On the non-writing periphery of life, the good news is my son and I had a day out in Swindon yesterday. Now Swindon may not be the immediate place that springs to mind when one thinks of places to spend the warmest day of the year so far in the UK, but trust me it was all good.

He likes trains and the main reason for going was the travelling, not the arriving. This involved a class 166 DMU set to Newport (boo! he wanted a newly truncated HST, 4 cars and two power cars) and his longest trip on the Class 800 IET.

I get used to making these train journeys and sitting on the station eating, let’s be fair here, quite pleasant, but often dramatically overpriced food and drinking unusually flavoured teas and coffees. Not this time however. To my surprise he decided to leave the station and go into the wider world.

I have been to Swindon fairly often off and on over the last thirty years but usually to other parts of the town than the area around the station. I think the last time was c1999 when I met some friends in the car park to start a journey to Agincourt. So the immediate vicinity was not exactly as I remembered it.

However we did find somewhere to have lunch, a branch of Subway; not what I was looking for, but what I was looking for probably does not exist in most (all?) of Britain these days.

When we had finished that he surprised me by suddenly expressing a desire to the ‘Steam’ GWR museum. He isn’t the faintest bit interested in steam engines or the ‘romance of the steam age’. Diesels and electric units are his obsession. On this occasion he walked right up to the door and inside – so I paid and round we went.

I don’t think he has transferred his allegiance to steam but he stuck with it for far longer than I thought he would. I’m a ‘casual’ railways fan – I like travelling on trains, as long as they are clean, not overcrowded and reasonably priced. I have never stood on a station watching trains for my own amusement, though I have over the last few years spent many hours doing so with my son. My enjoyment comes from seeing his enthusiasm. But I caught the tail end of steam locomotion on British Rail. I was given a look round the footplate of a steam engine at Macclesfield station by my Uncle Wilf (actually my father’s uncle) who was a train driver. I don’t know whether I remember it or whether I have constructed the memory from being told about it. Whatever the truth things were okayish until he blew the whistle which precipitated quite a long bout of crying and howling to rival the whistle. I’m not saying I dislike steam engines, I don’t, but I can share my son’s enthusiasm for the comparative cleanliness and quietness of modern railway engines.

Modern engines have not meant a significant improvement in service however. Sat on Swindon station later in the day, waiting for our Paddington to Swansea train to arrive, there was a litany of announcements. Services were running late, stations were being dropped from the schedule and people were on and off trains like some sort of musical chairs as announcements were ‘corrected’ and instructions on how to complete your journey changed.

Our train arrived only about six minutes late but it meant that the passenger wanting to make connections to several other trains missed the next trains by minutes. It turns out we were lucky as after the train we caught things really snarled up and there were several trains cancelled. I suppose I should be grateful we missed the worst of it all and we had a good time.

The bad news?

My heart has gone back into arrhythmia.



PS-next bit of Westley follows shortly – later today or tommorrow.

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