Trainasaurus Wrecks – Chris Grayling ruins the railways

I got the (rather good) title for this piece from a tweet by Adam Creme @Adam_Creme. Its original was a photograph by Professor Dominic Regan @Dominic_Regan of a fine Tyrannosaurus Rex which appeared at Kings Cross Station, which Dominic captioned with “Grayling for breakfast?”.

Adam Creme retweeted Dominic Regan’s photograph:

Given Chris Grayling’s propensity for breaking things, and most recently the railways, “Trainasaurus Wrecks” deserves applause. Continue reading

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Steam locomotives passing Oxford

Network Rail has now built us a new bridge across the railway at Aristotle Lane. The old one gave years of pleasure to children and photographers alike, but the new one was designed, deliberately so far as one can see, to make it impossible to see trains passing beneath it. The building of that bridge deserves a post of its own for the tale of routine incompetence and spite which Network Rail brought to it, part of a long-running fight between the worst-led organisation in Britain and the residents of North Oxford.

You can still see the trains down beside the railway line on Port Meadow, five minutes from where I live. The interesting ones, of course, are the steam-pulled excursions which come by fairly regularly. For years, my first notification of them came too late – a distant whistle or the rush of steam as they went by. Now I have found where to see their itineraries in advance, and was out there twice recently. Continue reading

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Contempt and indifference from HMCTS as hearings are abandoned at short notice

This post and the tweets embedded in it are about a couple of runs of tweets about the deficiencies of the UK’s Ministry of Justice, and specifically the way pen-pushers at the Ministry of Justice and HM Courts and Tribunals Service cause hearings to be abandoned (“hearings ineffective for court reasons”) to the great inconvenience and expense of parties, witnesses and lawyers, notifying those affected at the last minute. What led me to spitting rage was the contempt shown by well-paid civil servants for those affected by the abandonments, not least those lawyers, many already on very modest incomes, who lose a day’s work.

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By way of introduction, here is a summary of tweets which passed my way on 3 May.

One court, it seemed, was taking up to 50 days to reply to correspondence, while the corridors at another were running with sewage from an unrepaired plumbing leak. Both those conditions probably derived from long-term neglect rather than from the immediate failings of local staff. Continue reading

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The GDPR – Girls, Drink, Priests, Arse – reaches Craggy Island; Carmen says she ain’t got the time

Pretty well everyone is fed up with the General Data Protection Regulation, due to take effect on 25 May. One thing which affects almost everyone is the stream of emails coming from every business with whom you have ever had dealings begging you to confirm that you wish to remain on their mailing list.

Many of these are the product of bad advice given by people purporting to be “GDPR experts”. I will perhaps deal with that separately, merely identifying that as one reason why we are all heartily sick of the subject, even those who (like me) have a professional interest in it.

An inspired video company called Ignition Agency has adapted scenes from the long-running UK television series Father Ted, showing the GDPR’s effect on Craggy Island.

Continue reading

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Pictures from Messines and Bullecourt to mark ANZAC Day

25 April is ANZAC Day, the day for remembrance of the thousands of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who crossed the world from Australia and New Zealand to fight in the two great wars of the 20th century.

I choose two places for that. The first is the New Zealand Memorial at Messines, dominating the entrance to the Messines Ridge British Cemetery. The battle for the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge took place between 7 and 14 June 1917. It began with the explosion of 19 mines below the German front line, and ended with the capture of Messines village and much of the ridge from which the Germans had been able to survey the Allied trenches to Ypres.

There were nearly 5,000 New Zealand casualties and over 6,000 Australian casualties. I visited the Messines Ridge Cemetery in October 2016 when these pictures were taken.

Continue reading

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Network Rail industrialises the Oxford landscape

The railway lines from Oxford to Birmingham and to Worcester run between my house and Oxford’s Port Meadow. Beside the railway line lie the Trap Grounds allotments.

On 20 February, I took this photograph of the allotments from the Aristotle Lane railway bridge:

This one was taken on 13 March:

It was just as well that I took them when I did, because when I next went there, on 25 March, a hideous railway gantry had been built across the view: Continue reading

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Contrasting stories of brothers killed in the First World War

This is about the stories behind plaques commemorating two brothers who both died in the First World War. The plaques are at Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire. Something about their wording made me want to find out about them.

I am always drawn to the war memorials in churches, particularly those of the First World War. They often carry more than names and dates, reciting the place of death and perhaps other biographical detail, adding a human element to the narrative of campaigns and battles. I read a fair amount about those battles, tracing trench names on military maps and occasionally going to see the places they describe. Names inscribed on village war memorials convert those muddy, bloody stories into human terms – I picture the telegram boy pedalling along the lanes outside the church, bringing news which alters families for ever. Continue reading

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