Sunday, 30 December 2007

Review of the Year 2007

When I started to think back over the year, I was surprised at the variety of things I'd done. Alright, many people might not want to do these things but it works for me. As I've got older, I've become more aware of my own mortality (the various aches and pains provide a reminder) and there is, perhaps, an increasing desperation to cram in the experiences ("if not now, perhaps never"). If I had to pick one word to describe the most significant experience of the year, I think it would have to be 'Antarctica'. This was the highlight of my round-the-world holiday in February. I normally seek out warm places to escape to but, for various reasons, this trip included a very cold New York and a cruise to Antarctica. Manhattan viewed from the air

I started in New York and the cold there nearly finished me off. But there was so much to see I actually loved the place, criss-crossing the city on the Subway. Nonetheless, it was very pleasant to move on to Buenos Aires and be warm again. Despite my short stay, I did a lot of walking and tried out the 'Subte' (underground) and the commuter lines before flying down to Ushuaia, the port at the South end of Argentina. The town has a sort of 'Wild West' feel but I stopped at a splendid hotel a few miles out of town overlooking the Beagle Channel where I was very comfortable. After checking out the town and one of its Museums, I made contact with the tourist railway before joining the 'Antarctic Dream' for my trip to the Antarctic Peninsula.

'Antartic Dream' viewed from one of the 'Zodiac' inflatables

A rough crossing of the Drake Passage kept me bed-bound (along with the majority of the passengers) until we arrived in calmer waters but the experiences as we toured around the South Shetlands and the Antarctic Peninsula more than made up for it. We had many wonderful encounters with the wildlife but an afternoon whale-watching gave a positively spiritual experience as a couple of good-natured whales played a sort of 'tag' with our ship. Conditions in the Drake Passage were benign when we returned to Ushuaia and, following the last night aboard ship at the quayside, I went to the Ferro Carril Fin Del Mundo ('Railway at the end of the Earth') where I had a round trip on the footplate and made a number of new friends before flying North to Santiago.

I'd visited Chile once before so I took in some different sights before moving on again to Auckland. I explored by commuter rail, ferry and bus as well as visiting the National Museum before flying to Perth, Western Australa. Here, I spent time with my friend Keith who took me to various places of interest -Yarloop Industrial Museum, Hotham Valley Railway, Byford Nature Park, Whiteman Park, Bassendean Railway Museum and a barbeque hosted by the steam boat fraternity!

Jan imagines V1220 at Bassendean in steam.

Finally, I made my first visit to South Africa staying first in Johannesburg and then Capetown before returning home with an amazing collection of experiences.

Table Mountain, Cape Town from a helicopter

As usual, work took up a lot of my time but working from the Barn next to my home has made things much easier for me.

At the weekend, footplate work at Peak Rail, The Battlefield Line and The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester kept me busy. In March, I was on hand when Peak Rail inaugurated two-train running. I was also involved in the 'Warring Forties' weekend later in the year. At the Battlefield Line, I had turns on Severn Valley's GWR saddletank 813, 'Gothenburg', 'Ivor' and (with mixed fortunes) the North British 'Thomas'. I also trained and passed-out on the Diesel Multiple Units. Now 'Lion' has returned to Liverpool, OLCO activities are restricted, but I was observer, once again, at 'Lionsmeet' which was held in July at Ashworth Park, Bristol.

813, 'Sir Gomer' and DMU at Shackerstone

In August, Keith Watson was in the U.K. and together we visited a number of locations, including Manchester's Museum of Science `and Industry, Shackerstone Family Festival, The Battlefield Line, Blists Hill Open Air Museum, Weston Park Railway and The Black Country Museum.

Keith Watson tries out the 'Planet' replica

In September, I made another trip, this time to Japan. I stayed in Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Miyajima returning with another wonderful collection of memories.

Zen Garden, Kyoto, Japan

This year has included some wonderful experiences. I'm very grateful for the opportunities I've been given and my reasonable health. I'm fortunate to have a wide circle of friends and, whilst I may not dilate at length in these posts on these friends, I appreciate their importance. Best wishes to you all for 2008.