Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Just to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and hope 2011 brings all that you wish for.


Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas Eve 1910

Yes 1910!

In the early morning of Christmas Eve 1910 the Scottish Sleeper train from London St Pancras collided with two locomotives in the high Pennines just north of Moorcock tunnel north of Hawes Junction & Garsdale station.

Fortunately the loss of life was mercifully small and the basic cause of the accident was a mistake by the signalman at Hawes Junction but the underlying causes are also a major factor in the incident. It was reading about this accident that gave me an interest in human nature and how life in general has improved over the years and also how even the most modern technology can be defeated by circumstance and human fallability.

It will take to long on here to explain all the circumstances of the accident but by following the links on the Railway Archive web site the full investigation and report can be read. In this day and age we take for granted things like ambulances both road and air but back in 1910 the only way to get medical help was to send a train down the branch line to Hawes to summon the local doctors. Survivors and casualties were also removed on another train. The whole report is a fascinating insite in to life 100 years ago.

Things have certainly changed in the last 100 years and on a personal basis there are going to be some major changes in my life.


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

30 Years

Its funny how time slips by isn't it.

Its thirty years today since John Lennon was killed in New York. Like the day JFK was shot its one of those events which becomes ingrained in your mind and what you were doing when you heard the news.

In my case I was working an early turn and heard the news on the car radio and I simply had to stop and listen to the news, apologies to the people in Crockenhill village where I stopped if I woke them up but some things are so important that you just have to do what you have to do.

People of my age (I was born in nineteen hundred and frozen to death) will remember the great impact the Beatles had on the music scene. I remember having to queue to see there films whose release somehow always seemed to coincide with when I was on holiday, so I saw there films in places as diverse as Weymouth and Plymouth. On the subject of the cinema in Plymouth at the time it was a brand new state of the art cinema but now if it still exists its probably a bingo hall.

I was going to be clever and put a link to a classic Beatles track on here but somehow I could not do it, old age creeping up on me! We are so used to having such a wide choice of music on the radio but back in the 60's apart from the BBC Light programme the only pop music station was Radio Luxembourg which in our infinite wisdom we called Radio Buxomgirl! The BBC were very restricted as to how much recorded music they could play so they recorded groups themselves, a friend of mine has a copy of the Beatles session recorded at Maida Vale for Saturday Club. Think I should go and borrow them. On the subject of Saturday Club it was presented by the legendry Keith 'cardboard shoes' Skues a must listen every Saturday morning.

Returning to the Beatles I wonder how many people remember there original name? I wonder if they would have been so succesfull if they did not change there name. I can never remember the name of the 5th Beatle.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Its good news

Went to the hospital today and I am pleased to say that the news is good.

The cancer is still there but is not spreading!!! Have to go back in three months time.

I do not really understand why I worry about it so much, well I suppose I do really but when there is so much trauma in my life it just seems to be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Hope you are managing to keep warm and safe in this atrocious weather, when I left the hospital it was snowing heavily and now 4 hours later it still is. They are forecasting more snow overnight and a wind chill factor of minus 8 in the morning. Not surprisingly hibernation seems like a great idea!


Monday, 29 November 2010


In the words of the song 'Baby its cold outside'.

Its the time to snuggle up in front of the fire.

As its my birthday today who would I like to snuggle up with, could it be******************.

Now that would be telling wouldn't it.


Thursday, 25 November 2010

Fearing the worst


I have recently had both a PET and a CT scan and have to see the consultant this Tuesday the 30th. This is the day after my birthday and good results would be a very nice present I fear the worst.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a born worrier but this time I really feel that things are going to be bad. Last year I was told twice that I only had months rather than years to live. Was also told that last Christmas would be my last and that I would never see my daughter go to medical school and I have proved both those predictions wrong, my daughter started at Hull Medical School in September.

The date of 30th November is also significant in that I returned to work on 1st December last year even though I was told by the medics to take my pension and have a good time. Glad I didn't take there advice on that one!

If I do need further treatment it may include stem cell treatment which involves a stay of 3 months in hospital and in all honesty I do not think I could tolerate this especially as the success rate is only 30%. May be I should just let nature take its course, I am so worried I do not know what I will do. Hopefully it is going to be good news but my mind is certain that it wont be. As you can imagine this along with a lot of tension at home is causing many sleepless nights.

I have also updated my will which includes my funeral arrangements which is also playing on my mind. In a similar context we were discussing funerals at work the other day (another friend has passed to the great railway station in the sky) and the conversation turned to epitaphs and I said I only wanted two words-'He cared'.

On the subject of caring I would like to say a very special thanks to one of my fellow bloggers who is a tower of strength to me. All I will say is that I want her to find that special happiness that seems to elude me.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Daisy Meely Trust

The five year old daughter of one of my Facebook friends is suffering from Aplasic Anemia which is a condition where the bone marrow does not make enough red blood cells and is quite serious.

Like the Antony Nolan trust they are apealing for bone marrow donors so please if you can consider becoming a donor it would be much apreciated. At the moment Daisy is under the care of Bristol Childrens Hospital and I am sure they would love to hear from you.

More information can be found by searching for Daisy Meely Trust on Facebook


Friday, 5 November 2010


My thoughts are with those injured in the crash at Oxshott this afternoon. A cement mixer fell of an overbridge and landed on top of the 15.05 Guilford to Waterloo via Effingham service. Fortunately there seems to be no fatalities but several serious injuries.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

By request!

Several people have asked me to carry on relating my railway memories so here we go again.

Certainly over the years there have been many varied and good times, however there have been times when it has been anything but fun.

Over the years I have had a sweet and sour poured over me and believe me that is hard to get out of your hair! Also been subject to a prolonged snowball fight but the worst thing that ever happened to me was being robbed at the wrong end of a 14 inch carving knife. Despite all the training you get that you just hand the money over when it happens to you you feel so incensed that its happened to you, you do things that no sensible person would. When I was robbed I was so furious that I gave chase, fortunately for me he got away as god knows what would of happened if I had caught him.

Fortunately I have never been involved in the kind of incident that happened on a train a month or so ago. There was a fight on the train which involved multiple stabbings and a shooting! When the injured people arrived at hospital ther asailants followed them and started spraying acid around. The police closed the station until lunchtime the following day leading to comments on the lines of typical railway cant organise a p**s up in a brewery even though it was on police orders. A day on Southeastern can be an education and an eye opener!

The other thing that crops up from time to time are fatalities. They say that the first one you see is the worst but having seen 7 now it still turns my stomach but you have to get on with the job in hand but afterwards it can give you sleepless nights to say the least. Mind you thats nothing to what a train driver goes through as ther is nothing they can do to avoid the situation. Fortunately we have a good chain of care procedure in place for staff involved in this kind of incident.

Anyway thats the 'bad' parts dealt with, happier times next time.


Friday, 22 October 2010

An open letter

An open letter to David Cameron (and other politicians)

Dear Dave

Now I realise that you have to balance income against expenditure, in fact that's what we have all been doing for many years.

In this so called civilised society I thought that it was incumbent on every member of society and that includes the government to look after the less fortunate members of society.

I realise that you do not know me personally but I suffer from incurable Non Hodgkins Lymphoma which is cancer of the lymphatic system.Luckily enough I was treated with a trial drug called Ofatumumab which has put me into remission. However I have been saddened to read that this drug will not be licensed as the powers to be have decided that it is not value for money. I was wondering if you could perhaps tell me the value of my life?

In todays paper it is also reported that free prescriptions for those suffering from serious illness will no longer be available and that you will no longer be honouring the pledge to get cancer test results back within a week. Excuse me but its bad enough to be told that you have a life threatning illness without any delay in getting the results before starting treatment. Have you any idea just how many drugs you need to treat cancer for example and having to find the money for multiple prescriptions is added stress when you are ill and probably on a reduced income.

In conclusion please please remember that money can be replaced but people can not.

Yours Sincerely


Sunday, 17 October 2010



With the passage of time and other commitments it has become all to easy to lose the thread about some of the things I have written about and threatened to continue but never did.

Firstly I did start to tell you about my life on the railway but I suppose you could say it has run out of steam! If anyone is interested let me know and I will add some bits and pieces at intervals in the future.

Some of my longstanding readers (or should it be long suffering) may remember me writing about the ghost on the road over Bluebell Hill between Maidstone and Chatham. It has long been an assumption that it was related to a fatal road crash in 1965 when three women were killed including a bride to be. I have been reading a book that claims the sightings go back to 1934 which tends to rule out the 1965 crash theory! This was put down to a murder which took place in 1916. However what I can not understand is the fact that sightings are not consistant. I have always thought that such sightings were consistant, for example on the anniversary of the incident but in this case the sightings have not followed this pattern. The most recent recorded sightings were in the late 70s and early 80s but none have been reported since and I can not understand why as the road the A229 is a very busy road and surely there must of been some sightings or are people frightened to come forward and say what they have seen?

Will put up some more pictures from Le Touquet next time including some picture of some lovely French pastries!

Some of you may be aware that I had a very important personal decision to make, now I have made that decision I feel a lot happier in myself.

My old school has started an old boys site that sends messages out on Twitter so I have had to open an account there, if any one wants to 'follow' me on there you can find me at andchafri


Saturday, 9 October 2010



It seems ages since I last posted but my life is changing in a way which it should of done ages ago.

I can only say that it is not to do with health related issues and i am not prepared to say any more than that but i am sure that any one who knows me will understand why.

I have been trying to upload some photos from Le Touquet but every time I try and add a picture it will not let me publish the entry. Grr and multiple Grrs! I will try again in the week and if that fails tell you about it in words!


Le Touquet

It seems ages since I last posted but I have a lot of personal issues at the moment, fortunately not health ones. Will tell you more when things are resolved. In the meantime a couple of pictures from Le Touquet, hope to do some more soon and tell you about it but that must wait for the moment.

Jaws spotted in the fish market

How could I not include this one!

The Beach

Eat where the locals do-fixed price menu €14

Doing what I like most-nothing!


Monday, 20 September 2010



Well I am back from my French 'adventure'. To include pictures I am going to spread it out over a couple of entries. One of the problems of having an incurable disease is getting travel insurance but fortunately as my bank provides free travel insurance I was able to convince them that I was fit enough to travel and give me cover.

The outward journey went very well, at least until Calais station. On SNCF (French Railways) you have to 'composte' your ticket before boarding your train. In reality this means you have to insert your ticket into a machine to date and validate your ticket but the instructions are slightly less than clear. When you walk onto the platform you are greeted with a big sign that says All tickets must be composted. After a bit of head scratching I worked out how to do it and probably just as important why. French rail tickets are valid for one month as opposed to the British system of a specific date and to prevent fraudulant use the stamp indicates the specific date of travel.

The journey from Calais to Etaple Le Touquet took less than an hour and was very comfortable, in fact nearly as comfortable as what I consider to be one of the best British trains the class 375 Electrostars used on Southeastern but that would be a biased opinion!

After a short taxi ride to the Hotel Windsor it was time for a quick wash and brush up and than lunch..... more about that next time.

On the subject of health I have an appointment with the oncologist on Tuesday afternoon to get the result of the latest scan. It is now a year since I had any treatment and I still feel very well in myself so fingers crossed.

Bus from Dover station to ferry terminal

White Cliffs of Dover as seen from the P&O ferry Pride of Kent

Double deck train at Calais Ville station

Journeys End Etaples Le Touquet station


Saturday, 11 September 2010

Please please its far to early!

Its September now not December!!

Drove past the Wateringbury Hotel today and guess what? They had two fully decorated Christmas Trees!!!! I realise that people have to arrange functions etc in advance but surely this is far far to early.

As my Mother used to say 'You know when its Christmas, the Easter Eggs are in the shops'!

I have just returned from a couple of days staying with friends in Dorset and had a great time and found the peace and sanity I needed to make some important decisions. I now know what I have to do and why I have to do it.

On a more positive note if you are ever in West Dorset and feel hungry visit the Weld Arms in East Lulworth the food is out of this world and the portions are huge. By huge I mean huge, imagine a plate 12 inches by 12 inches with one third of it taken up by chips another third with salad and the final bit a home made burger topped with bacon and Mozarella cheese. You will be pleased to know that I managed it but I felt the weight going on!

The name Weld Arms is nothing to do with welding but Weld is the family name of the people who own the Lulworth Estate.

On Monday I am off to France on Monday for a week, Le Touquet to be precise. I was going to fly from Lydd but there was no availability on the dates I wanted and the price at £149 was rather prohibitive so I am going to get a train to Dover, ferry to Calais than a local train to Le Touquet for a total return price of £12. There is some advantage of being a railwayman!


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Worlds Largest Coffee Morning

September 24th is the date for this years largest coffee morning organised by Macmillan for cancer research.

May I ask you to support this worthy cause as cancer affects more than one person in three and I know from my personal experience what wonders the medics can now do but they still need all our support.

Thank you


Tuesday, 31 August 2010

It was muddy!

After all her hard work at school my daughter and a group of her friends spent the weekend at Reading Festival.

She has shown me the pictures and it looked like a complete mudbath! And the way she described the toilet facilities is probably best left unsaid.

Still at her age these things are not quite so important-me I would rather go and see someone like Diana Krall in concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

Must be getting old


Monday, 23 August 2010

Major Celebration and Major Disappointment


As you are probably aware last Thursday was the day the A level results were published. After a couple of jittery days I am pleased, no delighted to tell you that my daughter obtained an A* in Chemistry an A* in physcology as well as a B in physics. This means she leaves school with 12 GCSE's and 7 A levels which makes her poor old dad feel like a has been! She has also obtained a place to study medicine at Hull York Medical school and as you can imagine I am very proud of her.

To celebrate I thought I would take her to Jamie Olivers Italian restaurant at Canary Wharf in London's Docklands. We have been there before and you do not need a reservation so you can imagine our bitter disappointment to find that due to a computer problem the could only take people who had booked and were on there list. We asked if we could book for later in the day and were told in a very defiant way NO. The restaurant was deserted with only about three tables occupied but they still maintained that they could not take any orders, have they never heard of pen and paper. A very disappointing end to what should of been a very special day.


Monday, 16 August 2010

Not going anywhere!


Several people have asked me if i am going to close this blog following my last entry, well the answer is a very positive NO! Over the years starting with the old AOL blogs I have made many friends, indeed some have become close friends so I am not going to walk away.

Some of you may know that I had a check up at the Royal Marsden on Friday but as the consultant was running some two and a half hours late I could not have any blood tests done as the laboratory was closed. Pleased to say that the physical exam showed no problems. Went back to the Marsden after work today for the blood tests and it was the usual set of problems. In my family we have a history of deep veins and this coupled with lots of chemotherapy treatment has made getting blood from me very difficult-today only took 20 minutes to find a vein! Why is it that you feel fine when you go to a hospital but an hour or so after leaving you seem to develop every symptom imaginable!! This coupled with the fact that recently I have been sleeping badly does not bode well for tonight.

Actually the title of this entry is slightly misleading! In September I am going to Le Touquet in France for a week. I originaly wanted to fly from Lydd as they only use 9 seat planes and promised to be something different but sadly they were fully booked and expensive(£149) so I am going to go by train/boat/train at a total cost of £4 each way. There are some advantages of working for the railway! Incidentally the £4 is the port tax fee for using the ports of Dover and Calais similar to an airport tax.

This trip will also allow me to try out my new camera. This has not cost me anything as a friend gave me a carrier bag containing various ink cartridges which I have managed to sell on e bay and use the money raised for the camera! I have never sold on e bay before and never realised how easy it is, if I carry on I might become a millionaire by the millenium after next.

Keep your fingers croosed on Thursday for the A level results, my daughter needs to get an A* in chemistry to get the place she wants at Hull York Medical school but she does have an unconditional place at Peninsular but her heart is set on Hull


Sunday, 15 August 2010

I have finally given in!


One of the ex pupils at my old school has for many years maintained a web site about the old school at This is a fascinating site for us 'old' boys as it contains a wealth of information about the school, pupils and masters and gives many an hour of reading and catching up with people.

However times move on and now messages are going to be sent out by Twitter!!! For ages I resisted both Facebook and Twitter but joined FB some time ago and now I can be found Twitter-pating (is there such a word?).

As for the old school I am sad to say that it now appears to be a mere shadow of its former glory.


Monday, 9 August 2010



The year seems to be simply slipping away, here we are in the second week of August and i still have not managed to get away for a holiday yet. Must rectify that. After the coldest winter for years we now have one of the warmest and driest summers- what rain there has been has been negligble. I dont know if its the heat/humidity but just recently I have not been sleeping at all well and I feel absolutely exhausted.

Unusualy for the summer months we have had several power cuts recently.

A couple of weeks ago a new family moved in to the road and the other day they managed to reverse into my car! Fortunately they have accepted liability as my car needs a new wing, front bumper and headlight!


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Well I never knew that!

This year is the 100th birthday of the humble OXO cube.

What I did not know was that it originated here in Kent. Having lived in Kent all my life I had never even heard of the developer or knew that he lived in nearby Hawkhurst.

Charles Gunther was the owner of the parent company that developed the cube and his house is now a private school.

The name of the company just trips of the tongue, 'The Liebig Meat Extract Company'

Off to have a cup of Bovril!


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Upstairs is the new Downstairs

I think we all know of the signs allegedly displayed abroad saying things like 'Ladies come and have a fit upstairs'. Well it is nice to know that such customs are alive and well in the UK as this picture taken at a shop in Gabriels Hill in Maidstone shows. Sorry about the picture quality but it was taken rather quickly on my mobile phone


Thursday, 8 July 2010

History continues

In todays age you often hear about compulsory purchase schemes etc in conection with road improvements. But did you know that this was happening in the 19th centuary only for railway rather than road construction.

In the mid 1880's when the London Chatham and Dover Railway wanted to open a branch from its main line at Herne Hill to the City of London it decided to build the line entirely on viaduct rather than an embankment to save on land costs. When the parliamentary bill for the line was being discussed in Parliament the LCDR offered to run trains at cheap prices for the workmen and artisans displaced. This they did and they ran trains at Workman's times and charged minimal fares. Needless to say other companies were forced to follow this example and trains were shown in the timetable as 'parl' for parliamentary.

Even today the railway is forced to run trains under similar conditions although with out the cheap fares. Todays examples are more to do with keeping lines open with just a token service. An example of this can be seen in London where Cross Country trains withdrew there Birmingham to Brighton service. We now have to run a daily train from Wandsworth Road to Ealing Broadway which carries no passengers whatsoever! The reason for running it is to keep the Latchmere South curve open for passenger traffic and not have to go through the statutory closure procedures which are very long winded and even if accepted causes problems if it was decided to re open the line at a later date.

I wonder if any other industry has to put up with this kind of idiosyncrasy?


Monday, 28 June 2010

It aint half hot.......

Well there is one thing that can be said about the British climate-we are never happy with it!

My office is at Gravesend where the temperature was a sizzling 30.9 degrees and that is hot! I was working at an inner London location today and with all the buildings, people and traffic it was insufferably hot. Still I suppose we can not complain, six months ago we were struggling through nearly a foot of snow and we moaned about that.

Typical Brits never satisfied with anything are we, and as for the World Cup-just don't mention it.

Hope you are managing to keep cool


Sunday, 20 June 2010

Visual Counterpoint

For some time now I have been following a blog by Liz called which is called Visual Counterpoint and can be found at She has written some very impressive words and posted some wonderful pictures which have left me in awe.

However today she has a particularly bad day and I would encourage you to drop by and offer her some support and read some of her entries.


Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Result

I am delighted to say that the CT scan showed no change to the state of the disease. I asked the consultant if they had licensed the drug Ofatumumab yet and the answer was no, I than asked if I needed any more treatment what than. His answer was they would get hold of some Ofatumumab in that case.

If the result of the next scan in September is the same it will be a year since I had any treatment, might just be cause for a small celebration!

Many thanks for your kind thoughts.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

No news is good news???

About an hour before my appointment on Tuesday i had a phone call from the consultants secretary, no one had reported on my scan so could I postpone my visit for another week!!!! Why make the appointment if the hospital can not have the results!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On a personal basis it has been quite a sad couple of weeks for me. Apart from the sad news of Jane Thompson's passing I have attended two fatalaties in a work capacity and last night I received news that one of my old school friends has succombed to cancer.


Saturday, 5 June 2010

Now where were we?

With such a lot going on recently I seem to have lost the thread of my rail memories!

After Sole Street I was appointed to the exalted position of Divisional Relief based at Swanley. As the job title implies you covered leave, sickness and vacancies. This meant that you never knew from one week to the next what or where you would be working. It did not do wonders for your social life as you can imagine as you could be working in London late one night and be on the coast the following morning. In fact it did cause the break up of my relationship at the time and in many ways I still bear the scars of her betrayal which hurt me very deeply at the time. The plus side of course was that there was always lots of overtime which added to scale expenses and a 15% allowance for not working regular shifts led to some rather pleasant pay days!

The other plus was that I met many people who 40 years on are not only fellow railwaymen but good friends as well. It must be remembered that the railway than was very different to that of today and after work it was not unusual for the last one in the pub to buy the beer!

During my time on relief one of my favourite stations to cover was Orpington and when the chance came up to apply for a job there I did and I was succesfull but that can wait until another time.

On a personal note I had my regular 3 monthly CT scan on Thursday and get the result on Tuesday. Although I am certain nothing has changed there is always that nagging worry..........


Sunday, 30 May 2010


This is not quite the entry that I was planning.

It is with great regret and sadness that I have to say that Jane Thompson passed away this afternoon.

Her fight with renal cancer can has been a long struggle which she fought with immense courage and determination. Even though we never met and comunicated only through blog entries she gave me such determination to carry on with my own fight against cancer I feel at a loss to put in words my devastation at her passing. My thoughts are with her husband and children there loss is imense.


Friday, 21 May 2010

Return to Sole Street

Today I went back to Sole Street to undertake an audit. I was pleased to say that the station is in good condition and still retains most of its london Chatham and Dover railway heritage. It brought back many happy memories and I took a couple of photos on my phone.

Station entrance

Looking towards Rochester

The original LCDR waiting shelter on the down side

Networker class 465074 arrives with a semi fast service from Victoria to Gillingham



Thursday, 20 May 2010


Well its actually nearly two and a half weeks since I last posted!

In this time we have a new government and a fairly historic one to boot! History alone will tell if the Conservative- Lib Dem coalition will be succesful but I think another election will be called possibly as early as this October once the honeymoon period is over but again only time will tell.

Work is rather hectic at the moment but I did manage to escape to Hastings the other day but my plans to have fish and chips for lunch were scuppered by a fatality on the line. Hastings probably has the best fish and chip shops in the UK and lunch is a highlight of a trip there, at times I think life can be extremely unfair!!!!


Monday, 3 May 2010

Great Balls of Fire

Excuse the slightly humerous title but it reveals a serious and worrying situation.

Here in Maidstone we seem to have an arsonist on the loose. It started last week when fires were started in the toilets in Sainsbury's, Chequers Shoping centr and McDonalds, This was followed by a fire in a flat in Durham Close.

Worse was to come on Saturday, a fire was discovered in the lighting department at B & Q in Larkfield which fortunately was quickly dealt with. Half an hour later a serious fire was discovered in the Homebase store at South Aylesford. This started in the middle of the store in the timber department and as it is a DIY store it was full of flammable materials, paint white spirit etc it spread rapidly. The store has been completely destroyed and at one stage the temperature inside reached 600 degrees centigrade.

Fortunately no one has been injured in any of these incidents but I only hope the authorities catch the person responsible sooner rather than later.

Another piece of sad news has reached me about one of my fellow bloggers Jane. She has been suffering from kidney cancer for some time and unfortunately her condition has deteriorated over the last 24 hours. You can visit her blog at A Journey of another kind. Her fight against cancer has been truly inspirational and has been a great strength in my own fight.


Saturday, 1 May 2010



You know those competions in free newspapers and you wonder if anyone ever wins them? Just before Easter just for devilment I thought I would enter one wher the prize was a 1 kg Belgium chocolate Easter Egg- well guess what turned uo today!

It is almost to good to open!


Wednesday, 21 April 2010

York Pictures

A few pictures from York (I will not bore you with those museum!) Have not forgotten to continue with my memories and they will return soon!

The Famous Betty's Tea Rooms

City Walls

They don't build them like this now-The Shambles
The Shambles again and yes the chocolates were nice!

The Shambles

Birthplace of Guy Fawkes (reported to be the last man to enter parliament with honourable intentions!)



Thursday, 15 April 2010

The road to hell----

is paved with good intentions.

I have been meaning to do an entry for ages but one thing and another has meant that I have not got round to it. At least spring seems to have returned with blue sky and sunshine today.

I did mean to do an entry on April 9th to coincide with Isambard Kingdom Brunels birthday after reading an article that Network Rail have spent money on cleaning up the entrance to Box Tunnel in time to celebrate the Great Western Railways 175th birthday. Box tunnel at the time of its construction was the longest man made tunnel in the world and on April 9th it is possible to look through the tunnel and see the sun rising at the other end. Some say that this was done by Brunel on purpose others that it is just a happy coincidence!

I am off to York for the weekend fortunately by train and not air! Having been to Iceland I can testify that the volcanoes are certainly impressive, in fact the whole country is rather impressive. It is very expensive and is not a beach/shopping kind of holiday but if you are interested in the natural world it is awesome. Imagine swimming in an outdoor lake where the water is as warm as your bath water!

Will do another entry next week continuing my memories.


Monday, 29 March 2010

Expensive but it was nice!

To be honest nice is an understatement!

Last Saturday I took a couple of friends to lunch at Jamie Olivers Italian restaurant at Canary Wharf in London's Docklands. This is an area of London which is not in my normal orbit, in fact last time I was there it was docks with ships and dockers! Now I do not think I could even afford to live there!

Anyway the lunch was rather awesome, nothing special just a main dish, desert and a couple of drinks and the bill came to £55. However the quality of the food was rather fantastic, you wanted to eat it slowly and savour every morsel. In fact one of my friends wanted to lick the plate (don't worry we did not let him)! For me the highlight was the chocolate, raspberry and amaretto brownie served with Bourbon ice cream mmmmmmmm

Yes it was expensive but worth every penny!

Tomorrow afternoon I get the result of my latest scan so as usual I am getting rather worried about the result. I am sure it will be fine but at 3 in the morning you have doubts.


Monday, 22 March 2010

My second family

It was always said that when you joined the railway you were either there for 3 months or you stayed for life. The latter is most certainly true in my case!

I do not know about any other industry but the railway is like one big family, yes we have our disagreements but they are soon pushed out of the way for the benefit of the whole railway community but likewise there are lots of good times. a lot of people probably do not realise it but we run our own old peoples home as well as convalescent homes- all paid for by voluntary contributions from the staff. At one stage we even had our own orphanage! The vast majority of staff also make contributions to organisations such as Dr Barnardos and here on Southeastern staff choose two charities each year for the company to support.

All this is very worthwhile but what makes a true family atmosphere is the staff themselves and we will always do our best to support each other. Also I suppose its almost a requirement to have a weird sense of humour. An example of this is how we change place names to literal wording eg Canterbury becomes fast funerals and Catford become pussycar! This sense of humour is contagious, years ago I worked with someone who liked there toast rather well done and one day we popped into a cafe for breakfast and when the chap behind the counter saw George he called out to the kitchen 'two slices of burnt and buggered please'.

All in all it has been a very happy 42 years in the industry as I hope my ramblings show and will continue to do so.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Newspapers, Stamps and Postal Orders

Firstly I must record my sadness about the decision of the BBC to close 6Music. It is about the only national radio station that I can listen to. Otherwise I restrict myself to either BBC Kent or BBC Sussex, I certainly can not listen to the comercial network which has morphed in to Heart. I have added my name to the on line petition to save 6Music however as it only broadcasts on DAB its listnership is always going to be lower than an FM station.

Anyway after a year at Beckenham Junction I was on the move again, this time to Sole Street. The only reason that there was a station at Sole Street and the subsequent establishment of a village there was that when the London Chatham and Dover Railway built ther London extension Lord Darnley of Cobham Hall refused to have the railway any where near Cobham Hall his residence. As a result the line was built to the south even though this involved a steep climb out of the Medway Valley on which in past times many a steam train has come to grief. As a result of this the station was one of only three on South Eastern to run its own post office. The station staff at that time was quite large-two signalmen, two railmen and myself. (Now its just one part timer). We also sold papers on behalf of a newsagent from a neighbouring village- to this day I do not know how he ever made any money as everytime we tried to give him the paper money we were always fobbed off with comments like 'can't take it now' or 'give it to charity'!

The Post Office also did a roaring trade as in those days pensions and benefits were paid in cash and cheques were comparatively rare so there was always a demand for postal orders. As a result of this we got to know every one in the village and it was a lovely atmosphere to work in, you knew all your customers by name and they knew yours. It was a result of this that I met my first serious girl friend a relationship that lasted about 4 years long after I left Sole Street.

One strange thing about Sole Street was that the telephone box outside the station shared the same number as the ticket office so you had to be cautious about using the phone. As Cobham Hall had now become a girls boarding school we also had the joy of the girls arriving at start of term and departing at the end. You have never seen so much luggage, we used to have to get the 12.14 train from Victoria strengthened on the first day with a motor luggage van and the same on a return trip. Road transport was provided for the journey from station to school.

Even though I was happy there I thought that it was time to move on and in British Rail days a national vacancy list was issued every week and when I saw an advert for a job on the divisional relief I applied but will tell you about that next time.

As a matter of interest the other South Eastern stations with post offices were Pluckley and Martin Mill. It has also been suggested that I amplify my memories and write a book but you are probably completely bored by now.


Monday, 22 February 2010


As this is the 101st post you will be pleased to know that I am going to resist the temptation to make any remarks about dalmations!

I will go back to memories next time but on Saturday I was in Exeter. In one of my favourite books (The Withered Arm by T W Roache) he describes Exeter as a friendly poised place ideal as the capital of the West Country. The Withered Arm by the way describes the former Southern Railway system in Devon and Cornwall most of which has been consigned to history.

The day got of to a bad start as the train I was on came to a halt at Borough Green due to a major points failure at Otford. This resulted in missing the 09.06 train from Paddington and having to wait for the Cornish Riviera at 10.06. The return journey was not much better either as the up Royal Duchy 17.02 from Exeter was running 12 minutes late as a person decided to walk in front of the train at Tiverton!
Anyway Exeter certainly lived up to its promise and is a great shopping centre which gives you scope to increase your overdraft! The city centre suffered from the ravages of the second world war but has been rebuilt and offers everything you could want. In fact I enjoyed a very nice pub lunch which was an absolute bargain at £4.95. The purpose of going though was to look at the medical school there which was very impressive.

Peninsular Medical School Exeter

Outside Exeter Cathedral


Wednesday, 17 February 2010

100 Not Out!

No its not the sound of leather against willow! I was never able to enjoy cricket when I was at school and today I still do not enjoy watching it. Football however is another matter and I am sad that my team Brighton and Hove Albion have slipped in to the relegation zone. Mind you there are a couple of months to go yet so hope springs eternal.

The figure 100 means that i have just noticed that this is my 100th entry since moving over from the AOL blogs. In this time I have made many new friends and at least one has been with me since my first entry on AOL! I feel so honoured that so many of you have given me so much support with my health problems that the simple words thank you do not seem enough but I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

Anyway back to September 1968. I had passed my medical and entrance exams and on my first day I was sent to Swanley station. I lasted exactly a day and a half there! The powers that be realised that I should not have been there at all I should have been at Longfield. It was there that I met a man who through his kindness and generosity taught me more about the railway than any training course ever would. To this day I can still hear George Black's measured tones explaining the difference between OS and IWD items of account.

After a pleasant 6 weeks or so I was sent to the Regional Training School at Beckenham where the training course lasted 13 weeks, now its 12 days! After that it was back to Longfield to get some proper hands on experience. Than at short notice I was told that I was going to work in the parcels office at Beckenham Junction. I have to say that parcels are not that interesting and the highlight of the day was the coal train. In those days most stations had a coal yard with bulk deliveries by rail. Computerised wagon control was light years away and it was part of the job to collect the labels from each vehicle and record it in a register along with the amount of coal received. After that it was a case of writing labels up for the return trip the following day to Totton near Nottingham. However if there was any defect they had to go to Brent in North London. If the coal merchant kept the vehicle for more than 24 hours we had to raise a demurrage charge against them.

6 months of this was more than enough for me and I applied for the job at Sole Street but will tell you more about that in Newspapers, Stamps and Postal Orders next time.

I am off to Exeter this weekend as my daughter has been offered an unconditional place at the medical school there and I am considering moving there.

At the moment I am listening to Judy Collins live with Roger Day on BBC Radio Kent, radio as it should be!


Friday, 12 February 2010

Wait for it, Its.....................

Good News!

On Wednesday I had a PET and CT scan done at the Royal Marsden hospital at Sutton in Surrey. They had the usual problem with me, because I have had so many sessions of chemotherapy and asociated blood tests they struggle to find a vein they can use. Coupled with the two hours travelling each way and that you can not eat anything for a couple of hours before each scan it meant that I had nothing to eat for nearly 20 hours from 10 on Tuesday night onwards.

Today I went to the Marsden in London for the results. The CT scan showed that the mass in my abdomen has remained static but more importantly the PET scan showed that there was no active disease! Now I realise that things may well change in the future but at the moment I feel quite euphoric, indeed if we were in the local pub I would buy you all a drink!


ps Why do local bus routes go on such a roundabout route, as the crow flys Sutton station is just over a mile from the Royal Marsden but the bus goes via Carshalton!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Keep your fingers crossed

Tomorrow Wednesday 10th I go for my scans at the Royal Marsden at Sutton and on Friday I see Professor Cunningham at Fulham Road so keep your fingers crossed.

I wonder if there is any significance in the fact that every time I go to the Marsden it snows. The forecast is for 6 inches by the weekend!


Sunday, 7 February 2010

More memories

I am writing this at 3 in the morning as I can not sleep for various reasons.

As I said in my previous entry my interest in railways was sparked by the major rebuilding works in Kent and this led on to undertaking many trips by train with a very good friend of mine. We ventured far and wide, the longest trip being to Edinburgh and back for the day. Of course by the time I was a teenager the country was in the midst of the Beeching cuts which were the first attempt to run railways profitably and we travelled many miles on soon to be closed lines and on one occasion we were actually on the last train and saw the ritual coffin being loaded on to the train. This was common practice to indicate that the line was being laid to rest.

One other thing that came out of these 'last' journeys was an understanding of the history of the lines and the reason that they were built. The most common reason was for freight traffic especially perrishable food stuffs, until the advent of the railways it was impossible to buy fresh fish in Manchester for example. They also enabled local populations to travel to major towns to visit markets. In a lot of places there was a duplication of lines by competing companies.

A good example of this is the routes to Scotland, the two main routes to Scotland were the East and West Coast routes but ther was another competitor in the form of the Midland railway who fed up with the delays to ther traffic on other companies lines built the Settle and Carlisle railway which became known as The Long Drag due to the fearsome gradients. It was also the last main line railway to be built purely by manual labour. Despite numerous attempts to close this line it is still going strong today. Sadly it was on this line that the accident at Hawes Junction occured on Christmas Eve 1910, the story of which should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in human nature and frailties.

Over the years I have built up a collection of railway history books, the first one I purchased was History of The Southern Railway all 3500 pages as well as lots of historical timetables which give a fascinating insite into live in previous years. I also read accident reports from the RAIB where incidents on the railway are thoroughly investigated and it can take over a year to be published.

I think that now brings us up to 7th september 1968 the day I joined the South Eastern division of British Rails Southern Region.

Sorry if this has been a rather long (and probably boring) entry but I can not sleep probably because I have a nuclear scan and consultants visit next week and its rather playing on my mind.

Sadly over the years I have lost contact with my friend but if by any chance anybody knows Peter Crouch who was last heard of living in the York area, I would love to make contact again.


Thursday, 4 February 2010

My kind of shopping!

I had cause to visit a local supermarket today-you probably know it as the one where every little helps.

Well it certainly helped today, I spotted a packet of flaky pastry mince pies reduced from £1 to 40p and being a sucker for mince pies into the basket they went. When I reached the checkout they went through at the original price of £1 and when I queeried the cashier voided the transaction and gave me a refund of £1.20!

As they say every little helps!


Monday, 1 February 2010

This is rather worrying!

Have just heard that one local authority in Kent has arranged for taxi driver application forms to be printed in braille. Think I will get the bus!


Sunday, 31 January 2010

Back to the past

To explain my interest in railways I must go back many years.

In 1956 I was living very close to the Kent Coast main line which was in the process of being electrified as part of the 1955 modernisation scheme. What made a lasting impression on me was the section of line between Bickley and Swanley was being quadrupled. This involved massive earthworks and major bridge rebuilding including a five arch viaduct. This was akin to building a motorway on top of an existing road which was still open to traffic.

Not for me was there any interest in collecting engine numbers which I think must be a pretty boring pastime. Instead I developed an interest in the reason why railway lines were built where they were and the impact on the community and also the politics behind them. For instance in Kent there were two major railway companies the South Eastern and the London, Chatham and Dover who were in fierce competition with each other and led to many duplicated routes, even to this day there are 12 routes between London and Dover but try and get from Faversham to Tonbridge is a complicated journey to say the least!

I hope this makes sense and I hope it will help you understand future memories.


Monday, 18 January 2010

The Royal Marsden


I went to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London on Friday. When I left I was in quite a euphoric mood as they said that depending on the results of a CT and PET scans they could offer me some treatment. On the way home I sent text messages to various friends saying that it was good news.

However what I did not expect was the feelings and emotions I was going to go through over the weekend. For whatever reason I woke up about 1 on Saturday morning convinced that I was going to die soon a feeling that stayed with me the whole weekend. Even this morning I was awake about 3.30 and had a pain in my right side that did not want to go away. Fortunately by the time I got up at 5.30 it had gone and has not come back.

Over the last year I have never had feelings like this and I was struggling to cope with them. I have always tried to stay positive but I can truthfully say it was the worst couple of days I have ever known.

I will continue with some more memories next time but at the moment I am listening to Beth Nielsen Chapman being interviewed by Roger Day on BBC Radio Kent.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010


Now that the big freeze seems to be relenting if only for a short while it seems to be as good a time as any to start reminiscing.

To understand my memories and attitudes I suppose you really ought to know something about me!

Well I was unleashed on an unsuspecting world at the unearthly time of 5.11 on the morning of 29November 1951. Like a lot of people I can not say that I remember anything of my childhood before starting school. I can even remember my first teachers name-Miss Williams. Life at home was I suppose fairly ordinary with one major exception. My father ran his own cycle repair shop and even in those days small traders were struggling and my parents spent a long time deciding to sell the shop and take a paid position as a manager therefore ensuring a regular income. In the end they decided to sell. My Mother even delayed buying the Sunday joint until after 4 on Saturday afternoon when the local butcher reduced the cost by a shilling.

Money might not have been plentiful but two things were, love and respect. These two things have stayed with me all my life and they are still very important to me. Love is a strange thing to describe, I never use the word with anything but the utmost sincerity.

Sadly my Father died in 1961 and in the last year of his life he could not manage to climb the stairs and he slept downstairs and many mornings I would wake early and go downstairs just to talk to him. Despite his illness he was adamant that life should go on and not stop just for him, an attitude that I have followed during my illness. Probably every body says this but my Father was a great man and in those conversations he taught me a lot of life skills especially on an interpersonal basis.

After my Father died we spent every Christmas with my Grandmother and I well remember Boxing Day 1962 and when it started snowing in the evening one of my Uncles said 'it will turn to rain by the morning'! Well as history records it did not and it snowed every day until March.

In those days the benefits that are available now simply did not exist and my Mother must have struggled to bring us two boys up. This was something that I was aware of at the time but only realised the enormity of it in later years. Again I have learnt another lesson here- people are more important than any possession. Even to this day my philosophy has been to try and help people be happy and content.

I hope this explains something of my attitude to life and even though my life is fragile due to cancer With all sincerity I hope that part of my legacy will be that I spread just a little love and care.

On the subject of health my appointment at The Royal Marsden is this Friday.


Friday, 8 January 2010

Hi Ho and a very Happy Birthday


First of all a very Happy Birthday to the King. Elvis would of been 75 today!

Went back to work full time today since February last year, and it has left me in a rather contented mood. It has had some good moments when I have been at home and feeling well but I think it has been good for me to get back to some routine and meet up with colleagues at work with all there news and gossip. I must admit that all I really did today was chat and catch up with some e mails, I had 173 messages about train running in the snow alone! That delete button got hit several times!

In fact I feel so positive at the moment I am thinking about making someother changes in my life which I had thought about last year but were put on hold when my life was put on hold!

The forecast for South East England is for more heavy snow and sub zero temperatures over the weekend but as I went shopping this afternoon for two large boxes of tea bags and 4 pints of milk I think I can withstand the pressure. As a typical 'Brit' and a railwayman as well I have a prodigeous capacity for drinking tea! A few years ago when I was working at Canterbury on the old South East Divisional Relief there were three of us on duty one Saturday morning, two tea drinkers and one not so keen. Merv and myself left poor Barbara agog with the amount of tea we got through, the kettle never got cold!

One of these days I will have to start writing down some of my memories of working on South Eastern. Some of it would make interesting reading especially the time (also at Canterbury) when I was propositioned by two women.....but will tell you about that another time.

As for the title-- Hi Ho of to work we go!


Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Thanks is such a small word but has great meaning. So I would like to say a very big THANKS to all of you who have commented on my blog, I can not tell you how much your kind thoughts meant to me.

Went to Maidstone hospital today for the scan result and I am pleased to say that the result showed that the tumor had marginally reduced. What made this result so special was that it was an agressive tumor. I fully realise that this may only be a temporary respite but after the agony of thinking about the result over Christmas and New Year I feel so relieved.

Hope you are all coping with this ice and snow.

Again my heartfelt thanks to you all.

Andy xxx