Friday, 20 July 2012

Commuting part II

Apologies for the long delay since the last post, but I've got myself digs in London to avoid the daily commute. It was proving too much for me, taking too much time out of my life.

In all, I estimated that I was spending three and a half hours a day travelling, by the time I added in the waiting time caused by needing to get to the station early enough to ensure I got a seat, and the onward travel to my office from Victoria. None of this was helped by the fact that the rush-hour services are slower then the off-peak trains as they stop more, and the inbound trains seem to wait for several minutes outside Victoria in the mornings waiting for platforms.

Remarkably, I managed to find a room (courtesy of a former Brightonian) in London for less than my monthly season ticket so, even with the additional cost of Underground and bus fares, the arrangement breaks even financially.

All that has, of course, meant less time on the Brighton end of the blog. I will try to catch up in due course!

Monday, 26 September 2011


Well, I've had a month so far of my new daily routine of commuting from Brighton to London in the rush hours.

It's been an interesting but often depressing experience. Until now, I've travelled for work mostly off-peak, when things have seem to have run pretty smoothly. But so far, my regular inbound trains (one of the extended Gatwick Expresses) have been unfailingly late. Sometimes only by 5 minutes, and other times up to 40 minutes. But not one has actually arrived at the stated time: and that is with the slower, peak-time services which all take over an hour from London to Brighton (though I realise they make a few more stops).

Of course, I realise the performance figures refer to trains being on time if they arrive within 10 minutes of the scheduled time, but it seems the figures in the low 90s in percentage terms must be largely determined all those relatively empty trains running off-peak; peak services seem to be much more fragile.

And, is it my bad luck I've had four major incidents - roughly one a week - so far? These include a man who had climbed under a train (5 hour delay), a broken rail (3 hour delay), and the recent problem with Balcombe tunnel (where the lining needed emergency repairs). On that day I didn't even make it into work.

And of course this for well over £3,000 a year. I may rent a room up in town...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Les Vacances de M. Hulot

The other night I visited a friend for the evening and we spent a delightful couple of hours watching the first feature film of the celebrated French mime artist, Jacques Tati.

If you've never seen it, Les Vacances de M. Hulot (Mr Hulot's Holidays) is a wonderfully gentle comedy set in post-war France, depicting the middle classes at play on holiday at the seaside in Brittany. There's no need to speak French: what little dialogue there is plays a very definite second fiddle to the visual comedy. The feel is something like a cross between an Ealing Comedy and Mr Bean: it's all very gentle, subtle yet often absurd, and beautifully executed.

It made me want to rush back to France, yet I know that the world he so lovingly captured has largely gone (except for the food, of course). Our own homage to Tati's cinematography was suitably enhanced by a lovely French Sauvignon Blanc - what else?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Music at St Bartholomew

On Saturday, as I was walking past St Bartholomew's church, a small billboard caught my eye saying "church open: come and listen to the orchestra rehearse".

The said orchestra was the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, being conducted by Mark James with Pavlos Carvalho as guest cellist, and they were indeed rehearsing for the Gala Concert that night (alas, fully booked), with pieces by Mahler, Dvorak and Ravel.

It was a wonderful interlude to the day's chores, magnificent music in the eerie but magnificent setting of this iconic church.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Brighton Station Tour

The annual Brighton Festival and Fringe is rightly well known for its music, theatre, art and some downright quirky entertainment. But perhaps less well known are the tours that take you to some of the lesser known corners of familiar landmarks. And today I've been on one which I would highly recommend to anyone with an interest in local history - a tour of Brighton station, organised and led by the irrepressible Jackie Marsh-Hobbs.

As well as a short talk on the history of the station, with some wonderful old prints, plans and photographs to illustrate it, we walked around parts not normally accessible to the public. Completed in 1841, the main building is unusual for still being in use as an active part of the station, albeit with Victorian and later additions: most of its contemporaries have been replaced or demolished. Designed by David Mocatta, it still has its original cantilevered staircases at either end, complete with decorative ironwork balustrades.

We visited the site of the original cab road, now buried under platform 7; the old subterranean goods tunnel, which runs from the Shoreham lines to the old goods yard - now part rifle range and part disused Second World War control rooms (picture below); and finally the horse hospital (yes, really) and Stablemaster's house on the southern side of the station, today home to a bicycle rental business.But for me, perhaps best bit of all was the wonderful interior view of the 1882 train shed from one of the of station offices at first floor level, looking over the roofs of the trains. The curved, glazed roofs are simply magnificent.

The tours book up quickly: catch one next year!

Sunday, 8 May 2011


Despite Sussex's reputation for bluebells and the famous Bluebell Railway, I'd never done a bluebell walk before - until yesterday, that is.

There's a farm near Arlington, near Lewes, which specialises in bluebell walks through nearby woodland, with a tea shop and stalls selling cards, plants, books and locally made preserves at the end. They've been opening up to the public every Spring for 39 years. (Details can be found at Bluebell Walk Arlington.) Takings go towards local charities.

Although - thanks to the dry weather and recent thunderstorms - the flowers were past their best, the walk was still very impressive. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words, so here are a few.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Brighton Festival

Had a bit of a break over Easter in Berlin. Great place. Will be back.

And have come back to find the Brighton festival in full swing. I've been emailing a friend to try to decide which fringe events to go to, and have decided that it's too exhausting ploughing through the brochure. You can have too much choice...

Instead, I think I'll go for one of the Open House art trails. They are a great way to see a bit of the city and enjoy some varied art at the same time - so long as the weather holds...