As you will have seen from my Facebook status messages and tweets, we had a busy holiday, but enjoyable.
Friday 14th May – we got a taxi to Royston Station, FCC train to
Saturday 15th May – from the hotel with the German-accented lift (you may recall I mentioned this when I stayed here in early 2009), we got a cab to Haymarket for the hire car company Thrifty, before picking up EY 10 OAP, an automatic Ford Fiesta Titanium. The choice of letters was pointed out frequently! Anyway, from there, quick stop at Ferrytoll Park & Ride (snapped my first Nordi Travel bus on the 651, as well as a chance find of the new Fife bus map – first one in ages!) before continuing via the A92 and across the Tay Road Bridge to Dundee. As we arrived with plenty of time before our next event (at 15.00) we stopped briefly for a few things in town – I got some coffee beans and syrups from Braithwaite’s, as well as catching up on bus timetables! We then drove from
Sunday 16th May – we left Farnell, and drove through Dundee and the A90/M90 to the Kelty Interchange, before going via a back-road to the
Monday 17th May – we left Farnell via Forfar, A94 to Coupar Angus, back roads through Lethendy and Spittalfield to Birnam, then onto the road through Dalguise to Aberfeldy. After filling up the car with fuel, we parked it up, and prepared to sample Caber Coaches Service 91. This is essentially a beginners guide to Highland Perthshire, taking in some streets around town, before heading up for a loop around Coshieville and
Tuesday 18th May – we left Farnell returning via the road that we came back on the night before, the A94 to
Wednesday 19th May – we needed a rest from the day before, but agreed to do a handful of things that we had planned for Thursday, to spread the load. With the latter start, we met a colleague of Lynda’s for lunch at Brechin Castle Centre. L suggested meeting, largely as the colleague is about to go walking the Camino… From there, we drove through Brechin, Aberlemno, Lunanhead and Forfar, then onto
Thursday 20th May – bit of a star-shaped day. Started from Farnell, driving direct into Montrose, stopping for some pictures and coffee. We drove back the way we came to Farnell Crossroads but then continuing to Forfar West i.e. Orchardbank. This included a quick stop for lunch, then onto JP Coaches yard for some photos. From there, back to Forfar, cross-country to Barry Mill. C had never been here, despite living more than once in Carnoustie. We happened to walk in at the start of a tour, so joined in for the look. Took the car back to Sainsbury’s Claypotts for fuel, before driving to Linlathen (the scheme) where my mum, sister Ruth and new nephew Jonah live. We arrived to find Ruth was on the way home with Jonah. Shortly after their return, we went off to see my dad, back in the car past Claypotts then onto
Friday 21st May – trimmed this back a little, so I could get some duties done for Tiger Line early morning. Got those done quickly by mid-morning, we left, and started heading north on the A90 towards
Saturday 22nd May – we both needed to get our breath back! So, walk around Farnell village early afternoon, before we went out in the evening to
Sunday 23rd May – a quiet-ish one, but we drove through Forfar, Newtyle (quick stop to nab a pic of my dad’s old care home, now boarded up and for sale as homes), then onto Errol, Cairn O’ Mohr Winery. After drinks, stocking up on fruit wine and Arran cheese again, we proceeded to go back to Maza at
Monday 24th May – we finished packing up, and got back in the car. Drove via Forfar into
That was it… C liked the hire car, better than the Mazda we have! We got to meet new and old family members, and we both did a fair bit of mileage and shopping. Thanks to everyone who helped somehow with this!
Tuesday 25th May – was meant to be at PFH, but tired the day before, so decided to stay home. Wednesday 26th May – got a bit upset on the way to work at Switchboard, so back home. Despite these two days, I did get out to work at Woottens on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th May. We are now having a very quiet three day weekend to relax, and get back to normal, whatever that might be!
… Anyway, on top of that, another good reason for being around north London today were the two major transport changes that took place overnight. National Express PLC have returned the East Coast Mainline train franchise to the regulators, and as from today, the nationalised East Coast takes over, for now at least. Also, the controversial articulated Mercedes Citaro buses have been taken off 38, and replaced with conventional double deckers. I’ve stuck up a few pictures here.
A witty reader (he's not sent his name, fearing legal reprisals) sends in a wonderful fantasy in which Michael O'Leary of Ryanair buys our east coast railway and runs it like his airline. The ticket prices will look like amazing bargains, say London to Edinburgh for £1.
"But these principles will apply: fee of £5 for internet booking, £5 for timetable inquiries, £5 for credit card payments, £20 for clicking the OK – pay button, admission charge to station, charge for compulsory on-board ticket inspection, £5 alighting fee, £10 penalty for not pre-ordering £5 alighting fee, and that's before we've started on the baggage charges and the £10 for those mini-carrier bags from the buffet if you want to get back to your seat (£7.50 compulsory reservation charge) without spilling coffee all over you. The company dismissed the £1 blowing-your-own-nose fee as pure speculation."
Why, you may ask? Well, we’re on holiday tomorrow for most of a week.
We were looking at a number of local coach operators for a holiday this year, in contrast to what we’ve both done before. The price differential was actually rather surprising. However, I came across Woottens 2009 online brochure, which had a rather nice five days/four nights in a hotel in Irvine. In just 16 days from today, Caroline has her 50th birthday, and she was born at the Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine (the one off the main road bus routes), and her parents stayed in Stevenston, although moving to Dundee soon after. So, Caroline agreed to book that for the both of us some time ago, and I’ve not said much about it here, but have done so elsewhere.
After going out on Friday for work (it was brighter than I expected, otherwise I might have done a little more), and shopping on Saturday (including a huge saving made in the Lush store in the Lion Yard's current summer promo, well over £50!), we’re now preparing for tomorrow. (Some of my random pics from Friday and Saturday can be seen via those links).
Anyway, we like, and it’s all good. Aside from getting up at 0400 on Monday to get the 787 coach to Hemel Hempstead for the coach pick-up!
Now getting ready to go out for the first of several days this week!
Today was a busy one too – after C’s two appointments this morning (and wait for blood tests afterwards), I’ve been trying to catch up since. Tomorrow, of course, is an evening appointment at Sussex Nuffield Hospital, Brighton, at 1900, then back in time for Wednesday morning 0930 at the Forvie/HD clinic at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge! Thursday, not just a CMA due in, then a discussion with the woman from ICAS in regards to the doctor who got us in this mess in the first place!
In the meantime, yes, it’s been hectic all around. Many things happening. Most important for me being new phones (the last cordless phones were cutting out after less than five minutes, after four years of use), and a new Apple aluminium thin keyboard, which is useful for having all the keys in the right places (versus a PC one) and having a visible Caps Lock light (useful for when trying to TAB and hitting it inadvertently!) Sound simple, but it’s the things that I spend most time with. Also, lots of purchases, one leaving the flat – we’ve sold the colour laser printer via eBay, and replaced it with a mono one. No major problems, just an issue with cost of refilling it every few months working out more than we had hoped. The sale has helped pay for it’s replacement. Also, on Friday and Sunday, we had stops at Lush Cambridge for several armfuls of items.
Transport – meh, lots to talk about. I’ll come back to that.
So, I’m kind of in two minds, but then again, maybe that’s inevitable. (If you’ve just started reading my journal, you may wish to go back over the lump/bulge/bigger issues since November 2008). As to how I’ve ended up with two referrals for one set of work, well, that’s something else. Just hope that one way or another, this can be looked at, and diagnosed with whatever.
I had kind of hoped to say something thoughtful and monumental. It’s almost like being at the beginning again. Remember back to March 30/31 and April 1 2007, when I first came down for an appointment at the hospital – and ended up falling in love with Caroline. Many thoughts through my head that day – but the main reason for going was, of course, a prequel to surgery. As for everything that happened between those two things, well, what is done is done. In the meantime, I’ve became a better person for being in love, but that might still be skirting the situation. The reason for going down, is, of course, going to lead (eventually, more than likely) to some further surgical work. I shall take one day at a time on that score.
In the meantime, Wednesday morning, and it’s the Genetics thing again. Now, I’ve got this, like it or not. I’ve been trying to split bad feelings to between what should normally be expected (hormonal ups and downs), feelings of anxiety/depression (I’ve begun to think that it is mostly anxiety, but depression perhaps at certain times), and potentially explosive reactions that I’d seen before from my father. Of course, he couldn’t control the latter, and it’s not easy to watch. Especially when I didn’t know why, at that time. However, it does allow me to know what to watch out for – hope that doesn’t sound bad, but I frequently have to take the best of bad situations! Over the last few months, stability/walking has been an issue. Okay, I did have a fairly bad fall (well two of them one evening peak in central London) and that didn’t help – physically or mentally. It’s not a good thing to be walking and falling face-first. Especially when it’s not the first time. I am trying to take things a little easier for now. It’s kind of just as well that we’ve settled in where we are, for now, but never say never. So, how can I work around this? By putting the experience of bad days behind me, and vowing to live for the good ones. However, there’s a slight drawback in having to reveal all my personal problems in the last six months, in the space of several hours… and hopefully, some sleep.
I’ve done many things more than once in my life. Is this going to be the start of another journey, through the remaining months and years of my life? Trying to make the best of life as I can, as we are, and surviving through the bad times. I’d like to give it a go.
My thumb is somewhat sore as I type this (to add to that I’ve also somehow managed to take the skin off one of the healing blisters on my right knee with the bed night before last) so you can have a look at the pictures taken over the weekend.
Stay connected during the flight
Be reachable by loved ones, friends & business colleagues
Ryanair is equipping its fleet with a mobile phone system. If you see a Phone Use Permitted sign on the aircraft, simply switch on your mobile phone or BlackBerry when the sign is green.
You can then make and receive calls, and send and receive text messages. The inflight mobile service is an international roaming service, so don’t forget to dial + or 00 followed by the country code.
You can also catch up on email during the flight, from your smartphone (e.g. BlackBerry, iPhone, HTC) or from a laptop equipped with GPRS connectivity.
Your onboard communications will appear on your usual mobile phone invoice. Your home provider sets the rates. Typical prices are about €0.50 for text messages; between €2.00 and €3.00 per minute to make and receive calls; and between €1.00 and €1.50 for an email session without major file transfer (100 KB). Prepaid is also supported. Switching on your phone and receiving text messages is free.
Ryanair has become the first British or Irish airline to allow mobile phones calls during flights. But, as you might expect, it comes at a fair price!
"Passengers on board today's 10am service from Gatwick to Dublin were able to make and receive voice calls, text messages and emails.
Although Ryanair has been keen to introduce the system since last year, it has been waiting for authorisation from European regulators.
The airline has indicated that it intends to roll the service out across its fleet of 170 aircraft within 18 months.
"Today's launch is the first step to offering in-flight mobile phone services on board our entire fleet," said Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary. "We expect customer demand for the service to grow rapidly."
Calls will cost between £1.50 and £3 per minute, text messages will cost 40 pence each and emails will cost between £1 and £2. Only customers of 02 will be able to use the service, although Ryanair says that all other network providers will sign up."
The journey started with a bus, Lothian Buses Volvo/Wright Gemini double decker 820 on the X47, part of the PenicuikCityLink service group 37/47/X47. Every second 47 (every 15 minutes from Granton to Penicuk) runs during the day as a fast, limited stop X47, and the enhancements formed a successful Bus Route Development Grant bid, in partnership with both Edinburgh City and Midlothian Councils. The route recently got an extra purpose, with the opening of Straiton Park & Ride, opposite Ikea I think, although I’ve not been there since construction started. The journey was a bit longer than just the west end – but not much, just the top end of Waverly Bridge. Spotted a poster on a phone box on the bridge advertising Queer Mutiny, and they appear to share my birthday!
Anyway, arrived at Waverly with just over 40 minutes to go before my train, so waited with a quiet bite to eat in the food court (looking at the departure monitor) before leaving in time to get to Platform 11 for the 1252 Edinburgh to Birmingham New Street Virgin Trains Super Voyager service. The first class carriages were just a handful of us initially – two of the four had been to the same financial conference, as it turned out – plus a member of VT staff who was apparently booked to cover The Shop (on board the train), but another member of staff had also been booked to the same duty. After a brief mobile call to I presume her boss, she was told to return to base as a passenger. After a brief stop at Haymarket, our train sped through the south-west of the city of Edinburgh, West Lothian, Lanarkshire, Dumfriesshire, and across into Cumbria, stopping first at Carlisle. This was also a bit better to see in daylight! After Carlisle, a variety of stops between there and Preston (crew change) before continuing to stop at main stations to Birmingham New Street. I didn’t notice until I saw their lanyards as they got off, but there were three VT staff sat in front of me.
OK, so we get to Birmingham, a few minutes ahead of time. Good, I think, I can live with that all the way down. Oops, spoke too soon! After a quick surface to ground level, went to Platform 2/2A to await the 1730 train, starting at Brum New Street, for London (also stopping at MK). I notice the inward train was due at 1708, but the train hasn’t arrived there, and has not been called by the announcers. There was then a verbal announcement (not the pre-recorded one) that the train had been delayed inward, following problems in the Birmingham International area (near the Airport and Exhibition Centre). This was also interlaced with announcements that the 1733 CrossCountry train to Reading had been cancelled outright, with no explanation given other than the recorded “sorry for the inconvenience”. After a couple of delay notices, a Platform Alternation was given! Aargh, two southbound trips via Brum New St, and twice I’ve been decanted! We all ran over to Platform 5A/5B, and we left 21 minutes down, at 1751, despite a quick turnaround. After getting on the Pendolino (Italian designed tilting electric train), I was genuinely surprised to hear the other passengers talking in approving tones of the service, despite the slight delay.
As we are approaching due time at Milton Keynes, several passengers made their way towards the door, and I had the bags out of the racks. A passenger announcement followed that we’d been diverted via Northampton, following a broken down train south of Rugby... to which the bloke beside me said “I was sure I could see Wolverton there…” We ended up at Milton Keynes Central at 1903, 45 minutes down.
I was planning on going for the X5 coach back to Cambridge at 1845. The next one at 1915 was to terminate at Bedford, so I had to wait for the one due in at 1945. Well, I say due in, but it was late. I thought I saw it arriving just after the X5 going the other way… got the bags ready… it was just a plain unbranded coach on the VT99 to Luton Airport instead! Still, the X5 arrived 15 minutes late at 2000, and the driver had a brand new 58 plate coach, of the type I’d snapped on the way up. The WiFi was good, but a combination of tiredness and the fact that the driving made me feel very queasy (for only the second time in my life since I was a young ‘un), meant I just sat back. We had a driver change at Bedford, which seemed to help greatly, and he was struggling with the new coach too, narrowly missing some lamp-posts! These are longer than their predecessors, and a few years ago, I remember a Glasgow trip via Fife resulted in delays because the Fife drivers were taking it easy with the new stock, especially given the rain then!
So, what did I think of the First Class experience? I wouldn’t have ever thought about this as an option – after all, on our own First Capital Connect route through Royston, First Class is 2+2 seating, just a different colour with headrest covers, and no catering – perhaps, not so necessary on short commuter-style journeys. The 1+2 seating layout, with table space at every seat, provided for tonnes of room, and plenty of places for baggage. The combination of the quality food and drink served (including the hot breakfast/dinner offers on weekdays), lots of extra room, would be enough to tip the balance in favour of looking for a First Advance fare for a future journey, perhaps. I think Caroline would appreciate the comfort and quietness! I understand WiFi is planned to add to the service later in 2009, which would defiantly be useful. I also spotted that at least one of the tables could fold up – useful for those knee-bangers amongst us. So, would I do it again, for a similar journey? Defiantly – it certainly did make the journey more enjoyable, and turned what could have been a chore trip into an enjoyable one, before I’d even made it to Scotland.
As it turned out, the East Coast Main Line had been delayed for most of the day, following a fatality at Durham. So, no matter which way I’d have gone, I may well have ended up home a little late. Never mind, I made it in the end!
In the time since, Friday was a quiet day for my 30th (mostly spent unpacking) before going out to The Dolphin (pub in Melbourn) for dinner, and then out on Saturday for a brief bit of shopping (two new pairs of shoes, one pair of long boots, one new top, one new pair of slouch jeans, two new belts, the lot for £59 in the sale at Evans!). Today, cheese fest – pizza just a few minutes ago, and now Cascada playing via iTunes… win!
OK, so we are now on the train, travelling through Carlisle, south towards Brum. Its looking a little dull and grey out there, but it’s not too bad.
It’s been an intensive three days – an off-the-top-of-my-head guess is 900-950 miles at the moment. It’s been an enjoyable time – some fast paced, but also, some quieter times, some relaxing times, and some good journeys.