I had thought that my end of year post would be in the form of a thoroughly hilarious parody of those old Clive James New Year's Eve shows. There would be puns, out of context photos, a glamorous assistant, "Miss Yasmin Arafat!", all the best kind of jokes that would mean nothing to anyone born after about 1989.
The thing is, there's a very good reason why Clive James is a genius and a legend, and I am not. Clive can write complex, clever, funny sentences that are filled with truth and accuracy without breaking into a sweat. He is a hero. After a couple of attempts at opening paragraphs that were hollow, cold, and worst of all, not funny, I abandoned the plan and settled on a straight down the line, recap of the year. It's a recap that I'm going to divide in two, with a little numbers post at the end, for the simple reason that I've written 97 blog posts in 2013 (my most productive year ever!) (well, if you call this "productive") so if I write three more it'll be a nice round 100. That's the kind of quality you can expect round here - stuff padded out to breaking point just to fill a slot. Think of me as a blogging version of ITV.
I headed down south because it was my Mum's - well, let's just say it was a significant birthday, shall we? It meant I got to experience the joys of Milton Keynes Central, a great glass slab of a building in the middle of a great big slab of a town. I overcame the misery of the City without a Soul by spending my birthday at the National Railway Museum, rubbing up against the Mallard and buying a metal tally counter which has since mysteriously disappeared. I suspect the BF may have had a hand in this after I began clicking it absent-mindedly while watching telly. I also got to go to Weatherfield, the Quay Street set which has just been decommissioned, where I was given one of Norris's lollipops. That's not a euphemism.
I did do some proper tarting though, trudging through the snow to find the Poppleton station garden and the epic grandeur of York station. I haven't been back to that pub yet. Yet.
I went off-piste this month, failing to collect any proper Northern Rail stations and instead heading to Birmingham. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And while Moor Street was a delight, New Street was a hole and the trams were terrible, so I shan't be rushing back (or getting a job with the West Midlands Tourist Board).
Back on track (do you see what I did there?) this month with a jaunt to West Yorkshire for the World Heritage site at Saltaire and the more down to earth charms of Bingley's canal system. I also threw in a trip to Buxton, though I sadly missed a performance of Little Voice at the Opera House with Beverley "Liz McDonald" Callard (on the plus side, I met La Callard in the flesh later that year). I also got quite angry about some works at Aigburth station, which turned out to be a load of fuss about nothing, which will teach me for believing everything I read on the internet.
In April I did a bit of wandering round the fringes of Greater Manchester, but the big news was the first of this year's two Epic Journeys With Little Purpose: the Cumbrian Coast Line. Some of the quietest and most isolated stations in England, squeezed between the hills and the Irish Sea. I lost a little part of my heart to Barrow-on-Furness, went in search of radiation-twisted freaks, got quite depressed in a field, and sang a hymn of joy to the station tea room at Millom. Then Northern Rail went and added Dalegarth to the map, meaning I'm going to have to go back to Ravenglass some day.
I went all map obsessed again in May. Firstly, Merseyrail issued a new map that somehow managed to forget to show Liverpool Central, the busiest station on the entire network. Secondly, Northern Rail reissued their map, adding six new stations to it for seemingly no other reason than to annoy me. They probably have someone beavering away in the graphic design department trying to find others to add just to wind me up ("would adding Penzance be too cruel?").
In actual travel news, I got to visit Tyneside for the first time ever. I didn't get to go on the Metro - I've got that penciled in for 2014 - but I did visit George Stephenson's home village and Hadrian's Wall Country.
An extended complaint about Victorian inefficiencies heralded my visit to Bradford, quickly followed by me getting lost on a moor and ending up baht hat in Ilkley. Far more pleasant times were had when I went to the end of the Metrolink with Ian and Robert, and we ended up walking around South Manchester talking about the noise trains make before an announcement. In case you were wondering, yes, they are both single, and yes, the BF occasionally wishes he was too.
That's enough navel gazing for the time being, I think. Another six months to come in a day or two. I mean, another six months' work of linking to come; I haven't found a way to compress time.
I hope your 100th post of the year contains a progress update on your Northern Rail tarting complete with a map with visited stations suitably greyed-out.
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