Yes indeed, here I am. Thank you to the couple of people who have been in touch recently to ask if I'm ok, and if so, where the hell I am. Yes, I am fine - just had a nasty attack of blog fatigue, compounded by the common seasonal ailment known as Semester 1, which results in severe shortage of time and energy.
But here I am, kicking off an important anniversary year for Chertsey, with a new 2020 masthead drawn from this stunning 1970 photo which Richard Pearson sent me last year.
This is Chertsey somewhere on the Grand Union (but Richard has no recollection of where - an indentification challenge if anyone is up for it!) en route from Gopsall to Croxley in August 1970, on her last commercial trip.
Despite the drastic fall-off in the last quarter, 2019 still saw the second highest number of posts, as the blog now enters its second decade. In terms of boating, however, the year was an absolute disgrace. How many days' boating did I do in 2019?
Four and a half.
Four and a half days. Alvecote to Braunston. Braunston to Alvecote. Alvecote to the winding hole somewhere short of Glascote, and back.
I think I can say with some certainty - barring utter disasters - that I will improve on that this year. There's just the matter of arranging leave around the August exam board ....
The counter is clearly not going to tick it off before the day's out, but today is the tenth anniversary of my purchase of Chertsey. On one hand it seems extraordinary that ten years could have passed so quickly (but that's what happend when you get old); on the other, so much has happened within that time. For just one example - when I signed the papers for Chertsey I had never set foot in the city that is now my home.
So here's a photo of Chertsey back in 2009, nine days after the purchase was finalised, when we moved her for the first time.
I was walking down the road earlier today, and it felt chilly. I went out to water my geraniums, and noticed how long the shadows were. And I thought: it's September.
But how can it be? Where was the summer? And I don't just mean that the weather wasn't very nice - I know there were a couple of weeks when it was cool and wet, but I think there were plenty of hot sunny days too. But it still didn't feel like I'd had a summer; a defineable period, the season I so look forward to every year.
And I think I know why that is. It's because I haven't done anything to define the summer. With hardly any boating, no big trips or projects, one day was much like another, and one summer's day much like one at any other time of year (except with better weather). And if you don't do something distinctive, you don't make memories, and if you don't make memories, you don't remember, and if you don't remember, it effectively didn't happen.
A day might seem to drag when you have nothing to do, but it's the action-packed ones that seem longest when you look back on them. There's a lesson there, and I shall try to learn it well and make the most of next summer, and all the summers after.
I unexpectedly had an exciting little travel adventure on Sunday. When I'd arrived on Thursday evening, I'd been intrigued to see this train at Brighton station, and when I left Newhaven on Sunday, it was the 1438, so I got to ride on it.
This is the oldest train in regular service on the British mainland network. It's a class 313, which is the oldest class of train still in regular service, and it's 313201, the first of that class to have been built. It was built in 1976 making it forty-three years old.
What first caught my eye of course is that's painted in facsimile BR livery. This was done a couple of years ago in honour of its status as the first 313, and when it finally is retired, it's off to the National Railway Museum at York. Southern bought up a number of these trains in 2010 to run on the lines along the coast east and west of Brighton, freeing up their newer rolling stock for longer-distance routes. I recall it being quite controversial at the time, as the 313s were seen as old and tatty, and (shock horror) have no toilets. I've probably ridden on 313201 many times when I lived in Newhaven, but never previously knowingly.
Once I got to Brighton, I changed onto the Thameslink. Now Thameslink used to have really scungy trains, but now they have shiny new and very swish class 700 Siemens Desiro City trains, which they introduced between 2015 and 2018, so I reckon they must be among the newest on the network. And I'm pretty sure Brighton is the only place they'd intersect.
I was a bit disappointed to find that my train to Sheffield from St Pancras wasn't one of the slam door and sea toilet HSTs that often seem(ed) to run on a Sunday. They have such comfy (if somewhat saggy) seats. Also, it's amusing watching the young people not knowing how to get out.
I am horribly afraid that I have started down the road track that leads to being a trainspotter. I have nothing against trainspotters; indeed, I am in awe of them. But it must be so time-consuming. And I haven't even spotted all the Grand Union large motor boats yet.