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Blog: A rolling series of articles from our correspondents, wherever they are...

Luce Smith

He Is Wearing New Shoes

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 25th Feb, 2015 | 6:15pm

He is wearing new shoes.

So new, I wouldn't be surprised if the price label was still stuck on the soles. They look very comfortable, very smart, and very mean to the credit card.

This commute has a very different passenger type to the one I have been used to, even though I upgraded to the luxurious London number towards the latter part. In fact, you'd think I was in a different part of the country!

These commuters dress differently. They speak differently, and they behave differently! These talk to one another face to face.

They do crosswords on a paper newspaper, with an ink pen.

They read broadsheet newspapers, the paper version.

They have laptops on their knees.

Phones aren't used for the duration of the journey, they can sit upright and don't seem to need to be texting someone about a colleague's choice of sock wear in the office today.

It's very quiet, and dare I say, civilised?

The rush hour train isn't like it used to be either. We aren't all sat down unable to breathe out. We actually still have spare seats! No 'can you move down please we're trying to get on', or, 'take that bike out of the toilets, what a stupid place....'. It makes me a bit weary to be honest.

I daren't put music on in case my ear phones leak and I am judged by my choice of music. I daren't look round the train to see who's onboard. I sit very calmly, and like a lady. Only with my skirt and trainers on, which I'm sure isn't the done thing.

The commuter bags are even different! All lovely leather laptop cases and briefcases. All matching gloves and scarves. I might try and brave a conversation soon.

I could start off with introducing myself as Lady Smith, purveyor of fine observations. I quite like that. Then, I could continue and ask how they are finding the train journey, and if it meets their needs.

I don't think this is the type of train for me to get out my can of gin and tonic, although, to see the reaction, it may well be worthwhile. I'm spending an hour of my day with these commuting people, I wonder if a sense of belonging will come to me by the end of the week?!

It's also week 3 of gym membership and despite not wanting to go. I am enjoying it. However, it does give one a mahoooosive appetite, so it's a good job I'm not on a weight loss program!

I have given up chocolate and bread for lent, and stopping eating it has shown me, rather disgustingly, how much chocolate I do eat, Yikes! The first two days were awful! My only saviour is still having a hot chocolate everyday. I haven't been tempted to eat the dry powder by the spoon yet, but give it a couple of days......

I have worked out how to use the treadmill without veering off when texting someone (part of my workout/time management), can use the cross trainer for 15 minutes, resulting in a sweaty mess, and have done a few classes, which has made walking a very difficult task for days afterwards!

Such fun!
Wed 25th Feb, 2015 | 6:15pmmore...
Luce Smith

New Routine

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 23rd Feb, 2015 | 9:04am
Fitness studio photo by Sten Dueland
Fitness studio photo by Sten Dueland
I am going to do something quite extra ordinary.

I'm going to have the best of both. Having a car is great, and my days are much better for me. Although I have to be honest and say that my studies have suffered. As far as I'm aware, it's ok to use your mobile phone whilst driving, to eat yogurt with a spoon whilst driving, and shout at sat nav. However, I have yet to see someone studying whilst at the wheel, so I haven't.

I have been thinking about how to get round this, and have come up with a genius idea. I will drive to a station, and do a shorter train journey. This will allow Percy to get out every day and meet new car friends. I can study for nearly an hour on the train in a day, and still get to the gym! Best of both, Hovis are right! Or if I say 50/50, then Warburtons win. See how I'm not promoting any particular brand there.....

Last week whilst on the treadmill, my motivation had stayed in bed, and I felt rubbish, so instead of going for a long shower and coffee before hitting my desk, I decided to pick someone from the treadmills in front of the gym, and do what they did. I tried to be selective over who I chose, but failed, as I ended up running for half an hour, which I don't do! What made it worse, was that as I left the gym, they were still running. I have now obviously named them Forest!

I have seen so many different types of people at the gym. There are obviously the hardcore muscle people, who lift a weight, make lots of noise, then walk out looking extremely proud of themselves. Then, there are the people who always go to the Gym and look like it. There are then, of course, a few who just come in for the classes, and leave straight away. Next, and the ones I like the most, are the ones who genuinely want to keep fit and get in shape. I have a lot of time for these people as they are real! They have a good balance of life, and are just making a few changes to keep going, so doing a bit of exercise. These people generally look knackered, but always have a smile in the depths of their sweat!

Wow, I am on a train, with new people to soak up, and new stations to stop at. I haven't done this journey for so many years. What if they don't like me and I'm seen as a scary person who looks ready to chill out all day? I might look like someone who doesn't work, and I'm just blagging it. I've never been on a train in gym wear, carrying my workwear! Ah well, no one judges on appearance do they? I did brush my hair.......

I have no idea what platform it will land at, or how far I will have to gallop from the station to the gym. I hope it's a reliable service though as I have a strict time schedule to keep to today. I can't afford to hear a 'we are sorry, but.....' announcement. Please.

Here goes, let's see how this works out!
Mon 23rd Feb, 2015 | 9:04ammore...
Luce Smith

Red Lights

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 22nd Feb, 2015 | 2:23pm
Tail lights photo by Cori Redford
Tail lights photo by Cori Redford
This cannot be beaten. I don't know whether to laugh, or to cry. But first, let me say that I am sensitive and I am awfully sorry that there has been a severe accident, and I do hope that those involved are ok. However, let me shed some light.

I'm flying down the Otley road, thinking how wonderful it is to be doing so, and now appreciating half term! I am about three quarters of my way home. I see red lights. Brake lights. A long steady row of them. Uh oh.

I think of alternative routes. Let me say that again, I said, I THINK of alternative routes, I don't google, or satnav, I engage brain. Found one. Once able to, I indicate, and slide off merrily, glad to be moving again. La la la, lots of us doing this route, we're like sheep. One by one, by one. La la I shall be home for 6:30pm, dinner in the oven, pyjamas on...what a pleasant evening it shall be.

Brake lights appear. One, by one, by one.

Until the whole back road is choc-a-block with vehicles. Mainly travelling away from Leeds. Mainly. There's always one, isn't there. This particular 'one' is causing a tail back of traffic, already delayed, and we are at a stand still.

Various things happened next. Passengers got out and talked to each other. Car to car communication. One decided to be the leader, and suggested we all, reverse. All the way. I snigger. He just said that out loud! I mean, it's a single track country road, and it's muddy. This plan won't work, let's be realistic! Don't get me wrong, I am good at reversing around these types of roads. "Why", I hear you ask? Well, where I was living during my learner plate years, was about 2 miles up a single track lane, in the middle of nowhere. However, you often bumped into someone, and they would have a blank look on their faces, so, it would be your turn to reverse and find a passing point. I can do reversing! But, 4 miles of reversing, in the dark, with a trail of cars behind and in front, was, in my head, a very bad idea.

Engines switched off. I put the local radio station on. The main road had closed due to the bad accident, no news on smaller country roads. Apparently, the police had been informed.....,.

One car, about 4 in front of me, decided to do a 13 point turn, and face the other way to the majority of us. No idea why, but it blinded me with the head lights for the next 45 minutes.

Yes, that's how long it took for someone near the road entrance, to engage brain and reverse out, to let the huge flow of traffic out.

Yippee! 1st gear, 2nd gear, bring it on! Wooohooooooo! And yes, I shouted that out loud!

I finally got home, had tea and went straight to bed! I know how to live!

It can't get much worse than that can it?

Luckily the next morning whilst at the gym, I got a bit of entertainment, when someone came off the treadmill! It's ok, I didn't laugh out loud.

Definitely made my week!
Sun 22nd Feb, 2015 | 2:23pmmore...
Luce Smith

Commuting In A Cold Climate

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 12th Feb, 2015 | 5:33pm
Dancing Green III photo by Nilsson-Ehle
Dancing Green III photo by Nilsson-Ehle
I'm trying a fancy commute, aka a coach tour, in Iceland. Full days worth, and so far it's going ok, the guide is giving his spiele with lots of attempted humour and information. We were picked up at 8am, and now 10am, it's almost daylight. We're in the highlands now, and it's most odd: ice, snow, mountains, power stations.

Icelandic people, before geothermal heat was used, kept warm by burning birch trees. But in the late Middle Ages the forest was gone, and mini iceage happened. They lived in houses made of turf and rock, which were cold. So, they made small rooms to preserve heat, then introduced sheep. Until 1850's. Bringing sheep in generated heat for the home. For fire food they used peat and dried sheep dung! See how I can listen?!

Anyway, knowing this has not made me think of buying a sheep myself to cut down on heating bills. But I will bear it in mind if I start struggling! One good thing about going to a cold country in winter, is that coming home, our winter will feel warm! It's really cold, but I came prepared! I wasn't prepared for the grim smell of sulphur though! You put the shower on and get the amazing aroma of sulphur, which may sound ok, but if I tell you it smells of eggs, you may feel sorry for me!

Strangely enough, despite it being so very cold, the inside of shops and cafe bar restaurants, were really warm. No log fire in sight. Perhaps their walls were filled with sheep? It worked anyway, whatever they did.

We did the touristy things on our four days. We did the city tour, unguided, but fun, the Golden Circle, which was incredible, the northern lights which were, am I allowed to say, disappointing? The experience of going up into the middle of nowhere was fun, with the guide giving us the science behind the lights etc.

The buzz of about 4 coaches parked up, and everyone piled out, adding layers of clothing where possible. We all stood patiently with many setting their tripods up. No way was I getting my hands cold, I was going to see the lights, not photograph them. It was so very cold, with a strong biting wind. I decided to go round the other side of the bus, thinking how funny it would be if the northern lights were having a party behind our backs! I got back into the crowd, and all of a sudden, we were shouted to the other side where the lights could be seen. It was an amazing atmosphere, but nowhere near as picturesque as suggested by the inter web. Fun though, and an amazing green glow. After 50 minutes I couldn't do any more star jumps so hopped back onto the coach. I wasn't the first one to admit defeat to the cold!

The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon

Our final tour, was to the Blue Lagoon. I was apprehensive, thinking if photos in the brochures had been like that of the northern lights. It was -3, and I couldn't imagine removing my thermal layers to get into my swimwear and dip into the pool. We arrived at the location, and walked through the modern building, getting a wrist band to scan lockers and buy drinks. I went into the changing room and spotted a lady who had been in the lagoon. Is it warm? I asked, half hoping she'd say no and I could keep wrapped up. She beamed a big smile at me and said it was lovely. Ok, remove layers and shiver. I grabbed my towel, had a shower, and stepped out onto the veranda.

It was snowing. I hung up my towel, and made a dash for the pool. Oh my word. I defrosted immediately. Incredible. Being cold for 4 days was well worth it to experience this! The steam on top of the water was really atmospheric, but it did mean I had to swim for about 5 minutes to find my partner! It was an amazing experience, and a must do for anyone visiting Iceland.

So that's an item off my bucket list for 2015. Think it was more difficult than last year's bucket list, the triathlon! It was everything people said it would be, cold, amazing, and expensive. It was odd in that there weren't any big chains, like Maccy D's, but we did spy a few Subways. I didn't eat whale, horse, or snails. I did enjoy their chocolate though, which is always with liquorice! They like it, so every bar of chocolate you see, has liquorice in it! It was odd to see local shops/supermarkets selling a wide variety of things but absolutely no alcohol. I had to behave and go without having alcohol in my room. I even resisted the mini bar in the room, as I'm a true northern person, and don't pay the extortionate costs!

Back to reality though, work, studying, the hectic commute by car......I feel like I have had an amazing experience, and feel very lucky to have been able to go out there and see some culture.
Thu 12th Feb, 2015 | 5:33pmmore...
Luce Smith

End Of The Week

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Sun 8th Feb, 2015 | 3:54pm
fuel guage photo by Sean MacEntee
fuel guage photo by Sean MacEntee
How can 5 days be so stressful?

I mean, really, I think I miss being able to fall asleep on the commute! Instead, it's been replaced with singing so loud, that I may have to get double glazing on my car, for the protection of others! It's been such fun digging out old CDs to listen to in my car. I'm very traditional, and my car is a gadget free zone and always will be. And yes, it is new enough to have a USB and CD player.....

I remember my first week of commuting though, and found that exhausting, so hopefully I will get a rocket up my bum next week and feel alive again!

Not literally, obviously, that would be unpleasant -a bit like the gym class I thought would be fun this week. It was bums, tums, and flabby bits. It was a mad 45 minutes, but so much for the little black dress figure I was hoping for, it's turned out that the real effects of the class are being unable to walk upstairs, and finding bending down difficult!

Ouch indeed! All I can say, is that I hope the other class members ache like I do, but as they were probably 10 years younger than me, I guess they won't be affected. But, they were probably still drunk from their student night out and just feeling rough from the shots, why else turn up at 6:45am to do multiple squats with a hardcore group trainer?

So the drive into work. It's fab. I don't have to wear waterproofs, or wear multiple layers. I have mastered the frozen windscreen scenario, and worked out where to put my car at night. Now, car naming, feminine girly waste of time, or essential? Discuss.

I'm not a materialistic person, if I was, I would say that naming a vehicle was pathetic and unnecessary. However, my vehicle is my key to freedom and independence. It's also my key to reducing my pennies.... This new addition to my worldly goods, serves a purpose, and is with me for nearly two hours each day. If I am going to spend this time singing to my vehicle and allowing words to come out of my mouth when other drivers are simply, inexperienced, then I feel we at least should be introduced.

Should the name of the vehicle be a human name or an odd name? The first car I ever drove as a full licence holder, was Betsy. A yellow 340 Volvo. I still remember the reg number plate! I think if I have a named vehicle, it will look after me better. It also means I can shout abuse when it shows me the yellow light on the fuel dial. I thought I would test this out and see just how thirsty the car was. However, I wasn't able to, as two minutes into my journey home, the car beeped, and the words came up on the dash board telling me the fuel was very low. It didn't offer to fill it up for me. Rude. So, I took the car for a drink. It got me home, so I can justify that I've named this vehicle. I had to be careful, as it's a Punto, and a rhyming word may not have been appropriate! I've named him Percy, with the help of my 5 year old goddaughter. Phew, as I was ready for a name from Disney's Frozen to be suggested, as this is the most important thing ever to a 5 year old right now.

Percy is having a break though, as I endeavour on a 5 day adventure. I am, as we speak, treading on old ground, and on a train. My, what was normal, commute into Leeds. It's mid afternoon and I have the carriage to myself! Except I want people to look at my bag and wonder where I am going! Maybe the train will fill up at the next station. I'm also ready for a can of alcohol, and wonder if I have time to nip into the shop before getting my connecting train to the airport.....

I'm aware that I can't sing out loud on this commute, but was busted earlier. I was walking through town, music in my ears, lyrics coming out of my mouth, when someone joined the pavement unexpectedly. 'Someone sounds happy!' they said. Does that mean I should apply for X factor? Or that I should really practice miming? When will I learn?!

The gym class from mid week is affecting me worse today, with the most difficult task being, erm, going to powder my nose? It's a struggle, so maybe I will leave off the fluids so that this doesn't happen too much! I think gym classes should have a 'possible side effects' leaflet to accompany it, I could certainly name a few! But, positive thinking missy, no pain no gain and all the rest of it. I'm hoping that a long soak in the Blue Lagoon will fix me. So excited about this adventure that, because I have no idea what to expect, I'm a little bit apprehensive. Most unlike me, I love an adventure. I've even bought a silly hat for the occasion. Ready? Let's go to Iceland!
Sun 8th Feb, 2015 | 3:54pmmore...
Luce Smith

All Change

BRING IT ON!
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 5th Feb, 2015 | 8:54am
traffic photo by Matthias Ripp
traffic photo by Matthias Ripp
It's all changed. Too many changes and so little time! Wowsersaurus, who would have thought that the end of two routines, would create such a different set of replacement routines. It's confirmation that I'm a true Brit, and possibly an old(er) one at that.

What did make me chuckle this morning, was seeing a guy enter the gym, whilst on his run. Surely a double door, and electronic turnstile would get in the way of a work out? No no no this guy is a machine, a guy who won't stop for anything, other than perhaps..no, he's a machine. Or is he today's entertainment? Maybe to ensure gym goers keep going, they ask a member to make an entrance to make people smile. It worked.

My swimming days, for now, are over. No more Mr Speedo. No more sharing showers with the opposite sex. No more waiting for the clock to get to bang on quarter past, before we can jump in. No more galloping across the fields to get to the pool on time.

My train commute days too, for now, are over. No more 'welcome to the Leeds train', or, 'we are sorry, but the 5;56pm train home, has been cancelled. We apologise for any inconvenience', no more earwigging on public transport. No more giggles at that sentence the lady said out loud.
No more 7 mile walks in my day. No more passing a high street supermarket when they have just put fresh bread rolls on the shelves, no more free newspaper! No more window shopping to pass time when I miss a connection. No more cans of gin and tonic.

Oh no! What have I done!

Two of the things that became part of my life have expired and I have been very brave and made some adult decisions. I have made small changes to hopefully improve the life I have and possibly be financially sound. I have had to rethink and readjust my timings for tasks and be quite logical. It's been challenging for my poor small simple brain! I admit it!

My daily routine is now thus: up, coffee, out. Defrost windscreen, drive.
Arrive in town after a clear road and radio on. Heaven. Quick skip into the gym, and do an hour, this is where I saw the guy run in. I might try it tomorrow. Now, I'm not a gym bunny, I love the outdoors, and walk a lot, but.......it doesn't make you gym fit! Day 1, was a bit strange, but I was keen, until I realised I was the oldest there, and possibly the one who ate all the chocolate buttons. It won't deter me, I can do this! At least it's not January where people will think it's a New Year resolution phase that will end after 15 days or so. This is it! I've joined for a month to see how I get on. I know where the stop button is on the machines, and I don't have to clean the shower cubicles. It's a win win, I just need to adapt. I miss the fresh air though, so don't laugh, but I drove home with my window wide open, knowing it was 2 degrees, but actually enjoying it!

I have enjoyed listening to the radio this week without earphones, but haven't found a station that I could listen to for both outward and return journeys, do such stations exist? Maybe I get bored. I get impatient, I know that, and sitting in traffic is not healthy. It makes me create words out loud that don't exist, and reminds me of how much like my Dad I am! Noooooooo!

I don't get it, why do people insist on leaving work at the same standard time, which creates tail-backs, frustration, revving of engines for no reason, and me yelling at the driver in front to get on 'cos he could have got a bus in there!! Why? Why do it daily? Why not stagger the end of the day? Make the roads less of a nightmare at, what I hear, is rush hour? I've renamed it mush hour. These people's brains are just mush if they think it makes sense to sit in a car, not moving, for minute after minute. Hence my early start. Hence my...no, I won't give away the return, otherwise you may follow suit and that will mean I have to have a rethink my daily routine, which on only day 3, I'm definitely not ready for!
Thu 5th Feb, 2015 | 8:54ammore...
Luce Smith

End Of The Line?

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 2nd Feb, 2015 | 3:02pm
photo by Ambernectar 13
photo by Ambernectar 13
It's very exciting, very scary and I can't sit still or concentrate. Nothing to do with being blonde I hasten to add!

The London train is delayed, I say delayed, what I really mean, is that it's not moved from it's original starting point. So, I've got the Local train, which was setting off 12 minutes after the luxury number. It's so busy! I hope they don't feel they can't get the luxury train due to their residential postcode, I mean, if I can get on it and drink alcohol out of a can in public, with no shame, anyone can.

Reason for the London train's delay? Breaks stuck on! Ah well, good timing if you ask me. I have braved it, and gone and made a car purchase. Which ties in very well with the final date of my train pass being today, and my swimming membership also expiring this weekend. It doesn't however, tie in very well, with the small issue of the White stuff that has been failing from the sky and causing chaos on the roads. It's winter, it's snow, yet us great humans go into panic mode. It was odd yesterday, as it was snowing early morning, then a small thunderstorm? Don't think I've ever experienced that before, most odd! Almost magical.

I was meant to collect the car last night, but I was very grown up, and made an adult decision. I was wise and decided to delay it until today, to remain safe. I hear it's not acceptable in society, to actually wrap up your car in cotton wool any more, so, I've had to attempt being patient. It's possibly not worked out well for my colleagues and partner, though. I'm like an annoying kid, who is waiting for something very exciting and new to happen. Words keep randomly coming out of my mouth, in no particular order, and my face keeps displaying a silly smile and big eyes!

I will, like a kid, be exhausted by 7pm and need a nap!

The car buying decision was quite a process, and in-between that, I also had an essay deadline to meet. I think stress occurred in my life for a few days, but it had to be done right!

This then, is potentially my last commute. Unless petrol prices go up stupidly and I have to resort back to the train. I guess I could use my car as a caravan though and just sleep over in the works car park. That's safe isn't it? I'll make sure I have a thermos of tea, and a sleeping bag. It will surely be character building...

I am a little concerned regarding the ongoing costs of a car; how do people manage on a basic wage, and a car and bills, and food and drink and social life.....urgh.

Ok, this is now absolutely crammed full. I guess there are two trains worth of people all packed into this one. Deep breath, it's not the time to get anxious.

I want to stand up, sing hallelujah, then sit back down and pretend I haven't done that, I need a grand finale of some sort don't I?

I might be famous on YouTube and not have to worry about whether or not I can afford to fuel up my little car. Do you get paid for funnies on YouTube like you used to on you've been framed? I shall research.

Fear not though, my blogs will still go ahead, as I am about to sign up to a new thing for a month, and I am quite sure I will have comments to make about it, and......next station stop...
Mon 2nd Feb, 2015 | 3:02pmmore...
Luce Smith

Platforms

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 26th Jan, 2015 | 9:23am
photo by Matt Buck
photo by Matt Buck
Why is he coming in on this platform? I wonder if he's been told to by the other driver, that'd be right.

Well, I don't see why we have to come in on 8, that's just typical, I mean for goodness sakes mate, why can't we come in on 6 like we always do?

That's right, send us along to 8 and right down at the other end of the station. I don't believe it. So now we've got to go all the way along, up and round to get to the other east coast platform.

I tell you, it's like the train has done a naughty! I try not to stare, but not sure if I cover it up as well as I ought. It's not like I'm on a classic train journey, it's the normal commuter train. Ok, so it's the London luxury but still, I class that as 'the norm' now that I'm a, what I call, posh commuter. I couldn't possibly travel on something with no leg room, or somewhere to plug in my phone to charge it up. Actually, today was a first as a ticket collector came round to inspect everybody's right to travel on this train. I showed mine, and didn't get a rude response as I had last time. I haven't seen the drinks trolley come round for a few weeks, I wonder if I'm not sitting in the right carriage, perhaps they only go a carriage a station, in which case I need to sit much nearer the buffet car. Silly name for it hey, it's not like a car in any shape or form is it? Where did it get its name? I know, back in the day, when trains didn't have any catering facility, they used to get to a place on the tracks, where they'd stop the train. A car would drive up to the train, and would pass the buffet onto the carriage where the buffet food was sold. Hence the buffet car being named.

I'd laugh if I was right!

So this couple who also travel on this London luxury, were obviously slightly disappointed to see that we were not only a few minutes behind schedule, but also slowly pulling up to the wrong platform. I wonder if they'll contact the company and ask for compensation? For the huge inconvenience caused? I'd love to have to reply to a letter like that. I'd take it proper seriously and perhaps reply to suggest that, to make these types of situations slightly easier to deal with, that they travel on a few different trains to and from Leeds, so that they can fully familiarise themselves with the station as a whole. That way, they wouldn't be deterred should the London luxury pull in on a different platform, as they will be able to navigate their way to the next platform of choice. Perfect.

What's worse, was coming home, I got the commute everyone likes to get, only I got lucky, and got a seat. Lucky, until I got a fellow commuter wedged in next to me. With, is there a nice way of putting it? Yes, there must be, hang on. Ok, with a rancid infused aroma spilling over every time she opened her mouth, which happened a lot when her friend sat opposite her and they got chatting. I know I sound like a right old mean cow and feel terrible for speaking so negatively of someone, but it was awful. Still, it did make me more determined to give up the commute, to grow up, and buy my first car. Well, I may not grow up as such, but will be brave and enter the world of car ownership!

After the bump last week, I still feel a Freelander is necessary, but well aware of the chuffing high tax and maintenance costs. Such decisions to have to make, I had no idea looking for a car would be such hard work! I'd find one I liked, then watch a review on WhatCar, be totally put off, and search again! First thing I learnt, set yourself a realistic budget, and prepare to barter!

Would I miss the commute? I think I would, but not as much as I would back in the day. When people sat down and had a conversation. When people knew how to socialise and greet people. When people had a long journey ahead, no technological gadgets to play with, and only the faces next to them to have to potentially make the journey fly by! I would have been a great train passenger in those days. Hate being with so many people yet not having a conversation. Such an opportunity to learn about different lifestyles, communities and cultures. Driving in a car on my own just means I get to sing out loud, and not have to always have my waterproofs in the bottom of my bag, just in case.

There will of course, be times when I question why that car moved into that lane, and didn't use indicators. I might actually raise my voice in places, depending on whether it's a woman driver or not......... Why have they done that? I now have to navigate around the ring road and back up.....yikes!
Mon 26th Jan, 2015 | 9:23ammore...
Luce Smith

Boom

NEXT STOP
Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 22nd Jan, 2015 | 8:53am
M6 Sunset photo by Henry Burrows
M6 Sunset photo by Henry Burrows
Driiiiiiiiving along in my automobile......
Dum dum. Dum dum dum, de dum
My baby beside me at the wheel.....
Dum dum du dum
Cruising and ....... BOOM!

Blood stained Dave decided to get up close and personal in his big wagon, without telling me.

Let me start from the beginning.
Picked up my hire car on Friday afternoon, to begin the journey down to Devon, where I visit my Grandad. They kindly upgraded my hire car to a bigger car, better engine. Thanks!
Picked up my travelling companion, and hit the road. We went via a garage to test drive a car I had seen, but more about that later.

The hire car was lovely. Powerful, not too sensitive, and knew how to handle the road. Radio on, snow on the windscreen, and away down the M1 we went.

The weather soon improved and the sun was shining. Which was nice. I was cruising along in the slow lane, after getting frustrated with middle lane hoggers. Why do they do that? Insist on cruising along in the middle lane when the slow lane is empty. Is it a status thing? Is it a code of road conduct only car owners know about, but one I shall learn in time?

A lorry/wagon, actually, is there a difference between a lorry and a wagon, or is it just which word you were brought up to say? Or is one used in one context....bear with, I shall Google....

How boring, it says they're interchangeable. Lorry, wagon, truck, no particular difference to write about. If I was Google, I would want to make something much more adventurous up, such as, 'wagon, a large drive-able vehicle which can be used for a variety of purposes such as transporting WAG's to see their footballing hubbys/partners, (which brings me to ask, what's the difference between having a boyfriend and having a partner?, I'm digressing.....). 'A lorry is the abbreviated name given to a lorrysaurusauto.......' See?

So this big vehicle is in the middle lane sliding up next to me. I see it, and think he should really be in the slow lane. Silly though in hindsight, as he must have over thought me, as he then pulled into my lane.

The next bit is a bit blurry, although I do recall asking in a loud and raised voice, what does he think he's doing? It honestly felt like we were suddenly, after the initial smash, connected by a mismatch of metal, and cruising along. He finally let go of me, and we both slipped onto the hard shoulder. Where I have to ask, where did that term come from, hard shoulder? Why isn't it dumping lane, or emergency lane? Or, 'oh knickers, my tyre's flat I need to ring a man to rescue me' lane? I will enquire, but shall finish the journey story first.

I stopped the car, and got out, shaking like a leaf. Really shaking, but still got a pen and paper out of my bag. The driver of the vehicle jumped down from his cabin. He was wearing white overalls, which were horribly blood stained. He got his bag and pulled out some papers. I looked at the side of the vehicle, and discovered the reason for his blood stained attire. He worked for a butcher/abattoir. Big gulp. Am I his next victim? Yikes! His name was Dave. It's not, I changed it for data protection and security, but let's call him Dave. He admitted it was his fault, and gave me details of his employer, registration plate etc. I was still shaking, but now wondering if the contents of his vehicle were dead or alive, or in between. Will go veggie this weekend and celebrate the legumes.... He told me to watch out when getting back on the motorway as it wasn't easy. Great, I can hardly wait!

I gave him my details, and hopped back into the car. To get back onto the motorway meant going along the hard shoulder right to the next junction, as they were doing work on it. My kind passenger had to ask a man in a yellow hat, if we could pass by, moving the gates across the way. He chatted to his walkie talkie and agreed. Slowly we went along, smiled sweetly at the yellow hat wearers, and eventually made it to the junction to the service station. I pulled up, switched off the engine, and rang the hire company. All good, and I decided to get back onto the road before I questioned it. The rest, so they say, is history. We made it to Devon, and I enjoyed a weekend of warmth, seaside, and swimming.

More importantly, was the test commute by car this morning. I set off, it was -3 degrees. Time was spent defrosting the car, but it was good to not have to walk to the station! It took the same time to drive to work, as the train takes. And was door to door, with the opportunity, which I took, to have tunes pumping, and me singing out loud. Brilliant.

Returning the car was good and bad. It had been badly damaged, paint and body work to the back driver side door. There were numerous forms to complete, but I was able to walk free from my nice car, and my adventure with blood stained Dave.

Sitting on here on the big blue-ish train
Dum dum de dum, dum dum de dum
Wondering whether or not to buy a car and risk accidents or keep commuting.

Poor blood stained Dave, hope he made it to his destination without wiping out more innocent hire cars! Boom!
Thu 22nd Jan, 2015 | 8:53ammore...
Luce Smith

Car Searching

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 15th Jan, 2015 | 9:48am
For sale!!! photo by Vetatur Fumare
For sale!!! photo by Vetatur Fumare
Ouch! I have just shown my season rail card to the lovely conductor.
It's valid and up to date.
The response was not expected, you normally get a 'Ta'.....
Today, I got, 'well you don't look very happy on there now do you?'

I smile and put my pass back in my bag, in the designated pocket.

Happy? Indeed, and if you care to view the windows open on my mini iPad, you will see that the mad car search is active! Last week's adventures on the tracks have definitely pushed me to keep searching auto trader. Although it's not easy.

There are so many cars! But, I have narrowed it down somewhat.
Can't be red
Can't be a Skoda (yes, I know they're VW but until the badge on the car says that, I can't shift my brand image ideas just yet, sorry)
Must be no older than 5yrs old
Must have done under 35000 miles
Must be in my budget, which will not stretch. Unless I see the old classic Saab convertible then, and only then, might I reconsider my finances!
It must have 5 doors, and I would like a CD player. Then, I can bring all my CDs out of storage, and into the boot. Fantastic. I shall also store my secret collection of shoes which I keep hiding in various places around the house. Otherwise, you get 'have you been buying shoes? Again? How many pairs do you need?'

So a car will serve many purposes.

I was impressed with the trains yesterday, as I walked to the station looking like a snowman. Would trains be running, or does snow on the line stop traffic? All on time and running smoothly.

Bless, he hasn't eaten today. Only two small cereals, and a banana. Oh yes, he forgot about the muffin he had as he left the house. He'll pick up a takeaway on his way home. Man talk going on over there, and I got bored listening to the remainder of the conversation as it was about films and TV programmes. Can't contribute or comment on either as I am rubbish with films, and don't have a TV, so on with my music......

I had to stand up! But I did it like a commuting pro. I edged my way down the carriage when they told me there wasn't any room. Says who?!! I like a challenge, which is just as well as the conductor came through after 5 minutes! I tried to get out of his way, but it wasn't easy! I asked those on the 6 seater if they would mind if I sat in their knees, they thought it was funny. I wasn't kidding. I edged my way in to allow the guy to pass.
It's ok, I refrained from sitting on knees! I behaved and stood all the way to the first station, where a seat then became vacant, so of course, I jumped in :)

I didn't recognise anyone, because this was the delayed train I wasn't expecting to get. For once the train delays worked in my favour!

So far this week, my commuting has worked out fine. However, I have booked a test drive tomorrow, so that will be fun. Never test driven before, are there some key phrases I am meant to use? Because so far, I can only think of the one spoken in Pretty Women, which is hardly a WhatCar review film! Not sure how appropriate it is for me to come out whilst chugging around the car park saying "this baby corners like it's on rails!"

I will behave and take a guy with me, in case they spy the blonde hair and think they have themselves an easy target. No chance, they will probably wish, by the time I leave, that they had put 'sold' on the car I am going to look at!
Thu 15th Jan, 2015 | 9:48ammore...
Luce Smith

Dark Friday

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 12th Jan, 2015 | 8:51am
photo by ume-y
photo by ume-y
True. The train has stopped. Lights off.

This is a test.

Car 5 - train 1

First week back and I have gone from ring a commuter, to booking a test drive, more times than I would like as an already indecisive person.

On the Friday night train home. It approached the first station stop. The lights go out. Shortly after, the train stops. It's not funny. Pitch black and you can see scary faces lit up from the likes of an iPad or mobile. It's ok, I am wearing a smile. It's gale force out there. Definitely not ideal as I am what I call bursting for the loo, but dashed for the next train instead of going to the loo in the city.

It's been a good 25 minutes and I'm pretending it's all cool. It's Friday night, who would want to get home and start the weekend?

Lights still off, girls giggling. Guys pretending they're not scared of the dark. Two men in fluorescent jackets rush through with a sturdy torch. A few minutes later, they go the other way.

Then we hear an announcement, the driver is going to reset the train, and hopefully we will be on our way. The fluorescent guys go by again. And then the other way.

Lights still off, not even any fire escape lights. Weird

Another announcement. The driver really is sorry and is going to reset from the rear. Sounds painful. The train starts up, but not for long and we're still in the dark.

Then, the announcement no one wants. The train has broken. They have sent for us to be rescued! What an absolute adventure! Until they say it will be 'considerable time' before it arrives. No air. Still need the loo. It's hot, and unpleasant. Two guys have cracked open their beers. Why, oh why, did I not grab a g&t?

I might sleep and hope that when I wake up, I'm in my house. I remember actually, when I was about 6, we came up on the train from Devon, and I had fallen asleep. My dad had the bags, my mum had my sister so the train conductor carried me off the train and into the car! I wonder if he would do it again! That's put a smile on my face!

I guess we should be grateful. With the awful news coming in from Paris about hostages and shootings, a broken train is hardly anything to grumble about. The good old British. Oh my. Some, am I allowed to say, knob, has forced open the door and gone into the line. Really?

Are we that blooming stupid. I have heard of two incidents this week involving suicide on the tracks. Grrrr that's disgusted me. Ok, so the breeze was nice but what a knob.

The train guy came along asking if someone had got off and if it was a young lad. Yes. He thought so. I hope he's got to safety that's all.

On a lighter note, the giggling girls are asking what colour train we're on! It's red apparently. There is a grey one and a yellow one. Really? I go for brands myself, maybe that says something about me though!

Is this really happening? How to give Lucy a hint over whether to quit commuting and buy a car! In the year of commutes this week alone has been the most eventful! Or trying,

Deep breath. I want to engage with the commuters, should I suggest a game of I-spy? Or maybe we could start singing appropriate songs, such as....why are we waiting......

I'm actually slightly concerned that we are going to be bodged out of the way by another train. Yikes.

Maybe I could start doing some train speed dating? Now that would be fun, oooo. Lights on, just the safety ones. They work then.....

So my track dating as I will now call it. Bear with me on this, but if I am doing something, then the wait won't be so tedious and I will feel like I am managing my time effectively! To be fair, everyone's very subdued. Are they scared? Maybe I will sing a lullaby.

Thought, how do we get from this train, to the next? Honestly, that's a good question! Do we get a train that connects at one end and we all shuffle through leaving the broken one stranded? Poor thing, someone on here will be making a note of it in the old trainspotters notepad won't they?!

If the new train slides beside us, that could be a mind the gap challenge! Oh, sadly. And yes, I am a little disappointed, but it's going to tow us.

Boring.......

It's odd as it's so quiet. I don't mean in terms of capacity, but more of how quiet everyone is. Think they fear the worst and that if I am made to keep silent for much longer, I will commence with silly talk just to pass time, and I can do that quite well!

Who said commuting was a hassle and a strain, it's such fun! I've exchanged looks with lots of people, shared my wisdom, used Twitter to get updates from northern rail, and crossed my legs so tight that I think I've forgotten how to walk!
Mon 12th Jan, 2015 | 8:51ammore...
Luce Smith

Triple Time

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Fri 9th Jan, 2015 | 6:25pm
photo by Polycart
photo by Polycart
You know you're tired, when you put your earphones in, press play, but don't hear tunes. Then you see that you haven't plugged the earphones into said device.

It's going to be a long journey home. Strange really how the same journey can seem to differ in how long it takes, when in fact, it remains the same. 45 minutes is 45 minutes, but seems 85 minutes when I want to get off, and seems even longer when I'm tired. Weird.

I have got the busy commute train as Mr Tesco are kindly bringing me the contents of my basket tonight. I say basket because that's what the website calls it, but I would love to know how even the best packer can fit my goods into a basket, several maybe, but a trolley would be better. I wonder when they'll offer that as an option, 'basket or trolley madam, for your virtual shop?'

In fact, that would be awesome wouldn't it? To actually go down the aisles virtually and pick the items you want from sight. Brillo, will tell Tesco to make that change. They may even allow me to go round the store in one of the children's trolleys they peddle? Oh yes, that's much better, Mr Tesco?!!,

Sorry, the train has stopped, and I can of course see that it's dark, but I don't see a platform. People start shuffling, and getting their communication kits out (ok, mobile phones.....). What did I miss whilst singing along in my head to the soundtrack of Beaches? They're all at it now, so I feel it necessary to pause Bette Midler, and speak out.

Turns out there are overhead wire issues, but an engineer is on his way.

The engineer arrives

My journey has doubled at this point.

The engineer is working on it

The train will be terminated at Shipley

It gets better. We can stay on the train and return to Leeds, or wait on the platform for the diesel train they have requested. I opt to wait. Stupidly. My journey time in my head, has now tripled. It's dark, cold, wet and breezy. No shelter. No guidance or information.

Lights finally appear, and we all move towards the forbidden white line.

The train pulls in.

The train isn't one specially brought in for this. This is the delayed train that was meant to set off 25 minutes after ours left. This is a train that's already......full.

Glad to get off the cold wet platform though.

Such fun this is! After a few station stops, a seat becomes available to me, so of course, I take it. Not expecting the next part though. The person I sat next to, murmured something, got up and stood by the doors for the rest of the journey! What? I put perfume on this morning, after my shower. Didn't I? Gosh, was it something I said? Something I didn't see? Tell me, please? I ask the couple sat opposite. They don't think I said anything wrong. The lady on the seats opposite smiles, reassuringly, I think.

Ok, fine. Will possibly go and get some advice on what perfume to wear that's commuter friendly. Such hard work. Hope Mr Tesco is late, and not offended by my perfume choice. Or my cauliflower choice for that matter!!
Fri 9th Jan, 2015 | 6:25pmmore...
Luce Smith

Right?

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 8th Jan, 2015 | 10:56am
Mobile User photo by Santos
Mobile User photo by Santos
Ready,,,,.steady,,,,,CHARGE!

Stride out into an almost trot through the barrier, locate train platform, speed past those you may be taking a seat from. Forget values and beliefs, and being kind to others. You haven't sat down on a train seat for about 9 hours, you deserve it. You're worth it. Getting a seat on the busiest commute out of the city is essential, so yes, I do deserve it. People seem to be walking faster, think I need to do some 'power walk passing others', training. There's a skill to it, and being slow, or clumsy in crowds, isn't helpful.

Never mind yoga techniques being all the rage, I need platform dodging skills. It should be a thing for 2015, to enhance commuting techniques to get higher up in life. It's a core skill.

I have that skill. It's all down to time management, being prepared, and focusing on the outcome. 45 minutes of sitting on fabric. Instead of 30 minutes standing up in the doorway, shuffling round when at a station to allow other people off, practising core resistance skills when the driver decides to brake, and having 20 minutes to recover before exiting the train. Sign up for lessons below.....

I've decided not to continue with my train snobbery, I can get northern rail or metro trains. The London train is nice, but it's not worth galloping for. It is of course, but I'm trying to convince myself that it's ok on lesser quality trains. It is, I get to listen to people on their phones, which is a bonus I know.

A lady is chatting to her boyfriend/husband as we speak. It may of course be her fancy man, but the conversation has yet to develop before I can decide. Oh my, he's done her ironing. What's he done, he must be after something......what've you done wrong? Hang on, done my ironing and you've made a start on dinner? Well, I hope this is a genuine dinner and not a guilt trip dinner?

She's gone quiet. Very quiet indeed. Oh, we're in a tunnel, she's lost signal. She's snotting I can hear her. Hope they're not tears, couldn't cope with that......oooop, almost back in signal land of 4G, the call will be resumed. It's not tears, definite snot, and cough. (Sorry, I didn't plan to write this content, but to say it as it is, live, in the now. I promise not to give more info though, totally not necessary)

Dinner is legitimate, but he is going out with the boys at the weekend, and she isn't invited. I just hope there's pudding and a bottle of wine, then it's ok!

Another girl is telling her mate how this one time right, she had got on the train, and right, it had been a really long day at the desk, and right, she was really tired right. So she was a bit like tired right, on the train on the way home you know, so had a Mars Bar (there are other chocolate bar brands, but this was her favourite, you could also substitute this for a Double Decker, or a Picnic, but not the hamper type, that would just look stupid). Anyway, so, she had the chocolate treat and it just didn't pick her up at all right, so she texted her mates and must have drifted into a nodding sleep. She kept waking up but was so tired right, that she didn't really pay attention to where she was right, so she like woke up, but guess what right? She had gone past her station! But she wasn't bothered right, coz she has loadsa friends in this place so she just went round to her friends house to get a lift home. She said there was a bit of an argument coz her friend had just stormed out of her boyfriend's house in a mood as he wouldn't tell her what he'd bought her for her birthday so she got into a right strop. She took her home anyway.

Phew. That was exhausting just listening to.

So good to be back in the land of commuting, but, with rail fares going up, would the comfort of my own four wheels, my own timetable, and my own smells and germs be more financially viable?

Bear with........
Thu 8th Jan, 2015 | 10:56ammore...
Luce Smith

The New King

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 25th Dec, 2014 | 2:44pm
Born in a Stable photo by Keith Williamson
Born in a Stable photo by Keith Williamson
Door 23. The new king is in a stable with sheep and cows. Health & safety would love that wouldn't they! It doesn't mention anti sanitiser sprays, or signs of where to put what type of rubbish. It doesn't even say anything about visiting hours, or the maximum number of visitors per bed.

The shepherds knew that this 'ere baby, was going to be their new king. Did it ever cross their minds that the baby would not be able to make any adult decisions for at least the next 18 years? I'm guessing therefore, that they shepherds were young and knew they had another 20+ years ahead of them. What were they expecting this new king to do I wonder? Just replace nasty King Herod? Who was before King Herod anyway, does anyone know? My historical knowledge definitely doesn't have that information stored!

Gosh, the luxury London train must have taken annual leave. It has left in its place, a slightly older version, in fact, it almost looks like it's from the 80's. Maybe it's a reminder of how lucky commuters are at this time of day. Ah well, any thing's better than a donkey ride to work I guess. On with the show.......

Door 24 Is a huge door! I know some advent calendars bizarrely go up until New Year's Eve now, not sure why? I'm also a tad confused. Door 24 says that the shepherds were poor, and that they smelled a bit. Not too judgemental then! It then says that the wise men were rich and important. Again, not at all judgemental! It didn't matter how smelly or clean the visitors were, the main thing was that they were all there for the same reason. To see baby Jesus, the new king. No pressure Jesus, but if you don't turn water into wine, and aren't able to feed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, then you're fired. Just saying. Plus, you need to be rebellious and turn tables up in anger in your teens, then also, just for the funnys, walk on water. It doesn't matter if you fail at this last task, as you will be able to swim a little, so not to worry, but do try your best.

The story then tells us that tomorrow is Christmas. When we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is the part where the two main characters, Mary & Joseph, fade out into the background. They aren't mentioned any more. They've done their bit. They trotted along on a donkey, then went to be counted, got tired, and slept in a b&b. The wise men aren't mentioned any more either. So being rich and important still doesn't make you appear in the front of the newspapers. The smelly shepherds became part of the furniture, and possibly didn't have an issue with the smelly stable, or the smelly sheep and cows. It doesn't make a reference too if baby Jesus was smelly. Maybe the gifts from the wise men hid this aroma. Bloomin' hope so.

And that, my friends, is the advent story ending. So if you get stuck for conversation around the dinner table tomorrow, whilst eating your tofurkey (great food name as mentioned by Jonathan Ross to John Bishop as the tofu version of Turkey), just ask what happened to the bright star they'd were all following. Or if there was any frankincense lying around. You could also ask if the Angel Gabriel ever sat down! She appeared awfully busy flying around!

I didn't read anything about elves, or Santa, or reindeer, so the story told, is very different to the visual story we see everyday! Maybe after the water turned to wine, the cows turned into reindeer, and the wise men rolled into one big Santa. Who knows, but jingle bells, let's go and celebrate the fact that there will be no commuting for me for two full days! Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!
Thu 25th Dec, 2014 | 2:44pmmore...
Luce Smith

Angels On The Line

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Wed 24th Dec, 2014 | 4:11pm
image by fanfreluche_designs
image by fanfreluche_designs
I'm on chocolate number 17 already, and still enjoying the flavour first thing.

Commuting this week has been most odd. I don't know if any of the wise men have been of some use, but I was delayed one hour. The delay was due to a technical/engineering fault. However, not having any communication from the staff, meant I stood on the platform, waiting, with the wind gusting through like it was a wind tunnel. Once finally on my way home, I was ready to follow that star!

Now in a dream, an angel told the 3 wise men to not go back to King Herod, and to keep following the star to Bethlehem. Good choice of instructions angel, he sounded like a meanie. It doesn't say who the angel was, and it would have been nice to thank them personally.

The next two days were disappointing for Mary & Joseph. The donkey finally got them to Bethlehem to be counted, but there were no rooms left. This I find a bit weird. They were told to go back to their home town, so did their house get taken over by squatters? Why was this home town so busy? Joseph begged. He would probably have put word out on Facebook to ask for help, but no such luck back in Roman times. Someone offered him a stable. Joseph wasn't overly keen, but I bet the donkey had a cheeky smile, thinking, finally! My prayers have been answered and I get to rest in the comfort of my own home!

Day 20. I got a picture of an angel on my chocolate. Never eaten an angel before and not sure how ethical it was, but the angel appeared in the hills, where there were shepherds. Did these shepherds not have the instructions to go to their home town to be counted? Or did they want to fight the system and stay put with their sheep. Naughty Shepherds, avoiding being counted.

The next night, an angel appeared. My 21st chocolate was a pair of wings this time, so not too controversial. The angel didn't fly in alone this time, there were a group of them. What's the collective term for a group of angels? A cohort of angels? A flock of angels? Apparently, they lit up the sky (am guessing they did this with their high-vis uniform, and head torches). They sang to praise the birth of the new born king. A bit early weren't they, it's only door 21, were they ahead of schedule?

Why isn't my train moving? Stopped at the station, people have got on, and.......we're not going anywhere. Are there angels on the track causing disruption? I wouldn't put it past them; a group of angels, possibly full of myrrh, and all giddy and excited? Anything is possible. I see the lovely man with the treats coming along the carriage, and the train finally lets its brakes go. Phew, don't want to be late today thanks. I can smell strong coffee, and that in itself, is enough to wake me up. Just as well as its not payday yet, so a cheap caffeine fix is always welcome.

Whilst eating chocolate number 22, I forget to look at the picture. I forgot, because I was appalled at the fickle shepherds behaviour that followed. They said they must go and see the King, so they left their sheep unattended, and legged it down the fields towards the light of Bethlehem. Rude! I don't think that was in their training manual, and I'm quite sure that it was never discussed at their last team meeting.

Maybe the sheep were pleased to get some peace and quiet for a while, and to enjoy the fields without having to be rounded up every now and again. I hope they had fun anyway, naughty shepherds. Did the angels warn them of this? Or were the angels in on it as well? The plot thickens, but bear with. Only 3 more days to go, and if today is anything to go by, it looks like everyone's just getting up and going! To a stable. To see a donkey, happily grazing in the comfort of his own home.

I cheated when I got home. I had a chocolate urge, I needed to fix, and without opening a wrapped gift for my friend, to indulge in some Cocoa based chocs, I opened door 23 and ate the chocolate. Well, if the shepherd was going to be naughty, so was I! I didn't even look at the picture on the chocolate, I didn't care. I just needed chocolate, and was very grateful for my advent calendar! Roll on New Year's Day when I can set myself a New Years resolution of eating chocolate before breakfast. That's definitely one resolution that won't be broken anytime soon!

2 more doors to go.......
Wed 24th Dec, 2014 | 4:11pmmore...
Luce Smith

Accidentally Singing Loudly

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 18th Dec, 2014 | 12:33pm

What if I accidentally, on purpose, started singing loudly.

On the luxurious London train, in the quiet coach?

I have an urge to do that this morning for some reason! I actually think it's linked with the fact that it's getting busier than usual. Festive travelling perhaps. I must admit, for the last few weeks now, I have treated myself to this luxury London commuter train.

It's warm, it's comfortable, and if I wanted, I could have a Gin and Tonic, served in a glass. A far cry from my usual canned version.

Have I turned into a commuting snob?

Is there such a person?

I can't be, as I get a regular train home. So 50/50.

As I was saying, this train is normally quite empty, but not this week. Have they been sent home to be counted like Mary & Joseph?

Are they following a bright star like the 3 wise men?

My advent calendar has been quite a journey so far, where did I get to, ah yes, door 12.

The novelty of chocolate with my first coffee is now becoming routine as I'm now halfway through. I could make it my New Years resolution though I guess, to have chocolate every morning, sounds good!

Door 12 had something better than chocolate, it had gold. The sensible wise man decided that money was always useful. Good call wise man, in fact, why don't advent calendars come with a £1 coin instead of a chocolate coin? That would be useful too!

It doesn't say where the wise man got the gold from, which bothers me. Did he just 'find' it, or buy it in the really useful shop?

Did he wrap it up for baby Jesus? I ate the gold chocolate in hope it may turn useful somehow.

The next wise man, door 13, decided that he could go one better than his mate, he upped the game, and decided on taking Jesus some holy smoke.

Frankincense. Is that Cockney rhyming slang for something else?

Wikipedia tells me it's good for the skin,for rheumatoid arthritis, and a psychoactive drug! You can tell what kind of wise man this was, he was a geezer! He wanted baby Jesus to have a full and varied life....did my chocolate make me psychoactive that day? I didn't notice if it did......
Door 14 brought the most sensible wise man.

He decided to take myrrh for baby Jesus. Brilliant!

Wikipedia tells me it can be ingested by mixing it with wine. He must have known baby Jesus was capable of turning into an alcoholic (sorry, I meant he had the capacity to turn water into wine, which is a skill he would use in his late teens!).

So much for him being a sensible wise man, he just knew life might be a bit dull for the new King without some myrrhing times!

So all the wise men took what they thought was a suitable gift, and headed up to the Palace.

Maybe that's where all the people on this train are heading, some sort of Palace? Or are they getting in early to do their Christmas shopping?

Perhaps they're getting into work early so they can do a 4 day week. Wonder if any of them are carrying myrrh?

Shall I ask someone? Not sure who the wise men are going to see at the Palace, as last we heard, Mary was tired, sat on a donkey, and Joseph was possibly in need of a few Brandys. They were surely in the stable by now, which by any stretch of the imagination couldn't be classed as a Palace.

Door 16 was a lovely chocolate. I saved this until the end of the day for some reason, just for a change, and to prove that I'm not one to be stuck in a routine.

(Wow, this train really is filling up, what's going on that I don't know about? I'm intrigued/nosey).

However, the advent story goes on to say that when the wise men arrived at the Palace, and told King Herod they were looking for the new King, Herod wanted to know when they found him. He didn't want baby Jesus to be King, and wanted rid of the baby. Ooooooh, a little bit of competition and he already wants to play nasty games. Not sure where the bright star is at this point. Had the wise men been psychoactive enroute and done a little detour? Sounds like they may well have done.

Maybe that's what's happened on this train, the commuters have been led to believe they must shop at the break of dawn.

I haven't had that calling yet, and feel a bit left out. Perhaps a shock treatment will get people back to normal? And what better way than to hear me singing along to my soundtrack of the day.......bear with......
Thu 18th Dec, 2014 | 12:33pmmore...
Luce Smith

Stars

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Mon 15th Dec, 2014 | 8:44am
photo by Kim MyoungSung
photo by Kim MyoungSung
The Romans probably didn't have chocolate did they? I wonder how chocolate advent calendars started. Did Cadbury start them? Hang on, let me google.......,wow, first advent chocolate calendar was 1958! Not sure if I thought it would be earlier than that or not.

So door 6 says people were ordered to go home to be counted. Like sheep? Not sure what method was used for this project, and I don't have inside knowledge. Did they sit in deck chairs at the end of a street and tick off a sheet when they saw someone? Or did they post a form for each resident to complete with an SAE? No, obviously a postal service like that wouldn't have been in operation. Perhaps Angel Gabriel got a group of her friends together, and they flew about and marked on the map how many people were in the area. Counted as seen?

Perhaps the job was contracted out to the shepherds, who were used to this counting malarkey. They would use dogs to round up people in each area and make notes. Whichever they did, if they did, it happened. The chocolate sadly got eaten before I looked at the image on it. Am guessing it was a calculator.

Mary and Joseph had to travel with everyone else to their hometown to be counted in door 7. Makes them sound like commuting snobs! What way did everyone else travel, I mean was a donkey ride seen as high class? The others had to make do with a wheelbarrow? Their own two feet?

A couple sat behind me this morning, and were definite commuting snobs. They made it clear by their behaviour and attitude. When one went to the toilet, the next thing you heard was, "who's put a bicycle in the toilet! Get it out immediately. What did you put it in there for?" I didn't hear the response, but the majority of us in the carriage looked around, then down, and smiled. Someone's in trouble! It was a busy train, and maybe the bike needed to spend a penny?

Door 8 says everyone was grumpy as no one wanted to go to their hometown. Why, were they on holiday? The chocolate (I looked this time, before I scoffed it), had a picture of sunshine. The door also says Mary was tired, and the donkey too. Mary was tired? She was sitting on a donkey! Poor Joseph had walked miles in the heat, and the poor donkey, had been trotting along to go and be counted. What had Mary got to be tired about? Had she thought about anyone else? I think she was being a little selfish really. Did she even offer to swap places with Joseph?

Door 10 and 11 go together. Three wise men saw a star. The star shone bright. On seeing this star, they saddled up the camels and followed it as it was going to show them to their new king.

I'm looking up at the stars now, and wondering what they are telling me. I think one is suggesting I buy some mulled wine. Another is saying, hold on tight, it's gonna be a cold night tonight but don't worry, I'll shine on you all the way home. I don't have a camel to saddle up, or a donkey. I will use my own two feet. I may pop in for some mulled wine though, thank you star.

I'm not into stars, I much prefer cloud gazing. You can play around with a cloud much better than a star, can't you. Did the Romans have better stars than the ones we get now? The big bright star that they were referring to, what happened to it I wonder. Did it end up being a shooting star and leaving town? Did it explode like a firework? Did it do what caterpillars do, shed its bright shiny skin but turn into a bog standard star? These are all questions I would like answers to please.

Maybe the next couple of doors will reveal the stars glory........
Mon 15th Dec, 2014 | 8:44ammore...
Yorkshire Times

On The 12th Day Of Christmas - The Colonel And His Elf

THE COLONEL'S JOURNAL
Posted by: Yorkshire Times, Fri 12th Dec, 2014 | 5:24pm
Fri 12th Dec, 2014 | 5:24pmmore...
Luce Smith

Roman Couture

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Tue 9th Dec, 2014 | 7:58pm
Legionaries photo by Hans Splinter
Legionaries photo by Hans Splinter
The people hated being ruled by the Romans. So as a punishment, my day 3 chocolate was the imprint of the Romans headwear. I ate it all the same, still tasted delicious! I wonder if these Roman people would have preferred a busy commute, to the clip clop of horses hooves. I would quite fancy talking to a Roman instead of a business-suited chap, just for a change. He wouldn't sit there staring at his smart phone or reading his Kindle, he'd be more likely to want to talk to his fellow citizens and convert them. I would be a challenge he may not like to take on!

He may well like to take these three lovely ladies though. They have spent the day mooching around York Christmas markets. It wasn't as good as last year apparently. And all they bought between them, was a jumper that Margaret bought, from M&S! (There are other jumper shops around of course, and indeed ladies' clothes shops too, all down the High St of your selected town/city). She'd seen it in the store in her local town, but didn't buy it as she wasn't sure the colour would go with her new skirt. When she saw it again, she had to have it,and there was a 30% discount today..

... A Roman could approach her and suggest that his type of headgear would really make that jumper look amazeballs. Or that in Roman times, a jumper like that would make a wonderful blanket for a small child, or goat. The ladies had fun anyway, but were ready to get home, kick their heels off, and enjoy some cheese and crackers. It had been quite a walk around the market stalls, even if they were of poor quality.

I hope they will also remove all make-up plastered on in the morning, and cleanse and moisturise. I think they will, they looked like they cared about their appearance, what did Roman folk moisturise with, butter? Donkey poo face mask? Nothing about it in my advent calendar so far.......I'll skip to door number 4.

Wham. Angel Gabriel coming atcha!! Now, I don't know about you, but I don't see many angels on my commute. I don't actually know what an angel is. Let me use Wikipedia......

I see. It's a supernatural being. Well in that case, I see one in the mirror don't I?! Were the Mario brothers Angels then? They were fairly supernatural whizzing around in Marioland I seem to remember from my handheld electronic gaming days. Anyway, this 'ere Angel, visited Mary, (am guessing whilst still perched on the very uncomfortable, and slow donkey), and door 4, says it changed everything. I'll bet it did, how many angels had Mary seen until that point? Do we know? Does it tell us anywhere, or are we to assume that Gabriel was Mary's first?

Perhaps door 5 will enlighten us with the surprise. Maybe she (I'm assuming Gabriel is a lady angel right? Or are they unisex? Just asking......) is going to find out that Joseph is actually a secret millionaire and will actually be taking her to live with him in one of his 8 castles, and she will have someone at her side at every minute of her day, taking care of her every need, and will issue an American Express card so that she never need go without. Or that Joseph is actually wearing a suit, and underneath, is the Roman David Beckham?

It's neither of those. Door number 5, is another delicious chocolate, with a fine imprint of an Angel's halo. I wondered where mine had gone....

So Gabriel told Mary she was going to have a baby. "Really?" Mary replied, "I didn't think I had eaten that many pies this month, and did wonder why this bump was appearing". Even the donkey had groaned whilst she had been helped on by Joseph. "Well" she said, "I wasn't looking forward to traipsing all the way to Paris for this new IVF treatment my friend told me about, although, I was thinking of going for a bum lift whilst I was there. Never mind, I could go when baby is at nursery".

Angel Gabriel told Mary that her baby would be called Jesus. "Even better" Mary cried out, "Joseph and I were having so many arguments about what to call the new baby, this will solve everything if it comes out with a name label."

Now, this week, my work has taken me to antenatal clinics and baby clinics. I bet the ladies there would love to have their baby named on entrance to the world, saves someone having to cave in and say, yes dear, angelinageorginapatriciaemma smith is a wonderful name, what a good idea.

Rock on Gabriel, anymore good news? Yes. He's going to be the promised King.

I look around me on the train. Is there anyone suspiciously King looking? No. Imagine being at a king's first birthday. How's baby James? He's doing so well, he's growing faster than most children his age, and his maths is superb! Yes, baby Katy is reading like a 4yr old, and she's not even 1 yet. Ah, well my baby Jesus is doing great, he still can't spell, or tell me when he needs poo poo, but he's going to be a great King. The thought of it is too tiring. This door opening on a morning is exhausting work! If I was a Roman, I could probably allow myself a siesta right? Oh good, then I shall rest before the adventures of door 6 and beyond take place!
Tue 9th Dec, 2014 | 7:58pmmore...
Luce Smith

Excitement...

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Posted by: Luce Smith, Thu 4th Dec, 2014 | 10:42am
photo by William Hook
photo by William Hook
I go to bed, very excited, and almost wanting it to be Monday morning already. You may think that sounds a little peculiar. Two days off, consecutively, otherwise known as the weekend, about to draw to a close. What could possibly be the reason to wish the weekend away? Quite simply, I have a childless house, a mum who still thinks I'm a kid, and a chocolate advent calendar waiting to be opened. Door number one has been located, and I am ready to attack the cardboard!

I try to sleep, but can't. The joys of living alone, no one can see me creep downstairs (don't want the neighbours to hear), and tear the cardboard door open. I feel very naughty.

I open it up, and eat the chocolate. Mum's splashed out as it's a bigger piece than last year, I'm sure. However, I look behind where the chocolate was, and wait to see what image is displayed.

I'm disappointed. Nothing, no snowman, no wise man, no robin, and no sprig of holly. Gutted. I used to like having a pictorial version of the calendar, as well as the edible version! No wait, was there an imprint on the chocolate I failed to see? Did I eat the image before gazing at it? In my haste and chocolate frenzy, have I made a schoolgirl error?

I shall have to wait now until tomorrow morning now. What will I do if there is an image on the chocolate, I shall be gutted I missed the introductory piece! Will I be able to understand the story missing the first part of it? If it is an image-less piece of chocolate, then that will be ok, I haven't lost out.

6.5 hours to go until the alarm goes.

Oh dear, one really must attempt to grow up.

One day.

But not now, I go downstairs and put the kettle on. I find door number 2. (Who am I kidding, I found door 2 as soon as door 1 was open). I think it's from my show-jumping days, when whilst leaping over a fence, you are looking at the next fence. The horse was leaping, not me of course, although to be honest, I did leap on one occasion. I'm digressing.

I look at the chocolate before devouring it. I feel sad. There's a sprig of holly looking at me. Bum. Ok. So what came before the holly. Autumn? So maybe chocolate number one displayed a leaf? To set the scene! Gutted! Even more gutted that I'm actually gutted! It's an advent calendar for goodness sake! And a chocolate one at that admittedly, as the year mum got me one that only had glitter pictures, was a year she learnt that only chocolate ones would be allowed! Or else it was a threat to the mother/daughter relationship. Fact.

So, in my 30's, with a calendar, and ready to tell the nativity tale, (courtesy of a delightful cocoa solid). Day 1. This is the story of baby Jesus. He wasn't an ordinary baby. No, his mum got pregnant, discovered it too late, and quickly got Joseph to make an honest woman of her. Phew! All this whilst riding a donkey, couldn't have been an easy thing! Am guessing she had a skirt on, no helmet, possible no false eyelashes, and definitely no way to contact her Facebook friends to update her status!

Day 2. More than 2000 yrs ago, people were sad the country was ruled by Romans. And a sprig of holly. Were Romans spiky with red berries? My history knowledge is embarrassingly poor. To the extent, that all I know about Romans, is that they liked showing off their torsos, and they built straight roads. Or was that a fishwives tale? Advent is a time of learning, as well as increasing my sweet tooth at 6 am, so December will be a history lesson for me this year. As it will for you, as I won't be selfish, I will share my knowledge with you. But not my chocolate. Unless you ask nicely.

What will happen on day 3? Will there be a sword fight? A family meal? Or a shopping trip for Black Friday? I will end it now, before I digress. Again!
Thu 4th Dec, 2014 | 10:42ammore...
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