Sunday, 31 July 2011


I went to Whitby over the weekend.  It was my friend Mike's birthday, so we joined him and his wife and his gorgeous little girls for an afternoon by the sea.

Obviously I didn't take the train.  If you want to go from North to South in Britain, it's simple.  If you want to go West to East, you may as well strap a rucksack on your back and hike your way over the Pennines.  The Bf and I drove instead, braving the 25% inclines in the North York Moors National Park to get to Whitby in the middle of the afternoon.

The original plan was that we would spend the whole day over there, travelling on the North York Moors Railway from Pickering to Whitby.  However, Jennie and her husband Jim, who were also coming, pointed out that getting there for a 9:30 train would mean leaving home at about 5:30... and we're all lazy.  Though to be honest, I was willing to give it a try, just because I wanted to have a go on the trains.  Common sense (and everyone else's whinging) prevailed in the end though.

I did have a poke round Whitby station while I was there though; old habits die hard.  It's a lovely building, right in the centre of town with the fishing boats within sight.  There was some kind of motorcycle gathering going on, which meant it was surrounded by large men with moustaches in leather.  Quite disconcerting.  I headed up into the classical-inspired cloisters.  It's the side of the building, and yet, at the same time, it's the entrance; the station has two fronts, both of which are well designed.

Inside was disappointing though.  Obviously, the station's seen better days.  There's only one platform still in use, which is bad enough, but in such a grand terminus, it looks even more inadequate.  There's an awful lot of bland chippings filling in the spaces.  I'm pleased they've maintained the glass roof though.

There's also a nice tiled map of the North-East on the wall, which acts as an interesting counterpoint to the Lancashire & Yorkshire map at Manchester Victoria.  It adds to the feeling that the station has been nicely preserved.  I wonder if it would be as pleasant if there wasn't heritage services using it as well as the Northern Rail ones?

Another arcade takes you out to the front of the station, which gives you a low key, grand entrance to the place.  It really is a lovely little station, and is the kind of thing I wish all small towns had: well built, distinguished and elegant.  And the clock works too.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Liverpool got a new tourist attraction on Tuesday: the Museum of Liverpool.  You probably noticed, thanks to the blanket media coverage.  (Unless you're my mum, who had no idea.  Bless her - she's in a world of her own).

I wouldn't normally go to this sort of thing on the first day - I prefer to wait until the crowds have died down.  However, I managed to wangle a couple of "golden tickets", which meant I could get in for a Breakfast Preview before the place was opened to the plebs members of the public, so the Bf and I headed over there for the 8:30 opening.

First point: that "golden ticket", seen above, wasn't as exclusive as I'd been lead to believe.  There was a queue to get in.  Let's be honest, if it was that exclusive, I'd have never got an invite, but still.  The attendees seemed to be a mix of social worthies, bloggers, and school kids.  

We slid inside and found a corner to hide in while waitresses served up granola bars and mini sausage sandwiches to the guests.  It gave us plenty of time to admire the epic sweep of the entrance hall, with its massive staircase threading up through the centre of the building.  It's a brilliant space.  The staircase circles up to a clear glass skylight, which casts its light right down through the void.

We were soon greeted by the Chairman of the National Museums Liverpool, Doctor Sir Lord Phil Redmond CBE MBE DPhil and Bar (I may have made some of those qualifications up), who was giving a speech.  I have a love hate relationship with Redmond.  On the one hand, he created Grange Hill and Brookside; on the other hand, he drove Grange Hill and Brookside into the ground and then blamed everyone else for their failure.  Finally we were unleashed on the museum itself, and the Bf and I staggered up the stairs to the top floor (it's a lot taller than it looks).

There was something familiar about that skylight, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

We headed into The People's Republic, a sort of social history of Liverpool through the eyes of its residents. It's really good.  Yup, that's the kind of insightful reviewing you'll get from me; we can't all be Mark Lawson (who was also wandering around, incidentally, with a producer in tow).  Liverpool's history is Britain's history, and by covering the city's experiences it managed to bring a fascinating and personal story to life.

The highlight for me was the huge, astonishing model of Lutyen's original design for the Catholic Cathedral.  I'd seen it once before, on display in the Walker Gallery, but here it seemed to be so much more massive, a colossal bulk of wood soaring above us.  The Second World War stopped anything more than the crypt being built, and though it would be impressive on Mount Pleasant, I prefer the Metropolitan Cathedral's design.  I can't help thinking that if they'd started building Lutyen's design it still wouldn't be finished today - the Cathedrals are already an anachronism in the secular 21st Century.  Raising the funds to polish off this beast of a building would have been impossible.

Then, of course, there's that window, giving you a postcard view of the Pier Head.  Unfortunately it was grey and miserable that day - on a sunny afternoon it will be stunning.

Across the landing was a gallery devoted to the culture of Liverpool.  You know what that means: The Beatles.  They don't overwhelm the exhibition, thankfully (you've got the rest of the city for that).  Instead there were sections covering Liverpool's writers, artists, actors and other musicians.  It was great to see memorabilia from the likes of Willy Russell and Pete Wylie, alongside the usual suspects (though one little girl in front of me had no idea who Cilla Black was, much to her mum's horror).  There was a screen at the entrance that flashed up well known names from the city; when it came up with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, the people watching all went "aw".  Sarah-Jane really is missed.

This was especially exciting for me: the original road signs for Brookside Close and Brookside Parade.  I loved Brookside.  Before I came to Liverpool, when the furthest north I'd ever been was Milton Keynes, Brookside was sacred in our house - both the evening showings and the Saturday afternoon omnibus.  It was brilliant and still burned in my brain.  The Grants, the Collinses, Heather (I still call Amanda Burton 'Heather from Brookside', and she hasn't been in it for twenty odd years).  Harry Cross' pink car.  Sinbad when he was a window cleaner.  Free George Jackson.  Sheila's rape.  The siege.  Gay Gordon.  Damon and Debbie.  The Corkhills.  The Dixons.  The Farnhams.  Sue being pushed off the top of the Parade.  Laura being electrocuted by a light switch and falling down the stairs.

As I got to my teenage years there was the likes of Bev to keep me interested, until the ultimate arrival: the Jordaches, burying Shifty from Bread under the patio.  I know a lot of people regard this as when the rot began to set in, but it was utterly gripping television, and you had such sympathies for all the family - especially HRH Beth Jordache.  I loved Beth.  She's still one of the few women I'd turn for (it was very confusing for me when she lost her virginity to the handsome, hairy chested Peter).  Her offscreen death was a terrible, terrible decision, and I was tempted to find Phil Redmond in the museum and harangue him for it, years later.

For me, the beginning of the end for Brookside was Nat and Georgia, the incredibly dull incestuous couple who were introduced purely for the OMG! value.  After that it descended into silliness, with Lindsay Corkhill dominating far too many of the story lines and the Parade being blown up every other week.  Like most of the country I stopped watching, only to tune in for the last ever episode: one of the most unpleasant tv shows I've ever seen.  The final Brookside was a two fingered salute to Channel 4, but it also managed to leave a nasty taste in the mouth of the viewer, and actually made you glad to see the back of it.  A terrible, terrible shame.  It's a tragedy there's not a place for it on Four any more - after all, what's Shameless but a soap opera these days?  And whatever its failings, Brookside was always better than the pestilent Hollyoaks.

I carried on round the exhibition, all nostalgic for Manor Park.  It really is amazing how much Liverpool has contributed to the culture of the nation.  So many famous names and works of art that have originated here.  Even the sport section was interesting - there was a bit about the Pools, which were based in the city, and this brilliant picture of a woman who'd won the top prize but wanted to keep her identity secret:

Go Batwoman!  Of course, there was a section devoted to the football, which I left the Bf drooling over while I returned to the landing.  I finally realised where I'd seen that skylight before: it's Professor Dent's cell from Dr No!

Yes, I am obsessed.

If I'm completely honest, I was mainly there for one thing: the exhibition on the Liverpool Overhead Railway, including the last remaining carriage.  Despite it being the very first exhibit brought in, the exhibition formed part of the closed off first floor, and won't be open until September.  I was disappointed, but managed to sneak a glimpse of the sealed up carriage from the landing:

The exhibition on the ground floor, Global City, is perhaps the most disappointing: with its rundown of the city's place in the world and its links with Shanghai, there didn't seem to be much that wasn't covered by the Maritime or World Museums.  This was the part that had the least to do with Liverpool, and in my opinion, the part that had the least reason to be there.

We headed outside for the opening ceremony: a six year old boy called Finn was going to cut the ribbon, but the crowds meant that the Bf and I were shoved to the back.  We listened to the speeches and applauded in the right places then headed home.

Is it worth seeing?  Absolutely.  I'm already planning on going back to have a better look (with all those schoolchildren running amok, there was no way I could get my hands on any of the interactive exhibits).  It's a great building with interesting, surprising exhibitions, and a real draw.  When the Overhead Railway gallery opens in the Autumn, it'll be even better.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Museum Piece

So to recap: Robert and I were in Manchester, killing time between the joys of Denton and the scorched Earth of Ardwick, and so we decided to head for Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry.  It's another of those places I'd always meant to visit, but never got around to it.

We started in the cafe, because I was dying for a drink (ginger beer, before you ask: I'm not a complete alcoholic).  MoSI made an immediate play for my affections with its condiment holders made out of Lego:

Although I should say, as a purist, that I'm not keen on orange bricks.

We headed into the museum itself.  It starts with a pretty overwhelming intro, all video screens, iPads and computers, teasing you with its futuristic modernity.

This was all, preamble, let's be honest: there was only one thing us geeks were here to see - the Power Hall.  Robert gleefully told me there were some old trains here, so we headed over there.

See that?  It's a pumping engine of some kind; I didn't note what type.  The reason I didn't note it was because I was SO BORED of engines.  The Power Hall traces the history of engines in tedious, mind-numbing detail, from water wheels to steam to diesel and everything in between.  And I'm sorry, but once you've seen one thrusting piston, you've seen them all.  It was just a load of bits of hissing pumps and grinding metal and I defy anyone with a sex life to find it interesting.  Good God.  I was close to sticking my head underneath one of the pounding arms by the end.

Perhaps the trains would be a bit more interesting?  The museum is, after all, built on the site of the old Liverpool Road station, terminus of the world's oldest railway line.  This is where the Duke of Wellington ended up after he opened the railway line in 1830; this is where William Huskisson was headed if he hadn't decided to take a dive under a train.

Half a dozen big, sturdy engines take up the back of the hall.  They were... trains.  Oh dear.  I've always said that I'm a stationspotter, not a trainspotter, and this exhibition underlined it for me.  While Robert snapped his photos, I was left staring at the trains and thinking how ugly they were.  Seriously. 

I quite liked this one because it had the NedRail symbol on the side.  That's where my interest started and finished.

It didn't help that we were being followed round the museum by a gang of Italian exchange students with no concept of personal space or decorum.  They bickered at one another while elbowing us out the way to take cameraphone shots.  Why do European teenagers look different to British ones?  These teens looked like they spent their evenings practicing disdainful pouts and trying out scarves.  They're big on scarves.  Perhaps it's to hide the love bites.

That's a steam train.

Outside was a little platform, where they operate steam train excursions from on busy days.  Not on a Friday afternoon in school term time, though.  Good benches though.

We wandered to the back of the site to the actual Liverpool Road station building, which forms the rear of the site.  The original Victorian building has been converted into museum space, and we started with an exhibition called Underground Manchester.  My hopes of an exhibition about the aborted Picc-Vic scheme were dashed when we got down there and saw this:

Worst Beatles tribute band ever.

As it turns out, Underground Manchester was actually a lengthy and detailed history of the city's sewage system.  There was a lovely smell piped in, plus a load of flushing toilets, urinals and privys for our delectation.  The undoubted highlight was the opportunity to walk down a genuine sewer:

The party never stops.

I'm being cruel.  I'm sure a lot of people would find this fascinating.  I was just feeling let down.  I'd wanted to visit this museum for a long time, and it was disappointing me.  I'd imagined it to be like the Northern Science Museum.  It was actually turning out to be something on a much smaller scale, a sadly parochial exhibition.

We finished admiring chamber pots and headed up into the main building of the railway station.  My spottery taste buds were moistened: here was where the real stuff was, the proper, world changing history.  And we found this:

An empty, roped off booking hall.  A sign told us that they were currently looking at better ways to display this historic space, as the previous exhibition had got tired.  In the meantime, there was nothing.  

I was ridiculously let down now.  There was a better preserved station at Hadlow Road, out in the wilds of Cheshire.  This was a place of truly momentous importance, one of those sites that changed the world.  The railways shrank societies, brought communities together, facilitated trade and war, and it all started with the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  Edge Hill is a sad little station which barely acknowledges its place in history - but it's still a working station with hundreds of trains passing through every day: we have to concede that there's only so much they can do.  Liverpool Road is there, empty, ready to be properly commemorated, and it's just rubbish.  Sorry, but it is.  It's astonishingly disappointing.

Worse still, the Italian students had caught up with us.

We passed up the opportunity to see an exhibition on "customised Harley-Davidson motorcycles", sponsored by Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and instead headed out into the street.  I couldn't even get up the energy to see the Air & Space Hall, and I'm a person who's been genuinely saddened by the end of the Space Shuttles.  

MoSI is just not what I wanted.  I thought it would be a real, magnificent Science Museum for the North.  It's just not in that league.

Monday, 18 July 2011


Last week I confessed to what is apparently the crime of the century: I'd never been on a Metrolink tram.  Seriously, the e-mails I got after that - a mix of bafflement and horror.  I had no idea it was such an issue.

Since I was in Manchester with Robert, I could right this cataclysmic wrong.  We headed for Piccadilly Gardens.  We were headed for the Museum of Science and Industry, so we decided to take a tram across the city centre rather than walk.

I stepped aboard the tram - one of the new yellow and grey ones, even better - and I was instantly in love.  Look at my smily face!

It was clean.  It was speedy.  It was attractive.

The gentle hum of the electric engine took me back to trips to Amsterdam, but without the rattling and clanging you get in the Dutch system.  We seemed to glide through the streets.  At least, until Robert realised he'd guided us onto the wrong tram, so we jumped off at Market Street.

The right tram to get, it turned out, was one of the old blue ones, which was ok but not the same.  Obviously it was battered around the edges, but it was still pretty good.  And in an especially exciting twist, the older trams have a seat in the hinge between carriages.  I immediately plonked myself on that seat.  I love riding in the hinge - whenever I've visited Paris I take the seat in the middle.  There's something slightly trippy about watching either end rotate around you.  Even better, I realised I could put one foot inside the carriage, away from the hinge, twisting away in a different direction.  Robert, quite rightly, looked at me like I had lost my mind.  The tram had turned me into an eight year old boy.

We got off at Deansgate-Castlefield, the clumsily retitled former G-MEX stop, and headed for the MoSI.  I'll cover that in a future post (ooh!  Suspense!).  After the museum, we had a bit of a look at Granadaland - the studio complex at Quay Street.

Because I grew up Darn Sarf, I don't have the same attachment to Granada that Robert did, (I had Thames, until that exciting moment every Friday night when they handed over to LWT and you got the Six O'Clock Show) but I am still appreciative of its legacy.  The italicised logo on the side of the building is up there with Television Centre, as far as I'm concerned.  I know what a shame it is this is all going to - urgh - MediaCity: UK, though a glance at the front door showed us that Granada isn't what it once was:

Any tv company that gives such prominence to The Jeremy Kyle Show is in trouble.  Still, it was nice to wander round a bit of British television history, even if we didn't see any Coronation Street actors nipping out for a fag.  I'd desperately hoped for an encounter with Jason Grimshaw.

Back into town, under all those mighty railway bridges that cross the canal basin and which are always turning up in Corrie.  There were some wonderful sweeping masses of ironwork, soaring above our heads and regularly shaking under the wheels of another train or tram.  I have a very romantic affection for these urban bridges, the way they divide up the city and create lonely islands.  Walking underneath them feels inherently dramatic.  Maybe I wouldn't want to walk under them on a dark rainy winter's night, but on a sun bleached July afternoon, the way we moved from shade to warmth was interesting and different.

After lunch we rode the tram out to St Werburgh's Road, where I'd visited the previous week when the extension wasn't open.  It was obviously one of the new trams, and was surprisingly full: it seems that the residents of Chorlton have embraced their new transport link wholeheartedly.

It was nice to stand on the gleaming, pristine platform, still litter-free, unscuffed.  No blobs of old chewing gum yet, or peeled off stickers on the glass of the shelter.  Still the shiny future of urban transportation.

"What shall we do now?" said Robert.  "Is there anything to see round here?"

"Not really.  It's just a little suburban street."

So we went back into the city on the same tram we came on, riding it all the way to Victoria.

As the tram pulled through Cornbrook, we got a great view of Manchester city centre.  It's a strangely anonymous panorama.  There are dozens of tall buildings, rising and falling on the skyline, but nothing grabs your attention, except the Beetham Tower and perhaps the top of the Palace Theatre.  The rest is just blocks.  They come in all shapes and sizes - triangular, square, curved; squat and tall - but none of them are particularly memorable.  I bet they were all described as "iconic" by the architect, but the net effect is an amorphous blob.

There's a similar spot on the train in Liverpool, before you reach Edge Hill.  It doesn't the same quantity of tall apartment and office blocks as Manchester; the regeneration there hasn't been quite as successful yet.  What it does have is the soaring bulk of the Cathedrals, the slim but beautiful Radio City Tower, and the epic stretch of the Mersey beyond.  Somehow Manchester's managed to fill the horizon but it hasn't managed to produce a single building that takes your breath away like that view of Liverpool does.

Victoria, of course, is infamous for being the tatty sister to Piccadilly's efficiency and glow.  It's got so many great features, with its beautiful Victorian wood panelling and tiled map of the network, that it's a shame it's been neglected.  The MEN Arena has condemned half of the station to permanent darkness, while, thanks to the lack of a roof, the other half gets a bit too much daylight.  There are plans to sort it out, and the sooner the better.

There was an interesting poster, probably from the 1970s or 80s, advertising a rail hire service.  I'd love to know how much business they got.  "Hello?  Could I have a train to Glasgow please?  Just for me; I can't abide sharing a carriage."

A bit more coffee drinking and then we headed for Piccadilly so we could go to Robert's last Parliamentary station.  The Piccadilly Metrolink station is built in the undercroft of the station, so it's all brick and ironwork - quite appropriate for Manchester.  It's practical, down to earth, and yet attractive.  They could do with another escalator up from the tram platform, though.

I want some trams.  I want to ride a tram every day, into town, round the city centre, between Merseyrail stations.  I want Liverpool to benefit the way Manchester has.  There's long been a rumour that Merseytravel want to buy the heritage tramway in Birkenhead, and extend it into the town centre and to the park.  A great idea, but that's still for the tourists, not for the commuters and the shoppers like Metrolink.  The trams make the city centre seem so much more vibrant and exciting, and they're so convenient.  They also have a lovely system map:

I love the font, and the different colours for the different services; something that's going to be more and more important as each new extension opens.  I've sometimes wondered if maybe Merseyrail should have a similar look for its map, to differentiate between its branches; a map that showed the different routes, rather than just the lines, would make it clear you can't get a direct train from Ormskirk to Hunt's Cross, and might help Wirral Line users with their multitude of branches.  It's one to ponder.

We were early for our train, so we hunted around for a seat.  Unsurprisingly, unless you want to buy a drink or a sandwich, these are in short supply.  Network Rail has followed the example of the airports and decreed that if you want to sit down somewhere, you can at least buy a Coke.  We refused to cave into their craven demands and found some seats by the Pendolinos.

Finally we could board a little Northern Rail Pacer to head for Ardwick.  This station gets a peak-hours only service, despite it being not far from the city centre and having dozens of services pass through it every day.  It seemed strange to us... until we got there.

Ardwick is stuck in between a wide expanse of lines heading into Piccadilly, and a load of industry and rubbish on the other side.  It's got no platform buildings, no ticket office, and the only way to get to it is up and over a rusting brown staircase.  

To be frank, it was a dump.

Even the best part - a view of the City of Manchester stadium - was spoiled by the piles of waste in the foreground.

It got worse.  Access to the street was down a narrow alleyway, then some more steps.  It would be difficult to make a more unappealing public transport destination, short of having an abattoir empty its leftovers onto the platform to rot.  Finally we were outside the station, on the kind of back road under the railway arches which features in Guy Ritchie films.  

We didn't hang around.  We had a train back to Liverpool to catch, and besides, we didn't want to get shot in the face by a mockney gangster.  It was an interesting place to visit.  I shan't be going back.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


She was walking a ferret.  I say walking; the slippery marble floor of Lime Street meant the ferret couldn't get any purchase with its claws, so it was basically being dragged across the concourse by its lead.  Its owner seemed unmoved by its writhing and yanked it onwards, while her husband offered it support - "Good lad.  Come on lad."

I have to say it's not the usual way to start your day - watching a rodent being propelled across a train station.  Given that it was barely seven a.m., I wondered if perhaps I was still asleep.  I hadn't been to Lime Street at this time for years, not since I gave up work.  Part of me almost went to the London Midland train to Birmingham out of habit.  Instead, I went to platform 8 and got on board a TransPennine Express service to Scarborough.

The purpose of today's trip out was to visit some of the least popular train stations in Britain.  It wasn't my idea.  Robert, long-standing friend of this blog, has come up with a plan.  He has a list of those obscure, barely serviced stations, and he wants to see them all.  These are stations that are only grudgingly visited by the train companies, because they have to.  Basically, they're the railway equivalent of that unpleasant aunt you only see at Christmas because she might leave you something when she finally pops off.

As you may have guessed, I'm a sucker for a pointless train themed project, so I asked him if I could tag along.  I hadn't realised at the time that it would involve rising at dawn.

Robert joined me at Liverpool South Parkway, along with about four thousand other people.  I think the days of LSP being a white elephant are long behind us - there were more passengers boarding than at Lime Street.  It only got worse as we got closer and closer to Manchester, with the people getting on at Birchwood having to force themselves into intimate situations with complete strangers to find room.

We finally got off at Manchester Piccadilly.  I say "we got off"; the doors opened and the sheer pressure of bodies ejected half the train out onto the platform.  I like Piccadilly.  It's a station of epic proportions.  Platforms in double figures, travelators, exits all over the place.  Lime Street's a lovely station but because it's a terminus, it's a bit underfed.  Piccadilly feels like all good railway stations should - it's an exciting, vibrant, crazy place.

Now it was time to get - yikes - a bus.  Robert's plan was for us to go between two stations, out in the Manchester suburbs, so we needed to get there without using a train.  I was disappointed, I can't pretend otherwise.  Not least because it turned out to be one Brian (spit) Souter's Stagecoach buses.  Still, it was clean, it was punctual, it wasn't full.  Shame it was a homophobe-mobile, really.

We were heading for Reddish South, a little halt next to a Morrisons in south east Manchester, and reportedly the quietest train station in Britain.  This is a station on a section of line between Stockport and Stalybridge, and which receives only a perfunctory service.  One train, once a week, in one direction.  That's your lot.  You'd best like where you're going because you're not coming back.

It's a Parliamentary service, existing only so that the rail companies don't have to go to the bother of getting the Government to close it.  It certainly feels like an unwanted, unloved bastard child of Northern Rail.  There was a quite unnecessary poster on the gate leading down to the station, warning you not to steal anything:

Unneccesary, because there was nothing to steal.

It's a single island platform with a railway line on one side only.  No station building, no seats, nothing.  Even the steps down from the road bridge look like they were shipped in from somewhere else and added afterwards.  Above us, traffic honked and squealed on the road, but down here it was silent and empty.  Strangely, Northern Rail had still seen fit to paint the information boards in its corporate purple.  I presume they had some left over from one of the proper stations.

When the train came, it was surprisingly busy for a such an obscure route.  We soon realised it was full of train geeks like us, who craned out the doors and windows to take pics of Reddish South.  It meant the train had a strangely joyful, happy vibe to it - you could feel the excitement of the men on board (and yes, it was mainly men; the women on board had the glazed look of a wife who didn't remember signing up for this on her wedding day).

Our ticket was £2.70.  "Blimey, that's expensive, isn't it?" said the conductor.  What are you meant to say to that?  "Yes, it bloody is.  I demand you charge me something more reasonable."  Or maybe launch into a tirade about the privatised railways.  We didn't do this, of course; we just smiled and handed him our money.

I was particularly excited about the next station.  I cued up its title song on my iPod:

I love Shock Treatment, which this song is taken from.  I think in many ways it's better than its predecessor, The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it's certainly got a better soundtrack.  Shock Treatment and Little Black Dress are ridiculously fun, and Bitchin' in the Kitchen is one of my favourite duets.

So the idea of finally visiting Denton was a quite weird little thrill for me.  Robert, it turns out, has never seen Shock Treatment, so he had no idea what I was on about.  He did tell me that Denton is where snore-worthy David Jason vehicle A Touch of Frost is set.  Not quite the same thing.  Does A Touch of Frost feature Ruby Wax and Charles "Blofeld" Gray singing about people who "do it for the money"?  No, it does not.  Shame.

Unsurprisingly we were the only people to get off, but surprisingly, someone was getting on: a bearded man with a "real ale" t-shirt on.  (Stalybridge Buffet Bar, at the end of the line, is a CAMRA approved mecca).  "Welcome to Denton!" he exclaimed cheerily as we got off.  "The station sign is over there."  Clearly, we weren't the first trainspottery geeks to claim this outpost.  I was pleased to find that "happy hearts and smiling faces" really could be found in Denton.

Much like its predecessor, Denton isn't going to win any Best Kept Station awards.  Another cracked concrete platform, another road bridge, though at least there was a bench here.  There would have to be - if you missed your train, you'd have to wait a week for the next one.  Robert was gleeful at finally reaching Denton:

though not as much as me:

There wasn't much to keep us hanging around.  A board outside had been claimed by the Friends of Denton Station, which seems like a thankless job.  Bless them.  They'd put up some old black and white photos of the station when it was actually being used regularly, and a couple of campaigning posters, including one that said Our children will lead the future.  Give them a good train service!  It's the lyric Whitney Houston forgot to write.

We headed under the M67, hoping to find a rambling rose and a picket fence.  Instead we encountered a big Sainsbury's and an industrial estate.  There was a trendy looking teenager wearing a pair of low-slung jeans that showed off his Cookie Monster underwear.  I don't understand (a) why you'd want to walk around with your trousers hitched around your upper thigh and (b) why you wouldn't wear a decent pair of boxers if you was going to flash them on a regular basis.  Invest in some AussieBums!  Of course, that's probably why I'm 34 and he's not.

We did come across a fairly pretty church, but since it was next to the motorway, it'll never be on a postcard.  We decided to call it a day on Denton.  There was a bus stop that could take us back to Manchester, and besides, the hot sun was beating down on us: my enormous Tefal head and Robert's pasty ginger skin were starting to gently fry.  

The bus journey into town also disproved another of Denton, USA's lyrics: Denton girls are not full of beauty.  Judging by the two on the top deck behind us, they are in fact fat slags who have no problem with discussing their boyfriends in loud, profanity filled voices.  I feel like Richard O'Brien has lied to me somehow.

P.S.  You can read Robert's write up of the trip at  Just remember: my account is the definitive one...