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Blog : Posts tagged with 'weather' : Page 1

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Summer railway

In which we have a trip out by train


Never mind “Spring Bank Holiday”: it’s June, and it feels like it’s summer already: last weekend, we had a day at the beach, and both ended up horribly sunburned. As shorts aren’t an option for work, I winced every time I moved my legs. Yesterday: a bank holiday weekend, and beautiful sunshine again, so we went off for a cream tea and a steam train ride.

The footplate of a steam locomotive on a summer’s day is a horribly hot and airless place to be. Nevertheless, riding behind a steam engine seems like such a naturally summery thing to do. So we travelled down to the South Devon Railway,* for a day’s relaxation sitting in railway carriages and watching trains go past.

The South Devon Railway is, as steam railways go, an unusually scenic one. Being in Devon it’s surrounded by lush, verdant countryside; it follows the River Dart down from Buckfastleigh, past rough, rocky rapids; weirs and once-busy mill-races; finally alongside the more placid deeper, lower stretches of the river, down to its tidal weir just by Totnes station. It doesn’t take much effort for a train to trundle downriver; as we sat in the front carriage with the windows open, we could hear the locomotive clanking its way down the valley with barely any steam on, the vacuum pump making a light chiff noise for each revolution of the wheels. Every so often, a gentle touch of speed was needed, and we heard the deeper huffhuffhuffhuff of the cylinders, four huffs to each vacuum pump chiff. We passed sleepy red cattle, wading fishermen, and groups of wading photographers standing on mid-river rocks to take photos of the passing train.

Country trains often ramble a little, and pause unexpectedly. Midway along the line, we halted in a loop, and waited quietly for another train to pass. Other passengers, not used to this sort of thing, looked around and wondered what the problem was. We were too far away from the signalbox to hear the block bells chiming; but we could hear the rattle of the signal wires as the signals for the down train were pulled off, then we watched it slowly chuff past us before we started on our way again.

This is not Photo Post Of The Week, incidentally. That’s because the photos below aren’t ones I took yesterday; as usual, my photo uploads are far too backlogged for that. These, though, are from the last time I visited the South Devon Railway, about three years ago. The fixed stop signal has been repainted since, but not much else has changed.

Buckfastleigh station, South Devon Railway, down end Watering an engine whilst rounding the train, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway GWR tablet catcher, Buckfastleigh, South Devon Railway

* Things it is important not to confuse pt. 373: the South Devon Railway, the line from Exeter to Plymouth designed by Brunel, opened in the 1840s, and bought out by the Great Western Railway in the 1870s; with the South Devon Railway, the heritage railway formed in the early 1990s to take over the Dart Valley Railway’s tourist line from Totnes to Buckfastleigh and turn it from a business-oriented tourist attraction into a more charitably-run steam railway. You may spot a problem of similarity with the names there.

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You can tell you’re British when…

In which we clear up odds and ends


… you start talking about the weather.

Some springtime might be nice. Instead, it’s been getting colder and damper and colder and damper. We’d turned the heating off to save a bit of gas; and were very reluctant to turn it back on, especially given the capricious nature of British Gas’s billing system.* It had to be done, though, otherwise the house probably would have started to sag into a mineshaft, or something along those lines. At least today things seem a bit brighter.

A web search that came in yesterday – terry williams artist bristol birch road – reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about another recent event we attended, the Southbank Bristol Arts Trail, tramping the streets of Bedminster and Southville – in the damp, of course – visiting artists’ houses and viewing their art. As we did last year, in fact; and, like last year, we went to look at Terry Williams’ art in his home on Birch Road. His paintings aren’t the sort of artwork we’d want to buy for our own walls, but he’s clearly an accomplished artist; my favourite painting by him was a large canvas titled “Birnbeck Pier By Night”. Largely black, the spidery lines of the semi-disused pier-bridge** were marked out more by texture than by colour. I will write more about the arts trail, as soon as I go through the list of venues and can recall which one in my head matches up with which description.

* It will trundle along for a while before saying “ooh, you’re hugely in credit, we’d better cut your monthly payments.” Then, a few months later, it will change to “ooh, you’re hugely in debt, better treble your monthly payments.” You’d think they’d realise that gas usage is bound to drift up and down seasonally, and compensate for that; instead, the seasonal change in the payments seems to magnify rather than even out the changes in usage.

** It’s called a pier but I’d say it’s technically a bridge, because it goes out to an island.

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Photo Post Of The Weekend

In which we remember Latvia


All that snowy weather we’ve been having – almost all gone now, apart from the enormous pile of snow cleared from the office car park – reminded me of the holiday we took a couple of years back, to Rīga, Latvia. “Make sure you wrap up warmly,” said The Mother. “Get proper thermals. Lots and lots of layers.” “You’ll need to take sunglasses, too,” said Dad, “or you’ll get snow-blindness.”

All of which we ignored, fortunately, because we’d have looked bloody silly. Rīga in February was not too dissimilar from Britain in February, being grey, damp, and largely snow-free; it shouldn’t really have been surprising, because it’s on about the same latitude as Dundee. We took plenty of photos; but for some reason they never appeared on here.*

Baltic Revolution Memorial, 11. novembra krastmela, Rīga

View of Rīga

Museum Of The Occupation, Rīga

Latvijas Zin?tņu akadēmija (Latvian Academy of Sciences), Turgeņeva iela, Rīga

Daugava river and railway bridge, Rīga

* Unlike the above anecdote about the snow-blindness, etc, which definitely has.

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Talking of time travellers…

In which we analyse a police suggestion


Ah, snow. You can’t beat it for sending people a bit mad and panicked. Yesterday the roads were gridlocked for half an hour at lunch time, because of the number of people who rushed home at the fall of the first flake. Last night, the news was full of dire warnings. Don’t travel if you don’t have to. Stock up your car. Make sure you take a shovel, blankets, a flask of tea, a flask of soup, sandwiches, cakes, a propane stove,* three woolly jumpers and the complete works of Proust, because you never know when you might get stuck.

I was particularly impressed, though, by the words of one of the local police spokesmen interviewed on last night’s news. “If you wake up in the morning and your car’s all frosted up,” I’m fairly sure he said, “you should get up 30 or 45 minutes early and make sure it’s completely defrosted before you set off.” It took me a minute to spot the flaw in the statement – assuming I’m not misremembering what he actually said. I think it’s a pretty good plan, though.

* Not a butane stove, because – as hardy campers will know – its boiling point at standard pressure is just below freezing. In cold weather, butane stoves get sluggish, give up and go to sleep. To cope with chills you need propane.

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Photo Post Of The Week

In which we go to Glastonbury


Talking of summer storms: we popped down to Glastonbury the other month, for a poke around the bookshops, and for a walk up to the top of Glastonbury Tor. As we did so, the heavens opened, and we, and all the other tourists making the climb, got soaked.

Glastonbury Tor

We watched the storm motoring its way off across the Somerset Levels, away to soak the distant hills.

View from Glastonbury Tor

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Weather Ever Changing

In which things get sweaty


I had hoped that a thunderstorm would clear the air, get rid of some of the humidity, cool things down a bit. Unfortunately, nothing changed. We had the thunderstorm, and half an hour later the ground was dry and the weather was still hot, muggy, and sticky to the touch. Oh well. Summer isn’t nice when it’s too hot to think.

Things I was going to blog about recently but haven’t: the rather silly “let’s bring the World Cup to Bristol” proposals, which seem like nothing more than a plan to blackmail the council planning department into letting Tesco build a new Ashton store, two minutes down the street from the Sainsbury’s that’s already there. Plus, the Easton Arts Trail, a rather enjoyable wander round which, already, was nearly a fortnight ago. Not to mention pictures of old trains from the weekend before that, and all the other things we’ve been getting up to lately apart from the strange foreign dirty movies. If it’s too hot to leave the sofa, it’s definitely too hot to blog

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Glad To Be British

In which FP does not like the weather


No, really. I never thought I’d say that, and the regular readers all probably thought they’d never hear it too. But, yes, the past couple of days have made me glad to be British?

Why? Because I can’t bear the weather at the moment. I stepped outside my doorstep today, and felt myself starting to wilt at the corners. Ten seconds of bright sun and warmth was enough to make me want to scurry away into the shade. One weekend of summer heat is enough to make me glad I live in a country where the weather, normally, consists of drips, wind and fog.

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Equinox (and a week)

In which spring is arriving


The weather does not know what it wants to do at the moment. As spring comes in, we sat by the harbour, eating ice cream, and felt uncomfortably cold and hot at the same time. The sun shone brightly down, as a sharp wind nipped up from the water. We shivered, but were too hot to wear our coats.

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The changing of the seasons

In which we pass a milestone


It’s nearly six months, now, since we moved house, and we seem to have made it through the winter. By next week the days will be longer than the nights; and this morning, when we left the house, the sky was blue and the sun shone down on us. Astronomically we might be at the start of spring; outside, it feels as if spring is already verging on summer.

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Photo post of the week

In which we go out in the snow


Another day with no morning bus services, and the roads gridlocked. I walked K to work, taking the camera with me, and watched a lorry get stuck on the hilly part of Bedminster Road. Trying to get towards Ashton, it stopped in a queue of traffic, then realised it couldn’t get started again without risking sliding back down the hill. It sat there, impotent, with its hazard lights flashing, as everyone else tried to drive round either side of it.

And then, I nearly broke a leg trying to take photos of the local station. Slipping at the top of the stairs, I grabbed the handrail frantically as my feet disappeared from underneath me. Best to stick to taking photos from the bridge, I thought.

Snowy industrial estate, Bedminster
Parson St station in snow

At least the train that came was – to a train geek – quite an interesting one. 2D04, from Taunton to Bristol, one of the services on the Taunton-Bristol-Cardiff route that runs with retro 1970s carriages restored to their original condition, although the engines are rather newer.

Class 67 no. 67016 hauling Mk3 carriages at Parson St station
Class 67 no. 67016 hauling Mk3 carriages at Parson St station

And finally: I’m sure it says in the Bible that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Before we went to bed last night, we looked out of the window to see it snowing again, the street covered in a fresh pristine carpet. We couldn’t resist getting dressed again, and going out for another walk with the camera.

Night snow scene, Bedminster

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