I heard Today, today, oh boy

Radio 4’s Today programme turned 60 today and decided to hold a special programme of self-congratulation. Unfortunately they decided to invite Michael Gove on, and that’s where it all went wrong.

Asked to describe his previous experiences of being interviewed on the programme, Gove responded thus:

What is especially horrible is that fellow panellist Neil Kinnock chimed in with his own “joke”, and the studio audience responded with laughter and applause.

Gove has apologised, but this seems to be a problem with so many areas of public life right now. On an issue which has caused distress and affected the lives of many people, the men in suits can all yuck it up and treat it as a joke. To them, this is all just another game. It’s awful.

Today is 60 years old – so maybe it’s time for it to be retired?

A tale of one city

I spent a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon in the Museum of Liverpool. It’s a wonderful place to visit, with galleries telling the story of Liverpool as a great world port, a centre of industry and commerce, and as the inspiration for art and culture the world over.

My specific reason for visiting was the new Tales from the City exhibition which opened last week. Celebrating 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales, the exhibition pulls together a variety of objects from the collections of National Museums Liverpool, to depict life in the city’s LGBT community over the past half-century or so.

Tales from the City exhibit at the Museum of Liverpool

Despite being a part of said community, my knowledge of the city’s LGBT history is superficial to say the least. This exhibition has come at the perfect time for me, because I know I am a Bad Gay and need to do better.

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Enjoy the little things

It’s fair to say the last few months have been a bit tough for me. I thought the end of Open University work would remove my main source of stress, but issues at work, worries over the clusterfuck that is Brexit, and various other issues have conspired to make me decidedly unhappy.

Yesterday I went for a long walk, all the way from my house in Aigburth into Liverpool city centre, a distance of about 7.5 km. I used to do this all the time before I got buried under the pressure of studying, so it was good to get back onto the riverside for the 90 minute stroll along Otterspool Promenade. Despite being October, the sun was shining and it was warm enough to not wear a coat. I breathed deeply, inhaling the fresh air.

My walk ended at the Albert Dock, where I stopped for a rest and a coffee. Rather than feeling tired, I actually felt invigorated. Walking through the dock complex, my ears detected a real mix of languages and accents: American, Polish, German, an Arabic dialect, as well as pure Scouse. All these people, visitors and locals alike, had one thing in common: they were enjoying all that the City of Liverpool has to offer. I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pride.

View of waterfront buildings including the Museum of Liverpool and Albert Dock

For one afternoon, life’s problems took a back seat and I was able to focus on the enjoyment I was feeling in that moment. I got home later that afternoon feeling more cheerful than I had felt in a long time. The phrase “you need to get out more” has never been more accurate.

Sent to Coventry

EMU vehicle at Electric Railway Museum

I loitered in the bus bay at Coventry railway station for an extended period of time. I had been promised a heritage bus service to the Electric Railway Museum, but the scheduled departure time came and went, and none was forthcoming. Eventually a clapped out minibus showed up, with an apologetic driver informing me and the other waiting trainspotters that the proper bus had broken down. With gearbox grinding, we set off down country lanes to the museum site, in a field next to Coventry Airport.

Photo of various railway vehicles and station building at Electric Railway Museum

Electric trains are the bastard stepchild of the railway preservation world. You need electricity to run them, and since no heritage lines have a convenient third rail or overhead line available, that means the best you can hope for is for is a static display in a museum, or some awkward Frankenstein’s monster arrangement where the train gets lashed-up to a diesel locomotive and dragged around. All this means that preserved lines are reluctant to use up their valuable space with vehicles that can’t earn their keep. That’s a crying shame, because electric trains have played a vital role on the railway network for well over a century, and their history is not properly documented.

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Eighty Poo

It’s time to write on the fascinating subject of buses – specifically, the local route that takes me into town.

No, wait! Come back! This is not a parochial moan, of interest to no-one outside south Liverpool, but hopefully an interesting story which shines some light on the state of bus services, and the problems bus users encounter.

Route 82 is one of Liverpool’s trunk routes, linking Speke, Garston, Aigburth and Dingle with the city centre. I’m not entirely sure how long it has existed for, but a 1960s Liverpool Corporation bus map shows it, so that’s at least half a century. It has survived the upheavals of deregulation and privatisation largely intact. Until last month, the main changes were a series of minor reroutings in the city centre as pedestrianisation and one-way systems were implemented.

Today, the route is shared between Stagecoach and Arriva, who operate a Quality Partnership agreement, with a co-ordinated timetable and acceptance of the other operator’s prepaid tickets. The introduction of the quality agreement has been beneficial to passengers, no longer subject to arbitrary changes at the whim of the operators. Or at least, that’s what we thought.

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Avon Calling

Statue of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

This is NOT a catch-up post!

I had a nice day in Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday with my friends Andrew and David. I was there for a total of 6 hours (with a three hour train journey at the beginning and end of the day) but I squeezed quite a bit in.

We arrived to find the town centre ridiculously busy thanks to the Stratford Food Festival taking place that weekend. Delicious smells of cooking food wafted over us as we made our way along the streets. Not good for someone who is trying to diet.

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Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin

Photo of Berlin Skyline, showing TV Tower, Reichstag and other buildings

This is another catch-up post from last year.

My third trip to Berlin, and I had three days to squeeze in as much as possible. What did I do? Read on…

IT’S THAT TOWER AGAIN – The Berliner Fernsehturm looms large over the city, a glorious relic of the 60s, erected by the old Communist regime to show off to its neighbours on the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Photo of the TV Tower in Berlin, looking upward from the base

I had visited before, in 2012, but that time I had only visited the viewing deck. This time, I ventured up to dine at the Sphere Restaurant (advance booking recommended).

I felt a certain amount of smugness as my friend Boris arrived late following flight delays (my train was right on time) but was slightly worried that we would lose our dinner reservation. No worries, as it turns out having a native German speaker with you helps smooth things over, and we were shown to our table 20 minutes late.

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I think I’m Cologne now

As mentioned in my previous post, I stopped off in Cologne for a couple of days en route to Berlin. So was my visit a success, or was it a North-Rhine-WestFailure? If that appalling pun hasn’t put you off, read on to find out…

THE ENGLISH SHOP – after eating at the Hard Rock Café (shut up, I was tired and it was open and convenient), I headed back to the hotel. En route, I passed The English Shop, whose TfL lawyer-baiting logo had a poignant improvised addition: “Britain might have left the EU,” it said, “but we’re still here. So a little part of Britain survives in the EU!”

Photo of the shop window of the English Shop, Cologne

For someone who was (and still is) grieving the tragedy that is Brexit, this was a bit too much, and I returned to my hotel feeling gloomy.

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ICE ICE Baby

Photo of Hohenzollern railway bridge, Cologne, Germany

It’s another travel catch-up, from September 2016!

Back in 2014, I used the (now sadly withdrawn) DB night train from Berlin to Paris, an experience so exquisite that I managed to get a blog post and a YouTube video out of it.

Two years on, September 2016, and I felt Berlin calling to me again. It was time to repeat the experience in the other direction. The sleeper is no more, but there are still plenty of high speed trains zooming across the Continent. It was time to sample some of that action.

European train travel offers a myriad of high speed train options, each with their own fare structure. Sorting out your ICEs from your Thalyses can be a tricky business. Fortunately I was armed with knowledge from the Man in Seat 61, a one-man treasure trove of information about such things. His website should be the first stop for anyone planning a similar voyage.

Reiseplan (German timetable leaflet)

For travel to Germany, however, booking is quite simple. Just go to DB’s website, Bahn.com, and enter your journey details. The 10.58 Eurostar gives a convenient connection at Brussels, and is also a good departure time for people like me, who need to travel from the provinces.

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A Gran Week Out

Photo of sign reading Maspalomas 25C

I remember vaguely promising, at the end of the old blog, that I would continue writing my travel blogs. For various reasons, that didn’t actually happen. So this is another catch up post, from April 2016.

It started, as so many things do, in a Wetherspoons.

September, 2015. I was in the Metropolitan Bar in Baker Street, London, in the company of my friends Mark and Peter. As I scoffed a greasy burger, the conversation turned to holidays. Mark mentioned that they were heading to Gran Canaria in April next year, that it was a fun place to visit, and I should come with them.

I made a vague statement of agreement, then came home and promptly forgot about it, until a few weeks later when I. Next thing I knew, the hotel was booked and I had bought train tickets to Gatwick Airport.

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