This weekend hasn’t quite worked out as planned… I’d intended a couple of days of solid essay writing, combined with attending the final service at Whinfield, the church plant in Haughton-le-Skerne that is being re-merged; but that all evaporated when a mild cold I’d been harbouring decided to take over.

Top: Mallard; middle: Bauxite no. 2, an industrial shunter; bottom: the Flying Scotsman, in pieces in the workshop.

Before that happened, I went down to the National Railway Museum in York. [By the way, trains are very much ‘in’ here at Cranmer. As soon as he heard I was going, Russell – normally a cool dude – told me that the Sir Nigel Gresley (twin of Mallard) was going to be passing through Durham the next day, arriving at 7.29 and leaving at 7.31… And John used to work in rail safety (handling multi-million pound contracts) at Henry Williams, a Darlington firm that has existed for over a hundred years.]

The railway museum was a great chance to re-live my cildhood fascinaton with trains. (I thought I’d grown out of it… it appears I was wrong!) They give pride of place to Mallard, which is the first engine you see on arrival, and one could look around the cab as well. However I was just as fascinated by some of the less glitzy engines, such as the black industrial shunter Bauxite no. 2, which a sign describes as “cared for, but not restored”. There was also a talk given in the workshop about the restoration work currently going on, including the Flying Scotsman – the first engine to do 100mph, designed to bring Edinburgh within 8 hours of London.

The museum is due to close for a year for a re-design; it would be interesting to see whether they introduce more of a narrative to the  museum – which is where Darlington’s much smaller Head of Steam railway museum excels.

Last Saturday, I had the unexpected treat of going to a Royal Scots Guards dinner. David Bryan is the chaplain of the Durham & Yorkshire division, so I joined him on the top table. We were therefore processed into the room behind bagpipes! It was a very pleasant, congenial evening, and great to hear some of the stories. A major from London brought news of the regiment, which is expected to provide the manpower for the upcoming increased British numbers in Afghanistan. He posed an interesting condundrum: do we defeat the enemy to protect the people, or do we protect the people to defeat the enemy? The strategy chosen is the latter.

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