Sunday, 26 November 2017

A few lines on the tram

Typical. She doesn't post anything for over a month, then comes back with some witterings about the tram. Well, sorry about that, but if that's waht it's taken to finally tug me out of the doldrums, then perhaps it's better than nothing. I say doldrums, but in many ways it's been the precise opposite that has kept me from my blogging keyboard: a maelstrom; a perfect storm of work related-stuff that has led, for the first time in my life, to there really not being enough hours in the week to deal with it, and to the requisite emotional, intellectual and physical resilience hanging on by its very fingernails. Or that's how it felt, anyway. Obviously, things are feeling a little more manageable now, and here I am.
And there I was this afternoon, on the tram. Not for the first time - I think it was actually the fifth, or eighth if you count return journeys - but you know how sometimes it gradually dawns on you that you're developing an interest in something... It was when the thought came to me that a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon would be to get a £4 Dayrider ticket and ride the length of each of Sheffield's three Supertram lines that I knew I'd been hooked in some way.

The only tram I'd ever been on before I came to Sheffield was in Moscow, in 1982. It cost 4 kopeks, and although I remember the Moscow Metro quite well (the chandeliers!), the only thing I recall about the tram was a sad-eyed man in a cheap leather jacket, and the smell of cigarette smoke.

More than buses or trains, what the tram most reminds me of is the Tube. It's frequent, so you don't plan your journey, but just turn up and wait for one to arrive. It has different lines - Yellow, Blue and Purple - serving different directions, and indicator boards that count down the minutes until the next one is due (and they seem to be pretty accurate). Inside, the seating layout is (slightly) reminiscent of a Metropolitan Line train, and there are grab rails and hanging straps. 
When it moves, it sounds and feels like the tube. It's electric, for a start, which the trains round here aren't (I'd been here years before that dawned on me, suddenly doing a double-take whilst waiting at the station).

But in some ways it couldn't be more different. The tram has a concuctor; a real live person who really says 'any more fares please', and while they issue tickets and read cards with a bleeping wireless handset, they give change from a heavy leather bag hanging from their belt.
There are 48 stops on the Sheffield tram, compared to 270 on the Tube, but I think that it’s got some far more fabulous names. My nearest stop is called Primrose View. Needless to say, it’s on a busy main road with nary a small spring flower in sight. On my journey today, I took in, amongst other stops called Infirmary Road, Manor Top, Gleadless Townend, Hackenthorpe, Donetsk Way (named for a twinned steel producing town in Ukraine), and, quite possibly the most over-promising station name ever, anywhere, Crystal Peaks, which turns out to be a small shopping centre. This was the Blue line, whose final destination, unimprovably, is Halfway. It takes a real visionary of a transport planner not only to retain that name for a tram stop, but to make it the terminus.
So this could be the beginning of, if not quite a love affair, then certainly an exploratory dalliance, with the tram.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Never too late

It's time to break out the thirty-year-old t-shirt that's been carefully preserved at the back of the wardrobe:
Souvenir of the 100 Club and the Mean Fiddler, and the Tom Robinson Band's tenth anniversary reunion tour...
Because it's now forty years since the release of 2-4-6-8 Motorway, and Tom is touring again to celebrate.

I don't think I could have imagined in 1987 that I'd be leaving my house in Sheffield, with my younger son - then not even thought of - to go and see a 67-year-old Tom playing the entirety of Power in the Darkness at a venue that had opened seven years previously, but that I wouldn't hear of for nearly another thirty. I could not have imagined that I would look up the venue on the internet, and, that had I needed to, a hand held satnav would guide me to it. When I think of the cumbersome cassette recorder I smuggled into those 1980s gigs (and yes, I still have the tapes, unlistened to but hopefully not ruined), and the big SLR camera (fast film purchased specially) that I sometimes took (not always, as it did get in the way...) - now both superseded by something the size of a fag packet, which also serves as phone, computer, telex machine and TV - it's amazing how much the world has changed.

And yet...  

Freedom... we're talking bout your freedom
Freedom to choose what you do with your body
Freedom to believe what you like
Freedom for brothers to love one another
Freedom for black and white
Freedom from harassment, intimidation
Freedom for the mother and wife
Freedom from Big Brother's interrogation
Freedom to live your own life... I'm talking 'bout

Power in the darkness
Frightening lies from the other side
Power in the darkness
Stand up and fight for your rights

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Ashby aborted again

It's starting to look as if we might never see the Ashby canal despite Marston Junction being a short day's cruise away. Two attempts earlier in the year were postponed because of work on the house, but I set aside a week and went to some lengths to get the time of work especially to make the trip this time. The long term weather forecast was mild and even better, dry; the kids would be back at school and hirers hopefully thinner on the ground - there was only one thing that could spoil things. As we neared the weekend, the forecasts started to mention the tail ends of various hurricanes, but undaunted, we grasped at the straw that these would pass through over the weekend. We set off on Sunday, packed up the boat, and prepared to sit it out. Sunday night was windy and if anything it strengthened as Monday progressed. Furthermore, the forecasts now seemed to suggest that winds of up to 20 mph would continue throughout the week.

Now, I have learnt my lesson when it comes to wind. I will boat in rain, snow and ice, in heatwave and in hailstorm, but not in wind unless I absolutely have to. With winds at anything above about 7 mph and Chertsey's speed anything below roughly 2 mph (i.e. 90% of the time), the fore end becomes completely uncontrollable. Picture Chertsey - or look at the photo at the top of the page. At the back, where the cabin is, there's about 3' of boat under the water. Nice and heavy, solid and stable. At the front, there's nearer 3" under the water - and what, going on for 6' of floaty hollowness above it. Get a cross wind and there's nothing you can do but apologise to the moored boat you hit sideways on or spend ages stuck to the bank (quite possibly in the mud as well) swearing, poling, and ultimately weeping until the wind drops for a minute, at which point you might just get off in time to repeat it all again around the next corner. So strangely enough, the idea of tackling a shallow, winding, unfamiliar canal in those conditions did not seem to offer the sort of relaxing holiday experience I had assured my boss I needed.

So, disappointed, but resigned, we repacked the car on Monday afternoon and returned to Sheffield. Once the wind does finally drop, we'll have to go back and cloth Chertsey up for the winter - particularly as the translucent cloths are starting to disintegrate - they've done three years, so I'm quite happy with that, and the roll I bought for about £70 will make another two sets, so that's well under a tenner a year.

I wonder whether we'll get to Swarkestone next year...

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Deck the walls

The house continues to take shape, and another finishing touch was put in place this morning:
Chertsey's old deckboard, adorning the living room wall. This is the deckboard that came with (although not on) Chertsey - it's definitely hers, and almost certainly pre-1962, as it's stamped with her fleet number, 130, on the back. The painting however must be post-1962, as it certainly isn't very BWB. The circular hole, which was for a headlight (I have old photos showing a light mounted behind it), has been cut out with a series of drill holes - again, not part of the original design!

Some of the wood has rotted in places, but it's not bad considering it's at least 55 years old, and was probably in use until the mid 1970s - and not that well cared for either. We even boated with it for a while:
It still has the heads of the bolts that attached the mounting irons to it showing at the front. Jim cut the bolts off and the irons are now in use on the new deckboard.

I'm really pleased to have such an interesting artefact and little bit of history to display on my wall - that fact that it fits so perfectly with the colour scheme is a complete bonus!

Friday, 15 September 2017

Holiday plans - and a tenth of a long life

My Daisypath ticker tells me that as of today,  I've owned Chertsey for eight years. That may not seem like long, but it's a tenth of her life!

I've also booked the first holiday of next year - back up the Erewash. Can't believe it'll have been five years since the last time.

Perhaps we'll leave off redoing the cloths until after then...

Monday, 11 September 2017

Normal service is resumed

But I've given up on the goal of getting 300 posts in by the end of the year - I'm not going to cheat by doing more than one a day. I could have carried on doing it on my phone, but... pah.

Anyway, today after two cancellations from EE, a BT man came round and did something and I now have landline broadband, at last - only six weeks after moving.

I think it must have been my iPad that was the data-eating culprit, and I still haven't got to the bottom of it. You will recall that something went through 8GB of mifi data in a fortnight - now, there were five devices connected to that: my phone, Jim's phone, my iPad, Jim's iPad, and my PC. My PC was switched off most of the time. Neither of our phones used more data than expected. Jim's iPad has an EE monthly contract SIM, and usage on that was perfectly normal as far as I can tell. Whereas when we went to the boat the weekend before last, I put a new 3 3GB SIM in my iPad. I use these a lot and they have always run out of time (three months) before they run out of data. This one ran out of data within two weeks despite refusing to connect to any websites in that time. It always showed a decent signal, but timed out every time. I've checked the usage by apps, and none of that comes anywhere near accounting for it.

Extra Energy by the way have surpassed themselves. I have now sent them three lots of meter readings in the hope of getting an accurate bill. When an envelope from them dropped onto the doormat today I thought it might be the bill at last. But on opening it I found.... a new 'welcome new customer' letter.  But at least they've stopped calling me Mrs.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Old flame

The crew of Princess Lucy snapped this on their way through Wheaton Aston and asked whether it was my ex.
Well yes, and I have very fond memories, but also very happy that it's got a new life and is, I am sure, very loved.