Friday, 30 April 2010

A world of Pork

It’s been a few months since I was last in Germany.

This is probably for the good, as I have a tendency to over-do-it a bit when I hit Germany.

I don’t know what it is about the place that makes me crave pork.

It’s not my favourite of meats (it ranks slightly above lamb, and a long way behind both beef and poultry), yet stick it in a sausage, smother it with Senf (and it has to be proper German Senf, no other type of mustard works) and sell it from a small counter in a dubious corner of a train station and I can’t get enough.

There have even been occasions when I’ve only eaten pork, or pork related products for days at a time.

Needless to say, a diet this poor invariably leads to issues with “regularity”. I certainly know that a couple of years ago after visiting Germany twice in about five weeks I managed to give myself some real problems for a couple of weeks after.

But, will I learn from previous problems, or will I be hunting out the nearest Wurst stall with the urgency of a junky.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Domestic flights

I’ve had to wait a bit for my train at Preston, so I’ve heard quite a few announcements about the disruption that the Eyjafjallajökull Volcanic ash cloud is causing.

The key problem appears to be that people who would normally fly from London to Scotland have all descended onto the railways and they can’t cope.

The trains coming up from London are packed to capacity and people are struggling to get on.

I’m all in favour of trying to get as many people off of domestic flights and onto the railways, but based on today’s evidence the railways just can’t cope.

Perhaps this is the clearest evidence needed that more railway lines are needed, or perhaps it’s proof that we have become too reliant on being able to zip around the country on cheap flights.

Perhaps its also evidence that it always helps to read the timetable when you’re booking your train. The trains from Glasgow, packed, my train five minutes later started at Lancaster, one stop up the line, virtually nobody on board when I got on!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Sorry NW England Closed

Over the course of the day it’s been becoming increasingly obvious that there is major disruption being caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

This has been really brought home on my way back from the station this evening.

Where as this morning there was a mix of vacancy and no vacancy signs on the B&Bs on my walk into Blackpool town centre, by this evening every single hotel and B&B was displaying a No Vacancy sign.

I had to get my key card reprogrammed as it had decided to stop working, and the people in the queue in front of me were desperate. They had tried hotels close to John Lennon Airport in Liverpool, and then they had tried over a slightly wider area. They had then driven up to Blackpool in the, very sensible, idea that as it’s got so many hotels there would be spaces.

Unfortunately, many other people had already had the same idea, and gotten here first, so there were no spaces. The very helpful lady on reception was looking for them, but the best she could offer was Carlisle.

So whatever disruption the cloud brings, for UK hotels there is quite a profitable silver lining.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I’m trying to like it, really I am...

Sorry Morecambe, you’ve dropped down to a distant fifth. Blackpool’s gone straight in at four, and is possibly climbing

I’m not quite certain what it is that I’m disliking about Blackpool, but I think it could be it’s identity crisis.

Is it the Stag and Hen capital of the UK, in which case stop trying to draw the family crowds.

Or is it a major family seaside resort, in which case might it be wise to loose some of the seedier sea front attractions (three “gentlemen’s establishments” spotted already and counting)

Perhaps it also doesn’t help that directly behind the sea front appears to just be a car park, stretching for as far as the eye can see.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Seaside resorts

A few years ago a book was published called “Crap Towns: The 50 worst places to live in the UK”. Needles to say there was an outcry, but this being Britain, it was mostly from people who were deeply offended that their local town hadn’t been included. How can [Insert name of a Crap Town] be a worse place to live than [insert own home town] was said on a number of occasions.

Obviously this had to be rectified and a year later a second book “Crap Towns II” came out.

Third in the original list was Morecambe. I’ve only spent 25 very wet minutes there in 2006, but from that experience it does go quite high up my list.

Up until today, though, topping my own list was Colwyn Bay.

However it’s come under a strong challenge today, and I’m thinking of starting my own list highlighting my personal “Crap Seaside resorts”

On the whole it’s been a close run thing, but I think from today’s experiences Colwyn’s hard won first place has been lost to the unremitting bleakness of New Brighton. At least Colwyn was on the sea rather than at the mouth of river estuary.

As for Morecambe, it’s been knocked into a distance fourth place by my other place of interest today, Southport.

Supposedly, it’s the quintessential English seaside town. If it is, it kind of explains why so many Brits go to Spain, Greece and Turkey for their seaside breaks.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Yes, it’s appropriate, but is it necessary

I hope they don’t do it when it’s a commuter service. I can only imagine what it does to the mind if you have to hear it every day, then again perhaps it just disappears into the background.

It certainly is prominent during the day when it’s being a tourist service.

What am I talking about?

It’s playing “Ferry across the Mersey” on a Ferry crossing the Mersey.

Alternatively, could this be the start of a whole range of transport operations adding “Theme tunes” to their services.

Perhaps a continuous stream of Gerry Rafferty at Baker Street,

Maybe a constant invitation to do the walk at Lambeth North

Or worst still a very, very long and slow sea crossing to China.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Town Centre Mathematics

There is a different form of mathematics at work in the UKs town and city centres. It’s a mathematics which re-writes the concept of fractions.

And it’s all down to the humble ¼ (or more importantly Quarter)

I was in Bristol for work a couple of days ago and in walking around found at least five quarters. Having looked around Liverpool for a short while I’ve already spotted six areas referring to themselves, or being referred to as quarters-

  • The Cavern Quarter

  • The Cathedral Quarter

  • The Waterside/Docks Quarter

  • The University Quarter

  • The Museum Quarter

  • The Shopping Quarter

So, according to Liverpool six quarters make a whole. Yet Bristol thinks that five quarters make one.

More alarmingly is my home town of Croydon, which appears to only be able to muster two quarters (an Arts Quarter, which might be better described as an Arts sixteenth due to its size, and a shopping Quarter). So if you believe Croydon Council two Quarters make one.

Perhaps the maths needs to be looked at on a wider scale, maybe, over the whole of the UK if you add up the number of quarters it does add up correctly. But, perhaps for the sake of simplicity could we stick to four Quarters making one.

In which case, could Liverpool give Croydon two Quarters, I think the Cathedral and the Waterside Quarters would be quite nice, don’t know quite where we put the Cathedrals, and it’s a bit difficult to have docks when your only river is a muddy little stream that runs in a sewer, but I’m sure we can find a way around that.