Blame it on the Hygge (#TågFärjetur Part 6)

Sunday 20 October (continued)
We rode the Copenhagen Metro quite a bit

For one day only, our dynamic duo became a terrific trio. Joining us for the afternoon in Copenhagen was Mads, who knows Paul thanks to their mutual membership of the Talyllyn Railway. For several weeks each year, Mads makes the journey from Denmark to volunteer on one of the Great Little Trains of Wales. Now that is dedication.

Paul had cajoled Mads into being our tour guide for the day. The slight problem with this plan is that Mads doesn’t live anywhere near Copenhagen. It was like expecting someone from Bristol to successfully show people around Manchester, but I’m pleased to report Mads rose to the occasion and only got lost on two or three occasions.

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A Ferry Enjoyable Journey (#TågFärjetur Part 5)

Day 3 (Sunday 20 October)
09.28 Hamburg Hauptbahnhof to Copenhagen Hovedbanegård

We were back at Hamburg Hauptbahnhof on Sunday morning for the next leg of our journey, the EuroCity train from Hamburg to Copenhagen. As I mentioned in part 1, this was the centrepiece of our whole trip, and our chance to experience one of the few remaining train ferries in the world.

Photo of Customer Information Screen at Hamburg showing train EC33 to Copenhagen

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InterCity Interlude (#TågFärjetur Part 4)

Sign reading "zu den Zügen" (to the trains)

Day 2 (Saturday 19 October) continued:
13.16 Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof to Hannover Hauptbahnhof
15.59 Hannover Hauptbahnhof to Hamburg Hauptbahnhof

I had told Paul all about the train information posters that most German railway stations have. On each platform, a list of every train that will stop there, with a diagram showing how many coaches it will have, and exactly where on the platform you need to stand for your coach. DB can do this, I said confidently, because they are well-organised and it is rare for platforms and train formations to change at short notice.

Then our ICE train to Hannover arrived in a completely different formation to that shown on the poster, and stopped in a completely different position. Oh well.

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Suspended until further notice (#TågFärjetur part 3)

Photo of "Schwebebahn" station totem sign

Day 2 (Saturday 19 October):
09.13 Cologne Hauptbahnhof to Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof

“That’s an interesting connection,” remarked the guard on train IC2441, as he checked our ticket. It was a masterpiece of understatement; I imagine it’s not every day he sees a ticket for a journey lasting nearly two days, artificially lengthened with an extended stop in Wuppertal, of all places.

Paul and I both tried to explain, but how to communicate what we were doing? This is the third blog post in a series, and I’m sure many of the people reading this still don’t really understand.

DB Doppelstok (double decker train) at Cologne Hbf

I was childishly excited to be on the top deck of a Doppelstok train from Cologne to Wuppertal, although disappointed that we would only be on board for 30 minutes. I suppose I could have stayed aboard to the train’s ultimate destination of Dresden, where we would have arrived a mere seven hours later, at 16.39, but I suspect the novelty might have worn off by then. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to have an elevated viewpoint as we glided across the Hohenzollern Bridge out of Cologne to our next stop.

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Cologne again, naturally (#TågFärjetur part 2)

Photo of St Pancras station entrance

Day 1 (Friday 18 October) continued:
15.04 London St Pancras to Brussels Midi
18.25 Brussels Midi to Cologne Hauptbahnhof

As we approached St Pancras, Paul was excited at the prospect of seeing the Spice Girls’ Entrance.

That’s not some weird euphemism – the video for their debut single Wannabe was filmed in and around the station’s Grand Hotel. Even if you don’t recognise it, the caption “St Pancras Grand Hotel” appearing 6 seconds in gives the game away.

Incidentally, while writing this blog post, I looked up when this song came out, and it turns out it was in NINETEEN NINETY SIX, which is impossible because I remember it from when I was young, and I’m STILL YOUNG NOW, DAMN IT.

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Trains of Thought (#TågFärjetur part 1)

Day 1 (Friday 18 October):
10.47 Liverpool Lime Street to London Euston

Some appropriate music to accompany this blog post:

Europe’s high-speed rail network is a thing of beauty. Trains zip passengers across the continent and through multiple countries in mere hours, with no tacky duty-free shops or requirement to decant your shampoo into tiny bottles.

It’s a network I have taken advantage of multiple times in the past – a trip to Amsterdam with my friend Ian, a sleeper train from Berlin to Paris, zooming across Germany on the sexy InterCityExpress. I was “flight shaming” before Greta Thunberg made it cool.

My last Euro train trip was in 2016. That was far too long ago, and in the summer of 2019, I started to feel the railway itch again. I often found myself at idle moments with multiple browser tabs open on the Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn and Man in Seat Sixty One websites, looking for inspiration for my next trip.

Then, online chatter revealed that one celebrated European railway route was to undergo major changes. The Hamburg to Copenhagen EuroCity service, one of the few remaining lines in the world where the entire train is loaded onto a ferry to cross a body of water, was being rerouted to avoid that messy procedure. After December the opportunity to enjoy this unusual train journey would be gone forever. Naturally, a ride on this train quickly became the centrepiece of the plan.

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The Porn Identity

Picture of Trekkie Monster from Avenue Q

An announcement slipped out today by the Government (no doubt hoping that the Brexit circus would distract everyone) confirms that the plans for compulsory age-verification checks for adult websites will not be going ahead. The plans had already slipped twice – originally planned to roll out in late 2018, it was postponed to July 2019, then was pushed back again to October due to incompetence. Now, Culture Minister Nicky Morgan has confirmed that the plans have been shelved (on the top shelf, presumably).

It does seem to be a universal rule that, as soon as something is invented, it will inevitably end up used for filthy sex stuff. Computers were no exception – I certainly remember the thrills some lads at primary school got from an illicitly-obtained copy of Sam Fox Strip Poker for the Commodore 64. The fact that none of us knew how to play poker hardly seemed to matter. The introduction of modems opened still more horizons – if you knew where to look, bulletin boards offered BBC Micro users a cornucopia (pornucopia?) of pixelated 8-bit erotica, as uncovered a few years ago by John Hoare (VERY NSFW LINK!).

Porn has been on the web for as long as the web has existed. In the olden days of dial-up, it was less of a problem, as postage stamp-sized RealPlayer windows playing at 5 frames per second did not offer much of a thrill. The content that was available was generally locked behind a paywall, requiring a credit card, beyond the means of most under 18s.

However, with the arrival of broadband, and the proliferation of free sites which offer (legally or not) hours of content completely free of charge, it has become a lot easier to find rude videos online. When I was at school, there was one lad at school who found one of his dad’s naughty magazines and brought it in for his mates to excitedly pore over. Now, with a smartphone in every pocket, everyone has instant access to stuff far more potent than a magazine, with no need to worry about the pages getting stuck together.

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Still Furious

When I woke up the morning after that vote and saw the result, I was despondent, I was angry, but I genuinely believed I would get over it. I thought time would be a healer, that the country would coalesce around a reasonable Brexit compromise, and we would all move on.

It hasn’t happened. Three years on, and I’m still furious.

Furious at the needless waste of money and effort that is being expended to try and protect us from the impact of this decision.

Furious at the lack of action to solve other serious problems while Westminster obsesses over the minutiae of Brexit.

Furious at the loss of opportunity to live and work freely in 26 other countries.

Furious that millions of young people, who didn’t get to vote because they were under 18 at the time, will have to live for the rest of their lives with a decision that was out of their hands.

Furious that a politician was murdered.

Furious at the liars and cheaters in the campaign who got away with it.

Furious at the media who failed to give the arguments any proper scrutiny.

Furious at the politicians who are too cowardly to stand up and ask for a rethink.

Furious that my patriotism and belief in democracy has been called into question because I want to stop a damaging Brexit.

Furious that bigotry and xenophobia is now being treated as a legitimate political position.

Check back in with me in three years. Maybe by then I’ll be over it. But I doubt it.

The Trains in May Are Mainly Now Explained

Last year (at least six or seven blog posts ago) a massive timetable shakeup was announced on train services across the north of England, promising faster journeys, new connection opportunities and an all-round better experience.

To say the changeover didn’t go smoothly would be an understatement.

Passengers endured weeks of disruption before an emergency timetable was introduced, drastically thinning out the service on some lines. It was months before things got back to some semblance of normality, and the lasting damage to the railway’s reputation (and Northern in particular) will take some time to recover.

Now, one year later, the train companies are gearing up to try again, with a new timetable due to start on Sunday 19th May. It’s not the “big bang” of May 2018, but perhaps that’s just as well.

Sadly, for passengers travelling out of Lime Street, a lot of the promised improvements have been deferred yet again. But there are some big changes going ahead, so let’s look at what’s happening. As always, I focus on the Liverpool area, because… that’s where I live, and it’s boss.

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Ich bin ein… Hamburger

At the end of last month I headed to Hamburg for a second trip to Germany’s second city. Once again, it was at the invitation of my friend Boris, who lived in Hamburg for quite some time and knows the city well.

(I would link to the blog posts about my previous trip in 2016, but my old site is down after an unfortunate hacking attack – hopefully it will be back soon)

The good people of Hamburg were so happy to see us when we arrived on Friday, they organised a giant fireworks display to celebrate!

This is not true, of course. This fireworks display was part of the Hamburg DOM, a festival and funfair held in the St Pauli area three times a year.

Entrance to Hamburg Dom fair and Ferris Wheel, at night

I was surrounded by rides, neon lights and food stands offering German delicacies. No time to sample them, however – neon lights of a different kind were calling us, and we headed to the Reeperbahn for the first time that weekend.
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