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Archive for the category “Travel”

Long Week

So far, it’s felt like a very long – and really quite unproductive – week in many ways.

I was away over the weekend, and while driving back on Sunday, the car died on me near Leeds. No power-steering, idiot-lights galore – and all while travelling at 80-ish in the outside lane of the M1. That definitely focusses the mind somewhat.

I got over to the hard shoulder immediately, and stopped. Called my insurance company – who also do the recovery part – and got it organised. I knew it was 99.9% likely to need recovery, so they sorted it out and that all went really smoothly. They’d predicted up to 90 minutes before the recovery got there, and they turned up within half an hour.

Apparently, I got lucky – my recovery part includes “Get me home”, rather than the more standard “nearest garage, and then pay through the nose for anything else” policy. So I got one truck that took me back to Milton Keynes in one go (no Relay crap either, thankfully) and dropped the car off at the Saab garage locally, and then I got a cab home. Not cheap, but could’ve been so much worse.  According to the recovery driver, if it’d been the normal policy, it would’ve cost me around £500 to get the car home…  I broke down at 1.30, and was back in Milton Keynes at 6.00, and home by 7.00.  Not at all bad, all things considered.

While I was waiting to be picked up, I’d also organised a replacement hire car – which also reminds me yet again how great smartphones and apps can be, sat by the side of a motorway booking a hire car – that I collected on Monday before heading off to Chesham to be on-site again.  All fine. Hassle-filled, but fine.

After doing a bundle of driving and so on, I got home about 9pm, and parked up.

And on the Tuesday, by 7am the battery was completely flat and the hire car wouldn’t start at all. Cue a three-hour farce with the AA not sending anyone when they said they would, and making an utter bollock of the entire process. Not helped by using the hire-firm as an intermediary (although they handled it fine, it was just the AA being useless) but still. I finally got sorted at mid-day.

So yes, it took the AA three hours to find a known address and fix the problem (Epically flat battery, although we don’t yet know why – apparently Fiat couldn’t find any issues with it) where it only took four-and-a-half for another company to find me on a motorway, and drive 180-ish miles. Safe to say, I won’t be putting any money in the AA’s direction any time soon.

Along the way, the Saab was fixed on the Monday – the power-steering belt, which also powers a number of other bits, had snapped, and it was just that part which required replacement. So, a bill of £85 all-in, including VAT, labour and parts. Could’ve been *so* much worse…

The rest of the week has just been busy and ridiculous, and doesn’t really feel like it’s stopped at all. With luck it’ll ease up now for the weekend – but then, this is me, so what’re the chances?  Low-to-sod-all , I’d say…

Weekend Travel – Sunday

Having done Manchester on Saturday, I then went down to London on Sunday – I’d made plans and reservations for the early evening, but went down early because, frankly, I’m a bad, bad man.

The main objective was the next Michelin-starred place on my list-of-sorts, the two-starred Hélène Darroze at the Connaught Hotel. That had been booked for a while, and I’ve been looking forward to it for ages.

But then another of my favourite places, Blues Kitchen, announced their latest burger special, the Piskey Whickle, which was introduced on Sunday.

2016-05-01 14.27.21So that just had to be done…

It ended up that I went in earlier than expected, then walked to Blues Kitchen (3 miles, from Euston) for the special, and then across London (another 4 miles) to vegetate around Berkeley Square for a while until it was time for the evening meal.  Frankly, it was the only way I could justify doing both on the same day, but as I had the time and the inclination, why not?

The meal at Darroze was spectacular – I would say it’s now the best place I’ve been to on this project, and I massively enjoyed the entire experience. The only exception was my first instance of being a messy sod in a Michelin-starred place – a piece of food fell off my fork, straight into a sauce that can only be described as “hyper-green” – splat. Jackson Pollock all over the pristine white tablecloth. ‘If you’re going to do it, do it with style‘, that’s my motto.

Because of the time, I wussed out of walking back to Euston, so got the tube from Green Park back to Euston, and then a train home – again, all remarkably smooth, and a contented end to a fantastic weekend…

Weekend Travel – Saturday

My idiot day-trip to Manchester last Saturday actually went really well – and taking the train was an inspired choice, if I say so myself.

Readers of old (and pre-Wordpress, so we’re going back a fair way!) will remember my old rants about train travel, and the problems involved in it (mainly people, with added cruddy service and delays) so it’s quite a surprise for me to have become so positive about train travel again recently.  Of course, it might change if I were doing those routes on a regular basis again, but the only way to know that would be to be doing the routes. Short of moving and being in the same situation again (which is less likely than Leicester winning the Premiership) we’ll just never know.

In both directions though, the journey was fine – and fast. From Milton Keynes to Manchester Piccadilly is now just 90 minutes – much faster than I can do it in a car. It cost less than the fuel and parking would’ve done, too – although not by much.  If I hadn’t been right in Central Manchester for everything else, the times and costs would’ve been different, but for the purposes of what I was doing, it was all excellent.

I actually ended up getting the train an hour before the one I was booked on (the ticket was still valid, and it gave me the chance to walk round Manchester as well) so got there in plenty of time. I’d miscalculated slightly on the weather front – it was nice in Milton Keynes, and I’d forgotten that Manchester tends to rain regardless – but I was indoors for most, and only got slightly damp while walking, so it was OK too.

I’d also forgotten just how slowly most people walk in Manchester. I don’t know why, but it’s a real plod of a city – frustrating when one naturally walks as fast as I do. It makes for an interesting walk, carving through gaps and spaces, making more progress than anyone else.

I covered a lot of the centre, seeing what had changed over the years since I was last there – as usual, a lot of new stuff, a lot of roadworks and expanded tram lines – and revisited some old favourites. I was truly saddened to see the changes at Triangle – it used to be a fantastic and quirky multi-level place, but the entire basement level has been covered, and it’s now really just a bundle of restaurants.  Mind you, at least it appears to be occupied fully – and I assume busy – which is an improvement.

An early lunch was had at Yard and Coop, which had been recommended by another friend, and was pretty good.

Then on to the Royal Exchange to see King Lear, which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t seen it before, so didn’t know what to expect, which probably helped. I do have some reservations about Shakespeare stuff – that’s a post for another day – but it’s a damn good production, and impressively staged for such a comparatively small space.

And then a train back home, with no delays, no hassles, and back in Milton Keynes an hour and a half later.

For me, it means that kind of day-trip is actually doable, and likely to be repeated. I’d not really thought of it on that level before, but with the train travel, it’s now within the realms of possibility. Could make things interesting in future…


Having gone to Hamlet and a couple of other things last year, I decided that this year I wanted to go to more theatre productions – and it all looks like it’s being pretty successful so far.

I’ve already seen Faustus in London, and seen Henry Rollins twice (not quite a theatrical production as such, but still qualifies for these purposes) but the bookings for the rest of the year are starting to look pretty impressive, including…

I’d say that’s a pretty successful list for the coming months, and certainly fulfils the target of “Getting out and doing more”…

More Travel

As I’ve said many, many times before, I can be a bit of an idiot – particularly when it comes to what I regard as ‘doable’ for travelling etc.

Today has proven that yet again.  Well, I’ve organised it all today, but it’s happening on Saturday.

Over the weekend, I saw some really good reviews and opinions about the production of King Lear that’s currently going on at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, with Don Warrington as Lear.  So today I had a look at whether there were any tickets still available.

Turns out, there were. Not many, but enough for me to book one to see it on Saturday afternoon.  And that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve also (in the name of something approaching a sensible idea) booked myself on trains to get up there and back. But I did seriously think about driving, too. A 350-mile round trip to see a play. Like I said, an absolute idiot.

The reason I’m not making a weekend of it is because I’m also in London on the Sunday – although not ’til the evening – for another hopefully epic meal.

I am indeed an idiot, and quite possibly a lunatic.

London Weekend – Faustus and stuff

This weekend was another London trip, although spread over two days rather than one, which made life a bit less chaotic than usual.

The primary reason was to see Faustus at the Duke of York’s Theatre. A friend of mine had got tickets, and as part of my 2016 mission to see more stuff and so on, I went too. I know the basic idea of the story of Faust, although I’ve never read it, so had that as a basic idea of the play, but no idea of what else to expect.

Faustus image

As it turned out, it’s a very good production – if also very strange. I liked a lot of it – but admittedly started off thinking “This is garbage”, although I did reassess that quite rapidly. It’s got a whole lot of interesting ideas and propositions within it, so it’s an interesting production.

Other than that, the usual large-scale wandering around London, reconnecting bits of geography I hadn’t seen in a while, and generally doing a fair bit of walking, as well as everything else. As it was a weekend away, I decided to stay in a (far more expensive than usual) hotel in the area, which I’d eaten in before, but not stayed in.

All told, a thoroughly decent weekend, and much enjoyed. I should try this culture thing more often…

Fish, Aylesbury Waterside

Last night, once I’d finished work I drove over to Aylesbury for a gig. Fish, the ex-lead-singer from Marillion was back in their home-town, and performing one of their classic albums, Misplaced Childhood, in its entirety for the last time, on a tour called “Farewell to Childhood”, because it’s the 30th anniversary of it being released.

I’ve liked Marillion – well, I liked the Fish-era Marillion – since their start, so seeing this gig was always going to be a good one. It’s just a pity it had to be in Aylesbury. Understandable, but a pity all the same.

First of all, I’d forgotten just what a benightedly scabrous shithole Aylesbury is. By the time I got there (just before 6pm) it was pretty much all closed. It’s always been a boil on the arse of Civilisation, and never seems to improve, no matter what the planners, developers and town-centre managers do to it. It’s an unremitting dollop of shite.

I truly don’t know what kind of sins you’d have to have committed in previous lives in order to deserve living in Aylesbury, but they must be truly epic ones.

Anyway, the Waterside Theatre itself is really nice. I’d not been before, but it really impressed me, and is back on the list of places to see stuff.  Again, it would be even better if it weren’t in Aylesbury, but there we go.

The gig was thoroughly enjoyable – my brain refused to store who the support act were, which is a disappointment, as I’d like to make sure I don’t see them again by accident. But once Fish and his band came to the stage, it was all good. They started with playing a number of tracks  from Fish’s solo career (which, admittedly, I’m less familiar with – but I’ll be rectifying that) before playing the whole Misplaced Childhood album, and finally closing with a couple of other crowd favourites.

I really enjoyed it – Misplaced Childhood isn’t my favourite Marillion album by a long chalk, but it was still a good gig.

All told, a good evening – despite the location…

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