A Travellerspoint blog

Ascent: An Ending

Epilogue to the Esoteric Globe

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It’s been over a year since I wrote my last blog entry. I wrote it just before the year turned to 2013, in the wake of my father’s death. When I wrote it, it felt like an ending.

The title of this blog is based on the haunting song by Brian Eno called An Ending (Ascent), written for a movie about the Apollo space program. You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It4WxQ6dnn0. The song came into my head as I finished my last entry.

I originally started writing a blog when I started travelling more, both for work and for pleasure. I had lots of different thoughts about what the blog would be over the years, even at points wondering if it might not be the start of new career as a travel writer.

Ultimately, though, the blog was my motivation to live a more interesting life. It made me more adventurous. As I have gotten older, I have found myself becoming more introverted. When travelling, especially for work, if left to my own devices, I would probably be happy just staying in my hotel room and watching TV.

Knowing that I had a blog, and should write an entry about the place I am in, it forced me to get out and experience something. I never regretted getting out and doing stuff once I was out, but often would suffer from a lack of motivation to get started. The blog, and knowing I needed an entry, provided that initial push to get out and do something.

In the past few years, though, things have changed. I no longer live the nomadic life of a consultant, and instead am trying to settle into a new life in a new country. When I first moved to the UK in 2008, the blog was still an inspiration and motivation to get out and do things - make new friends, immerse myself in a new life, explore the interesting parts of my new city.

After living in London for a few years, I decided that I would make a life for myself here. No longer did I need motivation to get out and experience London as a tourist. I needed not a breadth of experiences, but to dive deep into a specific life.

I realised, though, that the blog was holding me back. I was going out observing life, taking some pictures of it, and then writing about it in the blog. I felt like the blog was giving me an excuse to stand on the sidelines, when what I really needed was to get into the melee.

I thus made a resolution to not blog for a year, and instead to use my energy to immerse myself in my London life. To do things not because they would make a great blog entry, but rather because it would give me a deeper connection to my life in London.

While the blog has been quiet, I have been busy. I got my permanent residency for the UK. I moved to a nicer house to a more interesting neighbourhood. I gardened and BBQ’d and had people over. I left my job to take some time off. I have taken a wine course, and driving lessons, and met people who share interests of mine like formula one, sailing and skiing to gain some new friends. I did some online dating for a bit, and may pick it up again in the new year.

Best of all, I’ve still kept going out, experiencing things. After ten years of the blog acting as my motivation, the habit of getting out has become so ingrained I don’t need the blog as a crutch anymore. Further, as I am not experiencing things as an observer thinking of how to write about it, I am meeting more people and getting more involved in the experiences.

So with that I am ending the Esoteric Globe, with the final chapter being about how my father inspired me to live a brave life, and this epilogue telling you how it is coming along one year on.

I may pick up blogging again in the future if I feel the need arises, but will start fresh in a new blog. I am still writing, though in only 140 characters, on Twitter, where I also post some pictures now and again, if you really cannot do without my musings.

Thank you all for reading and commenting over the years. I hope I was entertaining, and perhaps provided some inspiration for you all to travel. Writing for you has inspired me to have a more interesting life, and as I move forward I will continue to do the same.

To live a brave life.

Posted by GregW 29.12.2013 03:45 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged travel_philosophy migration_experiences migration_philosophy Comments (0)

Living Life Bravely

A tribute to the life of Reg Wesson, my father (1928-2012).

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My father, Reg Wesson, died on November 27th of this year. He was 84, and had not been well for the past year. He was admitted to hospital in mid-November, and I flew back to Toronto to be with him and my family. We spent a week together before he passed away.

It is, I will admit, something that I had been both expecting and dreading since I moved to the UK. Moving overseas with an octogenarian parent, I knew at some point I would get that call. As much as you want to pause the hands of time while you are on the road, they keep ticking back home. I most feared a call saying he had died. Every time I spoke to Dad on the phone, I knew that the goodbyes we said before we hung up could have been the last. I was thankful that the call I got allowed me to get back to Canada and say my goodbye in person.

I count myself lucky on two counts, one that I was able to make it home in time to spend some time with my father before he passed, and also that he passed peacefully, without any prolonged suffering.

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

Me and Dad in 2011 in Florence

After my father passed, I stayed in Canada for a few more days for the burial and the “Celebration of Life” for Dad.

My dad didn’t want a funeral or a memorial service. “I’ve been to too many god-damn funerals,” he said. “I want a party.” So we planned a celebration, with music and wine and laughter. It was tinged with sadness, of course, but mostly was a great opportunity for people to get together and share memories of my dad.

Despite not wanting a memorial service, we did have a few parts that were memorial-service-like. One such piece was speeches. People wanted to get up and share, either through reciting a poem, singing a song or sharing a favourite anecdote.

I played emcee, and shared a few memories I had of my Dad. I wanted to share some big, life affirming story, but couldn’t really think of anything, so told everyone about the little parts of life I remembered with him. Most of them revolved around trains, actually, which I hope goes some way to explain the recent train nerdiness I have exhibited in the blog. It is (a tribute to / the fault of) my father (pick whichever one you feel best describes your feeling towards the train blogs).

My sister Jen spoke last, and I was struck by what she said. I paraphrase her here, because (true to my father’s spirit) she spoke without notes and I wasn’t taking a transcript. She said that when she was younger she wouldn’t have described Dad as a brave man. He didn’t especially like heights, and dealt with pain much in the same way I do, by feeling faint and nauseated. He didn’t partake in a lot of physical sports.

Yet as she looked back recently on Dad’s life, she realised her analysis was wrong. As a young man, Dad gave up the safe option of working for his father’s business as he really wanted to work in a bank. Having never been involved in auto racing, he applied on a whim to be part of the Oakville-Trafalgar Light Car Club and took up rallying. Later, he wound up a part of the Canadian Racing Driver’s Association, running Grand Prix and other racing events in Canada. After moving to Burlington, nestled at the edge of Lake Ontario, Dad went out for a walk one day, down to the local yacht club, and though he didn’t have a boat or knew anyone in the club, he joined.

He was a real “give it a go” kind of guy. He was constantly finding new interests, and on finding that interest, he pursued them. He didn’t let the weight of opinion of others influence him, nor the fact he was venturing as an unknown into an area he knew nothing about. He just did it. And in doing so, thrived. For every new club, organisation, interest or career he tried, he became an invaluable part of the group. Often acting as treasurer for groups, or working his way up into the executive. He would immerse himself in his new circle, making new friends, bringing in old friends to his new group, becoming a key part of the social circle.

My dad may not have been physically brave, but he was a brave spirit, willing to put himself out into a new world he didn’t know, and give it a try.

As my sister said this, and I remembered my big, life affirming story about Dad.

It was when I was between high school and university. While in high school I had worked as a waiter at our local Pizza Hut. I was pretty good at it, and saving a good bit of money for university. As summer approached, I decided I was a bit too good for Pizza Hut, and should be working at a more upscale restaurant. So I quit my job without another one lined up. “I’ll quickly find a new job,” I said, confident in my skills.

I didn’t quickly find a new job. I struggled, and even tried to go back to get my old job at Pizza Hut, only to find it was already filled. Desperate, I took a job doing door-to-door sales of … well, anything I could carry – tube socks, books, calculators – this company had the lot.

I hated it. The money was alright, but the job made me miserable. I knew by the end of my first week I wanted to be doing anything else.

My Dad, giving me a ride home from the train station on Friday evening, could see it on my face. “What’s wrong, son?” he asked.

“I hate my job,” I said. “I wish I could quit. It really makes me miserable.”

“You see no way you could be happy at this job, if you changed something,” my Dad asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t like the sales part of it, and that’s the biggest part. I don’t know what to do.”

“Quit,” Dad said.

“Quit?” I asked. “I can’t quit. What will I do about money? I need money for university.”

“Don’t worry about the money. We’ll figure out a way to make it work,” My dad said. “You can’t keep doing something that you hate. Son, life is too short to spend it being miserable.”

I believe this was the philosophy that drove that braveness my sister had been speaking about. It is about putting aside those things that aren’t contributing to your fulfilment, and taking up those things that you think may contribute.

Obviously that isn’t the only decision point. My father was not selfish in his choices, he took his responsibilities seriously and if he said he would do something, he would try his best to see it through. But his current responsibilities didn’t hold him back from trying something new, and he didn’t feel the need to be chained to something that wasn’t working for him.

Dad always told me how proud he was of me for having taking the step to move abroad. I had never really understood why he used the word “proud,” until I started to look at it in the context of the bravery my sister described. I think he was proud of the move because it was me doing something daring, striking out on my own and taking a new adventure because I was pretty sure it would make me happy, in much the same way he might have done. In my actions are reflected his lessons and example.

So as we enter 2013, I take the next steps in that journey, in becoming a permanent resident of the United Kingdom, and continuing towards becoming a British citizen. More so, I start to think to myself, over and above the paper work, what can I do to become more integrated into my new homeland? To fully immerse myself in this, as my father had done before in the many adventures he undertook. I may not stay in the UK forever, but if I do leave, I want to leave knowing that I threw myself into my life here with all that I could give it.

I will bravely live this life, and in doing so, hopefully reflect some small part of my father, and honour his lessons and example.

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Posted by GregW 28.12.2012 08:39 Archived in Canada Tagged travel_philosophy migration_philosophy Comments (0)

The Secret Trainspotter... Riding London's Old and New Rail

Riding from London Victoria to London Bridge on the last day of service (Dec 8), and then the first day of service on the new Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays, Highbury and Islington and right round to Clapham Junction on the first day of service (Dec 9)

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I am going to apologise in advance for this entry, and provide a warning. This is an entry about two train rides from and to places within London, in one case from one point in London right around back to the same place. You might find it dull, but I find riding around on trains endlessly fascinating. It's in my heritage. Anyway, if you find train rides dull, I would suggest you stop reading now.

Still here? All right, you've been warned. You've only yourself to blame now.

I wrote recently about a trip on the parliamentary train from Clapham High Street to Kensington Olympia, and how the opening of a new train service from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays was allowing this service to close. The new Overground service isn't just closing this (mostly useless) service, but also closing a twice-an-hour service from London Victoria to London Bridge. The Victoria to London Bridge service was closing on December 8th, and the new Overground Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays opens December 9th, so I decided to ride them both.

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London Victoria to London Bridge, December 8th, 2012

The Inner South London Line was a twice hourly service running between London Victoria and London Bridge stations in central London, servicing Wandsworth and Southwark with a horseshoe service to these two main terminal stations in London.

I headed from Clapham Junction to Victoria to catch the 13:11 departure from Victoria. The train was due to call at Battersea Park, Wandsworth Road, Clapham High Street, Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham, South Bermondsey and finally terminating at London Bridge.

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London Victoria has this great logo on the floor telling you to watch what you are doing with your roller bag. Don't be a trolley wally, it says.
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I boarded the service, which is usually a two car train but Southern Rail had put on 4 car trains for the day. There were a few train spotters taking photos (much as I was), and a few people with placards about the service, but there was also a few people who were just taking the train to get where they wanted to go, looking a little bemused at those of us with cameras and placards.

I inadvertently ended up on the same train as the Southwark Rail Users group (SRUG), who were riding the trip a couple time around. They had signs and were taking pictures, and talking to people on the train. The woman I talked to said they weren't protesting, just communicating, though the information they were handing out was titled "South London's Loss".

They were handing out maps they felt better represented the new layout of the train services than the TFL tube maps, which they said don't show how Southwark is connected to central London. I didn't bother pointing out that the TFL tube map doesn't show any rail service other than the Overground, and that most of the new stops weren't on the old London maps.

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Other than the chat with the SRUG people, the train journey was short and uneventful.

Battersea Power Station from the rail bridge

Battersea Power Station from the rail bridge


Peckham Rye station, last time that this Southern train upholstery could be seen here?

Peckham Rye station, last time that this Southern train upholstery could be seen here?


Between Queens Road and South Bermondsey, A view of the Shard

Between Queens Road and South Bermondsey, A view of the Shard

We arrive at London Bridge, and off I get. The station is undergoing a number of improvements, which is one of the reasons that this South London Line service is being discontinued, as platforms in London Bridge station are being closed until 2018. I wander around lost for a few minutes before I find the way to the Underground, passing in the shadow of The Shard, Europe's tallest building.

Arrival at London Bridge, walking out to see Europe's tallest building - The Shard

Arrival at London Bridge, walking out to see Europe's tallest building - The Shard

Off I went on the Jubilee line to do some Christmas shopping... For myself... I bought a laptop... at Harrod's. That really happened.

Clapham Junction to Highbury & Islington to Clapham Junction, The Orbital Overground, December 9th, 2012

The sun rose on Sunday, and "all change, please," when the old services stop and the new service begins.

The London Overground is a train service run by Transport for London, the local government body responsible for transportation in the Greater London area. In the past few years, TFL has taken on many train services, aiming to create an orbital railway running around central London. The last piece was to put together a link along the southern edge of the city, and a new service from Clapham Junction to Surrey Quays completes the link.

source:Wikipedia

source:Wikipedia

I caught the train from Clapham Junction, catching the 11:52 headed towards Highbury and Islington. There were a few "train enthusiasts" on the train (you could tell by the literature printed off and the cameras), but there was mostly regular rail users, off on whatever commute they were on for the day.

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We left Clapham Junction, and slowly made our way along, eventually passing underneath the main rail track and coming up on the previously unused portion of track heading to Wandsworth Road.

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Wandsworth Road and Clapham High Street station, previously serviced by Southern Rail but now only serviced by the Overground, have been rebranded as London Overground stations, with the orange roundel. We pulled into the station, and I noticed a young boy (probably around 12) filming the train as it came in from the north end of the platform. A few minutes later, when we pulled out, the boy had moved down to the south end of the platform to film us pulling out.

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Soon enough the train pulled into Denmark Hill, where I jumped off for a quick rest on my round-London journey.

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I had heard that there was a decent pub in the Denmark Hill rail station building called the Phoenix. I popped in to the pub, and found an absolutely lovely pub with a massive beautiful clock. I got myself a pint of London Pride ale (decent choice for a train spotter).

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Pint done, and reinforced, I headed back to the station to catch the train and continued my round the city journey.

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Boarding the train at Denmark Hill, I found a much busier train than the last, with every seat taken, and people having to stand. Pretty impressive for the first day of service.

We pulled out from Denmark Hill and off to Peckham Rye. As we pulled into Peckham Rye, I noticed the same young lad who had filmed us coming into Wandsworth Road filming our train coming in. Arrival filmed, he jumped on the train and as the train ran from Peckham Rye to Queens Road Peckham, he worked his way through the open train to the front of the train, his mother following behind him.

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At Queens Road, the lad jumped off, positioned himself on the platform, and filmed us leaving the station. His mother accompanying him must be a patient woman.

I was so busy watching the young boy filming, I missed the arrival of the woman who sat across from me. She soon got my attention, though, as she spent the entire time on the train sobbing to herself silently. Like a good Brit, I looked away in embarrassment. I seem to attract this kind of behaviour, first noticing crying on the Heathrow Connect in August 2009 and then recently on a flight in September where the woman beside me was crying.

We turned north, going over the newest bit of the rail network (actually a reconstructed old bit of the rail network) that connects us onto the line to Surrey Quays. We now had stopped being on the new bit, and were travelling now up the east side of London. We travelled down underground, and eventually under the Thames river in the Thames_Tunnel, the first tunnel built under the river. It was built in the mid-1800s as a pedestrian tunnel. In 1865 it was converted to a rail tunnnel, and other than a few years closure here and there, has been serving London by rail since that time.

We pull up out the tunnels and into Shoreditch, where we get some excellent views of the City of London and the area surrounding Liverpool Street station.

The woman left the train, still sobbing, at Shoreditch High Street, along with most of the rest of the train. A much emptier train continued along the east of the city, and then turned to the west to start along the Northern stretch of the circle.

We pulled into Highbury & Islington, and I decide to take another break, popping out of the station and to the nearby Famous Cock pub, where I take a quick break for the toilet, and then to replenish my liquids, another pint. I had a pint of Spitfire ale and watched the first 30 minutes of the Manchester derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

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After watching Man U's Wayne Rooney score a soft, rolling goal, I headed back to Highbury and Islington station, and down to the Overground platforms. The next train direct to Clapham Junction (heading west) wasn't for 27 minutes, so I hopped onto a train to Willseden Junction.

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The train journey from Highbury & Islington was uneventful, though busy. This section of the line is well established, so not surprising to see it well used.

I snapped this photo during the journey of a TFL advert for the extension to the south. It promises quicker journeys to the clubs in Clapham, Camden and Hoxton. Given that I live in Clapham, and haven't made it out to the clubs there, I doubt that I will be using the train service to get to clubs in North or East London.

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The young Japanese girl who was sitting under the sign looked at me somewhat strangely, but otherwise I was the only strangeness on this part of the journey. Mostly it was young people and families off to wherever they where going for the day.

The train terminated at Willseden Junction, and I wait 8 minutes for the next train to Clapham Junction. The train pulls in, and fills up with people. Other than the bit from Clapham Junction to Denmark Hill, and from Shoreditch High Street to Highbury and Islington, the train has been full on a Sunday afternoon. And not just with train spotters and nerds like me, but with people going about their regular Sunday afternoons.

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It being Christmas time, and this being a train that stops at Shepherd's Bush station for Westfield Shopping centre, the train was busy with shoppers, either on their way to buy, or at Shebu (what us in-people call Shepherd's Bush) boarding the train with tons of bags.

In amongst that crowd, an older man with large, grey mutton chops also boarded the train. He stood at one end, and listened as the train pulled away from Shepherd's Bush.

The automated train announcement came on. "This is the Overground service to Clapham Junction. The next station is Kensington Olympia," the mechanical, female voice said.

"Olymmmm-Pi-Ahhhh!" the man sung out after the announcement had ended. "Overground... Underground..." he sang, and then stopped singing. The music didn't stop, though, he replaced his voice with a harmonica. Mutton chops played his harmonica until the train pulled into West Brompton, when he pulled his hat down on his head, turned his collars up and left the train. I had expected him to walk through the train asking for change, but he didn't. Simply played his music, and left.

A few minutes later, we pulled into platform 1 at Clapham Junction, and I had completed the circle. From Clapham Junction to Clapham Junction, a journey of 0 net miles.

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A final pint of the day to celebrate the circle at Windsor Castle pub in Clapham Junction.

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Home again, home again... Completed the circle and back in Clapham Junction. Celebration pint! A secret train spotter success.

Now, where'd I leave my anorak?

Posted by GregW 09.12.2012 09:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains train_travel Comments (0)

Football of a different kind in London

A day at Wembley for the NFL International Series (London game 6) between the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots

storm 7 °C

In the business of Sports, getting more people to watch (and buy extension, spend) is one of the keys. The National Football League, the highest level professional league of American Football, is one of the highest attended professional sports in America, with some of the highest television and radio rankings in American broadcasting.

So what is an American league to do when they have conquered America? Look abroad, of course, and grab international fans.

The NFL has been trying various permutations and combinations of this for years, including pre-season games around the globe, teams playing games in Canada and a league based in Europe in the early 2000s.

Recently, they have been playing the "International Series," which while initial envisioned to be a roving set of regular seasons game around the globe, have for the last 6 years seen games played solely in London, England at Wembley Stadium.

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On October 28, 2012, the latest games was played in London, with the St. Louis Rams "hosting" the New England Patriots.

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Before the game, the NFL held a "tailgate" party in the parking lot of Wembley. Tailgating in the USA is a fan driven, organic party - each group of people BBQing and drinking and watching TV merging into one monster party. Here in England, the NFL puts on the party, so while it has many of the elements of a usual tailgate - BBQ and beer - it is a more structured and lifeless affair.

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They do have cheerleaders and NFL stars of the past, so it does have a few advantages.

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The game itself was impressive within Wembley. After a pre-game which included our (choose one: loved / hated) London Mayor Boris Johnson and the band Train, Welsh mezzo-soprano opera singer (and beauty) Katherine Jenkins came out to sing the national anthems of America and the UK. The fans, given placards of red, white or blue, held them up to form two visions of country flags - one half showing the Union flag of the United Kingdom and the other half white stars and red and blue stripes of the American flag.

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St. Louis was the "home" team, as one team is designated each year. St. Louis was initially announced as the home team from 2012 to 2014 in the summer, however pulled out of the future dates due to financial difficulties, making them a one season home team in London. The Jacksonville Jaguars will fill the role in the future games (at least until 2016).

St. Louis took the field, and many fans waved St. Louis flags. Though the flags were given out for free, so if the appeal of St. Louis could probably be overstated.

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The game started, and the fans did take their role of home town fans for St. Louis seriously, cheering St. Louis and booing New England. It helped for the first little bit, with St. Louis going up by a touch-down. However, then the potent offence of New England took over, and the rest of the game was a bit of a romp.

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The game ended 45-7 for New England, the "home team" of St. Louis returning to the Mid-west after their one home-game-away-from-home not being a success. New England, however, spent extra time in England, thanks to Hurricane Sandy cancelling their flights and stranding them in the city. A little more time to celebrate.

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It was a dull game, but a good experience, and I had a grand time during the game. Next year, London hosts two games, including a smash-mouth Vikings and Steelers match up in September, and our new home team, Jacksonville playing the 49ers of San Francisco. I had a good time, so will look to attending one of the games.

After all, could I pass up a chance to see a different type of football here in the home of that other, older type of football.

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Posted by GregW 04.11.2012 11:55 Archived in England Tagged sports Comments (0)

Ghost Train: West London Parliamentary Train

A ride on a UK ghost train, soon to be exorcised.

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I have just turned 42 years old. Now, now, no need for the wailing. It’s not so bad. I find that I don’t wring my hands with worry and anxiousness too much about birthdays now I am in my 40s. In your 20s, your birthday is a cause of celebration. In your 30s, its about reflection and disappointment at the years slipping away with goals unachieved. In your 40s, expectations lifted, you are who you are going to be, likely, so you just roll with it. Or, more likely, you have kids and have to focus on their birthdays.

No kids for me, so just the freedom of not worrying about my birthday.

That is not to say I let the day pass unmarked. No, my hangover this morning is testament to the fact the day was celebrated with beer, gin, tequila and an ill-advised sambuca. The day was marked, and will be remembered. Other than the very last part of the night, which I struggle to remember now.

However, before the drinking... at least the heavy drinking... I fulfilled a bit of my inner-train-geekiness and rode a GHOST TRAIN!

<insert scary noises here>

Okay, it wasn’t actually an apparition of the Flying Scotsman rumbling down the tracks, nor even a train filled with the ghosts of long dead conductors. It was a Parliamentary Train.

A Parliamentary Train, while sounding quite grand - filled with MPs in plush carriages riding on secret railways to a station under the Parliament buildings - is in fact just a regular passenger train. These trains are just not run frequently, nor very well publicised, nor even really sensible.

In the Railway Regulation Act of 1844, the government of the day made it a legal requirement to provide passenger service along every railway line in the country. Not just between two stations, but on every single mile of track. To stop providing service on a train line, a train company and the government need to go through a very lengthy consultation process.

To get around this requirement in a crafty legal way, certain trains are run at very low intervals, just to provide service on a length of track. These trains, sometime running as infrequently as once a week, are called Parliamentary Trains, in reference to the act of Parliament which made these a requirement, though sometimes they are known in general chatter as ghost trains (mostly by the tabloids, who love to claim they are a sign of government waste. Government waste and sponging MPs is the third favourite topic of the tabloid newspapers, right behind how immigrants are ruining everything, and how fat or skinny celebrities are).

In West London, there is one such train. Running once a day in each direction between Kensington Olympia station and Wandsworth Road or Clapham High Street Station, the West London Parliamentary Train is in service to ensure that a passenger train runs over a small section of track on a branch connecting the train line into Victoria Station with the train line into Waterloo with the train line running round the edge of London on the west side. It’s probably no more than a couple 100 feet of otherwise unused(*) track along some of the busiest train lines in the country.

(*) Unused in the sense of no scheduled passenger service. The line itself is well used by freight traffic, charter services and to facilitate the movement of trains between their regular routes and maintenance yards.

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So this once a day service runs, 20 minutes from Clapham High Street to Kensington Olympia, even though there are multiple options that could do the same journey (with a change) in 35 minutes. The service is of little use to anyone, unless they happen to be there at the exact time the train is going, and is travelling between the few specific stations that this train services.

Or, you are a train spotter or other rail geek, and want to go on a strange, little ride.

Even though the consultation process is lengthy, it sometimes is determined it is worth doing. For this particular line, because a new service is about to open that will use some (though not all) of the line and therefore the train companies can free up the line. Come December 8th, the service will no longer run.

The opportunity to ride a ghost train, and one that is soon to be discontinued. Well, that was too good for me to pass up.

So, half day of work off for my birthday, I decided to treat myself, and planned for a trip on the 16:11 departure from Clapham High Street station to Kensington (Olympia), calling at Wandsworth Road, Imperial Wharf and West Brompton.

I left my house and headed towards Clapham High Street from my house near Clapham Junction station. I caught the 345 bus towards Peckham, which handily drops me right off in front of Clapham High Street Station.

It was a very rainy and grey London day, wet and dull when I arrived at Clapham High Street station.

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I arrived about 5 minutes to four o'clock. I looked at the departure board, and saw the 16:11 to Kensington (Olympia) listed as the 2nd service. The 15:58 to Victoria came and went, and the 16:11 service moved up to 1st on the departures board for platform 2.

I had been told that sometimes these trains don’t appear on the departure board, or are not announced, to try and keep people off them. Whether this is to keep up the pretence of the service not being needed in the event of a consultation, or simply because people could be confused about the destination, I don’t know. Surely if you arrived at Clapham High Street Station, which other than this one service only has trains going to Victoria Station, you could accidentally jump on this train without realising it isn’t going where you are expecting. However, this one seemed well advertised.

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I was meeting a couple of people at the station who were interested in riding the train, though I had only exchanged emails with them, and so we were meeting sight unseen. Having bent over to grab the above picture, I heard behind me a voice say, "you must be Greg." I turned around to see one of the people I was meeting coming up the stairs to the platform.

"Indeed I am," I said. He explained that he guessed that someone taking a photo of a train schedule wasn't your average commuter. The third in our party arrived shortly, and we waited patiently for our train to roll in.

Having heard that the doors only open very briefly on these trains, we made sure we were close to one of the doors once the train came to a stop, and I quickly hit the "door open" button. Luckily we had no trouble getting on, and were joined by a few other people who looked to be commuters rather than people there to experience a soon to be discontinued parliamentary train journey.

I commute from Clapham Junction into Victoria every working day, so the train itself was pretty familiar - a standard Southern commuter train.

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Wandsworth Road station is where we pulled into next for a brief stop. The doors go in and out of service very quickly on these trains, only being active for about 30 seconds. A few people jumped on at Wandsworth Road station, but the train remained for the most part empty.

Next up was the unusual bit, where the train departed from the main line up towards Battersea Park and Victoria, and instead took the cord off over Factory Junction and Latchmere Junction No. 1.

Quite a grey day, which meant there wasn't great views of much. However, living in the area, I was pretty sure there isn't much of a view we were missing.

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There was a short delay as we sat on the track, part of a delay built into the schedule. We soon enough rolled on, passing not far from my house, and joining the line up towards Chelsea.

We crossed over a swollen-looking Thames, and pulled into Imperial Wharf. This station was busier than either Clapham High Street or Wandsworth Road, and we had a few people getting on, then upon hearing the announcement that the train was only going as far as Olympia, about half of them quickly jumped back off again.

The train passed by Chelsea's football grounds, quickly called at West Brompton and passed by the soon to be redeveloped Earl's Court before continuing to its final stop, Kensington (Olympia).

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It was a short trip, but interesting. For me, beside for soothing the inner-train-geek in me, it provided a few other interesting points. First, we past close by my current house in Battersea, and ended up departing at Kensington Olympia, about a 5 minute walk from where I previously lived in London. Secondly, living near Clapham Junction, I often take the London Overground Service. Much of the service we took (From Latchmere junction through to Imperial Wharf to Kensington Olympia) is covered by the existing Overground service from Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction. And most of the part that isn't covered by the existing Overground service (Clapham High Street to Wandsworth Road and then to Factory Junction) will soon be covered by the new southern loop of the Overground. This new service starts in December, and is one of the prime factors in closing this route. It is, in essence, a preview for me of additional transport options coming to my part of town. (In fact, we saw an Overground train in trials on this route while waiting at Clapham High Street station).

After the journey, our party decided to have a celebratory drink (part of the many layers of booze that brought on my aforementioned hangover), and as a former local, I suggested a local pub. Jumping ahead, turns out the pub had turned into an Italian restaurant, and while they had beer on tap, no real ale, which would have seemed more fitting for a day of train spotting. Can’t say we were typical train spotters, though, as none of us had beards nor were wearing an anorak. But that is jumping ahead in the story, we were still at the station.

We watched for a moment as confused train patrons thought about boarding the train, now going out of service, but were turned away by the announcements from the staff. Umbrellas up, we headed off into the rainy London afternoon towards the pub. I took one last look back at the train, now pulling away, out of service and off to the yard, and watched as it disappeared into the light rain down the line.

Ghost train, disappearing slowly into the mist.

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Posted by GregW 20.10.2012 10:24 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged trains train_travel Comments (0)

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