Thursday, 8 November 2018

Just the ticket!

Well, well, well.

It appears that without any argument, any appeal, or any footstamping, East Midlands Trains are going to refund me half the cost of my return ticket for the thirty-five minute delay I suffered en route to Brighton the other week.

Dear Dr Hale
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding East Midlands Trains
services, including Delay Repay claims.
I am pleased to let you know that your compensation claim has been
processed to the value of £52.60. 

If you encountered a delay when you travelled with us on the 12 October
2018, between SHEFFIELD and LONDON ST PANCRAS INT at 17:29 we are really
sorry that we let you down on this occasion.
Unfortunately, there are times when things go wrong, which means that we
can’t always run the train service we want to and I am really sorry that we
let you down on this occasion. 

This actually seems quite generous to me, as only my outward journey was delayed, and by less than an hour. They've even thrown in an apology - two, in fact! So well done East Midland Trains. My faith in you is restored.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Monday, 22 October 2018


Right, let's see if I can remember how to work this blog thing.  What happened, you may well ask. To which I reply, what usyually happens around this time of year, viz. Semester 1.

However, I can keep silent no longer, for I have been inspired by Starcross Jim to write about my latest rail compensation claim. This gives me the opportunity to compare various train companies' web-based processes. You may recall that I successfully (albeit grudgingly) received a refund for my severely delayed journey from Rugby from some shady fly-by-night outfit called 'Northwestern Trains' who appear to have nicked a load of London Midland rolling stock and stuck some cheap stickers on it. I mean to say, Rugby is nowhere near the North West! That delay was weather-related (overheating rails - I was coming back from Braunston at the end of June), as was my latest, not-so-significant, delay.

Last Monday I went to a conference, which was held in Brighton, so naturally I took advantage of this to spend a weekend in Newhaven, and took advantage of the Newhaven pad to not pay (or not get work to pay) for a hotel. Simon-at-work had booked me a super off-peak return to Brighton and I had a reservation on the 1729, so I dashed away straight from work on Friday night after a busy week, to get to the station knackered and with a headache, to see that the 1729 had been cancelled, owing to having hit a tree on the track at Long Eaton (it was very windy, if you recall - well, it was up here, anyway). This sounded to me as if it might be a longwinded (forgive the pun) thing, and as I was already due to arrive in Newhaven at 2212, I was half tempted to go home and try again in the morning. So I went to the ticket office (because the information desk was closed) and asked if I would be able to use the ticket the next day. Absolutely not, he said. If I wanted - or even had to - to travel the next day because of the delay, I would have to buy a new ticket and then apply for a refund on the old one. What, I asked him, if I didn't have the wherewithal to buy two tickets at £105.20 each? He neither knew nor cared, which is a shame, because generally speaking, I quite like East Midlands Trains. Anyway, as it happened, the 1800 was running normally. Sussing that it was likely to be rather crowded, and finding it in the platform but not yet with the doors open, I edged my way into a position by the doors (while everyone else stood docilely behind the yellow line), ready to  grab one of the unreserved seats at the end of the carriage. Success! Because the cancelled train was the 1729, and the next one the 1800, I reckoned that my journey had been delayed by more than that crucial 30 minutes. In fact it was 35, because I should have got the 2000 Thameslink, but ended up getting the 2035

So when I got back, I went to the East Midlands Trains website to fill in a claim. It was very simple, and I didn't need my ticket (which was just as well, as it was consumed by the gate at Brighton) but only my booking reference. The form was perhaps rather too simple though, and I ended up only putting my Sheffield - St Pancras journey, so I'm not sure what they'll make of that. I've just checked and they haven't emailed me. I'll keep you posted as to what if anything ensues. As I didn't pay for the ticket in the first place any refund will be a bonus (although it was me that put up with the delay, so I guess any compensation is rightfully mine. And I did, naturally, have to purchase a packet of pains au chocolat to cheer myself up.)

Interestingly, my return journey was routed via Bedford - apparently the only direct Bedford - Sheffield train, certainly of the evening, at 1943. I thought this was a clever ruse to avoid leaving St Pancras outside the super off-peak period (i.e. before 1900), but in fact this train got to St Pancras at 1851, perfect (barring wrong turnings) for the 1901, although I suspect that would be too fast a turnaround to be a suggested route. Given that the only restriction on my ticket was that I go via City Thameslink (I'm guessing that's a proxy for Thameslink) I decided that if there was a cock-up, I'd rather be stuck at St Pancras, with direct trains every half hour, than in Bedford, where I have never been, and there were no other direct trains - so I decided to give Bedford a miss I'm afraid, and got home ahead of schedule.

Back in the days when I used to go to Huddersfield, Thameslink trains were the most horrible, manky trains you ever encountered. Now they have fabulously new swish modern things that are open all the way through, and whenever I travel on them, nearly empty.

A stirring return to form, I'm sure you'll agree.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Geoffrey update

When Jim got Geoffrey, we had no idea how he would feel about the boat. Jim was very concerned that he'd be freaked out by Alvecote's narrow pontoons. The Alvecote weekend was a good opportunity to see how he managed the boat - but with the added concern of how would he manage all the people.
Well, he did absolutely brilliantly, on both counts. The only problem was keeping him on the boat and not constantly running along the pontoon to see people. He turned out to be a worse tart for attention than even Ricky (and with the advantage of being a more convenient height for head rubbing without needing to bend down). And everybody loved Geoffrey - but I kept giving Ricky special loves so he wouldn't feel left out. Geoffrey was more confident on the pontoon than Ricky - who is actually quite reluctant on the long pontoon, when there's not a boat either side. Geoffrey is certainly a quick learner, as the breed is reputed to be.

Since he has been back in Newhaven we have learnt another thing about Geoffrey which is both reassuring and worrying - he loves the water and is a strong swimmer. Reassuring that he can swim, if he were to fall in - but worrying in that fear of the water is the only thing that keeps Ricky on the boat when we're going along. It looks horribly as though Geoffrey may need to be physically restrained.

The one thing we didn't try last weekend was starting the engine while Geoffrey was on the boat. Plenty of other people's were running though and he was completely unfazed.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Who taught it that?

I use the Google Maps app for satnav these days, and there's something quite interesting about the way it directs you to Alvecote. It doesn't get everything right - No Man's Heath becomes 'No Man's Health' which is marginally amusing.

When directing you down Alvecote Lane, it pronounces it as it's spelt. But when it says Alvecote Marina, it pronounces it the old boatman's way: 'Awcutt'. Someone must have taught it this. How does that work?

Friday, 31 August 2018

I clearly never learn

One of the beauties of having had a blog for over twelve years (since April 2006, new readers!) is that every now and then it reminds me that a feeling, or opinion or experience that I thought was new was in fact just me repeating myself. One such example is my feelings about the Alvecote gathering which I wrote about a couple of days ago. Randomly clicking through old entries, like you do, I came across this from 2013 - in which I express pretty much exactly the same views. Yet until I reread it, I had pretty much forgotton having even felt it, let alone said it.

Then I looked at the previous post, in which Nick on Aldgate and Mick on Cassiopeia had visited to take down details of the nifty little device that Chertsey's PD2 has to throw the decompression lever at the right moment when you're in the process of hand starting the engine.
Apparently only Chertsey has this, but other PD2 owners envy it.  Five years ago the asked about it, and I said yes, of course they could draw/photograph/borrow it...  and last week they were still asking about it...

Thursday, 30 August 2018

A £100 ball of string

Ah, but not just any old ball of string. Two hundred and twenty metres of 10mm synthetic cotton rope. The long winter evenings will just fly by.

I set out to look for 10mm Hempex, which Chertsey's current top strings are made of. After nearly seven years, they're still going strong, and we've just reclothed the boat with them again. The fact that they're green and grimy is my fault, for never having attempted to wash them. The hooks, however, have shed their galvanising, and all gone rusty. Of course I could remove the hooks, wash the strings in a pillowcase, and attach new hooks - but then what would I do for a winter project?

Also, Chertsey needs sidecloth strings. The 'temporary' blue polypropylene which has been in use since 2012 is finally giving up the ghost, shedding blue fibres everywhere. I'd hoped originally to splice these direct onto the sidecloths, but I fear that would be impractical, especially at the speed I splice.

Anyway, I found Hempex eventually, but then I found this, and I thought that - at least when it's new - it would look even better. Especially if I give the cloths a proper scrub too.