computer and the third laptop was needed by my colleague for the invoicing (which apparently could only be done on that specific machine). The trouble with using my employer’s laptop as the main machine is that goes to sleep every few minutes, which in turn means that the slide show will go blank. I had time for a bit of photography.
ANTIQUES AND BYGONES – LOTS 1201-1300
Some of these items were very interesting. Two achieved significantly more than expected. Lot 1245 was a set of four world cup 1966 placemats and four world cup 1966 coasters which had been given a modest estimate of £5-10. They actually sold for £25. Lot 1252, which was a set of two railway themed badges which I had been interested in, estimated at £8-10, caught the attention of the internet and ended up going for £20.
MILITARIA – LOTS 1301-1540
Most of the lots in this section found buyers, but not for very large amounts. There was one headline maker however. Lot 1520 was a Luftwaffe Paratrooper’s Private Purchase Dagger, estimated at £40-50, which ended up going for £85.
TOYS – LOTS 1541-1600
Again it was a case of steady rather than spectacular sales, but three items did particularly well. Lot 1547, a model train that had been valued at £5-10 ended up selling for £20 (it had been described as a Hornby, but was actually a Triang, a better name as far as collectors are concerned,). Lot 1590, which was a complete Hornby train set, and had been estimated at £20-30 went for £50. Finally, the last lot of the sale, a Star Wars Millennium Falcon estimated at £15-20 went for £30 (this was a case of patience being rewarded – the successful bidder was a chap who had travelled over from Norwich specifically to bid on that one item and waited out the entire day’s selling until it came up).
THE FINAL FURLONG
After the last lot had sold, and the last payment from a room bidder had been taken it was time for the clear up, which was accomplished swiftly. Back at the shop, once everything had been unloaded from the van I produced a printed list of online bidders to bring my working week to a close.
An account of the opening salvos in the Women’s Ashes and some photographs.
Unlike the original Ashes, which have been fought for since 1882, the Women’s Ashes is contested across multiple formats. The current scoring system awards two points for a win in a limited overs match, 1 for a no-result and 0 for a defeat, while the sole test match is worth four points.
A Classic Match
The first of three ODIs that the women will be contesting took place at the Allan Border Field in Brisbane. Australia won the toss and put England in to bat. Several England players got starts but none managed to build a really substantial score, Lauren Winfield leading the way with 48. A total of 228 off 50 overs did not look like it was good enough, and in the end it wasn’t.
Eng;land bowled better than they had batted, and at 87-4 Australia were looking distinctly shaky. Alex Hartley failed to hold a return catch offered by veteran Alex Blackwell when the latter had 35 to her name, and Australia were behind the rate, Talia McGrath having occupied 26 balls for a score of 7. This missed chance and some aggression from Ash Gardner (27 off 18) made the difference, Australia getting home in the final over with Blackwell unbeaten on 67.
A highlight of this match was the preponderance of quality spin bowling on show – in Gardner, Amanda-Jade Wellington and Jess Jonassen Australia had three high-class practitioners, while Hartley and the experienced Laura Marsh both bowled well for England.
ON THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN ‘WOMEN’S ASHES’ AND ‘ASHES’
This applies across the board, and not just to cricket between England and Australia, but this seems a suitable place to mention this. I see the distinction between these categories as that between a restricted (“Women’s”) and an open category – if a woman is able to play alongside the men she should have the right to do so – the existence of Women only teams is an acknowledgement that few women could because the men are generally larger and stronger. Similarly if a disabled athlete happens to be performing comparably to their able-bodied counterparts they should be able to compete alongside them.
In terms of cricket I would expect that a woman who earned selection for ‘The Ashes’ as opposed ‘The Women’s Ashes’ would not be a specialist fast-bowler, but I could see spinners, wicket-keepers or batters earning selection.