Interrail 21-27 June 2016 <  >

This was supposed to clear up all the outstanding bits in Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic in case the economic effects of the UK's EU membership referendum made it impossible to do further trackbashing trips. Hopefully it won't, as there are more reopenings and new lines to come - oh, and I rather enjoy it too. The master plan was Eurostar to Brussels and a Thalys on to Amsterdam, up to the north of the Netherlands to do the reopened line to Veendam, then work my way down through Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic to south-west Poland whence I could fly back from Katowice to Birmingham.

Tuesday 21 June

The alarm wasn't all that welcome at 04:30 after a late night at our local… Nevertheless Mrs EG, bless 'er, got me to 05:38 TFC-BHM with a luxurious 4 minutes to spare. This was a 175 to my surprise, and appeared quite unwell as it staggered towards Wolves, passing Codsall at little more than 30 knots. It ground to a halt at Wolverhampton North Jn but seemingly only for signals as it was soon underway again. A snail would have beaten the 175 handsomely out of the station but once past Crane Street it seemed to come to life and was quite lively after Galton Bridge, arriving at New Street about 5 late.

An extra £2 for first class on my advance LM ticket seemed a good investment for a train running nonstop NMP-EUS arriving at 08:28, and so it proved. Timings seemed to be tight with the 350 seemingly running at 100 mph whenever possible. Fast line all the way from Bletchley and probably Roade too - I missed that bit!

Nothing for it then but the long fester at St P, pausing to admire Sir Nigel's statue at the Cross. All calm at Eurostar with no queues.

Eurostar, an old set (373?) left on time to the second. Very leisurely approach to Ebbsfleet, but maybe that's in the timings. All will be revealed at Lille, provided the tunnel is clear.

Very leisurely approach to the tunnel too, but through at normal speed and into Lille at 13:33 after a good old 300kph thrash. The set was showing its age, not to put too fine a point on it. Away again at 13:37, 7 minutes late.

Arrival at Brussel Zuid was 7 late, no drama with a 47 minute connection.

Nice seats and carpets in the Thalys single deck TGV, it must be said. The mayo free saladwich from your friendly local sandwich bar was pretty good too. I'm stuck with a backward facing seat but the window next to me is free and on the right side to see the Diabolo curves.

Of course the gripper came round at that point … but at least the track was done. Good bash up the (mostly) high speed line to Antwerpen and Rotterdam, no longer the building site it was on my previous visit. Delayed at Rotterdam for reasons apologised for but not specified, eventually leaving 12 minutes late. It might delay the rest of the day by half an hour, but that doesn't really matter. The main event's almost dealt with.

A bit more speeding on the way to Schiphol, then into Amsterdam Centraal, still 12 late but I just had time to get a ticket and make 17:09 to Zaandam and 17:32 thence to Schiphol via the Sloterdijk curve.

The free bus to the Ibis Budget turned out to run to a schedule so I was able to get one at 18:10, get checked in, Skype home and stroll over to McD's, the only nearby eating house for those too tired/lazy to go back to the airport!

Wednesday 22 June

Up well before the lark, (04:30) for wedged shuttle bus. Schiphol booking office dispensed a gate pass to get me through the barriers (none at Schiphol). [Only after getting home the following week did I discover there's one printed on the back of the Interrail folder. Sigh.] As it turned out it was a good job I'd asked because after doing the newish curve on to the Utrecht line I discovered you can't change platforms at Bijlmer Arena without going through gates. Nor indeed can you get out to get breakfast at Amsterdam Zuid, which I did on the return.

On then to Groningen via Lelystad - Zwolle which is new track for me. And with free WiFi, bless 'em. Leaving Lelystad as we speak.

Arriva's Stadtler GTW DMU at Veendam on 22-06-16

Well, that was sort of interesting… right time at Groningen so no problems with Veendam, not what you'd call exciting but pleasant enough. 3 car artic DMU (Stadler GTW) with centre engine compartment. Branch appears to be worked as a separate bi-di single line from just east of G-Europapark. My Veendam kart used bay platform 1b at Groningen. Not all (any)? Nieuweschans ones do. Branch itself diverges just east of Zuidbroek.

Straight back from Veendam and on to 11:16 Rotterdam (plastic seats, yuk) pausing only to collar a Brand Lente Bock (6.5%, very nice) from the mini-supermarket. The Rotterdam train ran perfectly to time until a signal check outside Rotterdam Centraal. Only 2 minutes though and much worse was to come - 14:05 Brussels cancelled due to loco failure. Warms my heart to think of that extra hour in bed that I could have had. Hey ho, let's hope the 15:08 makes it. Sounds like there's a problem with the 14:58 Thalys as well so it's all fun… not that big though, it looks like it's 5 late. Just enough to hold mine up.

It didn't though, and the 15:08 was on time at Rotterdam and Dordrecht. Only a minute or so at Roosendaal despite going incredibly slowly. I don't know if some International point is being made, but I can't imagine what. Failed air con and blocked toilets helping to make the journey enjoyable, or something. Just passed Essen, showing quite a turn of speed now we're in Belgium.

More or less OK at Antwerpen Centraal, right time at Berchem. About a million primary school kids got on at Antwerpen after a visit to the zoo. So much for the 'silence' coach. 4 late at Mechelen where Max The Mole is hard at work on, presumably, the high speed line. I don't think the +8 at Brussel Noord will make, but this is Belgium - it could be as late as us. Or we could regain the time. 3 minutes booked at the airport might help…

It did. Near enough right time at Brussel Noord and 17:13 to Brussel Luxemburg was made with ease. That was near enough too, so the +6 on to 17:29 to Bordet via the new tunnel was easy. Then it went wrong, with 17:56 Schuman nearly 10 down and 18:09 back to Noord long gone. I'd never have found the platform in time, anyway! 18:22 Midi took me to Central and I decamped to Toone to wait for the 19:18 Leuven via the other two Diabolo curves. Karmeliet Tripel van t' vat was taken, always a shoo-in for A+, and no exception this time. Back to Centraal for the 19:18 Leuven/Landen and that's it for the day's bash.

Supper at Domus, accompanied by their wheat beer; very good and just the job for a very warm sticky evening. Belgium playing in Euro 2016 proved a blessing as the pub was quite quiet!

Thursday 23 June

Referendum day (UK EU membership) dawned sunny and all went well despite having been woken up at 0:00 by alarm 2 instead of 04:30 by alarm 1… 05:09 IC to De Panne turned up on time and duly did the up diveunder into the airport thus completing the set.

Just north of the airport a stop was ground to. Turned out to be a signal failure. After a few minutes' fester, and some worry on my part, we went forward at very slow pace to Schaerbeek where green signals appeared. Delay was about 15 minutes which wasn't a problem.

ICE 11 had plenty of seats but unfortunately no free WiFi. Away on time, so if it's still on time at Aachen there's time for a bit of timetable research to see if I can do the Ring throughout. Hurtled past the hotel at Leuven 107 minutes after leaving. If only the ICE had a booked stop there…

DB (Euregiobahn) Talent DMU 643 213 at the reopened Stolberg Alstadt on 23-06-16

High speed line Liège-Aachen, need to check if that was new track. A couple of minutes late at Aachen but time enough to get breakfast, blessedly sans mayo, from Yorma's. The research had revealed that the half hourly Aachen-Eschweilers split at Stolberg Hbf with the rear half going to S-Alstadt and therefore doing the connection on to the branch (via a reverse in the yard). This was clearly the way forward so I stuck to the original plan and duly went down a very nice little branch to the single platform Stolberg - Altstadt. Track disappears beyond towards the Vennbahn.

Back at S-Hbf, confusion took over. It took a long time to dawn that not all the Ringbahn trains are on the yellow sheet (they have their own timetable) and nearly as long to work out that the Alsdorf trains depart from the west facing bay, 44. All ended happily however, and I pottered up to Alsdorf Postrasse on a nearly empty 2x2 unit. Quite a few joined at A-Postrasse, where I left and returned on a better filled unit. Overlap was established as it's a single platform.

On to very wedged and slightly late 10:00 RE to Köln. 9 minute connection there, so the gods are in charge as usual. Hope they're having a smiley day.

So far, they are. 2 late at Köln despite a signal check outside. The connection would have been comfortable had RB24 not been on the screen when I got to P7, causing me to dash back to the entrance to look at the big screen. All the DB care bears had queues, as per. All was well though and I arrived back at P7 in reasonable time for a very-nearly-on-time EC9, 101 hauling and nice Swiss stock with plenty of seats. All good so far. Off we go to Mainz.

Rhein valley's delightful today - usually seems to be raining. As pictureskew as you could want. I just wish the air con worked. 2 late at Bonn, Koblenz and Mainz so no worries. Mainz Hbf is a bit of a beer desert - Grossman only had Bitburger and Krombacher to offer for the seriously dehydrated so despite their low price I had to resort to Yorma's again. Binding, from Frankfurt - so bad it could have been canned in the UK. But Arcobräu Moos Mooser Liesl - well, goodness knows where it's from[Arcobräu Gräfliches Brauhaus, a brewery in Moos , Bavaria., apparently] , but really quite pleasant. A on my scale.

And so, rehydrated by the Binding, to vlexx's 13:00 to Idar-Oberstein. On which there are seats, and the air con really works. I can forgive them nearly anything. I seem to recall quite a bit of effort finishing the Bingen - Bad Münster am Stein - Gau Algesheim triangle, so faintly irritating to do two sides of it today. But if you always left track undone in case you did it later, you'd go nowhere!

vlexx LINT DMU at Baumholder on 23-06-16

Changed at Idar-Oberstein where a nearby Lidl offers refreshment hopes if we're on time on the way back. It's a long way to Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Baumholder. Very scenic and altogether appealing until the industrial grot at Baumholder. But no passengers. My one picked up 5 at I-O - 3 American, 1 Brit and 1 local. Writing this at 14:59, no pax at all for the 15:04 bar me - no wait, there's one.

Meanwhile back to Idar-Oberstein where a trip to Lidl offered me a grand total of 178 steps due to both Lidl's and the station's lifts being defekt. Not amused, particularly as Beck's was the 'best' (least worst) on offer, albeit cheaply. Then the vlexx RE to Frankfurt, just at the moment heading in a direction which puts me in the sun. Again not amused, but it should turn away at Gau Algesheim.

It did, but I still got roasted at intervals. A few minutes late at FFM Hbf but in good time to make an early bid for a seat on 17:52 to Giessen, which was a wise move.

As usual when you think you're home and dry … 9 minutes delay at Frankfurt West. Not exactly flying now, so who knows what is in store. No, all seems well now and it's tally ho for Friedberg.

Timings seemed to drift to about 15 late at a tropical Giessen. Hotel (Parkhotel) is just across the footbridge from station forecourt; a bit scrappy but convenient. After a clean up, off to Alt Giessen brewpub whose beer garden (yard) was rammed, and there was no indoor bar. A bit of grovelling to the very helpful bar staff got me an exra table brought out - full marks for that. The Helles, unfortunately, I found pretty uninspired. B+, but A++ for the staff!

Luckily my room faced north-ish, so a reasonably comfortable night, for some reason in three parts.

Friday 24 June

UK decides to go its own way. Interesting times ahead. Meanwhile, breakfast, and full marks to Parkhotel for a very good one. Bill paid in cash just in case the doom merchants are right and the pound plummets. Only just made 07:35 IC to Marburg, arriving dripping. While waiting at Marburg clouds started to appear and now (08:35, 6 minutes out from Marburg, some quite impressive thunderstorms look on the cards. Well, cooler would certainly be nice.

A very pleasant run up to Korbach - it's far more scenic than I remembered from the bus ride on 31.3.2002. Train was a 628, now with new (i.e. less comfortable) seats. Still pleasant though, on the shady side with windows open.

Korbach appears to have no departure sheets. After a run round the station, the train on the other side of the island (p2) had changed its signs from Marburg to Kassel. Harrumph. This being on the west of the station, probably meant the missing link has been reinstated (see 6/8/2005). It was another refurbished (made less comfortable) 628. On time at Kassel would be nice, for a beer run!

Exactly right time but only non-chilled Paulaner to be had. Any port in a storm. ICE 692 5 late, then 11 by Göttingen. That's the plan broken unless they can get some time back. This ICE was always the weak link.

Considerable improvement by Braunschweig where we were only about 3 down, then a dead stand while another ICE passed the other way. SLW possibly. Under way again very quickly, but a good old thrash to Spandau will be needed. Just passed Wolfsburg and on go the brakes… stationary again. I worked out I could nip over to Charlottenburg and pick up my Potsdam train there. Just as well I did as we were 14 late at Spandau. 14:21 RE to Cottbus was waiting … and waiting… baled out at 14:25 for 14:28 S-Bahn, my last hope. Got to C-burg to find my Potsdam train -15. It hadn't appeared by -20 so that was game over for Potsdam.

Over to Lichtenberg on S75 to pick up on the new bit … er, no. S-Bahn sat down with 'a problem at Hackescher Markt'. Eventually moved on 'we'll get as far as we can'. It got to Hbf so I caped the afternoon with the idea of getting 16:27 ICE to Erfurt. Down to tief, 15:30 Leipzig 10 late due to points failure. Then 25. Then 40. Then 55… so the idea of an hour in Leipzig was dead. Then they started on the ICE. 10 late due to points failure… then miracle, it rolled in 5 late. Dived in, got a seat, so far in the shade. Watch this space…

No, don't bother. Just more of the same, eventually arriving in Erfurt, via Leipzig and the new high speed line, 25 late. Even that was OK because the plan was to do Halle and back to do both connections on the high speed line. 15 minutes late it said - no problem, there was a 30 minute turnrouns at Halle even in the unlikely event of the Berlin-Eisenach being on time. Then the reload - 35 minutes late. Oh well, to hell with it. McDs yet again, nasty warm beer from Grossman again, and tram to the nasty warm Ibis Budget. Day over. Can it get worse?

Saturday 25 June

The exterior of the rebuilt Erfurt Hbf on 24-06-2016. The impressive frontage of the old station somehow sits comfortably with the ultra modern and much bigger steel and glass trainshed behind it.

Quite possibly. Dreadful night, that's for sure. Having failed to note how long it took to walk from the tram stop last night I set out in good time for 06:27 tram and ended up just making the 06:07. A blessing in disguise as it enabled a very nice breakfast from CroBag and time to find out what the highlighted banner on the departure board meant. No, not 60 minutes late (50 minute connection at Halle), just that the train was the other way round from the advertised formation.

Despite the large number of bucket & spade pax (Summer Sat to Binz) I was able to get a seat and observe the incredible spectacle of them finding their seats and settling their immense suitcases. It took about a third of the way to Halle, which was reached on time.

08:36 Halle-Zwickau was an RE or S-Bahn depending on whether you believe Interrail or DB (who should know) and all the notices. I'll settle for S-Bahn - it's a flippin' long way and stops (nearly every) where. Nice comfortable electric kart with working air con, loo and power points, so what's not to like?

The 40 minute break at Zwickau Hbf, reached on time and still with its time warp décor, was punctuated pleasantly by Haßeröder from the Spar shop. Less so by out of control brats.

Expecting a jam-packed late running 2-car tilting kart to Hof, how pleased was I by an 8-car electric unit with plenty of seats (and the other bits) which turned up on time? Rhetorical question - but very!

Arrival at Hof just about right despite an emergency stop (nice flats, driver - not your fault I suspect) before threading our way between two container trains, one on 'our' line so two rare crossovers for those as likes 'em. Meanwhile, good old Yorma's had Mooser Liesl again, plus a bratwurst. This enabled me to celebrate the glad tidings from home, received en route, that our errant injured cat had returned home. How injured is currently being assessed - for readers who don't like cats, I'm afraid you won't appreciate the upset this has caused!

Meanwhile, back to the bash with the Oberpfalzbahn kart (single car unit) to Cheb to do the reopened Selb-Aš (changes keyboard to Czech to get the accent) section. Very short but hey, it's cross border.

Very smooth and beautifully engineered too between Selb Plößberg and Aš. Aš itself (timber traffic still in evidence) has been fettled up in standard DB (sorry, pan-European) style on the German platform. On the Czech side a blue liveried 810 was waiting, presumably with the connection for Hranice v Čecách.

Beyond Aš the line hasn't been rebuilt, but seems in good shape albeit the jointed track bits are a bit lively. The unit didn't seem to mind but you wonder about the maintenance.

Into Cheb on time. 9 minutes until R to Praha goes so a mad dash to the booking office to see if I can get on the 14:45 Bendileano and save 1.5 hours having yet another look at Chomutov. Yes, says the nice young lady, CZK 35 and you get a seat next to the buffet car as well. Deal.

Since I've now got 20 minutes to spare it seems polite to visit the station buffet of yore. Shock! Modernised! Well, up to a point. No Regent any more, sadly, but Breznák turns out to be a reasonable alternative at CZK 20. I wonder what extortionate price the BendyKart buffet charges, and before I get too big headed, what the exchange rate is after yesterday's nightmare.

The BendyKart is excellent. Air con works, I have a single seat. A person arrived with a trolley loaded with newspapers. I informed her, politely as usual thank goodness, that I couldn't read Czech. She asked for my ticket…

Got to Praha without further incident and retired to Pivovarský Dům for beer and supper, both of which disappointed. I'd be reluctant to recommend it. Then went exploring to one of Mr Wallace's listings, Marina in Holešovice. This was far more to my liking, a former dockside warehouse with a fine high wooden roof. Beer (the light one) was fine, at a premium but far lower price than PD, nice people and rather oddly Wales v Northern Ireland on the huge screen, presumably (I hope) temporary for Euro 2016.

Finally to the Eurowings hotel. Fair enough for £30 I suppose, but the room was intolerably hot. Eventually I had turn off the fan and shut the windows because of the noise. Very heavy rain woke me during the night, and I woke for the last time at 04:00 to the welcome sound of 'music' from some pit nearby.

Sunday 26 June

So, bleary eyed, to the 05:15 tram (just caught 05:05) for 05:52 to Kolín (caught 05:24 instead). Breakfast was a sandwich (no mayo) and a bottle of water, from Pont. Not very inspiring but what do you expect at 06:30 on Sunday. Of more concern was 07:06 to Čáslav not showing any hint of a through coach to Tremošnice. Remembering this from last time, I decide to give it a go anyway. The train when it arrived turned out to be a single 810, which wasn't encouraging. One of my rare intelligent ideas then came up, which was to try asking the crew. The young lady conductor didn't speak English, nor did she understand my attempt at ‘Tremošnice' (to be fair, who would?) but once we got on to Čáslav the driver, who also didn't speak English, cottoned on and yes, we were going to do the double reverse.

The link between the main line and the Tremošnice branch at Čáslav, looking south east on 26-06-16. It connects with the main light in the right background and with the branch off the picture to the left bahind the photographer.

So off to Čáslav and sure enough, a number of locals stayed in their seats. A shunter was taken on board and dropped off to work two ground frames, and the whole thing was done with great promptness despite the driver having to change ends twice. So at the second attempt I got it done in daylight - just a pity I had my phone set up wrongly and only managed to video part!

As a bonus, I then discovered that the Os back from Čáslav had a 10 minute connection at Kolín with an Ex to Žilína, saving me an hour's fester at Kolín and a change en route. The Ex turned up nearly full, but with a few spare seats, and at Pardubice I was able to collar a forward facing window seat with a power point. So, apart from being 9 minutes late, allegedly due to moleworks, all seems to be well. I've ticketed myself to Bohumín just to avoid spending quite so much time in the bar at Ostrava Svinov!

Completely uneventful to Bohumín, 12 late. Bohumín station : least said… I did find the station buffet eventually and had something that came out of a Budvar font. Can't fault the buffet though; despite the dismal surroundings it was immaculate and the guv'nor was right on the case. I can definitely fault the train information though; the screen had the Ostrava Airport train from N2k2 despite it being sitting there for all to see on N1. Only when you'd been through the subway and got to N2 to find it not there, of course. No wonder Bohumín has an avoider (see, hopefully, tomorrow).

The airport train was a very smart EMU with power points, loo and so forth. Intended to big up the airport, one assumes, and it would lead you to suppose on arrival from your flight, that Ostrava and Bohumín are thriving modern cities with all the usual facilities. Wouldn't it.

The exterior of the new Mošnov Ostrava Airport station on 26-06-2016

You probably wouldn't get that impression from Ostrava Airport. It reminded me of Kirkwall. All very neat and modern though, with a brand new station with two enclosed platforms. A Nissen hut-profile walkway connects the two platform station to the nearby terminal so you don't need to get wet.

The interior of Mošnov Ostrava Airport station, looking towards the stop blocks with ČD EMU 658 008 waiting to work back to Bohumín on 26-06-2016

Back to Ostrava hl.n. where a 24 hour tram ticket was had from the ČD booking office. Just as well - it's quite a long way to Hotel Maria. The latter is surprisingly nice considering that my air conditioned room is less than £30 (but I'll pay in cash in case the pound heads south again tomorrow!).

Then back to the station for the 16:15 to O-Svinov, as I'd discovered a brew pub in Opava. It all seemed so simple. 16:01 EC was still on the board (16:07) showing 10 late. 16:15 was on time supposedly.

Announcements came and went with great frequency. If the 16:01 was approaching the platform as announced it was doing so very slowly. To cut a long story short it arrived 20+ late with the 16:15 behind so I caught the EC.

Chaos at Svinov with everything late and getting later but in the end my Opava kart was only about 10 late and regained some of that. The time for the walk to the pub was carefully noted, and allowed more than enough for some supper before returning on the 19:37. But .. when I got to the pub there was a terrace outside which looked as if it had just been washed down.It had a gate. Padlocked. The door to the pub (Nová Sladnova) was locked and had a table behind it. There were one or two people inside who I took to be just finishing off before being persuaded to leave. I was pretty annoyed, having checked earlier in the day that the place was open until 23:00. There was no indication of opening hours so I decided to go into the adjoining shopping centre (surprisingly, open at 18: something on a Sunday) and enquire. Lo and behold there was a door to the pub inside, with an opening hours notice, and best of all, open. In I went and found a number of people inside whom I hadn't been able to see with the sun reflecting off the outside.. All well therefore, and the light beer (Opavský Korbel) was superb, so much so that I felt it would only be polite to have a second! The goulash less inspired, but it filled a gap.

Back to the station in ample time for the 19:37 which is just (19:20) starting to fill up. It's 843 002 with two trailers. No problems at all with the return journey; both trains were on time and a no. 8 tram was just getting ready to go when I arrived at the stop. All I need is a decent night's sleep.

Monday 27 June

Oh well, I suppose yesterday went quite well in the end. Reasonable night's kip and a rather average breakfast - but then, even after the pound diving the hotel was only £28, and the air con worked.

Just what you want to see when you're trying to do the Bohumín avoiding line. The note under EC 113 says it's going via Bohumín station...

Off to the station, remembering to get my ticket validated. This was a major performance requiring my passport, and a lengthy phone call involving my booking reference at least twice. Eventually the rubber stamp and the signature, and off I went in good humour. Then I read the departure board. EC 113 via Bohumín station today. Thank you, thank you. We even got slung out at Bohumín and put in a Polish IC set, wrong way round with EP09-017 hauling. Very slow, 25 down rapidly, if that's the right word, became 32. Currently (Rybnik) 30, putting plans at grave risk yet again. The Bohumín nonsense seemed to be down to unannounced moleworks, as there was a molex on the curve.

One of Katowice's 30 Pesa Twist Step trams, bought in 2012, approaching the Dworzec (station) stop in Katowice on 27/06/2106

Eventual arrival at Katowice was at 12:56, just 30 late. I found the tram stop, but no sign of any ticket facility. Looking at the timetable it appeared that the times had changed and that instead of 12:01, the next tram was at 12:12. Accordingly I went off to find someone who could tell me where to buy tram tickets, and was directed to a tobacconist over the road. When I got back to the stop and looked again I realised that although I was at the stop where the trams went west, the westbound service actually went from the eastbound stop over the road. Fortunately I got there in time for the 12:16 service which was the time I'd found on the web site. Rover brain? Well, it was bit confusing as I knew that the Silesia Centre was west of the city centre…

Katowice's route 11 is worked mostly by 1990s Konstal 105N trams

At the Silesia Centre the brewpub was easily found - very smart and in a typical modern shopping centre. Excellent Weizen seemed expensive at around £2.50/pint, and there were very few customers. Could these two aspects be related, one wonders. Anyway it did expedite my very quick visit and I was plenty of time for the (mercifully) punctual 13:01 tram back. The airport bus was ready and waiting and the Internet ticketing arrangement seemed to work well. Why the bus takes 40 minutes for (as the crow flies) 22 km is a mystery; the route though largely dual carriageway seemed very circuitous, judging by the road signs. No problem anyway, I'd booked the earlier of the two available buses, it was on time and I was through security in fairly short order. They were reassuringly thorough. Having gone through to airside my wait was enlivened by the apparent loss of my driving licence and EHIC card which had fallen out of my passport cover. It took a while to discover they'd fallen into my pocket … definitely rover brain.

Ryanair arrived on time but they and/or the airport conspired to make us miss our time slot and we took off half an hour late. Arrival at BHX about 15 late spared us the fanfare but cost me the 19:05 to Telford. Luckily there's the Virgin service at 19:35, which has just left Wolverhampton right time at 20:20, and Mrs EG has kindly been volunteered to be there with the car.

So ended a slightly patchy but generally quite successful venture. I had really hoped to be able to clear off all the odds and ends, but it was not to be. A week later the pound has declined from €1.40 to €1.19 - hardly good news but not (yet) the worst it's ever been. The UK political situation is becoming increasingly bizarre and it'll be interesting to look back at these notes in, say, three years time when in theory we'll be out of the EU. On the railway front, well, openings and reopenings continue - maybe even BBI one day!








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