Retiring Dad’s railway

Yesterday, I visited my parents to help complete the retirement of dad’s O-gauge layout. His mobility and stroke-induced dementia have meant that he hasn’t been able to model for a while and so the decision was made to retire the layout.

It was based in a shed the bottom of the garden, with a station on each wall and the loop of track from one to the other outside, around the garden. We have now removed the outside track and will be dismantling the layout in the shed in due course. To my knowledge, he moved to O-gauge in the early ’90s and was using OO-gauge in the loft before that from the early ’70s. It’s truly the end of an era for him.

I don’t have many photos of the layout, but here’s a few to give a flavour.

The single track had a number of loops and sidings outside. Dad was more into operations than scenics and he had various operation schedules for the layout based how many operators were available. 5 were required for a fully staffed operation.

Jinty on the garden layout

Inevitably, Thomas for his grandkids. This picture was taken 15 years ago:

Working Thomas for the grandkids

5 years later, his grandkids were interested in operating it with him:

Grandchild operating the layout

This photo from 18 months ago is one of the last times it was operated. By this stage, he was mostly watching his friends operate it.

Watching the trains

What a fantastic hobby this has been for him!

Margaret Blacklock

Today, we said goodbye to Georgina’s grandmother. Margaret was 103 when she died and was sharp and with-it until the end. We visited her a couple of times per year and it was always a pleasure to chat with her and hear her stories.

We’ll miss her.


Cliff Stanford

The last time I saw him was the 14th September last year. He visited Worcester to chat about the ecommerce shop project. That evening Georgina, Ben and I went for a meal with him. He was much thinner than I remember and a little quieter, but we had good conversation with Ben also being included. It was good to see him, though the effects of his illness was obvious.

He wasn’t drinking that evening. We used to enjoy a drink together; we’d have wine and then move onto whisky. I found him an easy conversationalist and we’d spend the night talking long after Georgina and Sylvia had gone to bed. Of course, I was the only one who was up at 7 the following morning :)

I had a very typical male friendship with him. We didn’t talk about our emotions or anything. In fact it was only this month that we talked about his fear of dying alone in hospital and I got some glimpses into how his illness from last year had really knocked his enthusiam for life. I think that those conversations really brought home how serious it was. Strange.

I’m going to miss his humour and our late night conversations over whisky the most I think.

Looking at my photos over the years. We had so many good times. He’s an old enough friend that I don’t have the early photos here as it predates when I had a digital camera.

Simon wrote Cliff’s obituary for The Register.

Cliff Stanford, 2018

Neil Thompson

Yesterday I attended Neil’s funeral. Lorraine, Jessica and Amber were true stalwarts during a lovely service that really brought out how truely loved and appreciated Neil was.

Meeting up with my dad’s side of the family afterwards was lovely, though I’m beginning to wonder if they think that I only ever wear a suit!

Flowers in memory of Neil Thompson

Linda Philip

Today, we said goodbye to my aunt Linda. A lovely service that I’m very grateful that I could attend. Bill’s words during the service choked me up; the love he and all of our family have for her is very evident.

Linda will be very much missed.

We’ll be raising a glass to her this evening.


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2020 in pictures

As we reach the end of 2020, I continue my tradition of looking back at my year through the photos that I took as I have done every year since 2009. I have been doing a Project 365 for a good few years which acts as a diary too, so I have the opportunity to appreciate what happened this year in my life.

This has been quite a year with the pandemic hitting the UK hard in March and continuing. With the approval of two vaccines for UK use, maybe life will be more “normal” by mid-2021 though. The end of 2020 marks the end of the UK’s membership of the European Union, which, in my view, is a tragedy.


January started out well. We went to Bristol Zoo on the first and Worcester’s Festival of Light took place. As with 2019, I spent an afternoon taking photos in Bristol with Stu Herbert which was a lot of fun.

Looking for a lizardHalo


February was conference month. We started with FOSDEM, the only conference of the year that my wife and I attend together. I was also fortunate to speak at Sunshine PHP & attend ServerlessDays Cardiff. I also spoke at PHPUK, where I had a memorable evening drinking cocktails after the conference! Worcester flooded and a new local railway station Worcestershire Parkway opened too, but due to the way the year panned out, I haven’t yet caught a train from it.

FOSDEM welcome in JansonOSMI buddies


March was when we realised the seriousness of COVID-19 as the UK went into lockdown on 16th March. At the start of the month, I took photos at the KVWR Spring Gala. I also spoke at PHPSW’s March meeting as a short-notice replacement as company travel restrictions prevented the original speaker from attending.

Stop Look ListenDerick speaking on PHP 7


April was the start of Very Little Happening around here. As I’m self-employed and work from home, nothing much changed there, though my home was now filled with college and university students. My youngest’s GCSEs were cancelled, so his holiday started in April and my eldest’s Uni course essentially stopped from what I could tell. I started walking around my local part of Worcester for exercise.

This play equipment is out of use until futher noticeSign post


May is birthday month in our household and nothing else happened other than walking.

Eldest s 19th birthdayReading his new book


In June, infection rates in Worcestershire were low enough that I felt confident to go and stand in a field taking photos of trains on the Lickey Incline. I continued walking for exercise, sometimes with family.

Cross Country Voyager heads up the Lickey InclineFamily walk through the woods


July saw more walking. There was more gaming this month as my wife acquired a PS4 & the kids were getting desperate enough for human contact that we saw them on a few evenings too!

Wild flowers areaPlaying Switch together


The SVR reopened on the 1st August, so I took photos of steam trains again! On the last day of the month, my Apple Silicon DTK arrived so I could ensure that Daily Jotter works with the upcoming ARM Macs.

2857 passes Crossing CottageNew Mac


The SVR continued to run, so I wandered over to the SVR to see the class 50s run. Nothing much else was happening and I continued to walking for exercise.

50 007 heading to HighleySign


I finally replaced my 2013 MacBook Pro with an iMac Pro in October. I love how quiet it is and it runs rst2pdf‘s tests so quickly! As you can probably guess, I also took many photos of trains. It’s a very solitary activity where I’m on my own all day, so quite suited to social distancing.

New iMac Pro2857 heads up Eardington Bank


With cases rising, there was a second UK lockdown in November, so no SVR photo opportunities. Work continued and I walked for exercise.

Signpost in the sunshineCold morning today


In December, I attended a socially distanced funeral for my aunt which was a strange experience. As it was Christmas time, I baked many mince pies and with the SVR open for a short while, I took photos of trains in the snow.

Making mince piesFlowers for my Aunt Pat s funeral

2020 has been one of the strangest years of my life. This has been a year divided by the pandemic. The first two months were normal with conferences, user groups and normal life. March onwards has been isolationary. My friends and family do not live locally, so I’ve not socialised in person with friends or family since March; mid-to-late 2021 cannot come soon enough!

One thing is certain, this was the year where we really appreciated our healthcare & key workers.

Thank you all Key workers

Pat Bliben

Today was my Aunt Pat’s funeral. These are never easy & are particularly hard with the current restrictions.

The service was lovely and the genuine messages of love from Pat’s grandchildren emphasised how well she loved & cared for her family. The order of service book included many photos of her that really showcased her life. Beautiful.

I’m pleased that I was able to attend.

Flowers for my aunt Pat's funeral

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2019 in pictures

As we reach the end of 2019, I again get the opportunity to look back at my year through the photos that I took as I have done every year since 2009. I have been doing a Project 365 for a good few years which acts as a diary too, so I have the opportunity to appreciate what happened this year in my life.


Early in January, I spent an afternoon taking photos with Stu Herbert and took my car-mad son to the Autosport International show at the NEC. We didn’t get much snow this year in Worcester, but the little we did was mid-January. At the very end of the month, I spoke at Serverless Days Cardiff on OpenWhisk.

LeMans e-sports series race carNetworking at Serverless Days Cardiff


Immediately after Serverless Days Cardiff we went to FOSDEM. We had a day to ourselves and went to the Atomium which was fun. A week later, I spoke at Sunshine PHP. Both are great conferences! Unfortunately, I missed PHPUK as my wife had a horse-riding accident and broke her ribs.
I also got in my first trip to a railway, spending the morning at the SVR in some lovely light!

Jenny made an excellent bouncerLate night conversations


March saw a trip the SVR’s Spring Gala and then with the passing of my aunt, a funeral. I don’t see that side of the family often, so although it was a sad reason, it was good to meet up with everyone. I also popped over to LA to see a client at the end of the month and caught up with Evan.

4144 takes on water at BrignorthRKA 20190321 141811 2011


In April, I attended PHP Yorkshire which meant a quick trip to the NRM as I was in the city! I also visited various user groups and walked in the woods.

The hallway track at  phpyorkshireWalking in Worcester woods


I spent a couple of days “up north” in Yorkshire visiting the the KWVR and NYMR railways while visiting friends overnight. I also went the SVR’s Diesel Gala where I had a tour of the inside of 50 044. It was a good photographic month for me! We also went to the polls this month and would go again in December.

5428 departs PickeringMike shows me 50 044 s engine


June saw a trip to Amsterdam to speak at DPC and then I attended LeadDev in London. I also played my Switch more this month and by the end of the month it was warm enough to be regularly eating ice cream! All my Project 365 photos have been in black and white this year, and I also chose to publish my LeadDev phots in black and white too.

Jenny and James co present slideshare karaokeA drink after the first day


In June my youngest was on a float for the Worcester Carnival and I got a new camera: a Fuji X-T3! I’m really happy with the new camera and lenses and expect to take even more photos next year! Towards the end of the month we headed to Spain for a holiday in the sun where I struggled to take a good sunrise photo, but did eat lots of ice cream! We also celebrated our wedding anniversary.

X T3 with 2 lensesSun rising behind the clouds


We continued our holiday into August and it was a quiet month upon arriving home. I popped over to the SVR and also took some photos in Worcester.

Enjoying my morning cup of tea while on holidayWorcester Cathedral


The most momentous even in September is that my eldest left for University and we had to adjust to being a family of 3. We also had our annual family gathering of my mum & her sisters’ families. I went to the SVR for the unveiling of 50 033 after restoration . The group working on it have done an amazing job. As my wife was away, I took my youngest to his horse riding lesson at the end of the month and took a few pics with my long lens which was fun.

Sis with dadLine up of  some of the Glorious restoration team


September and October are traditionally conference months for me, but this year I only attended one conference: OggCamp. I’ve been trying to attend for a few years now, but it kept clashing. This year that didn’t happen and as it’s an uncon, I spoke about photography! Lorna also managed to nab one of the key SnapCraft people and we got some help on how to package rst2pdf as a snap which was very useful. Worcester was flooded in October too which was inconvenient.

Alan Lorna  KevinFlooding in Worcester


I attended Bristech and spoke at Cardiff DevFest in November. As I had some spare time in Bristol, I had another attempt to photograph the Clifton suspension bridge and did a better job than in January! This was the month that I bought a new MacBook Pro 16″, but struggled with software issues and returned it. I’ll try again to replace my laptop next year. It was also my sister’s boyfriend’s 50th, so I took a trip up to see him and we drunk rather a lot of whisky! Guess what? As I was up that way, I popped into the ELR to take a few photos!

Clifton Suspension BridgeFanstastic talk on accessibility by Svetlana


Sadly I attended another funeral in December. My wife’s grandmother died at the ripe old age of 99. We haven’t seen that family in a good few year, so it was interesting to see how grown up all the kids are now! This month also saw the end of InterCity 125 HSTs on the Great Eastern main line. The LNER train company ran a special train painted in the 1970s livery that the HSTs were launched with, so I drove 2 hours to take a photo in 30 seconds and then drove home again! My son came back from Uni for Christmas too. It’s great to see him, but he’s shocked at how slow our Internet is compared to what he’s used to 😂

LNER HST Farewell Tour at Conington

As usual, I forget what happened during the year which is why I take so many photos! This year in particular I made an effort to get away from my desk and take photos outside and indulge my enjoyment of taking photos of heritage railways. Next year, I would like to see if I can widen my repertoire and take more photos of landscapes too.

On the whole, it was a great year though!

Doris Lunnon

We celebrated Georgina’s grandmother’s life yesterday. She reached 99 years.

It was a lovely, simple service at the crematorium that fitted well and I particularly liked the music chosen to finish on – it’s great when we can leave a funeral service with a smile when thinking about the life of the one we have said goodbye to.

We don’t see that side of the family often and I have to say that the next generation are lovely, articulate young people and it was a pleasure to see them. Gillian & Steve and Stuart & Cath must be very proud.


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I wonder

I wonder if the UK will have fewer people in prison in 5 years time.
I wonder if the UK will have smaller class sizes in 5 years time.
I wonder if the UK will have fewer people sleeping on the streets in 5 years time.
I wonder if the UK will have fewer children growing up in poverty in 5 years time.
I wonder if the UK will be healing more people more quickly in 5 years time.