Steam trains, virgins, wind and ruddy winter #narrowboat #England

Ye gods, will this damnable winter never end? Once again I sit here at my desk aboard the Cardinal and the wind is howling outside, thumping against the boat for all that it is worth.

According to Her Majesty’s Meteorological Office it is supposed to drop to freezing again overnight too. I’ve just run out an extra line at the bow, since that is taking the brunt of the gusts. I can’t think of any sane manoeuvre that would get us back to base should the bow come loose and send us across the canal, and I don’t want to find out! I shall sleep better with the spare lines doing something useful.

We did have a spot of sunshine here today. My solar set-up is designed not so much for high power as it is designed to stretch the seasons, to work in light levels where a more fussy system might not, and the panels indeed did their work with aplomb today. A week’s worth of laundry done, all on solar power, and the overnight deficit was convincingly replaced.

One mini-highlight to the day was the appearance of this lovely beastie. Some sort of steam locomotive, hauling carriages and wotnot. Rather in the manner of Toad of Toad Hall I sat back on my haunches, wore a large grin and muttered “choo choo” under my breath.

Damnably difficult day to photograph a train at speed in the distance, damnably difficult. When it came past on the outward journey I didn’t bother, I just enjoyed the spectacle instead.

You can tell what a grotty day it has been from the photographs – odd sort of light, overcast, confused clouds, that sort of thing.

Much rather hear the whistle and whoosh of a steam locomotive than I would one of these rotten “Virgin” things. The Virgins have a terrible, squeal-laden noise about them.

A “short Virgin” clattering past. Richard Branson’s unlovely personal train set.

Want to know how rotten England’s worn-out, under-funded, sucked-dry-by-private-commerce rail network is? Well consider this, trains in every other country, even France, are damned near supersonic. Mr Branson’s wibbly-wobbly expresses occasionally reach one hundred and twenty-five miles per hour. Only very, very occasionally…

Some things, such as railway networks, roads, police, prisons, power supplies, water supplies and national health services simply have to be nationalised and given investment. Such things are one of the few, one of the very few excuses for the existence, operation and interference of “governments”. As our own dear over-privileged lard-arses are slowly finding out, you can’t continue to squeeze taxes out of a peasant population to pay for pan-gendered identity cards for culturally-sensitive nuclear missile projects in parts of the world that even Dr Livingstone wouldn’t send a dog to if you don’t first keep the lights at home burning, the rubbish collected, the water flowing out of the taps and the borders reasonably secure, &etc, &etc.

Mind you, that said, I would welcome government interference with the pair of magpies nesting in the corner hedgerow alongside the Cardinal. Randy little critters, at it like rabbits they are, bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk. Noisy with it, too, and it is far from melodious.

I’m tempted to get a taxi into town, buy a couple of ostrich eggs and slide them into the nest, see what their reaction is then. Oh, Marjorie, I told you that once was enough – look, the effect must be cumulative! Sidney, if you think that I’m going to sit astride that until it hatches then you have another think coming.

Nature, eh?


First suggestions for the title and cover artwork for the Opus Nextus have come through, I think that I like them both. This is possibly for the eBook version.

Proposed cover for “Cheerio, thanks for the apocalypse”. Six cynical tales of thought, politics, history, religion, economics and conspiracy.

That’s the joy of being a cantankerous old Hector, it’s my choice or no choice.

Tag line is “Six short stories of thought, politics, history, religion, economics and conspiracy.”

Covered just about everything we’re not suppose to mention in there, except for sex. No idea about sex, couldn’t write about it if the future happiness of two magpies depended upon it. I’m English. Passion is reserved for rugby and for large mechanical devices, such as steam trains. My goodness me, if someone should one day build a rugby pitch with a steam locomotive line running around the perimeter… [makes peculiar noise and falls over in a minor faint].

It’s been an odd sort of a day.

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, at least not the ones propounded by the usual suspects. Politicians the world over can’t keep a lid on their love lives or their ill-judged expenses claims, so I don’t think they’d be likely to keep a lid on any global conspiracy. There is, however, a huge chunk of the global jigsaw missing. You really can’t expect a chap to believe that these quarter-wit nincompoops are actually running things, most of them can barely tie a shoe-lace or zip up their own flies. Nope, there’s something going on, but it’s certainly not got anything to do with a global elite or with Her Majesty being some sort of Icke-lizard.

My best guess is that we’ve simply somehow allowed a system to come into being that encourages buffoonery, self-interest and vicious disregard. The passive system, the bricks and mortar of society, now wholly discourages statesmanship, decent leadership, imagination, big thinking. We’ve developed a passive infrastructure that, like rats in a maze, gives society only one way to go.

That way is, of course, down the drain, while gazing into our fluff-laden navels and debating about whether free speech is a good thing or a bad thing. Well, if you have to think hard about free speech may I suggest that we are perhaps already too far gone for hope of recovery…

World would be a better place if we (re)filled it with steam engines.

Come the revolution, when I am Lord High He-Who (Must Be Obeyed)… things may not necessarily change for the better, but they will be more fun.

Until that day, carry on, you’re all doing as well as may be expected.


Ian H.


  1. Yo Bro,

    The engine you saw was on a trip from Crewe to Holyhead and is named Royal Scott.

    The original ROYAL SCOT Royal Scot was built by the LMS for their fastest passenger services from London to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Carlisle and Glasgow. ROYAL SCOT was chosen to appear on behalf of Britain at the 1933 ‘Century of Progress’ exhibition in Chicago, USA. The locomotive with a full set of carriages were shipped to the United States and appeared not only at the exhibition, but also toured the main line railway tracks USA and Canada, even crossing the Rocky Mountains. ROYAL SCOT was rebuilt by British Railways in 1950 (with a 4 added in front of the original number 6100) and went on to serve another 12 years on the West Coast Main Line working exclusively on express passenger trains.

    Eventually retired in October 1962 the engine was purchased by Billy Butlin and became a static exhibit at his Skegness camp.

    Bought by a preservation society 30 years later the engine was given a major overhaul and returned to steam in September 2015. 46100 ROYAL SCOT hauled her first main line passenger train for over fifty years on February 6th 2016 from Crewe to Holyhead.

    Technical detail specifications of locomotive 46100: Boiler pressure of 46100: 250 lbf/, Weight of 46100: loco 83.0 tons, tender 54.7 tons, Wheel diameter of 46100: 3′ 3½”, 6′ 9″, Valve gear of 46100: Walschaerts piston valves, Cylinders (diameter x stroke) of 46100: 18″ x 26″ (3), Tractive effort of 46100: 33150 lbf., BR Power classification of 46100: Class 7P.

    So there you have it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How do, Sir! I knew that someone would recognise the beast. A locomotive with an illustrious history indeed, and a few miles on the clock. Thanks for the info. 🙂


  2. My Conspiracy Theory – which I would open a website for but it sounds like too much work. Someone in government hired, no doubt by accident, an actually competent consultant. Said consultant, carefully pocketing money from whomever offers it, is advising the various governments in whatever manner will benefit the highest behind the scenes bidder. Not making him particularly are rare, you will say. True.

    HOWEVER, his genius, is in distraction. Using the current algorithmic social media to generate controversy on things that in my youth would have seemed ridiculous to even debate. And so the populace screams at each other in endlessly looping pointless arguments while the various behind the scenes people reconstruct and destroy all the good things about our governments.

    Apocalypse Now – The Consultant Version. It’s boiling us to death slowly and we are too distracted to notice because we are in the thrall of the online debate. It’s all boring and stupid. No doubt we won’t notice until it turns out the lights have gone out and we can’t get an internet signal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Boiled frog syndrome. I do wonder if perhaps the quickest way to foment much-needed unrest and revolution might not be to sabotage the television soaps and then remove all of the sugar from supermarkets – instant civil unrest! The more “sophisticated” we get, or think ourselves, the dafter we become, the more our senses and faculties actually become, and the more we are dependent on a system that is really quite ricketty and unsustainable. The wolves need not bother to come up with strategies to blow down houses of brick, wood or straw – we live now in a only a house of cards. 😦

      Liked by 2 people

    1. We did indeed. The choice was not exactly lush, and I suspect won’t ever be so again until some cataclysmic change occurs. The dull, dismal and dreary will continue to be the only ones seeking power – it’s all quite depressing, really!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There is something friendly and alive about a steam train, isn’t there? The other trains zip past but it’s just technology on wheels, no life. The steam train comes by and it adds to the landscape rather than detracts from it. Re-open all of the old branch lines and cover them with steam trains I say! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I can always tell when you are ‘full flow’ writing, the waxing of the lyricals shows. Loved this post and excellent book cover. The views in your part of the world are so wonderful, even if the weather isn’t. Here I am trapped within the triangle where it is spring and positively balmy, but alas no especial views of merit. Hold on to your ropes I’ll send it over.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was quick! It’s here! This morning’s frost has gone. Blue sky, sunshine, no wind, (non-randy) birds twittering… Of course, this is a small island in the north Atlantic, so who knows what this afternoon will be like? I have this theory that England isn’t actually anchored where we think it is at all, but gets moved around from pillar to post, and that’s why our weather is so confusing. The Channel Tunnel is made of stretchy plastic, and we fluster about on the end of it.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. The Hogwarts Express – just doing a little engine maintenance run. 🙂

    Thank the stars all that bonking only happens once a year, well a gazillion times once a year.

    [makes peculiar noise and falls over in a minor faint]. – I believe it’s called a swoon! You, sir, did swoon! 😀

    A most excellent rant about taking care of the ‘home-fires’ first. They’re making a similar muck-up of it here in Canada too. I reckon we’re in the late stages of the ‘fall’ of the ‘rise-and-fall’ that every society/civilisation must cycle through.

    Excellent cover art. Do I see a glimmer of a tribute to Mr Addams’s ‘So long and thanks for the fish’? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I swoon, therefore I am… There is indeed a hint+ of Mr A’s dolphin farewell in the title, well spotted!

      I need a good rant once in a while to get rid of the angst built up by watching small minds ruin big things (a.k.a. “politics”)! The whole system of values and priorities seems to be wrong, everyone is bleating about the future but no-one is building anything sustainable for it… [steps down off soapbox and walks away].

      Liked by 2 people

    1. The ropes held nicely, but I can’t speak for the magpies, yet… This morning is totally free from wind and with a clear blue sky – total contrast! Not long now until I start to whine incessantly about how summer is too hot… 🙂

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