On the rails again

The train manager and another member of staff both had American accents and I could have thought that I was back on the California Zephyr travelling from Chicago to San Francisco and on holiday. Unfortunately I was on my way from Crewe to London for a work commitment. Passing through Stafford I saw the almost inevitable train spotter. Most have now swapped notebooks for technology but I have yet to see a female and/or under 50 train spotter. In London it was sunny and as I walked through the university I came across a farmers’ market with several street food stalls with huge vats of curry and paella which smelled wonderful but it was not lunchtime and I was not hungry. I finally reached my destination in Chancery Lane and in the reception on the fifth floor of the building had a view over the incredibly elaborate chimneys of the building next door. So often in cities, we do not lift our eyes above the street to see what is up there. Fortunately the room my meeting was in had a much less interesting view so I could concentrate on the business in hand. Afterwards, as I left, I saw the London Silver Vault on the other side of the street. A notice said it had 25 shops but much as I love antique silver, I resisted the temptation and wandered on towards Covent Garden. It is an area I have known since my student days when a friend was working at Crown Court Church of Scotland and I used to come down from Aberdeen to visit in my holidays. Today the market was in full swing and there were several buskers. A tenor was singing operatic arias downstairs and several others were performing in the surrounding area.

Busker (1 of 1)

I dipped into Stanfords on Long Acre to pick up some more State maps for the Lincoln Highway drive and a coffee stop and browsed in a couple of second hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road on my way back to Euston. On the train we had a very friendly and helpful member of staff who was very chatty as there were only a few of us in the carriage. He told us (after only two people had cheese and biscuits) that any left over food would be thrown away and gave the remaining cheese to one passenger who had enjoyed it. Needless to say I have tweeted Virgin Trains to ask why they cannot donate uneaten food to a homeless shelter or similar rather than throwing it away. I await their reply.

Two days in London

An early drop off at Crewe Station on Wednesday morning meant that fortified with a large coffee, I got some work done before the train arrived. There was great confusion on the destination boards, which seemed to have regressed to the earlier overnight trains: ‘23.42 from Glasgow Central terminates here’. I was on the slower service to Euston via Birmingham this time, which at least meant a change of scenery. Just before we drew in to the station at Wolverhampton we passed a number of interesting derelict Victorian buildings that are crying out for restoration and could provide the affordable homes that we need so much. From the station you can see the old Chubb Lock and Safe Company building that has been restored. Here is a photo from a local history site:
After Coventry, we were back into the countryside and there was still some autumn colour. It’s hard to believe we are in the second half of November. On one farm the animals were about to be fed. Two flocks of sheep in their fields and one herd of cattle were all staring intently towards the farm buildings, waiting for it to appear. Approaching Euston there were numerous small plants which had seeded in the gravel on the line and were flowering even this late in the year.
My walking route led me past UCL where a demonstration by students and supported by Socialist Worker was getting ready to set off. On Tottenham Court Road I passed Heals (along with Studio One in Edinburgh a great place to furnish and decorate a modern house) and down to Liberty ‘the chosen resort of the artistic shopper’ according to Oscar Wilde. If money were no object, there are innumerable wonderful things here. As always, a quick look at the Japanese prints on the top floor was essential, Kawase Hasui’s snow scenes being a favourite. However, I was focussed on Christmas present buying and that was soon finished (declining bubble wrap and plastic bags) and I wandered down Carnaby Street picking up some stocking fillers. Back at Oxford Circus a band were busking.
Buskers at Oxford Circus 19 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
Afterwards, a quick tube journey to Islington and after popping into the Oxfam bookshop (one for me and one for a Christmas stocking filler) I was in my hotel. No more wall space at the moment so I did not visit Finbar MacDonnell’s wonderful map shop in Camden Passage. The hotel is modern and almost monochrome which fits with my current exploration of black and white photography. Today I woke early to a misty morning. Down in the City where my meeting was taking place, the Gherkin and the Shard were in the mist but lack of time and unwilling to stand in the middle of the busy road, there are no photographs. Late afternoon, the meeting was over and I wandered back to Oxford Street to photograph the lights.
Christmas Lights Oxford Circus 20 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
Hare Krishna monks were singing and chanting along the street and Jehovah’s Witnesses standing outside the tube station trying to give away booklets. I made my way back to Euston via some of my favourite bookshops in Bloomsbury. I came across two amazing shops on my wanderings – one devoted entirely to umbrellas and walking sticks
Umbrella & Walking Stick Shop 20 Nov 2014 (1 of 1)
and one that sells rubber stamps for printing. You can even buy sealing wax and seals in there. I had a fairly uneventful train journey home with pleasant company, red wine and one of the books I had bought.