Central Belt Service Alterations

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 22.18.26The time for the ‘Central Belt Service Alterations’ is nearly upon us.

In reality, this is to allow for engineering works in the Winchburgh Tunnel to lower the tracks, in order to gain additional headroom for the electrification of the tunnel.

But Central Belt Shuffler’s mind runs instead to a different sort of alteration. A shortened hem; a nip and tuck; a colouring of grey hairs; an extra notch on the belt.

Will a much spruced up train service emerge to greet us at the end of July?


Stormy Weather & A Furry Forecast

IMG_2169Stormy weather is forecast. The Met Office gives an amber warning – a little orange belt running from Glasgow to Edinburgh, as well as covering much of north and north-west Scotland. Tomorrow morning, Central Belt Shuffler heads east, and so is duly warned.

The weather forecast, on the other hand, has been warmed by the intervention of one insistent cat, on a cold day in Germany. Watch, and wish all forecasts featured pet presenters.

Pet forecast

The Ultimate Trainspotting Spot?

Bookspotting at HaymarketA sunny day, and a hour’s meeting stolen in between trains on the journey to St Andrews.

We sit on the cafe terrace above Haymarket station, discussing ebook interoperability, hybrid diesel/electric trains, Beeching and (the demise of) branchlines. Below us, the range of franchised trains roll in, halt, and then continue on their journey. One of my companions explains to our overseas visitor the intricacies of Scotrail, East Coast mainline, Virgin, CrossCountry. Behind my sunglasses, I close my eyes and imagine my two-wheeled way into the countryside.

These ten days have the following travel schedule: Glasgow-Stockholm (including the magnificent Arlanda Express)-Glasgow-Birmingham-University of Birmingham-Brimingham-Glasgow-Stirling-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Leuchars-St Andrews-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Glasgow-Stirling-Glasgow-Edinburgh-Glasgow-Bearsden-Glasgow. Important to pay attention to platform announcements and the display panels.

I don’t remember in every station to check out the closest bookish locations, as indicated the Bookspotting app. But in Haymarket, there’s a moment before the next train to find myself in literary terms. The Scottish Episcopal Church General Synod Office is, slightly oddly, the closest location (relating to former-Bishop-now-writer Richard Holloway), but also featured are Caledonian Place (home to Davie in Irvine Welsh‘s Trainspotting) and 160 Bruntsfield Place (Muriel Spark‘s birthplace).

Good job the train is perfect for reading…


Training for the Train

On the train, a man has several A4 pages printed up with differently patterned dots. He runs his pencil along each line, occasionally striking through one of the sets of dots.

Is he teaching himself Braille, but visually? Is this a new form of Sudoku, fending off Alzheimers?

The trolley arrives. Everyone shakes their head, and the trolley passes on. But the attendant notices the pages of dots, and addresses the man: ‘Are you going for train driver?’

‘Aye,’ he replies. ‘I went for it last year and I passed all the tests, but I failed one part of the interview. I’m doing it again, but they’ve changed it, and so I have to do it all again.’

She nods, and passes on.

‘So what is that?’ Central Belt Shuffler asks.

‘It’s a concentration test, to be a train driver. It’s got nothing to do with driving a train, but you have to do it.’

He goes on to tell me about the challenges of becoming a train driver, and how they seem keener on taking people from offices than existing train staff (a man who used to be in insurance; and then a marine biologist who ‘wouldn’t be told’ because he had a degree).

The train arrives. ‘Good luck.’

‘Thanks. I need it.’


A Shuffler’s Manifesto

img00124-20110625-1850.jpg‘The car is freedom,’ Prof A asserts.

Unbound, I suppose, by timetables, stations, and stops. By the demands of onwards destinations and over-weight baggage. By the weather, and the occasional need to stand all the way.

But what do you learn of human nature in the car, other than that of your own emotions? Something, perhaps, if you listen to a good radio programme. But otherwise, a very limited range of expression: road rage and idiocy; courtesy and control; patience.

Patience can yield its rewards, though. As the cars slow down, you have more time to see your fellow car drivers and, in a favourite motorway traffic jam game, take an absurdist guess at their occupations. The amusement of the game doesn’t detract from the fact, though, that you’re gridlocked. And that you’re making it up.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a car. It sometimes even gets driven to work. It’s very convenient (apart from around MOT time). But, essentially, it’s a bubble. You’re visible, you can see out, but the experience is muffled. If you get too close to another car, the bubble bursts. You crash.

The train is sometimes far from convenient (though four trains an hour from Glasgow to Edinburgh isn’t bad), costs more than it should do, is over-crowded. But it allows something the car does not: the opportunity – if you so view it – to encounter the full variety of human nature. This includes those you will meet in the car (aggression, politeness, patience). But also a whole range of other emotions and modes: passive aggression, banter, helpfulness, fear, selfishness, generosity, humour, love. People rubbing each other up the wrong way, and the right way. Perhaps I wouldn’t think this if I were a south-east of England shuffler, but the Central Belt Shuffle is just fine.

Oh, and shuffling is also much better for both writing and reading, of course.

‘A bike up to here!’

The train manager, to a boy:

‘You must be very excited about your birthday.’

‘See, for my birthday in six days, what I’m going to get…’

‘What are you going to get?’

‘A bike up to here!’ He indicates the metal bar at which bikes are stowed, a height closer to his shoulder than his waist.

My kind of central belt shuffler…

Reading and Shuffling

Big notches on the Central BeltWhen not observing (or interacting) with fellow passengers, Central Belt Shuffler is often reading, or sometimes observing other people reading.

Indeed, one of the reasons to travel on the train is to read. Reading and travelling go together; hand and glove.

So it was appropriate to fall upon a review of this future read, after only a few days of starting to record the centralbeltshuffle: Robert Crawford’s On Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Willy Maley’s THE review, ‘Big Notches on the Central Belt’, begins by commenting, ‘This is a fascinating book, if in some ways a peculiar one…’

Fascinating and peculiar. Surely one for the centralbeltshuffle reading list.