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  1. Greetings one and all I managed a spell in the garden yesterday morning. The fork was wielded to good effect and a good pile of nettles removed. I was encouraged by my neighbours William and Katya who were having breakfast in their garden, which unlike mine is fit for purpose. My reserves of stamina were all but spent after 45 minutes and too much remains to be done. I did manage to get the laundry up to date and do not need to tell you how much I am looking forward to the ironing. Actually, I do. Not much. Flavio, it takes a lot of effort to be full of surprises. If it is surprising that occasionally I like wine with a meal, so be it. I try to operate on the ‘when in Rome’ principle but I can’t always do it where beer is concerned. In the hotels where we are billeted by Ffestiniog Travel the local beer tends to be far from outstanding and I have taken to what I believe to be a German brew, Erdinger weissbier. It is very more-ish and loosens my tongue! I ought to seek out Swiss wine but the Christmas and New Year holiday costs me more than enough as it is, assuming of course that it goes ahead. It has been advertised on the webshite but if the quarantine arrangements announced recently remain in force until December they will act as a huge disincentive. What I have probably mis-translated as ‘good local edelweiss wine from Basel’ sounds intriguing. How do they get the juice out of the edelweiss? JohnDMJ, the kennel is locked but I would not like to guess how firmly. The black dog came very close to escaping when my trip to Dublin collapsed. As things stand I hope to have another go at it in 2021. Current events mean that my supply chain for new music is incomplete. I have lost my visit to Claddagh Records, a record shop of global renown in Dublin, and, of course, my week in Sidmouth which often produces discoveries of wonderful new music. In such circumstances I have little option but to review what I already have. In a few days I will list my Second 10. Make of it what you will. Steamport Southport, thank you for setting me right on the longevity or otherwise of the Carry On cast. I’m not sure now what part Angela Douglas played in Khyber but the fact remains that so many of those in that film are no longer with us though fondly recalled. Best wishes to all Chris
  2. Greetings one and all The trouble with traditional Sunday lunch is that it seems to take all day to make it, eat it and clear up after it. This is, of course, a mis-perception. Serious preparation did not start until after 11 am and I had finished eating in time to watch “Carry On Up the Khyber” on ITV3. For my money that was the most satirical of all the Carry Ons. The British Raj had been ripe for treatment for years and it was done so well. I am not at all sure that anyone in the cast is still alive but all are fondly recalled. For the record, lunch was roast chicken with roast potatoes, minus roast parsnips because I forgot all about them. It was washed down with an indifferent chardonnay because I could not find hock or riesling. Remind me not to go to that supermarket again. Much later, the carcase was dismantled, a strangely satisfying process. If it is not too hot outside today, there may be g*rd*n*ng. I doubt that I have the stamina to keep it up for more than half an hour but it has to be done sometime and the relative emptiness of the green bin is a good incentive to fill it again. The task is bound to be punctuated by a cuppa or two. Matters arising: JohnDMJ, call me obtuse if you will but I do not understand what you are getting at, apart from me! I am always on the lookout for new and exciting music and the absence of Sidmouth festival this year will impede that process. 5C, I look forward to our meeting, be it again or for the first time. As I do not use Twitter I would prefer my name not to be prefixed by ‘@’. Tony S, you have explained well enough how Amazon get involved with eBay for me not to need to ask Harry. I think he deserves a weekend off without anyone reminding him of how he earns his not inconsiderable salary! “It will always be OK to not be OK” was said by Prince William in the trailer for his latest mental health documentary, to be screened on BBC1 after the eight o’clock clap on Thursday. I plan to watch. The words deserve to be recalled and repeated. Best wishes to all Chris
  3. Greetings one and all Here once again is the parallel universe diary. Were it not for that ruddy virus I would have been at Stoke Mandible today for Railex and finding a kindred spirit or several with whom to put the world to rights over breakfast. On Tuesday afternoon I would have made the effort to drive down to Welwyn for a talk by Chris Green. Wednesday evening would have seen an HMRS study walk from Luton Airport Parkway to Harpenden East, sticking as closely as possible to the disused railway. With the aid of Zoom we will get that in virtual form! On Thursday I would have been visiting the shed where the layout lives, in Stevenage, to do some m*d*ll*ng and stir-frying lunch for me and Poorly Pal before dinner in the local ‘Spoons and the outbreak of democracy that is the AGM of the Stevenage Locomotive Society. How unreal all that seems now. On Saturday I would have contemplated catching the bus over to Oxford for Pride, possibly wearing the new and eminently suitable T shirt which JohnDMJ recently drew to my attention and which is somewhere in the postal system as I type. Roasting a chicken for Sunday lunch is getting to be a habit and is some compensation for the loss of Railex. It was good to rediscover early in the lockdown that I can get at least three meals out of the leftovers – a risotto and two portions of tikka masala, the latter thanks to a proprietary sauce. Those who enjoy curry made properly will pooh-pooh this timidity but it’s an advance on korma, albeit modest. I’m not all that fond of curry but I’m even less fond of losing out on social occasions through not liking it. To be the only person in an Indian restaurant who is not eating curry is not a situation that I relish. Tony S, I can believe anything of Amazon. My e-friend Harry might be able to explain how your eBay purchase arrived with an Amazon label. His job is to manage relationships with people that sell on Amazon. Thanks to the huge growth in online shopping he is super-busy and I fear for his mental health. If you like, I will ask the question, though his current attitude to social media does tend to build in delays. Best wishes to all. It will always be OK to not be OK. Chris
  4. Greetings one and all, with warmest thoughts to BoD, son and son’s partner and to Flavio’s Lucy. Despite the empty diary something else has been cancelled. Overnight the news broke that Expo EM Autumn has gone the way of all good things. What will I do with all these free weekends? There are two places left to fill in my list of Top 10 albums. The ninth slot goes to “Bridge over troubled waters” by Simon and Garfunkel, which is well enough known for no further comment to be required. The process of elimination to leave one album for the tenth slot was a painful one. So many artists that I am known to favour have perforce been excluded. I might just jot down a list of the casualties over the next few days. It got down to a final three: “Ragged Kingdom” by June Tabor and Oysterband, “None of the above” by Melonious Funk and the winner, “Strangers” by the Young’uns, for the simple reason that from a typically fine selection of Sean Cooney originals brightly shines “Be The Man”, a song which helped to change my life almost two years ago. It has been so interesting to view the selections and reactions of others, and to be reminded of artists like the Levellers that I really ought to know but have not yet seen. I will do a relief fodder run this morning as I need something for Sunday lunch and a few other oddments. It can be interesting to compare store layouts, ranges and other amenities with my regular haunt. I live in hope that one day house arrest will be lifted and supermarket cafes will reopen but I do not advise scanning the horizon with powerful binoculars in the hope of spotting the squadron of airborne pigs. The cable for my phone charger, by the way, cost a mere £2 from a well-known multiple hardware store. Due to the nature of the damage which made replacement necessary I may invest in a spare. Envy mode ON: John Coombe Barton saw David Munrow play. Lucky is putting it mildly! Envy mode fades but will not switch OFF. It’s still mental health awareness week and it’s still OK to not be OK. Best wishes to all. Chris
  5. Greetings one and all Flavio, you mention folk music in the same breath as Queen. Some purists may not approve but I learned a long time ago that drawing and trying to maintain boundaries is a recipe for trouble. I have heard all sorts at Sidmouth over the years. Such tunes as “Calling All Workers” and the Dr Who theme have been used as social dance tunes, Glenn Miller’s “American Patrol” now has its own clog dance thanks to Lizzie Dripping from Sheffield, at least one morris side dances to Jona Lewie’s “Stop The Cavalry” and a respected ceilidh band from Coventry has drawn on the playing of Status Quo. A couple of years ago a visiting American band would have had us believe that “Stop Stop Stop” was from the tradition rather than being a hit for the Hollies. On one of Martin Carthy’s albums may be found his cover of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Nothing Rhymed”. Come on in, the music’s lovely. There was no angry letter to Currys after all. Instead I spoke to a member of staff who explained that they are all working from home. That would go some way towards explaining the disconnected phone calls. Helpfully, the guy advised me to buy my lead from somewhere like Wilkos. I did, and saved myself a few £. Currys can sort out the part-completed transaction for themselves. Candidate 8 for my top 10 albums is “Late Bottled Vintage” by Strawhead. It is a compilation drawn from their finest work. The track that I would take to my desert island is “The burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna”, set to the tune of “Tom Bowling”, a favourite of the Last Night of the Proms. I played it incessantly after the band came off the road seven years ago, leaving behind many broken hearts, including mine. Since then I have not been able to bring myself to listen to their music. Maybe it’s time to remind myself what I enjoyed in half a lifetime of following them up and down the land. To Andy Leopard and whomever else it may concern: it’s OK to not be OK. Best wishes to all Chris
  6. Thank you, Flavio. That poem and the other Barrack Room Ballads was set to music by the late and sadly missed Peter Bellamy. He had a prolonged battle with Kipling's estate whose trustees were not at all keen on the idea. There are those who believe, me included, that Kipling intended them to be sung. Chris
  7. Fools rush in ... The formation of a train used to depend on the work that it was expected to do. There is no point in running a 10 coach train if only 10 passengers are expected, though that was before social distancing reared its far from pretty head! We had compartments, and ornate panelling, because the first railway carriages were made from two or more stagecoach bodies mounted on a rail underframe. We have open saloons partly because Churchward saw that lots of doors all along the coach would make it weaker. It took many, many years for the compartment to fade away from front-line use. You might couple open stock to compartment stock because open coaches can be used for dining. You run a first or a second with a composite to reflect the numbers of first and second class passengers that you expect to carry. Most non-gangwayed coaches were used on branch and suburban services BUT if you are expecting to carry up to 1,000 passengers to the seaside you need either non-corridor stock or much longer platforms than any station known to man. There is, of course, much more to it than that ... Chris
  8. Greetings one and all, with belated congratulations to Andrew C and Mrs Andrew on 25 years of marriage. Yesterday my mobile phone fell off my desk. The charger was connected and the end of the lead that plugs into the phone became bent. In the process of trying to order a replacement I was on the phone to Currys for nigh on two hours in all and was cut off no less than four times! One of the cuttings-off happened when I was part way through giving my card number to complete the purchase. This will generate a written complaint and, I fear, some more phone calls. I am furious about this and will need no prompting to berate Currys very publicly. Later I learned that suitable leads are easily obtained in phone shops. This is fine if they are not closed for the duration. I have a couple of other avenues to explore – nearly said ‘leads to follow!’ – and if I had realised that they may be had on eBay I would not have put myself through the Currys experience. However, I’ve started so I’ll finish. Our virtual Area Group meeting went well. As usual, we discussed everything but m*d*l r**lw*ys but aspects of that esoteric subject did come up in conversation. Earlier I had fought shy of g*rd*n*ng because of the heat but it does need doing badly. You can rely on me to do it badly. Candidate 7 for my top 10 albums is Bill Whelan’s “Riverdance: music from the show”. Riverdance burst upon a totally unsuspecting world on 30th April 1994 as the interval act during the Eurovision Song Contest. It is still very much alive and long may it remain so. I am hoping against hope that it will be on when I eventually make it to Dublin 13 months hence. My father must have been not far off 80 when he travelled to Brighton to see Riverdance on stage. I chose a track from the album to be played at his funeral. Marmalade v peanut butter: I have always loathed peanut butter and learned a lot about marmalade in the latter years of my father’s life. Would you believe that I used to give him a selection for Christmas? It’s a long story. Best wishes to all Chris
  9. I agree. One example was a Hawksworth brake composite which he painted blood and custard and numbered W7372W. That was one of the two never to carry that livery. It and W7377W were kept for VIP work and when not thus employed lived in the shed at Old Oak. They went straight from GWR chocolate and cream to the BR version. Both are preserved. Chris
  10. I agre. One example was a Hawksworth brake composite which he painted blood and custard and numbered W7372W. That was one of the two never to carry that livery. It and W7377W were kept for VIP work and when not thus employed lived in the shed at Old Oak. They went straight from GWR chocolate and cream to the BR version. Both are preserved. Chris
  11. Greetings one and all, with apologies to Sherry for overlooking her birthday again and kudos to Rick for a stylish T shirt. The knighthood awarded yesterday to Capt Tom Moore is an uncommon example of rapid response and all the more noteworthy for it. Normally entries in the honours list have a long gestation period and are scrutinised microscopically at every level, with every nomination either passing through or being bogged down in the relevant department’s honours secretariat. Somehow this wonderful man has cut through all that and his honour has been announced as near to immediately as it gets. How nice it is to have some good and happy news for a change. Some nettles were amputated from the garden yesterday, but not enough. I have been conscious for some time of a stamina deficiency and it kicked in after less than half an hour. I will have another go today. Maybe. In the afternoon I went hunting for a magazine. It seems that the latest Railway Modeller has been distributed unevenly, being absent from a trusty newsagent and from my regular supermarket. Eventually I ran it to ground after a 10 mile drive, which will have benefitted the car’s battery. The sixth candidate for my top 10 albums is a triple CD – Queen’s Greatest Hits, volumes 1, 2 and 3. I do not think that gentle readers need any introduction to the band! What will the other four be? There are some interesting candidates. I might even surprise myself. There will be a routine fodder run this morning, with provision for a relief on Saturday to garner the items that my forgettery will have omitted to add to the shopping list. This evening the Chilterns Area Group will have another brush with technology. Our monthly meeting will be a virtual one, facilitated by Zoom. I have washed my hair so as to look a bit less like an unruly haystack on camera. What could possibly go wrong? Best wishes to all Chris
  12. Distribution of this issue does seem to have been rather erratic. There was no sign of it in the newsagent at Bedford bus station, save for a blank look from the sales assistant, and at my habitual Tesco the space allocated to it had been filled by an unfeasibly large quantitiy of another comic. Eventually I managed to track one down this afternoon and I will read it in bed tonight! Chris
  13. Greetings one and all Some good news came yesterday. Professor Oncologist phoned, three days earlier than arranged, with the news that my PSA reading has gone down to 1.5. I could not have wished for better news as it means that my prostate cancer is still under control. When I was first diagnosed, nearly five years ago, the reading was over 800. What will happen in the six months between now and my next appointment is anyone’s guess but for now I am not inclined to worry about it. The musical taste of fellow ERs continues to unfold and amaze. Stewart 45156, quite a kindred spirit, has reminded me of some performers to consider for what is left of my top 10. I could fill 10 slots with the work of Martin Simpson, whose guitar work is performed with what appears to be 16 fingers on each hand, plus he is a good bloke. As for Strawhead, who I followed up and down the land for half a lifetime, I know which of their tracks I would take to my unlikely desert island but have not yet chosen the crème de la crème of their albums and it’s not easy. My fifth slot goes to neither of these but to Flanders and Swann with “At the drop of a hat”. So many of their classics are on this. I can reveal now that I had planned a wee bit of mischief at Sidmouth this year which cannot happen because the festival has been cancelled due to that ruddy virus. The po-faced may not have liked my rendition of “The Hippopotamus Song”, with obligatory chorus. Tough. In other news, the lawn has received its first trim since last September. Some grass made it into the grassbox but the harvest was predominantly nettles and dandelions. It is now all too clear just how much more remedial work needs to be done. The prospect scares the bejasus out of me. Best wishes to all Chris
  14. Greetings one and all, with apologies to Rick for once again overlooking his birthday. I had not heard “Camborne Hill” for upwards of 30 years. It always reminds me of the late great Brenda Wootton. Yesterday was quite relaxing. Lunch was a lovely tender piece of ribeye steak and the afternoon was spent quietly. I should not do that too often: there is still plenty for me to do and I really must learn to motivate myself to do it – easier said than done, of course, unless you know otherwise. Before I am too much older I need to fish out the mower and tackle the lawn, which at the moment is more dandelions than grass. William next door has a garden which puts mine to shame and that owned by Mrs Electric-Chair on the other side is nothing short of magnificent. Is not envy one of the seven deadly sins? I do not buy bedding plants, chiefly because to put them in my jungle is not fair on the plants. As I lay in the bath yesterday morning I thought of two more albums for my Top 10 list. “Kicking Up The Sawdust” by Ashley Hutchings is a collection of infectious dance tunes. Its title is derived from the Sawmills Studios in Cornwall where it was recorded. “Feeling The Squeeze” is an album of accordion music by Chris Harvey, the alter ego of Chris Pollington who played keyboards in Strawhead. The version of Simon Jeffes’s “Music for a found harmonium” is arguably the best available. It will be interesting to see as time goes on what others have chosen and how many of the choices are familiar. Today will see another purposeful stride into town. I need to buy another donation to charity, for which read two lotto tickets, and pay two remittances from Ernie into the bank. The opportunity to spend some of the unusually high bank balance would be nice, though some of it has already been committed to a book recommended by 88C. I am pleased to report that the Christmas and New Year trip to Switzerland has appeared on the travel company website: good job I looked. For all the notice they took of my opinions last year I do wonder why I bothered to submit feedback but then I’m only a customer. Best wishes to all Chris
  15. Greetings one and all There were some good bits yesterday. On the way to Morrisons I heard someone I know on the Today programme – Jim Moray, a singer and producer who never ceases to surprise. In the shop some good tunes were coming out of the loudspeakers, among them “Reet Petite” by Jackie Wilson and “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, which is on the shortlist for my Desert Island Discs should I ever be asked. I got home, unpacked the groceries and turned on the TV to be greeted by the fondly remembered Keith Floyd making groaty dick, a Black Country delicacy long ago immortalised in song by the late Bill Caddick. All that gave me as much of a lift as I could expect in one day. It helped to compensate for the two latest cancellations, the Welsh Railways Research Circle AGM in Rhiwderin and Scaleforum at Stoke Mandible. Neither was unexpected. Earlier in the week I had a phone call from the hospital to tell me that Professor Oncologist will keep his appointment with me on Thursday by phone call. Bang goes another chance to get out of the house. This brings me to the weekly diary of the parallel universe. Yesterday and today would have seen Expo-EM Spring in Bracknell, with revelry in the local ‘Spoons last night and an opportunity to berate what passes for town planning in the town. For most of the week Cambridge beer festival would have taken place in and around a marquee on Jesus Green. Wednesday night’s Area Group meeting will be virtual if Zoom behaves itself. On Friday there would have been a modest invasion of Docklands for a meeting of the Brains Trust, several of whom may be reading this. 10 favourite albums? That could take a while. Every time I try to make the definitive list of the 8 tracks that I would take to the mythical desert island I have trouble getting below 20. My taste is eclectic, ephemeral and obscure, as gentle readers may have realised, but let me chuck two candidates at you. The first is “A Christmas Gift For You”, the Phil Spector C*****mas album which was first released on the day in 1963 that JFK was shot. It has to be one of the most enduring albums ever made. Next comes “Midnight Mushrumps” by Gryphon. Prog rock meets the middle ages and the title track, all 19 minutes of it, still has the ability to send me into a trance 45 years after I first heard it. More soon, honest. Best wishes to all Chris
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