Attending a Training Session at NAS Headquarters

An account of a visit to London for an NAS training session, including Sutcliffe’s Laws of Travelling by Public Transport and lots of photographs.


This post deals with events on Saturday, when I attended a training session for branch officers at NAS HQ in London. Before moving on to the main part of my post I have a small section on…


April is Autism Awareness month, and here in West Norfolk we certainly did our part, with our hugely successful Positive Autism Awareness Conference. However it is also important to make it quite clear that autism does not stop at the end of April. Improving awareness, understanding and ultimately acceptance of autism is a year-round task.


I have never previously set these out in full, so here goes:

Zeroth law: Any journey involving public transport requires careful planning no matter how apparently straightforward it is.

First law: If you allow scope for things to go wrong you will have a quick, clear run.

Second law: If you decline to allow scope for things to go wrong you will have a horror run.

Third law: Because bitter experience has taught them to make allowances public transport users are less likely to arrive late than car users.

Do you recognize the more famous set of laws on which the formatting of this set is based?


The session was due to start at 10AM, which gave two options for which train to catch – the 7:54 and be tight for time or the 6:54 and have time to spare for things to go wrong. In keeping with the first law of travelling by public transport the second option was chosen. The other person travelling from West Norfolk wanted to travel there with me, so we agreed to take the 6:54. On the day preceding the journey I called in at the station to make sure that the service was running as it should be (The branch chair had kindly arranged tickets for us, requiring in return that we make sure to come back with expenses claim forms so that she could reclaim the money). Here are some pictures from this preliminary stage…

We took our places on the train and having allowed for things to go wrong had a clear run to London. Callum’s girlfriend had decided to travel with us so she could have a look round London, and at King’s Cross she and Callum arranged a meeting point before Callum and I head off towards NAS HQ.

Walking up Pentonville Road (between Pentonville Road, Angel and our London starting point of King’s Cross this was quite a monopoly board journey!) we arrived at NAS HQ almost dot on 9 o’clock, and were the only people there that early. I took some pictures while we waited for others to arrive, including the feature image…

The #TMI mural outside NAS HQ, with Callum standing in front of the end panel.
A close-up of the end panel.


Alessia, one of the two people running the session arrived a few minutes after we had, and let us in to the building. We took our places in the training room, and examined our training packs…


The training session consisted of presentations and some group activities. I found it to be a very valuable day, definitely worth the early start. The bit I enjoyed most came near the end, when we had to decide whether certain scenarios were things we could do as NAS volunteers, things we could not do or things that we might be able to do. At the end of the session Callum and I went our separate ways, he to meet his girlfriend and I to head back (albeit by a somewhat circuitous route). The pictures I took between here and the concourse at King’s Cross station will be featuring on my
London transport themed website, so I shall not share them here.


Apart from providing a few good photos, the return journey was pretty uneventful (yes, on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend I had two public transport journeys pass without incident), and I arrived back home just over 11 hours after setting off in the morning.


Marxism 2015 4: Saturday Morning – Getting There and the First Meeting

An account of getting from my accommodation to the event on the Saturday morning and of the first meeting I attended that day – on the subject of Education.


Welcome to this, the fourth of a series of posts I shall be producing about Marxism 2015, the five-day political festival in Central London organised by the Socialist Workers Party. The three posts that I was able to put out during the event are available here. I hope I am able to strike a good balance between not running this series until too long after the event has finished and not overwhelming people with vast numbers of blog posts all at once.


Having arrived late for the first meeting on Friday I was not going to make the same mistake twice and left the house where I was staying considerably earlier. By good fortune having walked to the end of the road on which I was staying I stepped almost straight on to a 123 bus heading in the direction of Blackhorse Road Station. On the journey I was able to snap this picture of an interesting tribute to William Morris…

DSCN8970At Blackhorse Road the good fortune continued as I also stepped pretty well straight on to a southbound Victoria line train (in spite of having declined to join the stampede of those who heard the sound of a train arriving and were apparently unable to control themselves). I was now so far ahead of schedule that I decided to alight at King’s Cross rather than Euston and take a longer but slightly more scenic walk. Although I could not get the whole vast edifice in one shot, I got some good pictures of that most amazing of central London buildings, St Pancras Station…

DSCN8971 DSCN8972 DSCN8973 DSCN8974 DSCN8975

There were two more photo-worthy sights in this short space of time, a pub named in honour of the world’s first steam locomotive, Stephenson’s “Rocket” (Heron of Alexandria devised a primitive steam engine which he used to remotely open temple doors in the first century CE)…

DSCN8976 DSCN8977

…And this building bearing the another famous name…




I chose to attend a meeting on education, which was to take place in the Nunn Hall, a particularly appropriate venue as this wall painting makes clear…

The feature image for this post.
The feature image for this post.
The plaque telling us about the painting
The plaque telling us about the painting
Ms Branson's own signature
Ms Branson’s own signature


The meeting started with a statistic that is a devastating indictment of current education, as these pictures show…

Although Jacqui Freeman, giving her opening speech made the mistake of standing directly in front of the slide you can still see enough.
Although Jacqui Freeman, giving her opening speech made the mistake of standing directly in front of the slide you can still see enough.
A close up of the really important bit of the slide - a truly horrifying stat.
A close up of the really important bit of the slide – a truly horrifying stat.

The ever increasing and ever narrowing focus on exams has led to some very unpleasant consequences…

  • 200% increase in children calling childline re exam stress in 2013-14
  • Children as young as eight taking up smoking for stress relief

The speaker referred to the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM – given the unpleasant effects of this movement not an inappropriate acronym!)

The drive for uniformity and conformity that is so rigorously enforced in schools for children of ordinary people is signally absent from one type of school – the speaker cited Bancrofts, which is near the crumbling state school in which she teaches. Bancrofts proclaims itself “diverse and inclusive”, makes clear the although they focus on academic results these are not the be all and end all etc. Unfortunately there is one aspect where it fails on inclusivity – to attend this establishment one’s parents need to be able to afford £15,576 per annum.

Before displaying a few more pictures, I will conclude with a couple more quotes from the meeting:

The first quote is attributed to someone involved in running Ofsted and tells you all you need to know about their despicable attitude: “If morale in the staff room is low, headteachers can be assured they are doing something right.”

The other quote that I picked up on was from a would be music teacher who was being assessed and in responding to a question about how they would teach a particular thing expanded their answer to include a supplementary explanation of what they would do differently for a disabled pupil. One might think that extra credit would be given for providing such a full explanation, but the “assessor’s” response to hearing about allowances being made for a disabled person was laughter.

One final vignette, a schoolgirl who spoke from the floor talked about her school trying to funnel people towards Oxford and Cambridge, so that the school would gain kudos – she was the subject of some apparently prolonged efforts to get her to switch from Paleontology which she wanted to study to Archaeology solely because she could do the latter at one of these two universities.

Speaker Jacqui and chair Phil before the meeting
Speaker Jacqui and chair Phil before the meeting
The Hogwarts like Bancrofts School - diverse and inclusive so long as you come from a rich family.
The Hogwarts like Bancrofts School – diverse and inclusive so long as you come from a rich family.
.Jacqui starting her talk.
.Jacqui starting her talk.

Special Post: King’s Cross St Pancras


Welcome to the next installment in my station by station guide to London. Following the success of my piece on Paddington I have gone for the other main line terminus among the original seven stations on the Metropolitan Railway…


King’s Cross and St Pancras are next door neighbours to one another, and therefore served by the same Underground Station. Although this was one of the 1863 originals, the platforms that now serve the Hammersmith and City, Circle and Metropolitan lines have been resited – the present ‘surafce’ level station dates only from 1941. The Piccadilly line station was part of the original section of that line which opened in 1906, while the City and South London Railway (now the Bank branch of the Northern line) got there in 1907. Finally, it was part of the second section of the Victoria line to come on stream in December 1968.


Although King’s Cross (of which more later) is by some way the larger of the two main line rail terminals here, St Pancras is an extraordinary building, resembling an outsized fairy castle. St Pancras is now an international terminus, running trains to the continent, and meaning that over a century after he just failed to make it happen the dream of Edward Watkin, who guided the Metropolitan in its great era of expansion, of being able to travel by rail from Paris to Manchester by way of London is now a reality.


King’s Cross is a station of two parts – the main concourse and platforms 1-8 which run long haul trains to the north and scotland, and off to one side platforms 9-11 from which trains to much more local destinations such as Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn depart. It is here that you will find the sign to platform 93/4  from which the Hogwarts Express departs in the Harry Potter stories. Having mentioned one literary association, King’s Cross plays a passing role in more than one of Edward Marston’s stories involving Inspector Colbeck a.ka. The Railway Detective.


I have my usual style map images to help those of you not familiar with the area to orient yourselves:




I hope that you have enjoyed this piece and that you will be encouraged to share it.