Travel chaos

What can I say? Today has (so far) been a complete waste of time. A combination of weather and a comedy of travel errors has diverted my day. Big time.

I set off at 7.20am to catch the 7.57am train to Leeds. It was raining hard and had rained hard all night – but we live in the Pennines, so what? My train was delayed by nine minutes – I had a twelve minutes change over in Leeds: so that’s when my worries started. Thanks to Ron Mitchel and Sharon I was kept fully informed of developments and of alternative routes. My destination had been Nottingham, to attend the CAPITAL (Curriculum and Pedagogy in Technology Assisted Learning) meeting set up by Nick Jeans of SERO.

As it happened, my twelve minute change over didn’t become a problem because a) we arrived in Leeds less than nine minutes late and b) the 8.40am to London (via Newark, where I would meet Ron) never moved in the entire time I was in Leeds. I’d found my seat when an announcement came on to say that because the electrical power system at Leeds was having “some difficulties” and that “this train” was electric – we may be a little delayed. Furthermore, it appeared that overnight, someone had stolen signal cables outside Wakefield, so even when we got started, going would be very slow until after Wakefield. The 09.05am train to London had already been canceled, but this (the 08.40am) was still unsure of its morning’s duties.

So was I!

Because of a derailment near York yesterday [BBC News], the Trans-Pennine routes were in some disarray too. All trains north were disrupted and as a result, many of those to the west were also delayed or canceled. The notice boards were in complete chaos. The guards and assistants were being as helpful as they could be, but things were changing so fast that even they were relying on the boards – which were not helpful. I eventually got back to Huddersfield on a train that (it would appear) had been kidnapped and turned around. I think it had been heading north and I think that the driver was still determined to take it north, but the announcement and the dodgy boards now said it would go back west to Liverpool. Who convinced the driver of this I’m not sure, but it did go back west. As I got off in Huddersfield, there was still some uncertainty about its destination – Manchester Piccadilly or Liverpool Lime Street. I suspect that the problem here was driver-knowledge. If he wasn’t conversant with the ‘road’ he wouldn’t be able to take the train beyond Manchester (more Trans-Pennine trains go to Manchester than to Liverpool, so this is likely).

Anyway, having got to Huddersfield, my problems were not over. I’d missed the local bus (twice a day – once on Wednesdays 🙂 and knew I had a short walk ahead of me – but hadn’t anticipated the swim. The bottom of my hill was flooded. Whilst it doesn’t look much, it did fill my shoes and I had to walk home with shoes full of shitty water. Then a shower, then blog, then work!

Why can we not prepare for weather?

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Leeds

Improving language and culture with ICT.

Tomorrow, Sharon and I will meet most of the sixteen people arriving from all over Europe to take part in this course. Some won’t arrive until very late evening, so we’ll meet those people first thing Sunday morning at breakfast.

The course is taking place in Leeds.

This is a city I’ve hated with a real passion ever since I was dragged there twice a year as a cub-capped, short-trousered boy needing summer, then winter clothes from C&A (do you remember C&A?). I used to find it big, noisy and far too full of shops for comfort; the only good thing about it was the train journey from Huddersfield. Yet things change, and whilst it is still big (too big), noisy and far too full of shops for comfort, my preparations for this course have changed my view of Leeds.

The course was conceived by Khawar Iqbal and she’d asked me to help her deliver it if she won the European funding required to run it. Both Sharon and I have been heavily involved in the planning. Basically, Khawar has done the early people-stuff (recruitment, flight and transfer booking, hotel booking etc.) and Sharon has done the later people-stuff (venue planning, food, goodie finding and purchasing, bag packing, David pushing). I have had the leisure of planning the course around Khawar’s original ideas and with Khawar’s support and input.

And the planning has been a real pleasure. I’ve learned more about Leeds than I ever thought existed. I’ve walked the streets with new eyes. Until September this year, Leeds was still the place of boyhood dread; these days even the train journey was (is) to be dreaded (mainly due to the times I generally have to visit Leeds, the trains are overcrowded for about three hours at each end of the day). But researching the history, the culture and the city itself has opened my eyes to it’s (mmm, lost for a word here – not quite beauty …) Well.

So  we start on Sunday with a full-on day and continue through to Saturday with another full day planned (although the afternoon, like Wednesday is fofo).  We will also visit Bradford to look at culture within culture and part of our historical/cultural research will include Bonfire Night! What is it? Why is it? What does it say about us?

Because I have to help deliver Advanced PDA/e-Guide courses in London and Birmingham this week, the lovely Lilian Soon will be working with the group Monday through until Wednesday – so I know they will be in good hands.

Which reminds me – I plan on reading through the Advanced course today (as well as the Leitch 2006 Report, the Digital Britain Report and another big paper I’ve already lost the will to read), so I’d better go.