Homeward Bound

My account of the homeward journey from Fort Picklecombe.


We have reached the penultimate post about my Cornish holiday – the last day. This post details the long journey home.


The length of time it took to get from Plymouth to Fort Picklecombe on the Thursday was playing on my mind, and I wanted to be sure that we were away before 9AM, since my train was due to depart Plymouth at 10:44, and I reckoned that a single ticket from Plymouth to London bought on the day (London-Lynn would still have been valid on the original ticket) woulkd probably cost more than my original ticket (in this assessment, to borrow from history, there was the proverbial “cubit of error my way that does not obscure the 99 cubits of error the other way” – actually said ticket would have been fractionally less. Nevertheless, I did get a few lasy pictures before leaving the fort:

Sun on waterthree boatsTwo boats

A first for me – the first time I have captured a heron on camera.

On the journey into Plymouth I managed to snap two pictures from the back of the camper van:

Water viewBridge, Plymouth

I had some time to kill at Plymouth station and did so by taking photographs…

Platform 7, Plymouth

Gull waiting for train
An avian passenger?

Posters 1Plymouth PosterPenzanceDevon PosterDevon Poster 2Departure Board


This train was a service called “The Cornish Riviera”, which starts in Penzance and snails up through Cornwall stopping pretty much everywhere and then makes up time by calling only at Exeter St Davids and Reading between Plymouth and London. Although I had an aisle seat on this journey, and no opportunity to move to the window seat I was not going to be denied at least some photos. I got a good few between Plymouth and Exeter and a handful thereafter…

Across the water from the trainAcross the Water from the train IIBridge from trainThe seaCliffsAcross the water from the train IIIHeadland from the trainTown across the water from trainBoats and buildings through the windowBoats and Buildings from train IIBoats and buildings from train IIIAcross the water from train IVBoat and housesboat and buildingsRed cliffsRed cliff and two big housesStately homeRed cliffs, buildings and treesRed cl.iffs and red houseWaterfront buildingsWaterside viewView through the bridgeAcross the riverLarge churchLarge church IILarge church IIITwo towersSpire through treesSpire II

Plat 1
Exeter St Davids (two images)

Exeter St DavidsMonument

Chalk Horse
This chalk horse, carved directly out of the hillside, is visible at distance at a time when the train is at full speed.

Chalk Horse II

Reading station
Royal Oak
Royal Oak – the Hammersmith & City line’s last station west of Paddington. The next station towards Hammersmith, Westbourne Park, used to offer an interchange with mainline railways but nowadays Ealing Braodway is the last mainline station before Paddington. Back in the old days there was a connection – the first locomotives to run over what was then The Metropolitan Railway were supplied by the Great Western, while this extension to Hammersmtih opened in 1864, only one year after the original.


I crossed to the Hammersmith and City line platforms, nos 15 and 16 of the main station, and waited a long time for an eastbound train, then discovering that it was terminating at Edgware Road (very odd indeed for a train from Hammersmith), so I had to change again. I arrived at King’s Cross and was just in time to catch the 14:44 to King’s Lynn, which was not overfull (as the 15:44, the next service, certainly would have been). This means that I was at home and unpacking by 5PM. 

Paddington 1View from the Hammersmith & City line platformsPaddingtonH&C trainCablesTrainEdgware RoadEdgware Road from aboveEdgware Road Plats 1&2

Hammersmith & City line
This picture was the cause of minor quarrel – I was challenged by another passenger as to why I was taking pictures of his friend, and it took my a while to get the point across that I was not, and that it was this map which was my target. His friend’s hat did appear in the uncropped version, but no face was visible, and my only interest was the map. I was perhaps a little harsh as I was fully expecting to miss my intended connection at Kings Cross due to the delays on this leg of the journey.

Great Portland StreetEuston Square

Kings Cross clock
The platform from which the train to King’s Lynn was l.eaving was revealed with a mere eight minutes to spare, and if you going to Lynn you have to go to the front of the train (or else get out and dash along the platform at Cambridge).

Kings Cross arched roofTrains at Kings CrossKing's Cross just before departureJourney PlannerAeroplaneStansted ExpressStansted Express 2

Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral.


Thoughts on Public Transport

Some jottings on public transport.


This post arises from several issues: changes to the bus services in my region, and the way in which the company in question has handled those changes; a campaign that has recently come to my attention to restore rail links to Wisbech, and finally the fact that I have recently been in Sweden and thus privileged to see at first hand how a properly run public transport system works.


The more I see of public transport (and as a 41 year old non-driver I see plenty) the more convinced I become that private companies should play no role in running it. Whether you consider the blatant failures such as the current situation involving Southern Rail, the high and increasing prices of tickets across the board or the frequency with public transport in Britain is affected by delays or suspensions of services, it is plain for all to see that private companies cannot do the job.

I regularly see people in Fakenham, where I work, who have missed a connection due to a late running bus. A missed connection means a loss of at least one hour, possibly more due to the infrequency of services.


Those of you who are familiar with my London Transport themed website will have noticed that I am strong believer in integration of services, which is manifested on that site mainly by my suggestions for improvements to existing lines. Ideally all routes would be interconnected.


My first case study concerns…


There have been two major changes on this route recently. Firstly, the service between Fakenham and Norwich has been halved (it is now hourly rather than half hourly), albeit with a couple of gaps in the service between Fakenham and King’s Lynn closed to make that a proper hourly service. The effect of the axing of half of the services between Fakenham and Norwich has been that for the first time standing passengers are a regular feature of that route. A week ago today the X8 designation vanished, the whole route now being referred to as X29. While there is a certain logic to taking this step, especially if it means that all Norwich-Fakenham buses go through to Lynn, the way in which it was handled earns Stagecoach a major black mark. Apart from messages on the screens at King’s Lynn bus station (the way I learned about it), this change was given no advance publicity, with the result that those passengers who do not use King’s Lynn bus station were caught on the hop, and even on Friday evening the sight on X29 to King’s Lynn was still capable of causing confusion with certain passengers.


The train service between London and King’s Lynn is hourly, and after a non-stop run to Cambridge it splits into two, with four coaches continuing north to King’s Lynn and four returning to King’s Cross. The necessity to be in the front four coaches if going beyond Cambridge can mean standing all the way to that station or even beyond (I have stood from London to Waterbeach at least once). I am aware that the restriction to four coaches beyond Cambridge is due to the shortness the platforms at some the intermediate stations, but there are least two possible solutions, and variations thereon:

  1. In addition to the through services from London run regular (half hourly, or even quarter hourly) shuttle services between Cambridge and King’s Lynn). This (especially with the more frequent services) would mean that not everyone journeying between Cambridge and King’s Lynn or intermediate stations would need to board through trains at Cambridge – I for one would aim to make the return leg of a trip to Cambridge on one of the shuttles rather than a through service.
  2. For points north of Cambridge have an interleaving of shuttle services as above with faster through services calling at only the stations with long platforms (Ely, Downham Market, King’s Lynn), so that services between London and King’s Lynn would consist of hourly through services, with changes at Cambridge, Ely or Downham Market as appropriate for intermediate stations) which would be augmented by shuttle services on the Cambridge-King’s Lynn section.

You will note that I have not even touched on the possibility of lengthening the platforms at Waterbeach, Littleport and Watlington so that eight carriage trains could call at those stations – I have merely mentioned the possibilities that do not require work on the existing infratsructure.


I found out about the campaign to bring the railways back to Wisbech via twitter. They have a website which gives considerable detail about their proposals. I conclude this post by aking use of one of more recent bargain basement acquisitions, this what Wisbech’s rail connections looked like in 1947…




James and Sons July Auction

An account of yesterday’s auction, complete with photos, a link to a book review and a (well-merited) swipe at Stagecoach.


This is my account of the latest auction held by my employers, James and Sons, which took place yesterday at the Maid’s Head Hotel in Norwich.


Stagecoach, who have subsumed Norfolk Green, have very recently and without anything approaching proper communication cut a large number of services. One casualty of this piece of axe wielding is the 6:10 AM from King’s Lynn to Fakenham, which used to become the 6:55 from Fakenham to Norwich, and would see me arrive at the venue around about 8am, as needed. Fortunately, having been alerted to the mayhem while at work on Tuesday I had the foresight to check the timetables posted at King’s Lynn Bus Station and was able to come up with a back-up plan – I bought a single ticket on the X1 to Dereham and Norwich which is run by First Eastern Counties, departing at 5:55am and was in Norwich at the appointed time. This single fare and the single fare back from Fakenham (having travelled from Norwich to Fakenham as a passenger in the company van) amounted to £10 between them (£6 and £4 respectively) instead of £5.50 for a Dayrider Plus, to say nothing of the uncertainty created by the ham-fisted way in which these cuts were made. Surely if significant cuts to services are to be made (and I consider cutting what was the first bus of the morning on a particular route to be significant on its own – and I also know that half of the services that used to run between Fakenham and Norwich have been axed) the announcement should be made long in advance of the cuts happening, and every bus travelling on an affected route should be well stocked with new timetables that accurately reflect the planned reduction in services. Also, especially given the parlous state of public transport services in Norfolk, I consider any cuts to be unacceptable in any case.


With people arriving to view stuff not long after we had got there, there was not a lot of scope laying stuff out artistically, especially given how much of it there was, but a couple of areas were reasonably well done nevertheless…

Part of the toy display – inside that suitcase marked is lot 363 was a large collection of items of rolling stock.
A little cluttered, but at least the three smartest hats got due prominence.


I am glad to be able to report that there were no IT issues at any stage of the sale. While the coins & tokens, some of the militaria and some of the ephemera sold well, the stamps did not go well, and the vinyls did less well than we would have liked.

Once the auction finished we picked out all the stuff that had sold to bidders not in the room, loaded the van up for the return journey and were able to head back. I was able to catch the 17:38 rather than have the dicey prospect of relying on the 18:35 not having been cut (if they can cut the first bus of the day, why not the last?). However, I was not yet at liberty to relax – there was still the matter of watering a few plants at Hampton Court, Nelson Street. Thus, it was almost exactly 14 hours after I had left my flat that my time was my own again.


There are two members of James and Sons staff who can manage the IT during the auction, so we swap duties during the day (auction days are the only time I regularly do front-line customer service). My colleague did an IT session between lots 200 and 300, at which point we had a scheduled break. I then did the first 75 lots after the break, before swapping for 100 lots or so, for a period when a few things I was interested in were coming up, before I then went back to IT duties until the end of the sale.

The first items that I was interested in were five sets of railway postcards, lots 391-5:


These as expected went beyond my possible price range. Next to command attention was lot 403, a book of views of Cambridge:


Again, to no great surprise this rapidly went beyond my price range.

The next items of interest were some antique maps, which I was fully aware I would not be able to afford but enjoyed seeing go under the hammer. This set the stage for the last lot to command my interest, and unlike any of the foregoing it was one that I was determined to get if at all possible. Lot 450, “The Bus We Loved: London’s Affair With the Routemaster”, was not an item that I as someone who runs a London transport themed website could happily countenance going elsewhere. There was a mini bidding war as someone else was also interested, but when I went to £10 that secured the item. For more about the book please visit my review of it that is on my website.



Yesterday was a very demanding day, both physically and mentally. However, everything went fairly smoothly. Given the Stagecoach schemozzle referred to earlier, the travel element of the day was as good as I could have hoped for.



Study Title: Attention and Perception in Autism Spectrum Conditions

A personal account of taking part in a study at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge,, accompanied by photographs, with some interesting and important links and some more photographs.


The main body of this post is a personal account of my involvement in the study whose title I have used for the whole post, run as so often at the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge. I also have a variety of links and a few photos that are not directly connected with the title piece but which I wish to share. I hope you will all enjoy this post and that you will take the opportunity of sharing it.



i found out about this study just five days ago, and made contact with the person conducting it. A brief exchange of emails concluded with an arrangement for me to attend at 11AM today. As part of the preparation I had to answer various questions and solve  various puzzles online.


An scheduled start of 11AM meant getting the 8:57 from King’s Lynn, and to make sure that I got my travel expenses reimbursed I carefully got a receipt. It was shortly after getting on to the platform that I brought the camera into action for the first time of the day…


Pictures taken through the windows of moving trains are tough to get right, but these two worked out okay…

"A goods train: the shame of it" Gordon the Big Engine in the Rev W Awdry series
“A goods train: the shame of it” Gordon the Big Engine in the Rev W Awdry series
I could get a clear shot of the whole of Ely Cathedral, but this shows the main tower and the octagonal construction designed by a 14th century Prior known only and uninformatively as Alan of Norwich.
I could not get a clear shot of the whole of Ely Cathedral, but this shows the main tower and the octagonal construction designed by a 14th century Prior known only and uninformatively as Alan of Norwich.

Arriving in Cambridge I decided to take a longer route than usual to the Autism Research Centre, heading towards town as far as this church…

DSCN8531 DSCN8532

Turning on to the link road that connects to the town end of Trumpington Road I passed the Scott Polar Research Institute, named in honour of Robert Falcon Scott, one of the most famous runners up in history. Scott also gave his name to an itinerant cricket team some of whose deeds are chronicled in Penguins Stopped Play by Harry Thompson and Rain Men by Marcus Berkmann. Although I could not get a shot of the whole building without crossing to the wrong side of a busy road I did get these shots…

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Next up was the Cambridge University Chemical Laboratory…


At the very point of turning onto Trumpington Road I passed Hobson’s Conduit…

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This is the first major building on Trumpington Road itself, on the opposite side of ti to me…

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A shot of the water alongside Trumpington Road…


I next passed the public entrance to Cambridge Botanic Gardens (the admission price convinced me to go no further than the gates)…

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A little bit further along I passed a locked gate into the same establishment, with some red flowers growing next to it…

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The last shot I got before arriving at the Autism Research Centre was of this dragon fly (or similar), which although quite large was moving exceedingly fast, hence why I got only the one usable shot…



I arrived at the centre at about 10:40, and did not have to wait too long for Owen Parsons, who was conducting the study, to put in an appearance. After the usual preliminaries of form signing and checking the experiment itself ran in three parts…


For this test one had eight seconds in total to view an intermittent display of red and blue letters, most of which were Ls but one of which was a T. The task was to identify which colour the T was and click the appropriate button to record that identification. A wrong identification, or wrong button pressed, or being timed out generated a horrible beep.


For this part of the process one was required to press the space bar each time the same image was shown twice consecutvely. The images were all of full scenes, but shown at thumbnail size. Again, a misidentification or a failure to identify within the time limit generated a beep. There was then a second part to this section, involving familiarity. One was shown sequences of three images and asked to identify the set that looked more familiar. The pictures were similar in nature and size to those previously shown, but some were definitely new.


For this third and final part of the experiment, there were four boxes in which an X could appear. When it appeared one had to identify the box as follows: X for leftmost, Z for left-centre, N for right-centre, M for rightmost. Thus, the duration of this section of the experiment was spent with the index and middle fingers of each hand poised over the keys in question. There was then a second subsection, involving pattern identification and made more complicated by two factors:

1)Obviously enough, not knowing about this in advance I was not especially looking for a pattern in the first stage of the process.

2)The pattern was not adhered to at all times (about 15% of the time, the X appeared in a box it was not ‘supposed’ to).

All in all, I quite enjoyed performing these tests, and would say that it is a worthwhile study. If you are aged 18-45, have been diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Condition and can get to Cambridge, contact Owen Parsons: oep20@cam.ac.uk about taking part in the study.


There was a small delay getting back to the main building from the place where the study had been set up as Owen initially came out without his swipe card, during which I snared this shot…


On my way back to the street I took a shot of the front of the main building…


I opted for the short route back to the station,along Brooklands Avenue and past the new bus interchange to approach the train station from that angle. I got these shots in the course of that walk…

DSCN8573 DSCN8574 DSCN8575

I got a couple of shots en route to the platform as well…

A worthy effort to represent all of Britain's railways on one map.
A worthy effort to represent all of Britain’s railways on one map.
A somewhat loose definition of London & the Southeast!
A somewhat loose definition of London & the Southeast!

On my way off the train at King’s Lynn I took the opportunity to capture this plaque on camera…



As regular readers of this blog or those who follow me on twitter will be well aware I regularly sign and share petitions, and my first link is to a piece from Huffington Post detailing the success of one such, concerning the Henry family.

My next link is to Mike Sivier of Vox Political on the subject of a possible Greek default.

Next up is this about the effect of London on social housing.

Then we have this on the origins of turtles.


The next two links both relate to autism, and indeed to the website of a recent follower of mine:

1)The main website, ambitiousautismambassador

2)A particular impressive post taking on stereotyping.


My final link is to a petition on change.org protesting against a planned European law that will mean the end of photography as we know it – PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE!!


While my right to do so remains I am sharing these photos…

Stand E, on the occasion I first used it, Tuesday AM
Stand E, on the occasion I first used it, Tuesday AM
The new electronic displays now at every stand.
The new electronic displays now at every stand.
Vancouver and the Custom House
Vancouver and the Custom House
I realised before using it as part of my bus fare that this 50p was of a style I had not previously seen.
I realised before using it as part of my bus fare that this 50p was of a style I had not previously seen.
A close up of the detailed board at Stand E
A close up of the detailed board at Stand E

A Visit to the Autism Research Centre


I have a good haul of photographs from today, and some interesting links to share with you, as well as the main story…


Being signed up to the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge’s email alerts I get a lot of details of studies into Autistic Spectrum Conditions for which they need volunteers and being passionate about reducing the ignorance about Autistic Spectrum Conditions that continues to bedevil our world I nearly always agree to take part.

This particular project was to do with responses to visual stimulation and required me to visit Cambridge. My appointment had been arranged for 11AM today, carefully avoiding any clash with work commitments…


The train journey from King’s Lynn to Cambridge takes almost exactly an hour, which given that they leave King’s Lynn just before the hour strikes meant that I had to be on the 8:57AM. Arriving at the station in King’s Lynn in very good time, and purchasing my ticket without undue difficulty I was able to take some photos at the recently restored station…

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This blackbird clearly isn't conversant with passenger safety advice!
This blackbird clearly isn’t conversant with passenger safety advice!

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The train approaching.
The train approaching.
This map is inside the train doors - I took the pic en route to finding a seat.
This map is inside the train doors – I took the pic en route to finding a seat.

The train journey was uneventful and (mirabile dictu) ran exactly according to schedule. Although it is far from straightforward to get good photos through a train window one or two of my attempts are worth sharing…

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Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral
Boats at Ely
Boats at Ely
At Cambridge, witnessing a service run by Abellio arriving (almost certainly late given their reputation)
At Cambridge, witnessing a service run by Abellio arriving (almost certainly late given their reputation)
The operating company that runs service between London and King's Lynn - no connection to the Great Northern Railway of old which ran services out of London Euston.
The operating company that runs service between London and King’s Lynn – no connection to the Great Northern Railway of old which ran services out of London Euston.

From the station, it was a walk through past the bus stops and on to Brooklands Avenue, which goes straight through to Trumpington Road, picking up some more photos en route…

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Cambridge and its environs are served by an excellent local bus system.
Cambridge and its environs are served by an excellent local bus system.

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Having dallied sufficiently that I would not be crazily early I rang on the doorbell of Douglas House 15 minutes in advance of my appointment time, signed in as requested and waited. It turned out the researcher who should have been conducting the experiments was not around that day, so someone else took charge of me. The preliminaries (paperwork) attended to, it was time to set me up for the tests. This involved me donning an electrode cap (effectively a swimming hat with points for attaching electrodes), each electrode point being filled with a conducting gel before the electrodes could be attached, and then the electrodes being attached. A second set of electrodes were attached around the eyes . The purpose of this get up was to monitor electrical activity in my brain while I responded to various visual stimuli.

Everything, be it lines or proper pictures, was flickering so that I only got fleeting glimpses. There was one set of exercises that involved proper pictures, one that involved viewing arrows and then clicking a button as soon as white box appeared on the screen, and several involving flickering lines.

At the end I was quite relieved when the wires were all detached and I was able to wash the gel (which is water soluble) out of my hair and take my leave.

Although the gel feels cold when it first makes contact with you, and when all the electrodes are fitted to it the cap weighs quite a bit I feel that this set of experiments are no great imposition. If you are 18 or over, have an Autistic Spectrum Condition, feel that you could undergo this and are able to get to Cambridge you could send an email to: Sarah Kaarina Crockford” <skc48@medschl.cam.ac.uk>


A combination of the fact that I finished at the Autism Research Centre at 12:15 and that I wasted no time getting back to the station meant that I was able to catch the 12:35 train back to King’s Lynn, and was sat down to a late lunch at 2PM. A last couple of photos…

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Just a handful of links for you this time. Firstly, Jayne Linney on the possibility of a National Disability Union. Next Cosmos Up, a reliable source of good stuff on “exiled stars”. My final two links both concern the Great Barrier Reef (surely would feature prominently on anyone’s list of seven natural wonders of the world), one a petition that I urge you to sign and share and one page giving some extra information.


i hope that you all enjoyed this post and that you will share it widely. Many thanks.

Autism Research

Having signed up to participate in another research project relating to Autism I had to visit Cambridge today to perform some tasks at the Autism Research Centre on Trumptington Road…

Douglas House, 18 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, which houses the Autism Research Centre.
Douglas House, 18 Trumpington Road, Cambridge, which houses the Autism Research Centre.
Detail from the wall of Douglas House.
Detail from the wall of Douglas House.

This particular study was devoted to assessing how people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions respond to visual stimuli. Apart from the final exercise, which was identifying the odd one out from sets of four pictures, some of which were very tough, it was not too difficult. If you are interested in Autism, are able to travel to Cambridge and would like to take part in this study you can contact Rose Cooper by emailing rahc2@cam.ac.uk.

Both on the way there and on the way back I got some good pictures…

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A mist shrouded view of Ely Cathedral.
A mist shrouded view of Ely Cathedral.

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Metal plaques like this adorn the ground around the bus stops outside Cambridge station.
Metal plaques like this adorn the ground around the bus stops outside Cambridge station.
Modern flats near the Railway Station
Modern flats near the Railway Station
Sculpture at one corner of Brooklands Avenue
Sculpture at one corner of Brooklands Avenue

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Moorhen enjoying the botanical gardens
Moorhen enjoying the botanical gardens

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The two towers of Ely Cathedral, homeward journey.
The two towers of Ely Cathedral, homeward journey.
The nearest i came to getting a complete picture of Ely Cathedral.
The nearest i came to getting a complete picture of Ely Cathedral.


A day out in Cambridge

Yesterday I travelled to Cambridge to take part in some research into Autistic Spectrum Conditions being carried out at the Downing Site. There were two memory tasks, one involving words and phrases and one involving pictures. Around these were fitted questionnaires and pattern recognition tasks, some of which I had encountered before, and at least two of which are near enough universal parts of any research project in Autistic Spectrum Conditions.

Unusually I got my expenses plus ex-gratia payment for taking part in the research in cash rather than having to wait for a cheque to arrive through the post.

After the research had finished I went for a walk round the town, stopping for lunch on the way, and took some interesting photos. The place was absolutely heaving, so I did not get all that many chances to get the kind of photos that interest me, but I did get some interesting stuff.

The building works on King’s Lynn station have finally finished, and it looks good. The station signs are retro style white text on a blue background, of the type that if they are originals sell for a fortune at auction (one from a very minor station went for over £900 at a James and Sons auction not so very long ago).

If you have not already liked http://www.facebook.com/GreatAuction and/ or followed http://www.twitter.co.uk/great_auction, please do so now.

Here are the photos…

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A trip to Cambridge

As planned yesterday I travelled to Cambridge to take part in some research into Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC).

This took me to a part of Cambridge I have not visited before, the Trumpington Road, where the Autistic Research centre is based. Unfortunately my astigmatism meant that I was not able to do most of the visual tests, but I did complete various other tasks, and following an email from one of the researchers I have just signed up as a volunteer so I can complete some online questionnaires.

Given my strong opinions about the levels of ignorance and prejudice that continue to exist re Autistic Spectrum Conditions I always accept any opportunity to contribute to increasing the level of knowledge about these conditions.

No pictures with this post as I have to leave for work.