The Wednesday Photo: Age Of Steam

Not the sort of thing you normally see at commuter o’ clock on a Wednesday morning. This old beauty huffed through Reading Station, her Pullman carriages full to the gunwales with people eating breakfast and looking very satisfied with themselves. It was all very pretty, and something of a good omen for the day that was to follow. Of which more tomorrow.


Further notes from our transport correspondent, Richard Betts:

“Clan Line is an ex British Railways “Pacific” Class (4-6-2) steam locomotive owned and maintained to mainline standard by the Merchant Navy Locomotive Preservation Society. She is based in London at Stewarts Lane Depot, and she returned to steam in November 2006 after a major overhaul which took five and a half years to complete.”

See, you learn stuff reading X&HT, whether you want to or not.

Soho Morning

I get to work early. I’m usually in my suite for 8am. The walk through Soho at that sort of time reveals a different aspect to the usual crazy revelry. Something quiet and contemplative. This is the best time to take photos in my little corner of London, and something always jumps out at me.


I’m a mobile writer, which means I don’t have a dedicated place where I go to work. I always smile at the photography series in the Indie that shows off writer’s spaces. The places they have made for themselves where they can create a masterpiece in comfort. There’s a lot of book-lined studies in there. It’s all very cosy.

If I were ever to have that honour, I’d have to show the photographer onto the 06:56 to London Paddington and get him to take a snap of a window seat. Lord knows, I’d love a place like Roald Dahl’s shed, or Neil Gaiman’s library, but that just don’t suit the way I do things. Maybe I should try a stint of writing in the summerhouse.

Writing on a train is the best way I know of getting some no-distraction work done. I can’t connect to the internet. I deliberately use a small, light netbook that doesn’t have too many fancies, but does have a good keyboard I can happily abuse. There’s power on the train, and access to coffee, which is really all I need to at least get a handle on the writing task of the day. I’m an early bird when it comes to this particular task, which means I can get a half-hours work done at the day’s creative peak.

A mobile writer needs a sturdy bag. It’s the office, essentially. It should be able to withstand all the rigours of a daily commute, while being light and small enough to be easily portable. When I began my rambling life, I carried my 13″ Blackbook in a solid, heavy Redline bookbag that was built to withstand a low-yield nuclear strike, but very nearly twisted my spine out of true whenever I picked it up. That was a lesson learned. Only carry what you really need, not everything you think you might.

If you’re interested in the sort of thing I lug around, allow me to point you at TLC’s new photo blog. She’s taken shots of our two bags, which are strangely accurate portraits, and interesting insights into our inner workings.

The Sky Is Beginning To Bruise, And We Shall Be Forced To Camp

We spent the weekend with TLC’s side of the family, parked in a row of 5 caravans beside a pretty fishing lake in the Warwickshire countryside. It was an excuse to chill, relax, kick back, doze out, laze around, flop about and generally be at one with nature. There were children, dogs and balls to throw at both.

Oh, and we ate and drank like champions, which isn’t too tricky when you have five barbies, assorted gas grills and fridges groaning with beer and wine. As you can see from the map, there’s a brewery just down the way, which due to circumstances beyond our control I didn’t get to visit. I was assured by the sore-headed gentlemen of the group that it was very good, and well worth a visit.

It was as close to idyllic as I’d seen in a while, and yet another example of Britain’s countryside at it’s best. There was no power or facilities other than the ones we brought with us. And yet we had a great time. I didn’t even mind blowing up the air bed with a manual foot pump.

I’d do it again in an instant – although probably not in a tent. That’s a bit too close to nature. But caravans and camper vans are great, and anyone who thinks otherwise, or grumbles at being stuck behind one on the motorway has clearly never had a fun time on a lake. Their loss.

Here’s a short Flickr set of the day.

Not pictured: me, drinking.