Showing posts from 2022

Seaside Special - Riotous journeys: Merseyside

I know Liverpool as well as any other British city. Probably better. From 6th Form trips  to check out the universities, momentous days at Aintree racecourse and right through to a sneaky post-lockdown outing in 2021, I’ve been a regular visitor.  Those early expeditions were liberating and a little wild. I knew mates who came to study here and I made plenty of journeys north-west from Stoke-On-Trent where I was attending the Poly. The vibe was addictive. Probably only on a par with Newcastle of the cities I knew. Scousers and Geordies have more in common than divides them. Certainly there was more happening than in the sleepy Potteries. Great gigs attended, top pubs and clubs crawled and new mates made. Liverpool was the first city where I discovered a bona-fide heavy metal pub. Wilsons on Wood Street was a sweaty, strip-lighted, sticky-floored, real-ale venue, with a powerhouse jukebox playing AC/DC and Led Zep classics; and walls plastered with UFO and Black Sabbath posters. Bands p

Seaside Special - Bank Holiday blindspot: North Wales

  Another trip, another train. Heading to north Wales via public transport on an August Bank Holiday Saturday. A momentary lapse of reason.   I’d arrived in Crewe relatively unscathed along a pleasant branch line from our friends place in Whaley Bridge. But stepping off the train from Stockport and shuffling over to Platform 11, I realised my miscalculation. Twenty minutes before the Holyhead departure, holidaymakers were already four or five deep by the gangways, sporting an assortment of bikes, double buggies, surf-boards, fishing gear, suitcases, holdalls... Coronavirus might have significantly impacted commuter journeys during 2020, but once restrictions were lifted on UK holidays, people were not waiting for a second chance to hit the coast. I hadn’t entirely seen this coming. The empty train pulled in to the platform firing the starting gun for a scramble to get on board. Within a couple of minutes all the seats and vestibules were overflowing. The train manager was prowling

Seaside Special - The Cambrian Line: Ceredigion and Gwynedd

I’d already been travelling for a couple of hours, but the journey only felt like it was properly beginning as we left Shrewsbury. Something to do with the train reversing out of the junction station in the direction it had entered. As if a newly configured service. Where once I had been sat in the front two coaches, as the electronic signage had directed me at the newly rebuilt Birmingham New Street, I was now in the rear two. And on the wrong side for the view of sweeping coastline that I was keenly anticipating from my carefully chosen window seat. Not long out of the station, we skirted the Shrewsbury signal box on the opposite side to my arrival a few minutes earlier. Not just any old junction control housing, though. This was the largest working mechanical signal box in the world. Oh yes.  The conductor appeared. This proved to be the catalyst for a passenger migration only surpassed by the partition of India. Slightly fewer fatalities, in truth. Every time the portly conduct

Seaside Special - Tipping point: Pembrokeshire

This is where the coastal blog posts get even more sketchy than usual. My only visits to Pembrokeshire were when the kids were little, in the early Noughties. I haven’t managed to add any recent trips to that visit. I can’t pretend that what follows here does justice in any meaningful way to this beautiful, craggy seascape of tiny coves, flowing bays and pretty seaside towns. Particularly as one of the visits largely centres on a bout of seasickness out of Fishguard ferry terminal. But hey, this was always going to be an imperfect project, so I will plough on regardless.     Our journeys over to this far-flung, westernmost corner of Wales were, in common with many others, to rendezvous with the ferry for Rosslare across the Irish Sea in County Wexford. Mrs A’s family are all Irish and although most of the rellies were based in north Dublin, we had some wonderful holidays combining visits to the capital with stays around the south coast, from Fethard to Dungarven to Kinsale to Skibber