The Sharks go to London

Although we only live about 45 miles north of London – that’s about 30 minutes on a fast train – Mrs Shark and I very rarely venture into it.

However, as we really wanted to go to the excellent France Show at Olympia and had already paid for tickets, we decided to gird up our lions, brave the weather and place ourselves at the tender mercies of public transport.

We left home by bus and after a very quick (some parts of the route were left out due to snow) and uneventful journey, we arrived at Central Milton Keynes Station, just in time to catch a London Express which was only delayed by about 10 minutes. So, one quick train ride later, we were soon standing outside of Euston Station with a cigarette and a cup of coffee bracing ourselves for the Underground.

It was remarkably uncrowded and we had a good journey to West Brompton – the best station to use for Olympia 2.

(Yes, I know this is all very prosaic, but we really don’t go to London much!)

We’d attended the France Show last year, when moving to France permanently was but a germ of an idea, but now, 12 months later, we now had a sense of purpose, having found a buyer for our place (fingers crossed!). We knew what we wanted to find out, so we circled the stands we needed to visit on the program and set forth.

We  managed to find some useful people to talk to and get advice from – Credit Agricole for setting up a French bank account, currency exchange people for transferring money and also property agents for renting and then buying.  Everyone seemed very helpful and we now have some useful contacts for advice. We also gathered a stack of material to read at home.

We saw some celebs there, too.

I almost knocked Jean-Christophe Novelli over in my haste to get to the loo. He was just coming out from ‘backstage’ to demonstrate some sort of seafood cuisine and we almost collided…

Then there was a bookstand, with Carol Drinkwater (now an author, but probably best remembered for her TV role as James’ Herriot’s wife in that vet series) and Kate Mosse (author of the excellent ‘Labyrinth’, set partly in one of my favourite places on earth, Carcassonne).

But the real treat was meeting John Dummer.

John used to lead a blues band in the late 1960s and early 1970s – the John Dummer Blues Band. They were never as big as Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall, or even Chicken Shack, but they were a splendid band which I saw a few times back then. They were slightly lighter than most blues bands of the day and featured fiddle. They had a sort of country and folk tinge too, which set them apart from the rest. They had a big hit in France with ‘Nine by Nine’ which was used for a cheese advert and then released to become a best-seller.

He was also a member of Darts, which had several hits and which people probably remember more than his blues stuff.

Now, he’s an antique dealer living in France and he’s also an author. I bought his book, ‘Serge Bastarde Ate my Baguette’ and he kindly signed it for me. A nice guy and great to meet the leader of one of my favourite 1960s blues bands.

Anyway, laden with brochures, books, nougat, lavender soap and freebies (USB pen drives and keyrings with discs for using in supermarket trolleys) we decided to head back to Euston in case some trains were cancelled.

We got to Euston nice and easily via a still uncrowded tube and, whilst having a pre-journey coffee and smoke outside the station, managed to spot one more celeb. It was Johnny Vegas, leaning against a pillar near the entrance having a smoke and yawning. He looks much smaller in real life…

Having esconced ourselves on a nice warm train, there was an announcement that there would be a delay due to a technical fault. This then led to a series of announcements that an engineer had been called out, the engineer was working on the fault, the engineer was still working on the fault, etc, so we disembarked to find a working train.

We found one, settled in for the journey and then…

“We apologise for the delay, but we’re waiting for the train manager.”

We then heard that he had been delayed on a train from Preston.

About 20 minutes later, the manager must have arrived because the train pulled out of Euston and sped us back to Milton Keynes. Another bus journey and we were home.

All in all, 8 hours out but not bad for public transport, not to mention the inclement weather.

But would I ever give up my car and go fully ‘public’?

Would I fuck…

Another gratuitous cat photo

What the heck…

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Django is in the foreground, with Oscar behind him.

Cute, or what?

A lookee-likee?

Here’s Totoro:

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And here’s our kitten Oscar:

Uncanny, isn’t it?

Trucking snow again…

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As is their wont, I was woken up by the cats at 5.45 this morning.

When I let them out I discovered that we had a lot of snow last night – in fact. it’s still snowing…

I’d say we have at least 5 inches at the moment – 7.45 am.

As we have our grandson staying with us, we put the radio on to listen out for school closure news and, sure enough, his is closed.

Whilst I was listening out for the school closures bulletin, traffic news was coming in thick and fast and one phrase kept getting repeated over and over again – ‘jackknifed lorry ‘.

Jackknifing occurs most often with empty trailers when the lorry suddenly brakes and the lighter trailer swings around, taking the cab unit with it – often in a 180° turn. If this happens so that the whole rig ends up across the road then a blockage is caused. Not only does this obstruct the traffic behind it, and sometimes coming towards it, at times like this it will block access for snowploughs and gritting vehicles.

The obvious cause of so much jackknifing this morning is the atrocious weather conditions, but other causes include driver error, which prompts me to ask how many of the jackknifings this morning could be the result of poor driving?

Now, before I get irate truckers demanding my bollocks get clamped in a vice. I’m just asking!

Another question…

If we want to get snowploughs and gritters out on the main roads to ensure that the main arteries stay open, is there not a case for restricting the movement of HGVs until this is done?

Lorries and other large vehicles could park up from midnight till 6am and then restart their journeys on cleared roads.

Yes, time is lost, but surely it’s better to stop for a while but then be confident you’ll make good time once you start driving again? In fact, banning all vehicles from non-essential journeys whilst roads are cleared seems to have merit too.

What do you reckon?

Great rant!

Excellent article here from the new Boatang and Demetriou site blog thingy.

I’ve long been convinced that our schools are valued more by parents for their provision of ‘free’ childcare rather than for their educational merits and that the Groves of  Academe are becoming increasingly joyless.

Well done, John, you’ve hit that nail right on the head!

Twat of the Day

I’m afraid I have to disagree with many people’s opinion that Boris Johnson – the Mayor of London – is a loveable buffoon.

Personally, I think he’s a fucking idiot.

In this BBC interview the floppy-haired cocktard acknowledges that the snowy conditions in the capital are the worst ‘for a couple of decades’ (18 years to be precise, but that’s just a minor quibble), that the buses, if they were allowed to run, would be ‘lethal weapons’ and that the drivers who came into London would have the congestion charge waived.

So far, so good, but after really ramming it home that conditions in the capital are really rather awful, he then goes on to say that he’s been biking about today, and he wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, but that the weather is no excuse for a ‘mass skive’.

Back to those drivers who braved the appalling conditions – the ones Boris refers to as ‘hardy’…

Would they be those people who have judged it OK to ignore the advice of the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency, the RAC,  the AA and other authorities?

Maybe Boris left the ‘fool’ off  ‘foolhardy’, eh?

But that’s perfectly all right with me if wants to reserve the term ‘fool’ for himself only…

Let it snow x3

Possibly the best snow we’ve had here in beautiful, vibrant Milton Keynes for several years.

Schools are being closed, everything still looks clean and white and the cats have been out enjoying it.

Oscar in particular, being the younger of our two Maine Coons, went a bit mad and tried to chase every falling flake he could see.

Here he is looking out at the falling snow:

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