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.