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Friday 6th September 2019. Edinburgh to Aberdeen steam rail trip

18 people signed up for the trip. Some chose to drive up to Edinburgh, some opted to combine the trip with visits to friends and relatives, but most travelled via minibus to Burton and then Network Rail to Edinburgh Waverley station. Everyone was booked into the nearby Travelodge and had Friday evening to explore the city and find somewhere to eat.

Early the next morning they were all ready to board the train hauled by Tornado, the first steam engine to be built in Britain since 1960, having been completed in 2008. The weather was excellent and allowed great views of the East Coast. Arrival in Aberdeen was a little later than expected, but the group still had time for a walk around town before lunch.

The return trip was uneventful and had everyone back in Edinburgh by early evening. Many ventured out to the local nightlife apparently meeting up with a Norwegian male voice choir and finishing the night with Auld Lang Syne!

The morning was spent sightseeing and shopping in Edinburgh before catching the afternoon train back to Derby where the minibus was waiting to return them to Ashby.

Saturday 10th August 2019. Cumbrian Mountain Express railway tour

Photos by Colin, Anne, Mike & courtesy of David Armitage
In the true spirit of Captain Scott, twelve intrepid adventurers gathered at Nuneaton on 10th August prior to undertaking an expedition into the frozen northern wastes. After boarding our train, we were immediately faced with a foretaste of the hardships to come - a glass of Bucks Fizz! No sooner had we overcome that obstacle and fought our way through fruit, cereal or porridge, than we were confronted with a choice on which the whole enterprise might depend - full breakfast grill or smoked salmon. In true British Spirit, some opted for one, some the other. By the time we had overcome these privations, the landscape was indeed barren and uninviting - Crewe! Passing swiftly through the North West, in the hope that unfriendly natives might not notice our presence, we had a brief stop (but no Encounter) at Carnforth to swap from electric to steam locomotion. We then hit an unexpected problem at Penrith, where our train came to a stand. Apparently, there were floods north of Carlisle and the need to turn trains around there was causing congestion and delays. However, we arrived only about 20 minutes late and, with true stiff upper lip, ventured out into the storm (light rain). In only 90 seconds, we reached shelter in the form of the hotel next to the station, where sandwiches, ice creams and drinks were consumed to fortify ourselves for the exertions to come.

Only 10 minutes late, the gallant party set off for the immense climb over the Settle and Carlisle line, hauled by the 1935 steam locomotive 6201 Princess Elizabeth (named after Her Majesty). Spurning a stop for locomotive refreshment at Appleby, such was our progress that we passed the summit at Ais Gill (50 miles and a climb of almost 1,200 feet from Carlisle) in only 65 minutes. By now we were 10 minutes early. The weather, unfortunately, did not allow us to see the scenery at its best. Although there was a glimmer of sun, the cloud hung low over the hills and the rain was, at times, torrential. The flow of water down the many streams and the flooding lower down, left us in no doubt of the amount of rain which had fallen. Safely negotiating these difficulties, we all too soon reached Settle Junction and the end of the line over the High Pennines.

Still, the horrors of the return journey had to be overcome. They started with a hoard of gins & tonic and bottles of wine. Having survived this initial attack, we then faced our choice of starters before a wave of fillets of beef (silver served), followed by lemon tarts and cheese. It's tough, this exploration but someone's got to do it! Even now, our hardships were not at an end - at Rugeley, we encountered a signal failure but were able to get through with only a 15 minute delay to Nuneaton.

Somehow, the entire party had survived the rigors of our exploration and many expressed interest in a future expedition. To (mis) quote Sir Winston Churchill - never in the field of rail transport was so much consumed so rapidly by so few!


Wednesday 22nd May 2019. Birmingham Symphony Hall

Twenty-two intrepid members took part in this visit. Somehow, they all managed to fight their way through the Birmingham traffic and road works!

We began with a meal at Bistrot Pierre where our tables were situated with a splendid view over the canal and Gas Street basin so that we were able to watch the boats going past. The food was excellent with several remarking that they had enjoyed it.

A short walk through the evening sunshine took us to Symphony Hall, where we were to experience the Russian Philharmonic of Novosibirsk Orchestra. Novosibirsk is the third most populous city in Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the Orchestra is widely held to be among the best in the country. It proved to be a very large band of musicians, ably conducted by Thomas Sanderling, its chief conductor. Some of us were a little puzzled by one particular instrument in the woodwind. Those more knowledgeable informed us it was a contrabassoon. It looked like something on which Messers Boulton and Watt may well have held a patent!

The concert of almost exclusively Russian music began with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture before the Orchestra was joined by the soloist, Alexander Sitkovetsky, for the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.2. For an encore, he performed a work by Bach, which he dedicated to those who died in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack two years previously. After the intermission, any tendency to slumber was instantly dispelled by a very spirited performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capiccio Espagnol followed by an equally lively Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, which appeared to fully employ the many players on stage. Some, paticularly in the percussion, appeared to have considerable job-satisfaction! The proceedings were concluded by a Tchaikovsky encore.

Our return to Ashby was largely uneventful as the traffic was very much lighter. It appears that one or two became slightly misplaced en-route but not, of course, actually lost!

Tuesday 19th March 2019. The Magic Flute at Theatre Royal Nottingham

Some 20-odd people shared cars to Clifton South before taking the tram into the city centre. Seven of us went in early in order to eat an excellent pre-show dinner at Bistrot Pierre.

The opera, performed by Opera North, was a somewhat avant-garde interpretation of Mozart's famous opera. Sung in English and with many spoken sections, some delivered directly to the audience, it was at times comic, tragic, dramatic or just plain weird! The singing was excellent as was the characterisation and the clever staging but the star was undoubtably Gavan Ring as Papageno, the bird-catcher. His stage-presence, his comic timing and asides to the audience were brilliant. A very entertaining evening.

Tuesday 12th February 2019. Theatre Royal Nottingham

19 members travelled to the Theatre Royal Nottingham to see Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers'. Apparently everyone greatly enjoyed this iconic musical.

Thursday 4th October 2018. Birmingham Symphony Hall

Colin had organised a trip to BSH to hear Beethoven's 7th and Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No1 and as the concert started at 7.30pm he had also arranged for us to eat at Carluccio's beforehand. Unfortunately as our numbers increased from 16 to 20, Carluccio's declared that they were unable to cope and left Colin looking for another restaurant at short notice. Fortunately Bistrot Pierre was able to take us in.

We travelled down in 5 cars and all went well until reaching the Aston Expressway which was anything but express! Roadworks around Paradise Circus meant that access to the planned car park was near-impossible, although one driver managed it somehow! Nonetheless we all managed to park somewhere and arrive at the restaurant in time. Service was slow and hence desserts were rushed in order to get away in time, but the food was very good.

The concert was excellent. The young Russian piano soloist, Yulianna Avdeeva, was outstanding in the Tchaikovsky and received multiple ovations. She apparently was the winner of the Chopin Piano Competition in 2010. One didn't need to be an expert to hear that she was very talented indeed.

After the interval, the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra treated us to a marvellous rendition of Beethoven's 7th played with considerable gusto. An excellent evening's entertainment.

Thank you Colin for picking this concert and arranging everything.

Thursday 24th May 2018. Bristol Docks, Temple Meads GWR station and Clifton Suspension Bridge

This trip was organised by Colin and the coach booking by Margaret on behalf of the History and Industrial Heritage Groups. All went very smoothly. Thanks to Colin & Margaret and to our excellent coach driver for a great day out. A full report is on both Group's web pages

Wednesday 21st March 2018. Warhorse, Nottingham Concert Hall

On 21st March, 29 members travelled by coach to see a matinee performance of 'Warhorse' at Nottingham Concert Hall. The story opens when the equine hero, Joey, is still a foal and, although the puppeteers were larger than their puppet and very visible, they were so skilful at making Joey play his part that it was easy to forget they were there. As full grown horses, Joey and his companion were each manned by 3 equally skilful puppeteers. As the story unfolded we saw Joey and his youthful first owner endure the full horrors of the first World War. Thankfully though, there was a very moving and happy ending to the tale. Curtain calls were made to rapturous applause. When the puppeteers made their bows they were met by cheers but the cheering was much louder when they returned in equine character. A really wonderful experience.

Friday 2nd March 2018. The Nutcracker ballet, De Montfort Hall

10 people had booked to see the Siberian State Ballet perform 'Nutcracker' but due to the threat of snow, only 6 of us decided to travel to Leicester. Getting there was easy. The show was excellent, although it was a very different version to the one we are most familiar with as performed annually by the Royal Ballet. This production had a slightly different version of the story, different choreography and no set changes, but relied on a back-projected screen to change the scenery. The dancers were all superb, the orchestra excellent and the set-piece tunes all very familiar. Well worth seeing. Getting home was the problem. whilst we were inside, it had snowed leaving a very slippery layer of snow over ice. The two cars slipped and slithered they way home in about 90 mins instead of the usual 30, but everyone got home safely

Thursday 15th February 2018. Greig piano Concerto, Birmingham Symphony Hall

The trip to Birmingham Symphony Hall on the 15th was a great success. 22 members travelled into Birmingham by car and, after an excellent meal in Carluccio's by the canal, listened to a superb rendition of the Grieg Piano Concerto (and yes for you fans of Andrew Preview, pianist Freddy Kempf played all the right notes in more than just the right order!). This was preceded by Bax's 'Overture to a Picaresque Comedy' and followed by the Elgar Symphony No. 1, both superbly rendered by the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Wednesday 22nd March 2017. Bradford media museum

Photos by Margaret Howlett
A trip combined with the Industrial Heritage group 33 people met at the Royal Hotel at 8:15 for a trip to the National Media Museum, Bradford. We met in the dry on a cold morning and during the 2 hour journey it rained sometimes heavily. The museum was expecting us but some of my emails had gone astray as they were only expecting 20 and had not noted the request for a tour. However, they rustled up two very knowledgeable young ladies and we began our 'behind the scenes' tour for which we were split into two groups. The first stop for our group was the archive of Daily Herald photos for the period 1911 - 1965 which they acquired after the newspaper was purchased by Rupert Murdoch and became the Sun. The collection includes boxes of photos of many famous people but any photos of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe (and they must surely have had some) disappeared during the transfer. From there we visited the Small Objects Store. This was mainly cameras but did include some early home computer related objects which they were collecting for a short time but stopped before they were overwhelmed. Needless to say the next room we visited was the Large Object Store housing TV cameras, vintage TV sets and some very interesting items like the chair used for the taking of early prison 'mug-shots'. Finally we were shown some of their early photos including Daguerreotype, Collodion Positive, also known as an Ambrotype (early 1850s - 1880s). As some of these are sensitive to light our guide dimmed the lights. For this reason we were not allowed to see the oldest known negative as it is just too sensitive. After the tour, which took about an hour, some of us enjoyed lunch in the museum cafe while others ventured out to a nearby hostelry. For the rest of our visit we were free to look around the museum with various displays spread over six floors including film and television archives, a gaming area, animation and a gallery called the Magic Factory. Floors 2 and 1 were special displays; one was about pinhole cameras and the other showed photos featured in a recent television program called 'Britain in Focus: A Photographic History' which was aired on BBC4. Just time for a refreshing drink before the coach departed at 3.30pm arriving back at 5:30pm.

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