I woke late today and sneakily allowed Facebook to display my birthday again. Not late enough though, obviously, as I immediately got an inane "happy birthday" message from someone I have never quite got around to blocking. Damn, forgot about daylight savings time, it's only 9pm back at home. Peak Facebook usage time.
So what do I do today? Same as yesterday - nothing is better than complete happiness and gunzelling is better than hanging around doing nothing. Hey, if an Arab prince told me I could go anywhere in the world for my birthday I reckon Manchester Piccadilly would be fairly high on my list by any measure, and I'm right here!
So I'm here on a Sprinter going through the Dove Holes tunnel at 20mph. I think it's time to do a Buxton line 2020 timetable. Google Docs coming right up.
Piccadilly, where to go... it's raining so I don't want to be trackside taking videos today. A Pendolino ride to Stoke on Trent, that'd be a good start!
Argh, the wifi on Virgin standard class costs! Not even a free 15 minutes like the other lot have! Ah well this is what 3G's for. Hopefully it works at 200km/h... Chris reckons handover between towers means signal declines with speed. We shall see!
Responing to birthday wishes on Facebook at limited speed is patchy - just occasionally the signal will drop right out. But it's workable.
I get to Stoke on Trent and there's a London Midlands service going through the other platform. That deserves a photo or three because the Class 350s have a very striking livery. And it's a nice station for photos too, enclosed but with a clear roof. It actually seems to have been the pattern for both Geelong and Ballarat, with slight modifications. Operationally it's not all that efficient, with just two platforms and the through roads pulled out. If it has Pendolinos calling every 20min or so plus connecting services to other places nearby it must get a bit busy.
Incidentally I think I've hit on why the British method of running trains (spaghetti services and huge junction stations) seems to work - because over here they build in masses of surplus capacity. I'm sure if you wanted a path from Manchester to Buxton you'd only have to ask and they'd start writing an S Circular. The only reason it doesn't work at home is because we try to save costs on infrastructure by building it for just a bit more than the expected amount of traffic. As a result it's always difficult to cope with anything unusual, so the only way to run things is to keep unusual occurrences to a minimum. That includes having trains cross tracks at flat junctions. Both methods should work, and all other things being equal our method (well really the American method) should be cheaper. It's just a case of following it through...
So I get a Voyager back to Piccadilly and that has taken up most of my available time. So I do some local runs - to Heaton Chapel on a Class 323, my favourite noisy spark. Then rather than go up and down I decide to stay there and take photos - it's quite a pretty site for it.
Soon it's time to head home. Show tonight!
I'll let Chris tell you all about South Anglia's Patience, but let me say that it's been EIGHT YEARS since I was in the audience for Patience. Every other time I've been in it! So it's hard to stop singing when it's my turn.
At the beginning of the show Ian Smith, as part of his usual pre-show talk, asked for blokes to help carry set into the theatre for the pro show tomorrow - for some reason they didn't have enough people to do it all. As regular volunteers we of course jumped right in. It meant we didn't get our favourite table at the Festival Club (the one with the power point) but some things are more important. And hey, Neil bought us all a drink at the bar!
To me, this sort of thing IS what the Festival is all about. The people who run it can get up there in a 900-seat opera house and ask the audience to help move the set. And afterwards they remember who did it and make sure they don't miss out on a drink. Neil saw Chris doing up his usual reviews and mock-read from the screen "Neil is a terrible slave driver and kept us working way too long. We are dripping with sweat and missed out on the community singing of Patience. Any time one of the Smiths asks you to do something, run the other way." I raise my glass to you Neil.
South Anglia did a great cabaret - lots of funny stuff and lots of audience participation. The Angelico Contingent resolved there and then to spice up the Gasvic cabaret to be more like that... ideas were thrown around and will be evaluated by the cold light of dawn.
At 1am we were about ready to go and Jackie Mitchell asked us if we were at the uni, in which case would we mind walking her home. Of course we wouldn't. And do we have to tell her how much we loved her show? Why certainly. These are the kindred spirits you meet once a decade at home and once a week in Buxton.
So, let's tally up:
- Late morning
- Afternoon's gunzelling
- An excellent production of Patience
- An unexpected opportunity to be Really Useful
- Drinks I didn't have to pay for and a fun Festival Club evening
- A walk home with a kindred spirit
I think I'll have to turn 30 more often.