BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘travel’

#365daysofbiking Behind the mask

Thursday, October 1st 2020 – I had business to do in Bolton so took the bike up on the train. In these bizarre, pandemic days trains are strange: Even early on a weekday morning the inter-city services and suburban commuter trains are next to empty, populated by wary, slightly suspicious, bemasked travellers. Rail ravel is really not a pleasant experience right now.

Bolton is one of the areas apparently in greater lockdown, but it seemed as relaxed and unperturbed by the outside world as usual.

I was amused and puzzled by this restaurant on the Wigan Road: How on earth did that come to happen? Top marks for the name ‘Steaks on a plane’ though.

Coming home, I got off at Stafford and rode home for the exercise, chance to enjoy the sun before oncoming rains next day and maybe a treat at Milford’s Wimpy. On the side of a boarded up pub in Stafford, the intellectual giants of the local conspiracy theory scene say more about their capacity for reason and mental acuity than any outsider ever could. Meanwhile, over at the frankly insane website mentioned, you can buy a promotional mask bearing the website URL…

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#365daysofbiking Train in vain

November 12th – A terrible day commuting to and from a job in Birmingham. It was wet, cold and the trains were very, very broken. Waiting more than an hour for a train out of Birmingham to get home, it was nearly eight before I got in.

New Street still retains it’s machine-like beauty at night, even when every light you see is red; but good lord, it’s frustrating.

The suck this year seems even worse; not only is it in the traffic and on the darkened roads, but the trains are bad, too.

I’ll be glad when Christmas comes, if I’m honest.

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#365daysofbiking Station to station

October 16th –  I didn’t use Bloxwich station for years, as the Chase Line trains that shuttle this line between Birmingham and Rugeley tended to be horrendously crowded into city, and a similar nightmare in the evenings, but since the line has been electrified with longer trains, it’s been a lot more convenient.

The station itself is little more than a suburban halt, but welcoming enough and I love the lighting at night. Where it does win for me is it’s a nicer ride home than Walsall, Blake Street or Shenstone, and about the same distance.

The train times don’t often work for me and this service, so I’m unlikely to be a regular user but I’m growing to like it. The Chase Line upgrade has been good for me and once the service wrinkles are ironed out it could be very useful indeed.

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#365daysofbiking Stationary traveller:

November 28th – Birmingham New Street, not long after dawn on a grey, wet, miserable winter morning.

Despite it’s faults, despite it’s awful turd-polishing in the Grand Central fiasco, despite it’s continual propensity to be host to disappointment and frustration, this subterranean station is in my heart and soul, and feels like home.

The lights, the people, even, no – especially the steel horse.

I love this city. I love this place. With all my heart. But often, it feels unrequited.

April 19th – Later that same day, I popped over to Telford. When I alighted from the train, I spotted this pair of old friends on the platform.

Just two old muckers off for a break together. As you do.

It made my day.

January 12th – I came from Derby to Leicester, made a call in Leicester, back to Birmingham and then Walsall. At 4:30pm I was in Derby; by 6:30 I was in Walsall. Not bad, really.

Through my increasing aches and congestion – the cold was really clouding things now – I got the Late Night Feelings vibe in several places, and a bit of a Peter Saville in Walsall.

I love travelling. I love riding a bike. I don’t love the cold virus.

I was glad to get home.

November 15th – And back, so it was, to Shenstone, an altogether different type of late-night feeling. This is a beautiful building, in a lovely location, and a great place to leave, but even better to return to.

I love it at night, the way it’s lit, the overhead wires, the sense of an island in the darkness. A beacon, calling me toward home, just a few miles to go.

A haunting, gorgeous station. 

December 14th – Having arrived at work, I discovered I was needed in Telford, so nothing for it, I headed for the train. At New Street, there were delays and confusion and the usual busy, frenetic chaos.

I stood at the end of the platform, wandering what I was doing there. Every signal light I could see was red.

Some days wear you out before you start.

December 5th – I had to go to Telford, and on the way I bought a ticket from the Arriva Trains Wales conductor, as I usually do.

It appears the staff have been issued new ticket machines. Instead of printing a return on two standard, credit-card sized stuff card tickets, I was awarded this scroll: a twenty inch by three inch piece of thermal paper bog roll. This is the new standard for tickets issued on trains.

So, just as Network Rail adopt automatic barriers at stations, train operators start issuing huge, impractical tickets that won’t operate them.

Well done to everyone concerned. I’m really impressed.


June 15th – I spent most of the day travelling before ending up back in Darlaston working late. I set out on yet another wet morning, in steady but warm rain, and it more or less continued until the last trip of the day, which was mercifully dry.

On one of my journeys, I noticed this bored, sad looking border collie who’d clearly have rather been out in the outdoors than stuck in a train. I loved his mismatched eyes. With the rain and murk restricting my riding, I know how the dog felt.

I don’t know where he was going, but I hope there was somewhere to run when he got there.