Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Review : Music A-Z

Last year i created an A-Z playlist of bands who i had listened to a lot in the year, some letters were hard to fill (not sure i've ever liked a band whose name starts with a Q). I've created another playlist for 2012, this can be considered my Music A-Z of 2012 and concludes the 2012 Review.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Review : December

The final month of the year began with icy cold and ended with milder but wet weather. I prefer the mild weather but i hope 2013 will be a bit drier. I paid 2 more trips to Stratford, the first was to do some final research in the archives and the latter one was purely a trip out.

I scored a retro tech hit early in the month when i purchased a gorgeous 70s typewriter off eBay. Why i want it is still uncertain, as is why i need it... but i did trust me. The rest of the month was spent writing my dissertation proposal and research essay (they need to be submitted in early January 2013) and also planning my return to railway modelling. I have been using the excellent RailModeller app to explore virtually some layout ideas, i shall get my hands on some real track in early 2013.

Christmas was great, my wife surprised me (yet again) by buying me a new iPad. How technology advances, a couple of years ago she bought me an original iPad and that was becoming difficult to use with websites like Facebook. Song of the month was "Darklooming" by The Depreciation Guild.

Now for the final couple of days of 2012, which will be spent in London which is where this story started...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Review : November

The damp soggy Summer and Autumn turned towards an even damper and soggier early Winter. November was not the most inspiring of months and the only trip i made anywhere was to Stratford (and that mostly for MA purposes). However the month was still rather busy, as usual i did a good deal of my Christmas shopping (be prepared thats my motto) and also assembled a strange collection of animals made from recycled fabrics which became my Christmas decoration theme.

I didn't do many canal walks at all, i preferred to stay around the campus at lunchtimes. Sometimes i was able to take the odd nice photo though.
My Mum purchased a Chromebook which was interesting, and i was pretty impressed. Most of November appears to have been spent preparing for my dissertation proposal and research essay, they are now in the final stages of writing. I did register for part 2 of the MA though that still seems far off at the moment.

Song of the month was "A vision of hell, 1996" by The Ice Choir.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The continental question

The good thing about planning my return to railway modelling is that i can evaluate all of the options and alternatives, the bad thing is i have so many options and alternatives to evaluate. Reading the Continental Modeller magazine has led me to consider a mainland Europe layout. The railways of Germany, Switzerland and Austria for example look so interesting...

The problem with this of course is i have a lot less knowledge of these railways so it could easily go so wrong (but maybe thats part of the fun?). Its also rather more expensive than British layouts though not insurmountably. As nothing is set in stone yet i still have time to decide. At the moment a layout perhaps based on somewhere like Assmannshausen which i went to in the late 80s could be on the cards? Maybe this train set can start me off.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

2012 Review : October

October is the birthday month but the big 4-0 was last year so this year it was fairly inconsequential. I had a nice day in Stratford and also went back to the town later in the month to do some research for my dissertation proposal. Study with the Open University can take you to many places, actually in my case in October it took me to Leeds for the first time when i attended my final Day School!

One happy unintended consequence of going to Leeds was that my photo of the golden postboxes there has now ended up in print in a magazine in Bradford. I got my complimentary copies in the post last week and its an undoubted thrill to see your name in print and a photo you have taken nicely glossy. In late October i also went to London and visited Little Venice again.

In October i went to my second gig of the year (lets try and make it 3 in 2013!) when i saw Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin. I also decided on my new computer, though this did not arrive until early November... I tried my hand at a bit of baking when i made some mince pies, and they didn't turn out too badly to be honest!

The model building season came to an end in November (i do my models in the kitchen extension and as its unheated it just gets too cold in the Winter!) when i completed a Spitfire I and a Chipmunk. Song of the month was "Separate sense" by The Dreamscape.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Instagram's suicide note?

Instagram's announcement yesterday that from next year they would be claiming the right to sell our photos without permission or any commission caused a negative reaction, oddly enough. The social media storm raged across the world and by the next day Instagram were backtracking and saying it was all a misunderstanding. More updates and clarifications will come in the coming days and weeks.

Well maybe we'll see, i am keeping an eye on the situation but keeping my account for now (one of my friends has already deleted hers). Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars so they have to find some way to monetize it. It will be a shame if i do have to leave the service, I find the photo format excellent for blog posts for example.

Looking at alternatives can't hurt right? The new Flickr app actually has a similar filter mode, an example of what can be produced can be seen below. Its not as good as Instagram but seems to be a viable alternative.

2012 Review : September

After the adventures of August September was a quieter month, i spent much of it deciding on the area of my dissertation and then doing some research to see if it was feasible at Stratford's archives. I also visited Worcester on one of the last hot days of the year and had a great walk along the Severn. At the end of the month i did a photoshoot in Pype Hayes park, somewhere very close to where i live but i've never really explored it.

In September i also scanned a lot of old holiday photographs, my Mum keeps all of the photographs taken and i was surprised exactly how many i had taken over the years, especially in Germany.

Model making wise i completed a fine Vampire, more painting occurred when we redecorated the landing! Song of the month was "Butterfly kisses" by The Depreciation Guild.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 Review : August

The London 2012 Olympics began in late July but the main event was in August. I headed down to London to watch volleyball at Earl's Court and badminton at Wembley Arena. My whole Olympics experience was brilliant and i am so glad i went to see some stuff. The organisers and helpers did us proud. I also took some other photos in London along the canal at Little Venice and along the Thames. The rest of the month included  to Stratford-upon-Avon too (as opposed to Stratford, London where i had been the week before) and had a walk along the Avon.
At the end of the month came our second holiday of the year, this time to Aberystwyth. Its probably been about 30 years since i've been to Wales and i really enjoyed our few days at the seaside. We travelled on the Vale of Rheidol Railway up into the Welsh hills and had a great time exploring Aberystwyth.

All that travelling meant that model building was a bit slack but i did complete a Bristol Beaufighter. Song of the month was "Lay baby lay" by Jackie DeShannon.

Designing my layout

At the weekend i bought some model railway layout design software to help me develop my future layout. RailModeller is a great tool which allows you to play around with layout designs using real track elements. I have not decided on what the overall theme of my layout will be yet though and have experimented with double and single loops, both with and without branch lines and shunting opportunities.

One current idea thats ticking the right boxes is a double loop mainline plus branch line layout similar to Hatton. What i plan to do is buy a trainset next month (maybe it can be my end-of-year treat) and this can help me get back into the groove. It will also help me visualise the layout i am planning especially when i build the boards. Then i shall get more track and more stock and see how we go from there.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Review : July

The Summer rolls on, not that it was very summery at times in July. Heavy rain continued to plague the countryside meaning that even when it didn't rain the ground remained muddy. My only real trip out anywhere was to Wootton Wawen, though my towpath stroll was curtailed as it was in Wilmcote in June because of mud.

July saw the start of the London 2012 Olympics and i saw the first of 3 events at the end of July when i saw some women's football at Coventry. Actually this was the first time i'd ever seen live football in a proper stadium and it was a great experience. Ironically it was the second time i had been to a football ground that month as earlier in July my work department held its away day at Walsall. In the afternoon we played some team building games in the car park.

Model wise my train sub-project got into high gear with the construction of 2 cattle wagons and finally a tank engine to haul the 5 wagons i had built. Song of the month was "Blue eyes" by Ladyhawke.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Review : June

After the action packed May June could only be a bit quieter but still a lot went on. I went to Stratford a couple of times, the second time for the river festival (although i didn't know that was on until i went there anyway i found myself in boat heaven!) Sandwiched between the Stratford trips was a return to Wilmcote but the wet weather meant my towpath walk was curtailed but i explored the lovely village a bit more.

I went to Birmingham Archives for my MA, this time doing some proper source analysis with some 19th century ledgers, i also went to the Stratford archives for the first time. The month also included the first of the year's Open Days though my job was in the office which was nice.

Model kit wise i was busy. I built a BR Brake Van, 2 Cattle Vans and an Albatros biplane. Song of the month was "Flashes" by Sea Dweller.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last trip to Stratford in 2012 (maybe!)

Today I had my last day of annual leave before Christmas and so decided to go to... Stratford-upon-Avon of course. It was actually the third time i have been this month already but today i did not go to the SBTRO archives, i have pretty much done all the research i need for my dissertation proposal and EMA (hopefully). No today i was just going to have fun, and do some Christmas shopping!

A very cold day though, my phone's weather app says it was -1C in Stratford all day. The canal was frozen over though the river was still flowing. I took some photos of course. Thats probably it for me in Stratford until the new year but you never know...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

2012 Review : May

May was when the year really got going, in fact so much was packed into May i actually referred to the month as "Massive May", but i am strange i know.

So what happened in May, well first of all my first visit to Henley-in-Arden which was nice though mostly memorable for falling on my arse while going down a steep muddy hill. Later in May i went to RAF Cosford for the first time in years and very enjoyable the visit to the air museum was too. I also went down to London for the second Day School in my A825 Open University course.

Highlight of the month was at the end though, the first of our 2 holidays this year and it was to York. Again its been years since i've been to York. I vaguely remember coming as a small child in the late 1970s but other than a few vague memories and fuzzy photographs i can't recall much from that trip. This time we basically went everywhere, the National Railway Museum of course, the York Minster, the town itself and several museums. I shall return to the NRM next year hopefully...

Another highlight of the month was receiving my Olympic tickets, or rather my volleyball ticket - i did get some more later on as will be described later in this review. I also went to a gig seeing Ladyhawke and She's So Rad and they were both brilliant! Model kit making got into high gear as i began my sub-project building Airfix railway kits building a couple of mineral wagons. Later on i built a Folland Gnat too. Song of the month was "Let me in" by Class Actress.

And that was May, now breathe.

Monday, December 10, 2012

2012 Review : April

Things were warming up (marginally) and April was quite a busy month. A return trip to Tamworth started things off followed a few days later by my first trip to Droitwich Spa which is a very nice place to visit. Stratford naturally followed a few days later. My first trip to Edgbaston to watch some cricket also took place early in the month when i saw some of a pre-season game against Cardiff MCCU... little did i know this would be the only time i would watch cricket live this year! Its a shame but my heart isn't in it anymore and i will let my membership lapse. Finally later in the month I visited Brownhills later in the month for a canal walk.

Model making began to get a head of steam with two light aircraft built, a Cessna Bird Dog and a Piper Cherokee. Looking back at my photostream April was when i really went crazy with Instagram. Song of the month was "All i asked you to do" by The Wake.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Review : March

With the temperature finally rising and Spring on the way March included my first ever trip to Shrewsbury and a canal walk from Hatton to Leamington Spa which can only be described as epic! The highlight of the month though was finally getting an iPhone, bought for me by my lovely wife. This allowed me to enter the mysterious world of the likes of Instagram and Fourquare...

I am expected to go to official archives as part of my MA History and in March i broke my "archive virginity" by going to the Birmingham Archives. Since then i have been there again but the focus of my research is at Stratford's archives now.

Model aircraft building resumed after the stuttering start to the 2012 season with a lovely F-89 Scorpion being built. Music wise i got a pile of old Top Of The Pops LPs off my Mum and also over the rest of the year have tried to buy up all the CD reissues of this series (only a couple left to get!) Song of the month however was Help Stamp Out Loneliness' "a ghost with a hammer in his hand".

Thursday, December 6, 2012


A recent article i read about the ending of typewriter production in the UK (though to be honest i was surprised it lasted as long as it did) have spurred me to get a typewriter of my own. I am a sucker for certain types of "retro" technology (dial phones for example) and when i saw a typewriter on eBay i knew i had to have it... and yesterday i received it!

Its a Brother Deluxe 1350 to be exact and its lovely with the kind of 70s retro styling i love, and it works fine too. I probably won't be typing out my course work on it though, i think i'll stick to my Mac and Pages... I apparently can download a matching font though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2012 Review : February

Early January was relatively mild and the colder snap later in the month caught me out a bit, i didn't complete the Bristol Bulldog kit until early February because it was too cold in the kitchen extension. I didn't built any more kits for a while until it warmed up!

The ground was frozen when i went on another canal walk, this time walking the final leg of the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal up from Gosta Green to Brindley Place. Later on in the month i also made the first of what will turn out to be a number of visits to Stratford. My first trip of the year included a walk up to Anne Hathaway's cottage in Shottery.

I also visited Witton Cemetery a number of times, taking photos of some of the more ornate gravestones and shrines and also re-locating the burial plot of my great-grandfather and uncle. Their graves did not have a gravestone so finding the plot required a map and counting down from extant gravestones. The problem with this is it does mean a certain amount of guesswork so you cannot be 100% sure you have the right place...

Song of the month was "Dusk till dawn" by Ladyhawke. Highlights of the month include buying a small table for meals in the kitchen and my main bookcase collapsing and giving me a nice bruise on my arm.

Going N

My model railway layouts in the past were always OO scale (apart from a brief excursion once into the smaller N gauge) but now i am planning my return to the hobby i am thinking of going with the smaller scale again despite still having my old OO gauge stock, buildings and track in boxes.

The reason is space, as in i don't have a great deal to play with. Atop my desk in the study looks to be the best place for the layout and this would allow a board of about 150x70cm. In that space i could have a basic end-to-end OO layout but it would be pretty limited. If i use N gauge however i could easily get a much more extensive loop layout with a fiddle yard. I've been playing around with a layout planning software tool and think i could just about get a double loop!

This would allow me to have the early 70s BR layout i've always wanted. Class 20s and 25s hauling freight passing a DMU... Well thats the dream and maybe next year it can become a reality.

Monday, December 3, 2012

2012 Review : January

Last year on this blog i reviewed my exploits in 2011 so i thought i would do the same for 2012...

2012 began in London for me as i spent New Years at my sister-in-law's though only for a few hours as i headed back to Birmingham New Years morning, sharing the train with a number of groaning drunks. January seems to have been a fairly quiet month as i got on with my postgraduate degree in earnest.

I began the year's canal and nature walks with a crisp walk along the Worcester & Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon Canals in Bournville. Later on in the month i also visited Tamworth (mostly seeing the castle), the first time i can remember visiting the town even though its not that far away from where i live. The castle there is really nice and well worth a visit. Another highlight of the month (literally) was purchasing a set of glow sticks! I started my model making season a bit earlier than usual and built a Bristol Bulldog.

Song of the month was "Keep you" by Class Actress, neo-synth pop which would be my soundtrack for 2012.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Putting up the tree

As its December i thought it was time to put the tree up. In the past its gone up in the living room though finding space is always a problem. This year i have put it in the porch instead, plenty of space there and many more people will see it!
I also bought another little animal friend. I really need to stop going to Homesense as i seem to leave with a new friend every time...
In other news i went down to Stratford yesterday to do some more research for my dissertation proposal and research essay. I can't say i'm overly confident with either at the moment but oh well, maybe once i start writing the essay everything will flow. I took a few photos in Stratford which you can see here.