Thursday, January 27, 2005

Art For Old Farts Sake 

As you will know prior to Christmas I have been doing a weekly painting in watercolours class, if only to get back into the swing of painting at least once a week. Well the ten week course ended in December and I re-enrolled for the second term, which consists of another 10 weeks. Last term I felt all along that my technique was improving. I even tried painting a Mediterranean country scene, off my own bat, during the holiday period, I took the picture out of a book I'd seen in the local library. Mrs C liked it so much that she framed it and put it on display in the study.

That's all very well, unfortunately after attending 2 out of the 3 classes held this term if feel I've gone backwards. In fact I think I've regressed so far back that I'm worse than I was before I started the course. Last nights effort was pretty awful, for a change the tutor decided that we would paint mountains, a subject he claimed to be hopeless at. I thought great I like doing mountains, I've usually been fairly good at those, and it makes a change from landscapes of rivers, lakes and trees, which the tutor seems to have a fixation for.

The lesson progressed and my mountains, I thought were coming on fine, as usual the tutor was doing the rounds interfering here there and everywhere, it's something that really annoys me. I wouldn't mind if he gave us a chance to make mistakes, but he doesn't wait until we've finished what we're doing. It's now getting to the point that he's going to be told where to get off if he jumps in on one of my paintings before I want help, as I get so angry it's starting to cause me to make a bigger mess on the rest of my work. My mountains turned out great without his help, but the foreground left a lot to be desired.

Thankfully I wasn't the only one who didn't enjoy last night's session, most of the better students didn't either. I'm going to redo that picture, but use my own colours rather than the ones our tutor suggested, Purple skies do nothing for me, I always manage to make them too deep, I'll stick to varying shades of blue, with touches of light purple to enhance the clouds in future. Stuff doing what I'm told for a game of soldiers, I'm supposed to be doing this for fun.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Post Conference Thoughts? 

Lyle often has a rant about our railways until last week as a very infrequent rail user, I hadn't experienced the worst they could offer:

Last Tuesday I had to travel by train to London to attend a 2 day company conference. The advance bookings went pretty well, I got my Wigan-Euston return tickets for a bargain £36-30 before Christmas. Whereas people traveling from Liverpool and Manchester were paying between £50 and £55. Don't ask me why my longer journey cost less than the Manchester route that's down to the vagaries of thetrainline.com, strangely virgin.co.uk who operate thetrainline.com were also offering the Wigan-London tickets at higher rates than Traineline too.

Rising on Tuesday morning we had snow on the ground, the roads were clear but it had laid the garden and surrounding fields, never mind everything looked clear, I had to do a days work first so hopefully everything would clear as the temperature warmed. As the day wore one the sky darkened we had a short sharp blizzard around 1pm but that cleared. My train was due out of Wigan at 17:58 so I left work at 16:00 to dump the car at home grab something to eat and cadge a lift to the station. Again no problems here, the road into Wigan centre was busy but there were no real holdups other than rush hour traffic.

On the platform at Wigan station the departure board indicated that my train was on time and there was no indication of any problems. I was delighted to find that on boarding my train (by this time 2 minutes late) that I had a block of 4 seats all to myself, with room for my laptop and even a plug for my power supply, so that it didn't deplete the battery. As the train pulled out, there was an announcement that due to inclement weather there were no catering staff on the train, but we would pick up a crew at Crewe, no pun intended. Fine so far, the problems started when we pulled out of Warrington, an announcement indicated that there had been problems of severe flooding in the Acton Bridge/Hartford area and delays may occur. What they didn't tell us was that we would pull to a dead stop just north of Hartford and sit Stationary for 3 hours, until engineers could get to inspect the flooded lines to see if they were safe to run trains on. At least at this point the train manager started operating the buffet car for complimentary tea and coffees.

The line was finally cleared as safe and we arrived at Crewe 3 hours late. The journey was incident free after that point and Virgin offered complimentary snacks and refreshments for the rest of the journey. I arrived at Euston at 23:30 and eventually at my hotel just after midnight, wondering how the others had got on.

It could have been a lot worse, it turned out that the Manchester guys had been delayed a mere 50 minutes, but the poor lad who traveled from Liverpool didn't arrive at the hotel until 4am Wednesday morning. He apparently arrived at Liverpool for the 18:15 train to Euston to be told that all trains to London had been cancelled and he should head for Manchester to pick up a train there. He did as instructed, and got to Manchester to find a couple of trains cancelled, but eventually got one around 20:05. This headed out and then stopped outside of Crewe for what has to be described as an age. My colleague missed the trolley serving Complimentary tea, coffees and snacks because he paid the loo a visit. By the time he caught up with the trolley it had been cleared of everything. All in all the train finally got to Crewe at half past midnight. My colleague arrived in Euston around 3:30 am in the morning to find the station locked up, a passing cleaner had to go and find a key to let the passengers out. They hadn't expected any trains at all to arrive as they claimed everything on the west coast line had been cancelled.

So it seems though I was delayed 3 hours I had struck lucky. I accept that I'd rather the checks were made to ensure safety than risk a severe de-railment, but surely the train companies knew of the problems building up in the area before we boarded the train. Aren't the drivers and stations connected via some sort of phone system, which at the very least could inform passengers waiting at stations of potential delays? For a so called advanced civilisation our railways are still operating in the dark ages.

I'll stick with my car in future thank you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I'm Still Alive. 

Contrary to popular belief, I'm still alive and kicking but despite returning to the blog after my longest run of non-blogging I'm about to disappear again, I'm attending a conference in London over the next 3 days, so won't have any internet access. Not that that will make any difference to this blog, given it's record since before Christmas.

Well what has everyone been up to? I've been snowed under with work hence the lull in posts, and as stated before the amount of work we have to do doesn't look like letting up. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year, I haven't even had time to look in and see how everyone has been doing, don't hold that against me though, I will be back sometime in the future. I'll just have to make some time to at least do some mini updates.

Well we had a great Christmas and New Year, though my colleague at work who sits opposite had a lousy Boxing Day when he heard about the tragic Tsunami in Asia. His brother was holidaying on an island off the Thai coast and after my colleague heard the news he was unable to contact his brother. Thankfully it all turned out well for him though, as my colleagues brother had gone off exploring on a motor bike and only found out about the disaster on his return to his hotel. He had actually gone off to find a secluded beach which he failed to do, mainly because it had been washed away before he got there. There wasn't too much damage on that particular island as it was in a sheltered bay, but the hotel sunbeds were washed from the beach into the hotel pool area, and there was sand all over the hotel grounds. No one was hurt though.

Just after New year we booked our flight Tickets to Australia for 3 weeks in October so we now have something to look forward to later in the year and are both pretty excited. I'm not looking forward to the flights though. We'll be based in Brisbane, staying at my brother's house, so any advice on "Must See" places to visit whilst out there would be very welcome. Depending on finances we might take a short break to Sydney, though I would like to get up to see the Great Barrier Reef if at all possible.

My spare time has been taken up with further researches regarding my family history. Alfie mentioned in a comment on my last post that it was fascinating stuff. Well I have to agree it can be very addictive, especially when you seem to get a series of hits that take you back a century or two. I'm hoping that I'm just about to do that on one of my lines. I've sent off for a couple of certificates, which if they prove that my great-great Grandfather is who I think he is, will link into a proven line that goes back to 1628. With all the online searching facilities, it's a lot easier than it was 12 years ago when I first started. In the last month I've connected with 2 'cousins' in Australia (our links mutual join around 1818 and 1834), plus I've managed to prove a family legend that a branch of one line emigrated to the USA, in fact I've details of loads of descendants of our common ancestors as a result of that find. So far I've not found anyone famous, I come from a long line of Labourers, Coal and Iron Ore Miners, Agricultural Labourers and Card Nailers [A person who maintained the teeth (nails) on the carding machine used for preparing wool and cotton for weaving.]. My lines have strong links to, the North Yorkshire coastal towns, Dudley (Worcestershire), Norfolk and Hampshire. I also have a couple of lines with strong Irish ancestry, these are proving difficult to research, so are taking a back seat at the moment.

So, with that it's time to return to work, hopefully I'll be back posting on a bit more regular basis from next week.

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