Daft as a Brush

In an ongoing thread, there are times where I realise I really am a silly sod. This is another of those things.

A fair while back, the Cowboy Junkies (one of my all-time favourite bands) announced they were coming to the UK. It had been a fair while since they’d been here last, and even better, it was happening the weekend after my birthday.  However, that was also the end of the week I was already booked up to spend in Northumberland, which was a Friday to Friday booking.  And they were playing Manchester on the Saturday, and London on the Sunday.

So I figured what the hell, it’ll be a weekend, and booked tickets for both Manchester and London. Well I was up in the area anyway, and the London one was billed as being different to the Manchester one (although that has since changed). So why not? (Other than mileage, of course)  I’d drive over from Northumberland to Manchester on the Friday, stay in a hotel overnight, do the gig on the Saturday night, and then drive home afterwards. Easy.

And then the plan changed a bit. When I saw the play Queen Margaret in Manchester, I realised how painless the journey was by train. So instead I figured I could drive home from Northumberland on the Friday – allowing me to get laundry and so on done in the evening and so on. Then on the Saturday I could get the train up, have lunch somewhere new and fancy that had grabbed my attention, then walk down to the hotel, check-in, drop off bag etc., go to the gig, stay overnight on Saturday, train home on Sunday morning, then down to London for Sunday night.

Yes, I’m an idiot, and an absolute loon. But I cut my mileage by taking the train, and improved my own safety by not driving home from Manchester late on a Saturday night. So that, at least, was sensible…

Speed Walking

With last week’s time in London, I did a lot of walking (as usual)

On the conference days, I was getting in to London early (before the main rush hour kicked in) and then had the option to grab a tube down to Charing Cross and walk from there to the venue, or say sod it, and walk the whole thing from Euston to  Westminster. (And then back in the evening, of course)

The first day, I opted for the Tube down, so I was there in plenty of time. That was easy, and once we were done for the day I walked back up, feeling the need for movement, having been sat for 95% of the day – I needed that walk! For the second day, I walked down in the morning, and back up once we were done.  And finally, on the Saturday I walked down, but grabbed the tube back up to Euston, as it was late and I didn’t fancy waiting for the final Train of the Damned.

But on each of those longer walks, I kept finding myself thinking about other people, and just how slow they are. And wondering just how people manage to live so slowly.

I walk fast, I know. Well, to me I walk at normal speed, and everyone else is just Slow – but I know that really means I walk fast! I consistently average at least 4mph – even when I think I’m dawdling along, knowing I’ve got plenty of time. Indeed, when I think I’m dawdling and going slow, I tend to be walking even faster than usual. But that’s just another weirdness of self-perception.

Regardless though, most people are just Slower. In pace, but also in reaction times – even when they look directly at me, they don’t seem to realise the speed I’m going, and still drift out in front of me, or just stop to do something else, or whatever. It’s amazing in many ways – not least that they’ve definitely got no concept of momentum and inertia, of what’ll happen if I do decide to keep going, and walk into them rather than permanently being the one to avoid, dodge, and get out of their way. By any stretch of the imagination, I’m a FMFB and could easily damage just about any of them, simply through colliding at speed.

Anyway, it always surprises me a bit, just how slow the people around me are. It gets tiring to keep on avoiding people, swerving and carving through crowds of slower people who don’t even realise I’m blasting through until I’m already past, staying aware of everything around me (including traffic when I have to go into the gutter to get past a whole pavement-width crowd of plodders) and all the possibilities.

It makes me wonder just what my speed would be in empty streets, to be honest. Although I do also speed up when I get annoyed by people, so it’s possible it would stay about the same.

Anyway, it meant I did a lot of walking over the last week, which is never a bad thing.



Last week, I was in London for three full days, travelling down each day. On both the Thursday and Friday (while attending the excellent Lead Developer conference) I was using the trains at peak times. Onn Saturday it was a busy time when I went down, and busy-but-late on the way back.

At no point in those six journeys did my tickets get checked. Not at platform gates, not on the train, nothing.  I could’ve gone through the entire thing without paying a penny to Virgin Trains.

Of course, Sod’s Law being what it is, if I had braved it and gone without a ticket, there’d have been about six checks per journey. I know that – and it’s why I always buy a ticket. But it does annoy me, how rarely these things are checked, and it makes me wonder how many people do take the chance, and go without paying for the ticket.

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…

Travel Time

The trip to Edinburgh this weekend is also pretty much the first time I’ve taken a long-distance train journey since I lived in Manchester. I was considering driving, but looked at a minimum of six hours each way, as well as the consideration of fuel costs etc., and thought “You know what? Eff that”.  (Which is pretty novel in itself)

So I checked out the train costs – the journey’s about 5 hours each way by train, and the ticket price is pretty much on a par (within £10 or so) of the expected fuel costs. Plus it’ll mean I get to read, write, or just look out of the window, rather than being stuck having to concentrate on driving the entire way.

All told, it’s really been quite a sensible decision.  I’m not sure how it happened – I normally see a sensible decision and run in the opposite direction.  I’ll write more about it once I’m back, and know how it all went.

Travel Costs

Currently, I’m in a dilemma about a bit of travelling I’m doing in April. (See, told you I was feeling all organised)

Come the end of the next contract in mid-April, I’m treating myself to a weekend up in Edinburgh. It’s not a proper ‘holiday’ as such – but it’s a break, and it’s something I want to do. I haven’t been up there since the days pre-D4D™ and I want to go back.

The dilemma is about the method of travel. Looking on Google Maps, it’s about a six hour drive – on a good day, with no jams etc. A Friday afternoon/evening is not going to be a good day.  So I’ve also looked at train times/costs – and they actually pretty much balance out.

The full journey will be pretty much two refills of the fuel tank, which’ll be around the £65 mark each time. The train, looking at current prices, will be £120.  It’s close enough in price to make no real difference – even less so when I also factor in car-park costs – and the timing is much the same for a direct run.

I haven’t done a long train journey in ages – really not since doing the regular run between Manchester and Bracknell – so it’s pretty tempting.  Plus it’ll give me the opportunity to look out the window and appreciate the views without the hassles of driving – and perhaps even the chance to write more.

It’s just that whole “Paying the train company to do it”. I don’t know why it’s an issue in my head, but it is. I’ll figure it out and make a decision, it’s just annoying at the moment.

Miss Transit

Back in September, I wrote a small bit of cynicism about Luton’s Guided Busway, and why I was rather unconvinced about the reasoning behind the current glut of Busways, Tramways.

This week the first operating quarter’s passenger figures were released – and they’re only 41% of what they were projected to be.

Luton Borough Council revealed there were 346,854 passenger journeys between October and December 2013.

The 2008 busway business case projected usage of 9,000 daily trips, indicating 828,000 journeys for its first quarter.

But of course there’s someone else to blame – and it’s not the council, nor is it the bus companies involved in the project.

“If you want to blame anybody, blame the bankers,” [Colin Chick, the director of regeneration] said.

“When the country starts to recover and sites are developed and we create new jobs in that area and the airport expansion goes through, within a few months those figures will go back to what was anticipated.”

I remain unconvinced – but apparently the figures for the second quarter will be published soon, so it should be fun to see what they reveal…