Scotland 2022 Part 1: A More Adventurous Than Expected Journey

I am on holiday in Scotland for a week, staying in a place called Acharacle, a small town on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the westernmost part of mainland Britain. The cottage (actually a glorified caravan which I would be prepared to bet was moved to its current site on the back of a lorry) has a decent wifi connection, so I will to be able to at least some posting while I am here. This post deals with my travels and travails getting here yesterday.

A ROUTE OF MANY CHANGES

The plan was that I would travel from King’s Lynn to Fort William, where my parents would collect me. This is not the most straightforward of journeys and the ticket I booked involved four changes – King’s Lynn to Ely, Ely to Peterborough, Peterborough to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Glasgow, Glasgow to Fort William, and almost exactly 12 hours travel for the public transport leg of the journey. This would have been fine, but as you will see there was a rather major hitch.

A SMOOTH START

I got to King’s Lynn station in very good time for my train (indeed had I really hustled my way through the station I could have been on the earlier train, but decided there was little point). The train reached Ely very promptly, and I had the good fortune to get a quick onward connection to Peterborough (I accepted this piece of good fortune because although it meant more waiting at Peterborough for a train I had to be on, Peterborough like the majority of railway stations is less exposed than Ely). I found my seat on the train to Edinburgh without undue fuss, and enjoyed some excellent views between Newcastle and Edinburgh. Waverley proved not too difficult to negotiate and I was at the platform for my train to Glasgow in very good time.

The run to Glasgow was also smooth, and the train arrived at Glasgow Queen Street (low level) bang on schedule at 6:00, which in theory meant I had 23 minutes to get upstairs to the main station and find the platform for my train to Fort William. Unfortunately this was the cue for…

NIGHTMARE ON QUEEN STREET

I scanned the information screens for details of my train (on which I had a pre-booked seat – this leg of the journey was supposed to last three and three quarter hours) and found nothing. I sought assistance as departure time drew closer with no evidence of said train in site, only to discover that the service had been cancelled with no notification. After using my mobile phone to tell my parents about the problem I contacted my sister to see if she could help me find somewhere to stay overnight in Glasgow. As the evening wore on it became clear that that was not an option, and we settled on a taxi ride to Fort William station and a pick up from there by the parents. The taxi arrived in Fort William just after 11PM, and it still was not fully dark. The driver’s card reader failed to function due to how far we were from Glasgow, but my parents and I had enough cash between us to cover the fare (and every intention of getting the money back from Scotrail, the cause of the problem) and we settled up and set off for Acharacle. It was nearer one o’clock than 12 by the time we got there, meaning that I had been travelling for some 15 hours, with the only serious time spent other than on the move being the very antithesis of restful, so unsurprisingly I was exceedingly tired. The taxi windows were not big enough for taking photographs through, so in addition to everything else I was deprived of pictures of the most scenic part of the whole journey.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I do still have some photographs, some from the walk to the station and some from the most scenic sections of the parts of the train journey that actually happened…

Train v Plane

A look at the London to Glasgow Train vs Plane race organized by Campaign for Better Transport that took place yesterday.

This post is inspired by a contest set up by Campaign for Better Transport. With COP26 taking place in Glasgow the campaign group set up a race from London to Glasgow with one guy using train and one guy going by plane. I will give the details of that contest and then describe how I myself would get to Glasgow from King’s Lynn.

LONDON TO GLASGOW RACE

The train guy had a four stop tube journey to Euston and then a fast train service to Glasgow. The plane guy had to get to Luton Airport, get through airport security and board the plane, and then get a shuttle bus from the airport at the other end to central Glasgow.

The plane guy got to the destination first, by two measly minutes. As against that the train guy had a straightforward, stress free journey, whereas the plane guy did not. The other point is that the plane journey causes seven times the carbon emissions of the train journey. A total gain of two minutes on a journey of that length cannot be worth either the extra stress or the extra pollution, thus although this race did not quite have the result I was hoping for it is enough to say:

>>>

Here for extra evidence is the final tweet from CBT about the race:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

KING’S LYNN TO GLASGOW

If I was to travel from King’s Lynn to Glasgow I would do so using two modes of public transport plus of course Shanks’ Pony at each end of the journey. I would walk from my bungalow to King’s Lynn bus station from where I would catch an ExCel bus to Peterborough and would then take the train from Peterborough to Glasgow. The reason for starting the route by bus is that if I use train all the way from King’s Lynn I have to change at Ely, whereas the bus goes direct to Peterborough. From King’s Lynn there is no remotely local airport that would be even vaguely sensible to use – the two nearest, Norwich and Stansted both entail starting one’s journey by travelling in the wrong direction, so even a die-hard plane aficionado would probably be forced to accept that plane is really not an option for this journey.

From my childhood home in south London the best route would be Northern line from Tooting Bec to Stockwell, Victoria line from Stockwell to Euston (the extra speed of the Victoria line justifying the apparently unnecessary change at Stockwell, which also happens to be a cross-platform interchange) and the fast train from Euston to Glasgow.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Long Weekend 8: Berwick Upon Tweed and Home

Wrapping up my account of my long weekend away doing family things, plus a couple of important links.

This post wraps up my somewhat syncopated series about a long weekend away doing family things (14-17 August inclusive), by covering the events of the Tuesday. Before I get into the main body of the post I have a couple of links to share: there is a just giving page up in connection with NAS West Norfolk being the Lynn News Charity of the Year 2021, which you can visit by clicking here. Also PhoebeMD has once again opened her blog up to those who wish to promote their own blogs – please do so.

BERWICK UPON TWEED

There is plenty of interest to see in this border town (it has changed hands between England and Scotland many a time in its history). My time in the town was limited by the fact that I had a train home to catch in order to back in time for an evening commitment in King’s Lynn, something I just managed, although an inopportune delay which had a knock on effect on the rest of the journey made it very tight indeed.

THE JOURNEY HOME

The train route from Berwick to York is very scenic, but once past York it becomes quite ordinary. Overall the journey was not too bad, though I was panicking for some of it due to time constraints. The departure from Berwick takes one over a remarkable bridge which features frequently in the photos that end this post, and Alnmouth, which also serves the adjoining town of Alnwick is remarkably attractive.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have set the scene above but the main story of this post is told by the pictures that bring it to a conclusion.

Looking Ahead to Australia

Some ideas for the Ashes tour, a couple of links and some photographs.

This post is prompted by the recent behaviour of Engkand’s test selectors, and my increasing certainty that big changes are needed.

INJURIES AND REJECTS

Various players are hors de combat with injuries or due to other issues. Archer and Stone both have long term injuries that will keep them out of the Ashes, Broad is also injured and may not be able to play the Ashes, Stokes and Buttler have to be treated as not available for the Ashes given that Stokes has already said he is taking time out and Buttler does not want to be away for months on end with his wife about to have their second child. Also I do not believe that any of Ali, Bairstow, Crawley or Malan should be considered for this most demanding of all tours. The last of these four may yet convince me, having just been drafted into the squad, but at the moment that decision just looks like the latest in a series of regressive, backward looking calls the selectors have made recently.

THE CAPTAINCY

I think that Root needs to be relieved of the captaincy, and would at this point give the job to Rory Burns as a temporary measure, hoping that Tom Abell (my choice for number three and Somerset’s current captain) can establish himself at test level and then be given the captaincy.

THE BATTING

This of course is the biggest area of concern for England at present. With Sibley out of form and confidence I see little alternative to Burns and Hameed as openers, Abell would be my choice at three, and Root at four. Number five for me is between Lawrence and Pope, with my preference for the first named. I would give the gloves to Foakes with Buttler not available, with Bracey in the squad as reserve keeper. Foakes would bat six, putting an extra batter between him and the tail. At number seven I would want Chris Woakes in the all rounders role in most conditions. Bracey is cover not only for the keepers gloves but also the number three slot. On my radar as reserve batters are Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Matt Critchley and, as a gamble on a youngster who seems to have the right temperament, Lewis Goldsworthy. Critchley might be selected at seven in place of Woakes if a second spin option looks like being useful (he bowls a bit of leg spin).

THE BOWLING

Of the bowlers I am prepared to consider available (Wood is injured and there is no way of knowing how long he is out for, so although I am not absolutely ruling him out as I have some others I am for the moment placing him on the sidelines) my first choices are: Overton, Robinson, Leach and Anderson (I want at least one genuine spinner and Leach is first choice in that department). I hope Mark Wood will be recovered in time to make the trip. Other seam back up could be provided by Saqib Mahmood, George Garton or Sam Curran (he has looked fairly unthreatening with the ball of late which is why I have him well down the pecking order). The spin situation, partly dictated by the fact that English off spinners have only rarely done well in Australia, is less happy looking. Although it would be unlikely that he and Leach would be picked in the same XI the next nearest thing England have to a spinner in Leach’s class is Matt Parkinson, the Lancashire leg spinner who currently has 86 FC wickets at 23.69, though his wickets per game rate is on the low side at just a tick over three. Direct back up for Leach is not really available unless one gambles on four first class appearances telling a true story and name Dan Moriarty in the party. However, Liam Patterson-White has a respectable record, and can bat, which would give England two ways of selecting two spinners of differing methods without both being bunnies with the bat – Either Critchley at seven and Leach at 10, or a 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 of Woakes, Patterson-White, Robinson, Anderson, Parkinson.

WRAPPING IT UP

Until and unless they get tried there is no way of knowing whether the above ideas will work, but the selectors continuing with their current approach has one likely result in terms of The Ashes: 5-0 to Australia.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

TFL have recently produced a piece titled ‘Sightseeing on the Northern Line‘, an effort which missed more than it found and prompted me to produce my own version.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

A Long Weekend 1: Setting the Scene, Kegworth and St Hardulph’s cave

The first in what will be a series of posts about my long weekend away doing family related things – setting the scene and telling the story of the first day..

I have been away for a few days, mostly without internet connection, doing various family related things. This post is the first of several I shall be doing about the events of those few days (Saturday 14 to Tuesday 17 August inclusive). Before getting into the meat of today’s post I will set out the most noteworthy events of the days in question so that you can orient yourselves.

THE ITINERARY IN BRIEF

I had a fixed return date of the Tuesday as I had an NAS West Norfolk related commitment that evening (I could only have stayed one further night anyway, as I have recently returned to work on a one day per week basis, that day being Thursday). The events between Saturday morning and Tuesday evening were as follows:

  • Saturday morning: travel from King’s Lynn to Kegworth in the east midlands for a barbecue at a cousin’s house.
  • Saturday afternoon: barbecue, followed by a visit to the cave of St Hardulph and a church that claims a connection to that story.
  • Saturday evening/night: Holiday Inn, South Normanton, with a supper at the Brewers Fayre.
  • Sunday morning/ early afternoon: South Wingfield for a thanksgiving service in honour of Ivy Helen Joy Handforth, daughter of a cousin of mine.
  • Sunday afternoon/early evening: travel from South Wingfield to Akeld Manor near Wooler, Northumberland.
  • Monday: Holy Island (Lindisfarne) and Bamburgh (Bebbanburg in Bernard Cornwell’s Uhtred series).
  • Tuesday morning: Brief exploration of Berwick Upon Tweed before catching a train from that town.
  • Tuesday late morning/ afternoon/ early evening: train journey in four parts: Berwick – York, York – Peterborugh, Peterborough – Ely, Ely – King’s Lynn.
  • Tuesday late evening: Steak Night at The Globe on King Street, King’s Lynn

I cover the important bits of Saturday in this post. Sunday may take two posts, Monday definitely will, likewise Tuesday.

KEGWORTH

My sister picked me up for the journey to Kegworth. We were a little late setting out, but arrived there at 1:00PM. Before the barbecue we took Covid-19 tests in preparation for the following day. The barbecue itself was excellent, and there were various relations present who I had met either rarely or in one case never before. We were among the last guests to leave, at which point we headed for…

ST HARDULPH’S CAVE

St Hardulph is generally reckoned to have previously been King Eardwulf of Northumbria. He spent his last years living reclusively in a cave in what is now Derbyshire (it is not far from Repton, which numbers CB Fry and Roald Dahl among its alumni).

There is one clearly sculpted column in the cave that looks very ecclesiastic – it may have originally been formed in the usual manner of cave columns by the meeting of stalactite and stalagmite but that is definitely not the whole story.

The nearby church is also quite impressive. I opted out of taking a look at Repton Prep School, being by that point very tired.

The journey on to to Holiday Inn South Normanton where we were spending Saturday night was reasonably smooth (one minor confusion involving a wrong exit from a roundabout, but that did not cost us much time). The rooms at the Holiday Inn were fine, and the supper at the Brewers Fayre was of acceptable quality.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Scotland 2021: Homeward Bound

The account of my homeward journey from my Scottish holiday.

This post concludes my coverage of my recent Scottish holiday (28th May to 5th June) by looking at the journey home.

A TRICKY START

I woke early on the morning of Saturday June 5th, and it was just as well that I did so. A check of my emails revealed on overnight message from thetrainline.com telling that the service I was due to be leaving Wick on at 8:02AM had been cancelled. Fortunately I was able to locate a bus service leaving Wick at 6:57 and arriving into Inverness at 9:58 giving me plenty of time to get back on track from there. Thus rather than £100s and almost certainly an overnight stay somewhere on the way home I was able to get round the problem for £22 and some seriously shredded nerves. It also meant missing breakfast which I had intended to be the main meal of the day for me as I expected opportunities to eat while travelling to be limited. I currently have a compensation claim with Scotrail awaiting resolution. They initially insisted that I destroy the ticket even though it was only ever valid for travel on June 5th and then claimed not to have received my image of the destroyed ticket – I uploaded it again today and tweeted their social media team as well.

WICK TO INVERNESS

The bus was ready precisely when it was supposed to be, and the journey to Inverness was accomplished with little difficulty. Getting from the bus station to the train station was slightly tricky – I had seen a sign pointing to the train station on the way in and aimed for that but it was only signing the station car park, which is actually a few minutes walk from the station itself. Once I had got into the station I discovered that there was a train to Edinburgh departing at 10:46, getting me comfortably back on track – indeed slightly ahead of schedule.

INVERNESS TO EDINBURGH

The train from Inverness to Edinburgh ran exactly according to schedule. The route is a scenic one. I had three hours at Edinburgh Waverley before my next train (on which I had a reserved seat) to Grantham was due to depart. This gave me an opportunity to consume some refreshments (and as it turned out was the last such I would have, not greatly to my surprise).

EDINBURGH TO HOME

The train to Grantham (terminating there – there were various problems afflicting the network) ran smoothly. At Grantham I had to board a replacement bus service from there to Peterborough, which arrived just a few minutes before the train for Ely was departing. At Ely I had one final change to the train to King’s Lynn, which fortunately went without incident. At 11:25PM this last train arrived at King’s Lynn. Then it just remained for me to walk home. Though there were a few nervy moments this last section of the journey from Edinburgh to my home in Norfolk went precisely as the itinerary had stated.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have photographs covering Wick to Edinburgh…

Scotland 2021: Getting There

An account of a journey to Scotland that almost went off the rails before it had really started.

Welcome to this first post in a series I shall be putting up about the holiday I am currently enjoying in Scotland with my parents. I am up here for a week which includes my birthday (the day itself is tomorrow, and it is my 46th). We are staying just outside John O’Groats. This post tells the story of my journey up here to set the scene.

PLANNING

The nearest the railway gets to to John O’Groats are the two northern outposts of Wick and Thurso, and these days the end of that line runs as follows: Georgemas Junction, Thurso, Georgemas Junction, Wick, so it made sense to arrange to travel to Thurso and from Wick. I booked from London to Thurso to incorporate an overnight journey, and then later from Wick to King’s Lynn. Thus I had to travel from King’s Lynn to London to connect with the overnight train from Euston. My plan was to get the 17:40 from King’s Lynn and have almost two hours in which to progress along the Euston Road from King’s Cross and on to the train (going onto the underground to travel one stop is in this case literally worse than useless – the interchanges between overground and underground at King’s Cross and vice versa at Euston are both lengthy. Probably the least bad way to do it by public transport would be to use the Circle/Hammersmith & City/ Metropolitan to Euston Square and cross Euston Road at surface level. However it is a fairly short walk along the Euston Road and that method is undoubtedly best…

BEST LAID PLANS O’ MICE AND MEN GANG AFT AGLEY

I boarded the 17:40 from Lynn to London without issue, but then the problems hit. First our departure was delayed because of power problems in the Finsbury Park area, then when we were finally cleared to depart our driver was instructed to run as a shuttle between Lynn and Cambridge, and those of us needing to get to London had to change to a Greater Anglia train. It was soon obvious from the stated timings of this service that staying on to Liverpool Street, from whence I would have to travel to Euston Square was a non-starter, so the only hope of avoiding a long delay, the cost of a night at the Holiday Inn on Euston Road and the cost a new single to Thurso the following day was to change at the last stop before Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale, and get the Victoria line to Euston. Fortunately the problems between Lynn and London had used up my allocation of misfortune and I made it to my seat on the overnight train. Although this train was fractionally late into Inverness I still had over an hour and a half there before the final public transport leg of my journey to Thurso began. This, the sole purely Scottish leg of the journey, went absolutely smoothly and the train arrived in Thurso precisely when it was supposed to.

SOLUTION TO A TEASER

In my last post I included a teaser from brilliant.org and a little addition of my own:

A small additional question: can you identify the four mathematicians after whom Carl, Leonhard, Emmy and Sophie are named (answers to both parts of this question in my next post).

Here is Chew-Seong Cheong’s published solution to the main problem:

As for my little addition: Carl is quite clearly from Carl Friedrich Gauss, Leonhard is equally obviously a tribute to Leonhard Euler, Emmy is Emmy Noether, a great German mathematician of the early 20th century and Sophie is Sophie Germain, who has a class of prime numbers named after her. Sophie Germain primes are those primes where if you multiply them by two and add one you also get a prime number.

PHOTOGRAPHS

These photos comprise one taken en route to King’s Lynn station, two taken on the Victoria line train between Tottenham Hale and Euston, a number taken between Stirling and Inverness on the overnight train, a number from the Inverness to Thurso train and a couple taken at the house where we are staying: