Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Well what a day Friday was.


We went to Dublin for the weekend with the main feature being the Van Morrison concert on Friday night.
Wanting to do this in a leisurely way the Old Girl took Friday off work and so we booked a midday flight from Manchester - it's only an hour flight to Dublin so we intended having an afternoon exploring before the evening show. The Old Girl booked the tickets months ago as a birthday treat for me. The concert was a sell-out and in a big venue that fortunately had good acoustics and seating.

To make sure that we got to the airport in plenty of time we booked the 8AM train from York to Manchester which would arrive at about 9.20 - plenty of time before the flight.
We rose early and were at the station before 8 to discover that the train had been cancelled. Bummer.
We waited for the next train which was scheduled  35 minutes later. We waited. And waited...... it was delayed. Points failure or something.


The announcements kept coming about further delays. They were the only thing coming as the train certainly wasn't. We eventually climbed aboard a packed train (doubled up lot of passengers) which just got more and more delayed on the way. The result was that when we finally got to Manchester airport our flight had gone.
We had to book a later flight (and hand over another couple of hundred quid). This later flight was 5.40 instead of the noon flight we'd planned.
We headed off into Manchester city to kill some time and had an amazingly crappy lunch at an Italian restaurant. Yuck!

At least the flight was on time but arriving in Dublin and clearing Customs took us to nearly 7PM.
We hailed a taxi and urged the driver to get us to the city fast. He was Italian and every time I said "Pronto!" he said "Hello?"

We went via our hotel to drop off bags and made our way through slow Friday night traffic to the concert venue arriving at 3 minutes to 8. We found our seats and the band came on about 5 minutes later. No unprofessional pissing about and delays with old campaigners like Morrison.

The set was perfect - 90 minutes plus (about 20 numbers) of new and old songs. Morrison's voice is still great. This is his 70th birthday tour. His guitar, harmonica and saxophone playing superb. His autocratic conducting of the (very good) band worked and the resultant sound was a jazz rock fusion that matched the material.

There were no taxis to be found outside with thousands of concert-goers heading home but we hailed down one of those bicycle/rickshaws to take us to our hotel. It was only the second time we'd been in one of these, the other time being in Penang. It was bloody freezing!

The Old Girl had got a good deal at a classy little hotel near Trinity University so we were ideally placed for exploring on Saturday and Sunday - James Joyce, WB Yeats exhibition, Trinity College plus a bus tour around the city. We were lucky with the weather even though it was damned cold.

The flight home was quicker than the flight out - tail wind - but, par for the course the train was delayed, and delayed (points failure!). By the time one arrived there was basically passengers for three trains worth trying to get on. We were lucky (or bullish) and got on to claim seats but others had to stand, sit in the aisle or wave goodbye from the platform. We got home about 9M. All in all it was a good weekend.

Friday, 20 November 2015


See here:


 Well not exactly shitting in a hat - more like shitting in an envelope and sending it away.

In  UK the NHS has a free bowel screening programme where stool samples can be smeared on a printed card, sealed in a secure postage paid envelope and sent away to a lab for testing.

Not for the squeamish as they are at pains to explain but well worth while.
The Old Girl and I have done this. She received her clearance a few weeks ago and I got mine today.

A good friend of ours has cancer that has taken over her body. It began with undiagnosed bowel cancer and has spread catastrophically. In New Zealand there is some advertising about the dangers of bowel cancer but as yet there is no national screening programme like they have here.

The poor old NHS gets a bit of a bad rap in UK but I think that the moaners need to go to another country like the bloody USA to realise how lucky they are with having a free service.
We certainly have benefited from this (The Old Girl has UK citizenship and anyway there is a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand) and the bowel cancer clearance is another one of those health worries taken away.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


I went to London for a few days and returned yesterday on the train.
After an hour or so I could smell a burning smell kind of like when a hair dryer has been on too long.
I looked around but no-one else seemed to have noticed anything.

I remembered a Sopranos episode where Carmine Lupertazzi, one of the new York mafia bosses smelled burning hair just before he had a stroke and died.

The smell persisted though and I didn't have a stroke and die but something did happen. The train stopped suddenly.
It had been trying to tell me something.

A feeder pipe to the braking system had apparently come loose and had triggered the automatic braking system. We were stopped about 50 kms south of York for about 45 minutes while the problem was fixed.

After about 10 minutes a Scots guy on the other side of the aisle asked me:

"Hey pal, what station are we at?"

(He'd had a couple of drinks on the way). I answered him:

" We're not at a station, we're out in the country somewhere. We're stuck here for the night".

"Nay bother" he said and put his earphones back in.

In real life, in 1947 when Sparky was recorded, a kid telling everyone that trains talked to him would have been put in a nut house. They'd think that Sparky was the one with a loose wheel.