Back in Town

Delighted to be back Blogging again. Loads of interesting things have happened including a walking trip to Rivington and I finally got to see the 7 arch bridge.

A lot of the stuff is about Chester and things that are happening here. I really am luck to live in such an amazing place and thought I’d write a bit more about it.

Well, it only happens 6 times a year, but tomorrow is the Chester Globetrotters meeting.

Two really interesting talks. Nikki will be compering, drinks afterwards and dinner with friends later.

It’s at Chester museum, 1pm, for a 1:30pm start, if your around in Chester, come along.

I was briefly seeing a girl some years ago.

She was status obsessed. One quote by her that I remember was during dinner, she asked “Don’t you ever wish you were really successful”.

To which I replied: I’ve always wanted to work in computers. I do. So I am sucessful.

One thing that delighted me was when she criticised my clothes and as an antidote bought me a Hugo Boss shirt as a gift.

The shirt far outlasted the “relationship”. I loved that thing and wore it all the time until it practically fell apart.

I’m going to buy another one this year.

The Hugo Boss shirt came into my head earlier this week after reading something in a book I’ve just bought (The Modern Gentleman’s Handbook.)

Apparently, in the 1800’s shirts were incredibly valuable. Most people only had one and even the wealthy only two or three.

If a chap got into a spot of bother and things were about to turn physical, by agreement, all concerned would pause and remove their shirts so as not to damage them in the affray.

A person who kept a cool head and avoided this situation was said to have “Kept his shirt on”. This is why, we use the phrase “Keep your shirt on” today.

Interesting some of the things you hear while out hill walking. The original Advanced Passenger Train from the 80’s could be viewed at Crewe Heritage Centre.

Due to covid, it was closed, but as soon as it re-opened I jumped on the train to Crewe to see it (and it turned out there were quite a few other interesting things to see as well).

The main thing about the APT was that it could “tilt”. The problem with trains in the UK (and a lot of the world) is that once a train goes around a bend it has to reduce it’s speed significantly. This train was designed with what was then the most advanced technology available in the world. It was cancelled when it was around 96% finished (more about that later).

In the 70’s Rail travel was pretty grim and unreliable.

I remember those days well. Nobody got the train unless they had to and the idea of actually enjoying a train journey as I do now, was unheard off. The only thing it had going for it was it was a lot more comfortable than a coach 🙂

Above is the first class seating. I was able to walk around the train and sit down. Although it was built in the 80’s the seats are still very spacious and comfortable.

Back then, the idea of a bar you could just walk up to like a pub was unheard off (of course in first class you would be served meals at your table in the manor of a restaurant). Bars like this are pretty standard now on most Virgin/Avanti trains (more about that later).

I found a seat and watched a 45 minute video they had about the history of the train. It really was fascinating.

As I continued to wander around, they had 2 HST 125 trains, this one in it’s original livery like the one I’d seen at the Rail Museum in York.

Train strikes have returned to the UK recently, and much talk has been made of how hard it is to drive a train considering they are paid 60k

I’ve never driven a train, so it would be daft to comment, but this is the drivers cabin of a 125 HST. Not sure I’d want to sit in this all day long.

Amazing. One of the first Manchester Trams in it’s original colours (they are sort of yellow now).

When they came on the scene, they revolutionised travel in Manchester (as they continue to do today).

It was a tram like this, which enabled me to get a job at IBM. A bus into town, then the tram to Sale.

I used to sit in the same seat (well most of the time) every day on my commute to work.

So just for fun, I got someone to photograph me back in that seat with so many happy memories.

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It took me about 25 mins to walk to the Heritage Centre from Crewe Railway station.

On the way back, I found they had a vintage bus that travelled there and back every 30 mins, so I travelled back on that.

As I stand on the platform about to head back to Chester, I spot an Avanti Pendolino.

Italian made, they can lean, use the same technology as the APT and are capable of incredible speeds on all kinds of track.

You see the technology we failed to finish off, was bought by the Italians. They made it work, then sold it back to us.

But there’s a positive end to the story. As well as a really nice café and a brick a brack shop (more about that later) they had several Hornby train installations. One of them was the 80’s version of the APT (they have a newer version but it’s £500 quid !).

A week later I bought one myself and here it is on my test track at home.

And it actually lean’s when it goes around the bend 🙂

An imminent adventure weekend planned in about a fortnight.

I’m fascinated by survival and Bushcraft, and I’ve spent literally weeks living outdoors, catching my own food and living in a shelter I’ve built myself (the one above took me an hour to make and I slept in it for 3 nights.

But the journey began in 1986 when I bought the SAS survival handbook.

I didn’t have the money or resources to do much adventure then, but I made a tobacco tin survival kit and practiced a lot of the things taught in the book.

After all these years, I’m heading down to the Bushcraft show to actually meet John “Lofty” Wiseman, the author of the book.

There’s lots of other stuff going on there, and many of the famous names from bushcraft will be giving talks. Theres a chance to learn new skills and see lot of bushcraft equipment in action.

It is possible to take a tent or bivvi out, but instead, I’ve decided to stay in a hotel overnight near Duxford Air Museum.

The 2nd part of this amazing weekend on Sunday, will allow me to visit the museum and see some of the worlds most amazing planes first hand. The Wessex helicopter that rescued the SAS from the South Sandwich Island during the Falklands conflict.

They also have a P51 Mustang (the plane at the end of Top Gun – Maverick, believe it or not, that one is actualy owned by Tom Cruise). An Avro Vulcan, a Spitfire, I’m really looking forward to it.

But most of all, the plane above, the SR71 Blackbird. Designed with pencils and paper in the 60’s it’s still the fastest plane in the world. Capable of Mac 3 (which is 35 miles a minute) it could fly faster than any missile fired at it. It also holds the record for the highest flying plane at 85 thousand feet (16 miles in the air, incredible).

It won’t be flying, they’re all grounded now, but It’s the only one outside the United States.

For nearly 10 years, Chester had no Cinema or Theatre.

Lots of other alternatives were introduced like a restaurant showing films with a meal (Chez Jules), The Chester film society who put on films church halls, Tip Top productions who performed Theatre in a basement and Chester Theatre in the Park.

We now have Storyhouse, which is a combined theatre, music venue, cinema & library (with a bar !). I was initially worried that many of the alternatives would fall by the wayside, but needn’t have worried.

Nikki and I went to see Little Women at Theatre in the Park (were going to see Romeo and Juliet next week).

The shows aren’t cheap (for the best seats, it’s about £45) but sitting in the sunshine and watching a play “In the round” is well worth it we think.

We’re watching something at the actual Globe Theatre in London later in the year, and I’m really looking forward to it (were going to see the Tempest, Frank explained the plot to me some years ago).

Speaking of outdoor entertainment, I was passing Harkers Arms the other evening (probably the best pub in Chester) and saw some Morris Dancers performing.

Wine tasting at Vin Santo recently. Previously Corks out, we had loads of fab evenings there when we first started seeing each other, so we were delighted when it re-opened under new management with Tom and Sino onboard.

But you can’t keep a good man down, so Simon has now opened a wine shop on Brook Street, near my house.

I’ve worked in lots of different industry’s over the years, but it’s much the same for me, as I work in IT.

So, as an employee of a Civil Engineering company I have little knowledge of what our lads do on site, most of the time.

So I was delighted to see the other day that we were doing some mods to our site. We had a digger and a tipper truck in the yard and they were hard at work.

Speaking of work, I’m really lucky with the people I work with.

In construction, time is money. There isn’t time for politics and flannel here.

Face to face communication is the prefered form and it’s quite common for people to visit my office (which has recently been decorated, thanks Ian).

Here, the excellent Ant from estimating pops down to seek assistance. To his right is my “official merchandise” Peaky Blinders hat.

Upstairs at the Grill, modelled on a New York steakhouse, is probably the best venue of it’s kind in Chester.

It’s a bit of a ritual that I go there every year on my birthday.

Due to covid and other reasons, I haven’t been there for 3 years, so when it opened recently I had a late birthday treat.

In the film Se7en, a key plot vehicle is that the government monitor what books you buy and rent so they can profile you.

I wonder if that happens in real life ?. If so, it’s a concern to me. Two interesting books I’ve read recently are Never split the difference and 100 deadly skills.

Never split the difference is written by Chris Voss. He was the chief negotiator for the FBI. In conventional negotiation you might say split the difference. In the world he occupies, that would mean 8 hostages, 4 are released, 4 are killed, so that’s not an option. The books tagline is negotiate as though your life depended on it.

100 deadly skills has some fascinating stuff about how to steal a car, how to get rid of a body (there’s practically a disclaimer on every page). My favourite is how to get into a building via the 4th floor (made me think of the window cleaners at the Liver building, pictured above).

Since January, I’ve visited Latvia, Majorca and Bratislava. Three new countries, so on track for 90 by end of year. At this rate, I should have joined Travellers century club by 2024 and have a certificate hanging in my kitchen.

In the Brick a Brack shop at Crewe Heritage Centre, they had all kinds of interesting stuff (some of it more interesting than useful). I managed to get a cup and saucer from Virgin Trains First Class. One thing that fascinated me and I honestly thought I’d never see again, was this spanner.

Years ago, when you bought a Raleigh bike (something like a Grifter or a Chopper) you got one of these spanners. It was heavy being made of stainless steel, but you carried it in the back pocket of your jeans. You could literally strip down your entire bike, with this tool and some spoons from the kitchen for tyre levers.

Not much use with my present bike (most of my tools are titanium) but for 99p a superb souvenir.

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