I have never supported the idea of London getting the Olympics, but I am not going to rant and rave about that.  My issue at present is more to do with transport into, out of and in London, particularly in light of my challenging afternoon on tubes yesterday.
Yesterday I got on the much delayed Central line, it having been very badly flooded the day before around Stratford, with no service between Bethnal Green and Leytonstone.  I was on the platform for over ten minutes (about 2pm) and couldn’t get on the sardine-packed first tube that came along.  Below ground, on a reasonably mild but wet day, it was stifling, even worse on the tubes.  My three or four tube journeys took longer than they should have, it was hot and busy and an entire line (Central) was either partly closed or running an erratic service.  This was not rush hour, though it was half-term.  I kept thinking how much worse it would be during the Olympics.
How long is London going to be even busier than normal?  Will it be sporadic or just a full-on onslaught of chaos from the end of July until the latter half of September?  It’s all very well encouraging people to work from home but there are a lot of us who can’t.  As it happens  I don’t get much work over summer, but even if I did I would struggle to get to work as the high speed trains that I use are largely suspended so the service can shuttle people between St Pancras – Stratford – Ebbsfleet.  The other trains take almost an hour longer and I expect they will also be extremely busy.
As for the bus lanes being made into VIP lanes, what about the buses?  Is normal traffic going to be held up at each bus stop as the buses try to cut into the VIP lanes to let people on and off buses?  What about people who go to work by bus, say in the shops that are expected to flourish financially during the games?  Indeed, are tourists who are in London for the games going to want to go shopping on Oxford Street, assuming the tubes aren’t down, the taxis aren’t full and the buses aren’t gridlocked by Olympic traffic?
While battling through crowds in the stuffy Underground system yesterday, I felt the horror of weeks of challenging conditions.  The tube can’t cope during every day rush hours, there is no air conditioning (it works in the drivers’ cabins on at least some tubes), there are now fewer staff at the gateline and, as happened yesterday, the staff are often asked time consuming questions, in yesterday’s example being asked how to walk from Covent Garden to Wembley as the man had no money for a ticket.  In the end the Customer Service Assistant pointed, “That way”.  I fear that will have taken a good few hours for him to walk, especially in the rain.  But during the Olympics, that might have been his quickest and easiest option.
Somehow the UK usually manages to pull things off, seemingly against the odds.  I hope that this is how things go for the Olympics.  But with travel, I am not confident.  I am already incensed by certain unions securing extra money for certain transport workers during the games owing to the added stresses and pressures.  But, hey, there are a lot – a lot – of other workers who will also face increased pressure and security threats but they either don’t have the backing of influential unions or just see it as something they have to deal with.  In all likelihood I will lose work opportunities, as I suspect will a fair few other self-employed workers.  What about the NHS (many of whom aren’t allowed to take time off during the summer holidays, particularly an issue for those who have children on school holidays), shop owners around the Olympic Village, cleaners, emergency services; there are a lot of people whose working life will be made a lot more difficult, even more dangerous, yet they will not receive compensation for working during the Olympics (as far as I’m aware).
I hope I am just being melodramatic and am just an Olympics-in-London ranter.  Unusually, I want to be proved wrong about something; I want the Olympics to run smoothly, there to be no terrorist or other attacks and for our transport network to be efficient, both for people travelling to Olympic events and those trying to go about their daily business.  Not long to find out, though I am hoping to be out of the country for the end of July and most of August.


              Yesterday, I discovered an interest in air displays, having spent the day at my first ever air show, practically at the bottom of my road no less.  I even took photos and, dare I say it, a few videos!  It was also fun to watch it with friends, one of whom is a propulsion engineer and used to be an engineer for Chinooks in the RAF.

I used to roll my eyes in disgust at any suggestion I might want to go to an air show, now I’m all for it.  How such big and heavy things can get into the air and then do tricks (or just fly) is beyond my comprehension.  It was probably the red arrows that convinced me to go.  They can fly about six to eight feet apart, in formation, not just going in a straight line.  It’s incredible.  So, yes, I did enjoy their display.  But, to my surprise, it was seeing a Lancaster Bomber, initially flanked by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, that I appreciated most.  At that point I wasn’t on the beach, I was higher up so not so far from the height at which it was flying.  It is an enormous plane, and as it happens I know someone who was awarded a DFC for bringing back the Lancaster he was flying as acting Flt Lt in 1943 above Essen, aged 21.  His aircraft was subjected to AA fire which rendered the intercom unserviceable, both tyres burst, the fuselage was littered with holes and the rear turret was badly damaged.  Not only did he shake off his attacker, he brought the plane safely home.  Having seen that plane and appreciating its size next to the Spitfire and Hurricane, it really brought to life the heroics of that Flt Lt, and indeed so many others who flew military aircraft in the war.

As for the video footage, that was because I was somewhat in awe of the Eurofighter Typhoon display.  What a crowd pleaser!  The roar of it reverberating through your body was incredible.  A bit of Googling later and I have found out the following: at altitude it can fly at 1,550mph and at sea level, 910mph; they can fly at twice the speed of sound and straight up, up and away, properly vertical.  They can also be controlled by voice recognition, yikes!  Although not confirmed, it is estimated that the UK’s contribution to the total programme cost was a staggering, way over-budget, £37 billion (ouch).   Fancy buying a Typhoon?  £125 million should sort you one.  (another ouch)

The overriding thoughts I had afterwards were about the heroics of fighter pilots and the conditions they endured (apparently the pilots in Lancasters (well, one in the UK and one in Canada) now have to fly with the hatch (hatch?) open as carbon monoxide leaks into the cockpit) and how incredibly loud one Lancaster bomber is and that during WW2 the noise must have been terrifying and all-consuming.

I had a really good day out at the air show, including a Mexican takeaway lunch on the beach!  I shall be going to another air show, especially as I’ve found out that if you go to air shows at air fields, you get to see the pilots getting in and out of their planes, woo hoo!!!!!

{01/06/2012}   Eating food on trains

One of the many things that shocked me about returning to the UK after two and a half years living in Japan was how much food is consumed on trains and how smelly and intrusive it is.  In Japan it just isn’t done, and on a few occasions when I tried surreptitiously to nibble something, I felt guilty, naughty even.  I don’t feel naughty eating on trains in the UK, but I would rather not do it as it adds to the all-round train aroma resulting from being trapped in a carriage, usually without opening windows, with a whole load of strangers with all their whiffs and pongs!

In dire need of sustenance a few months ago, I resorted to eating my egg sandwiches on the train.  I felt ostracised, probably rightly so, for the smell seemed like one great big almighty fart.  Egg or fish sandwiches are probably the most offensive and should be banned, but a McDonald’s meal or a hot pasty is also overpowering.  I have got the vomit comet home before.  I am not a post-booze eater, though I do get why people want to eat after a drinking session.  It’s just that on a train, with no escape, smelling such strong food mixed with the inevitable sweat and booze stench makes me feel a touch queasy.  I also don’t appreciate food remnants on the seats and floor.  Listen to me, I shouldn’t be allowed onto a public forum like a blog, it brings out the moaner in me; something I would (should) otherwise keep restrained!

I am writing this and hearing my Victor Meldrew gearing up for full rant mode.  If I were in charge of trains (I know this applies to all public transport, it’s just that I get more trains than any other mode of transport), I would have a food-free carriage in addition to the quiet carriage.  There would then be a dining carriage in which you could eat your lunch, whether purchased on the train or brought yourself.  The only issue, as ever, is the security issues of leaving your bags and seat unattended.  Maybe I could ban fast food outlets at train stations?  Maybe that would make me hugely unpopular?  Oh, and the other night, I bought a Leon’s superfood salad (I did go for a less smelly option, ruling out the salmon) on my way to a dinner time train.  I had to eat it on the train.  Hmmm, I am seeing flaws to my ban-fast-food-outlets-near-stations proposition too, there are times when you can only really eat at a decent time by eating on the train!

Maybe I should just stop moaning and eat my egg sandwiches oblivious to how stinky and unsociable it is.  Maybe having a public rant about it is enough to keep me quiet for a few more smelly train journeys!  I wonder perhaps also if our varying standards are what make we Brits, for example, a diverse, relatively unpredictable population; more independent and less rule-bound than, say, the Japanese.  There, not so ranty after all, there’s hope for me yet.

     There is a slim chance my current research for a three-four week holiday over July/August will result in my staying at home, but for now I’m finding the “where shall I go” element incredibly exciting; free entertainment and geography lessons!

     My current favourite option is a four-week cargo ship voyage between Le Havre and Martinique and Guadeloupe.  I now know where those French West Indies islands are located (this harks back to an earlier post about travelling broadening your geography knowledge) and that it takes over a week to get there from Le Havre.  There is an outdoor swimming pool on the boat and you take meals at the captain’s table.  Tragically, I have an image in my head of Captain Birdseye and a crew whose characteristics date back at least one hundred years.  I also have a bizarre conviction that there will be pirates.  Whatever the reality, I imagine adventures and swashbuckling stories.  Delusional?!

I have also looked into Vietnam, Uruguay, long train journeys, visiting tigers in India (wrong season) and finding a remote beach on which to do nothing.  But I’ve realised that I don’t want to have lots to do, I want to read, write and lounge, all interspersed with adventures.  Hence my interest in the cargo ship option – only five to seven fellow fare paying passengers, a journey-long supply of fish fingers and Pirates, ahem, of the Caribbean (ie sexy ones, not real ones).  Thing is, it transpires there is a far greater risk of seasickness on non-passenger liners.  Thing is, yes, you’ve guessed it, I am prone to seasickness.  Minor detail …

Sorry, got a bit waylaid there with visions of Captain Birdseye and Captain Jack Sparrow.  I had thought that researching a holiday then not going on holiday would be quite upsetting, but so far I’ve spent a lot of time looking at maps and finding out all kinds of nuggets of information; this is what armchair travel should be about and it’s unexpectedly good fun.  Mind you, if it gets to July and I don’t have my epic journey booked, I will be somewhat morose.

While living in Japan, I needed to leave the country to get a visa.  I went into a travel agent and asked where I could go the next day.  It took a while for the travel agent to realise I was serious, that anywhere outside Japan would be good.  It was all very exciting, not knowing where I’d be going.  I left the travel agency with a return ticket to Indonesia.  I was there for a week and I had so, so many adventures and memorable experiences.  I love that you can go anywhere, you don’t even need to plan it like I’m doing now.

I am a little too fond of travel guides, particularly before I go somewhere, but with that Indonesia trip for example, I didn’t have the time or inclination to go and buy a guidebook.  I just went there.  I discovered some breathtakingly beautiful places: traditional, unspoilt villages, a volcano I drove down, some amazing temples, waterfalls, deserted beaches, dolphins, restaurants on beaches … they were all my discoveries.  If I’d read a guidebook I’d have gone in search of some of those things.  But isn’t the joy of travel in the sense of exploration and discovery?  It’s great feeling like you’ve discovered something amazing by stumbling across it rather than searching for it.  That’s kind of why I’d love to go on a ship or a train, I wouldn’t have a clue where I was most of the time, admittedly on the ship I’d merely be “at sea” for more than half the time, but how exciting must it be when you see land again after a week or so?  And for that land to be a beautiful lush island in the midst of the Caribbean, having set sail from the familiar thus unexciting English Channel.  I mean, seriously, how can the English Channel end up “becoming” the Caribbean?!

{12/05/2012}   Train journeys in the UK

Yesterday, I caught a train from Edinburgh to London, pretty much five hours down the UK.  There is something quite exciting about long train journeys, and, yes, I do want to go on the Trans Siberian.  I always take a selection of activities for train journeys, but usually end up looking out the window, particularly in the less familiar, ergo more interesting, north.

Travelling through the UK, I always get an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for our verdant land and windswept beaches (admittedly only seen for bits of the northerly parts of the journey).  I also got a better understanding of flood issues of late and even saw changes in the weather, from mottled cloudy blue skies to heavy rain clouds and rain.

Admittedly, I did get the usual waves of boredom and, “oh, surely not another two and half hours left” type internalised whines.  But I got a letter written, wrote my blog, did some work (though that resulted in issues as the wifi was down), read a magazine and a bit of a book, looked out the window and started planning another UK road trip.  Useful; doing things I always complain I don’t have time to do.  Actually, I am rose tinting it a little bit because I did have a major boredom spell of about an hour.  Plus I had a headache and felt I’d travelled across seven time zones by the time I got to King’s Cross.  But it was still a good experience, especially as I had a friend to meet at King’s Cross and we went to the St Pancras Grand for dinner and had champagne before the final hour of my journey back to Folkestone!  Very civilised.

On a sort of down side to train travel, I get ludicrously hungry.  I stopped at a supermarket before I set off and filled a bag with food supplies.  And ate them all.  I could have eaten more.  My train cup of tea with a bakery sausage roll were the highlight of that journey (a good sausage roll is a treat indeed).  Maybe it’s a psychological thing, feeling you’re doing something tiring, travelling, thus needing sustenance to keep you going.  Maybe it’s just that I love food and see it as a means of filling time, an excuse to eat!

In terms of the landscape, I love the variety, seeing changes all the way along the journey, then seeing landmarks you recognise, stations where you get off to visit certain friends and a feeling that all that is part of your homeland.  I’m not a particularly patriotic person, I moan about loads of things about the UK, but despite the abundance of hideously ugly modern housing estates, etc, I love opportunities to travel across (or above, when there are no clouds below!) the UK for it is a beautiful island and it seems like most of us only really explore the vicinity of our homes.  So friends around the UK, brace yourselves, I feel another UK friends-stay tour coming up soon!  Though, sadly, it’s more likely I’ll do that by car as it’s far too expensive to travel by train, especially if there’s a champagne bar at one end of the journey!

Perhaps it’s a bit excessive dedicating a blog post to London City Airport (LCY), but I am sitting here, mid-afternoon (writing this the day before posting), in a very civilised waiting area. There are loads of spare seats, all of which are comfy ones, and it is largely quiet. Once again, I am identifying a growing snob in me!

I like leaving from LCY (I’ve probably passed through here 20 times) because it seems to generally run smoothly and it’s never been LGW- or LHR-busy (though it is a lot busier in the evenings and mornings). It is unusual to see uncontrolled children, there are no alcohol areas designed to look like real drinkers’ pubs and there are a lot of seats. I quite like smaller planes, I enjoy the view from the planes as they land and take off and I like the fact it feels more like a train station than an airport.

Looking around now though, assessing the demographic, there is an abundance of men, suited men, most of whom are using their laptops or are on their mobiles. There area lot of erect wheelie case handles, poised to be pulled the short distance to the plane. I can hear coffee bieng ground, there are quite a few French style beer glasses left on tables and I see more Kettle Chips being eaten than Walker’s; seriously, I’ve just done a tot up!

I know it’s unfair to compare a tiny airport to some of the biggest airports in the world, but as I’m neither going to Bangkok nor Marbella, it’s refreshing to not have to endure holiday makers. Mind you, I did my usual trick of arriving early at the airport, kind of forgetting that there is next to nothing to do at LCY except wait in comfy chairs, use the free wifi, browse WH Smith, spray on some perfume and drink overpriced (£3.80 for a cappuccino? Really?) coffee or beer from fancy glasses. But it was worth it for this people watching time!

I also find it quite intriguing that there are houses, a Victorian row of terraces no less, about 20 metres from the entrance to the airport, standing at which are armed security/police. How cool would that be, you could “pop” to the airport for dinner in Paris or some such. I like to think that the people who live there have at least made use of the proximity to an airport. But I bet they were pissed off if they’d lived there before there was talk of an airport being built here!

One final thing about LCY that has always given me cause for private smiles (that sounds pervy but it’s not!) is that it always, always makes me think of the 1980s kids’ TV show, Jimbo and the Jet Set. Jimbo used to run down the runway and he’d always struggle to take off, like I imagine I would if I were a flying person. Because of the short runway here, I always seem to animate the planes into Jimbo (I’m really not kidding!!) and imagine them running full pelt towards the end of the runway then giving a final burst of energy and an almighty sigh to lift them up. Let the running commence, my plane is boarding!

{09/05/2012}   Passports

I found my previous passport, it’s full of stamps and memories of a more exciting ten years than those visible up to year eight of my current passport. I think this sums up how I think of my 20s: travel and adventure.
I love the idea of a passport as a travel record. It pains me that you no longer get stamps for EU countries, then my current passport would seem far more exciting and I wouldn’t feel so rug bound and lacking excitement. When an Australian friend and I drove around parts of Poland, Germany, France and Czech Republic, she got stamps galore, I just had a memory of the excitement of border crossings. I know it’s a bit silly to want a mere stamp in a little book, but I have never stopped finding border crossings thrilling. Merely crossing from one country to another (and, no, airports don’t count and neither does the “You are leaving the UK – Bienvenue en France” type signs around the Eurotunnel entrance) is something momentous, an occasion of the utmost excitement … to be marked by a stamp of confirmation. Such stamps also allow you to say really tossy things to friends while you’re standing in airport queues, such as, *flicking through your stamp-ridden passport*, “Gosh, I don’t know if there are any free spaces for a stamp … oh, look at that *stop flicking*, I forget [yeah, right] how bizarre the stamp for North Korea is”. Most annoying.
By virtue of being eligible to have a passport and it being straightforward to get one, I feel I have a duty to use it. It’s a bit like voting in that, as a woman, generations before me risked their lives to allow the likes of me a right to vote. So I vote and appreciate the fact it’s easy for me to vote and that women fought extremely hard to make that the case.
On the rare occasions when I am not in possession of my passport (usually for passport renewal or visa application), I feel a great sense of loss and I am conscious that a freedom has been taken away from me. I remember sending my passport away a few years ago and actually holding on to the envelope for as long as possible before finally dropping it into the letter box. I then felt panicky and reassured myself that if in the next few hours I felt a need for my passport to be returned, I could meet the postman when he emptied the letter box. Really quite pathetic, I know. Then about two days later I had to turn down work in Paris (it would have been a horrid job that I probably wouldn’t even have done, but that so wasn’t the point).
My passport expires in about two years. Writing this has made me think that I could combine the end of my 30s with the filling of my passport and the broadening of my geography knowledge; it appears to be all about the collection of stamps but really it’s more about having adventures and convincing myself I am as exciting as I rose-tint myself as having been during my previous decade! Then my 40s can be spent fretting about my carbon footprint!

Yesterday, carrying a heavy backpack and shoulder bag, I ran from the number 45 King’s Cross bus terminus at 3.08 pm, ie the other side of King’s Cross to St Pancras, all the way into the front of King’s Cross and out opposite St Pancras. I got to my part of St Pancras at 3.10:29 and onto the train just after 3.11, when the doors shut and the 3.12 set off. It was an achievement, mainly physically. But it wasn’t pretty, I am not designed for running.

The night before, I had watched Run Lola Run for the first time in years. Unsurprisingly given the title, there are a lot of scenes of Lola running. She is a young, relatively fit looking actress with far smaller boobs and generally less weight to carry than me. Her running was good to watch. Yesterday, possessed by the idea of catching that train, I ran so fast I had to grab my backpack tightly, my inadequately harnessed boobs even tighter and I know I walloped at least two people dithering in the path of my mission.

Sitting on the train regaining composure and finishing off my much needed emergency energy boost biscuits, I contemplated running for public transport. Missing my train would have meant a half hour wait for an indirect train, thus depriving me of 45 minutes at home. At work, I hurriedly finished my job, aware there was a chance I could catch that train. People who commute by train are largely guided by train times when it comes to deeming it the right time to leave work for the day. It is a distressing moment or two when an additional piece of work or a glitch dictates you are committed to, with half hourly trains, another 28 minutes or so before it’s worth your while going to the station. Bad karma.

My most heroic transport related run was through Gatwick airport to catch a flight that I would have caught fine had there not been massive queues through x-ray after a series of London transport worst case scenarios. I had asked a few passing staff whether I should push to the front but I was assured all would be ok. All was not ok. I did eventually push in as I could hear my name being called. There was no pride in my announcing, pointing to the ceiling from which my name was echoing, “Er, that’s me”. I ran like the wind to a far reaching gate (I am cutting this story short but it was worse than it will seem), sounding like a wheezing, rasping lifelong 40-a-day-er. The attendant said they were making moves to retrieve and remove my case so radio calls were made … while I fumbled around, dripping – I do not exaggerate – with sweat, looking for my boarding card. It transpired my boarding pass was not about my person. A call then came from security that my pass was there. The thought of running back was too much for me. Fortunately, before I had to bravely offer to return, security announced they would bring it by buggy thing. It arrived, I was still a red, sweaty, rasping mess. Then I had to board the plane, the last person, and endure the annoyed stares. I forced my explanation on the man next to me. It was an explanation far further reaching than I have detailed here! We then flew over my road a mere matter of minutes later, the one I had leisurely left four hours earlier, rightfully optimistic of time to kill in the Gatwick shops!

In conclusion, running for public transport is extremely stressful, in my case horribly unattractive and it only just makes the run worthwhile by the time you catch said transport! Mind you, I’d have been more annoyed to have just missed yesterday’s train than having just caught it!

This morning, to make my short working day reap at least a little financial reward, I caught the 07.14 slow train from Folkston to London, c1 hour 50 minutes.  This train takes twice as long as the high price high speed train but there are mornings (I just want to get home on the way back so that direction always seems long) when I am happy for it to be an even longer journey.  Yes, really.

I am almost an hour into the journey now, I have done some writing, I am drinking coffee, it’s a lovely sunny morning, I’ve seen lambs, horses, cattle, flowers, signs of spring emerging further, farms, oast houses, dog walkers tramping across fields, misty lakes and I was the only person in my carriage for the first 20 minutes.  As usual I also have a bag full of train activities.

Commutes are generally horrid.  The journey home is by far the worst for me because everyone is tired and smelly, public transport is usually too hot and everywhere is busy.  This morning’s commute progresses with the rising sun, the waking up of towns and cities.  People are quieter, no one is sitting next to me yet and we haven’t had as much time to have had or be having a bad day.  Yes, yes, I can see that there are days when you’re too tired to function, in winter it would still be dark, train delays, leaves on the line, people standing in the aisles.  Yes, hideous, and I would have posted a rant no doubt.  But for now, just allow me this misty eyed love-in for this commute.

I used to commute from Whitstable.  As a general rule I enjoyed my commute in to work but in the morning AND the evening, I always got a seat.  But doing c1.5 hours each way most days was tiring.  I don’t usually work five days a week and I don’t (especially then as I wasn’t working such long hours, as will be the case today) usually have to travel in return rush hour so it wasn’t too bad for me.  But there were days when I could barely stay awake, when the train was late, it once took three hours to get back, in snow it was embarrassingly bad and by the time the train got to Bromley South it was packed and I get seat guilt, which I really don’t need to endure.

Overall though, I do prefer the high speed train because 55 minutes is a good time to get home and a good time to get things done.  I always have a table and I have written many a letter and blog post, read books and magazines, caught up on emails and texts, completed editing my work on the way home; it gives me time to do things I always claim not to have time to do.

When I returned to London after my six and a half months living in Whitstable, I genuinely missed my commuting time.  I had vowed to get up at the same time and read before getting up and getting ready for work.  Did I?  Yeah, right, not even once!  In my ideal world (assuming I had to commute) I would have a one-two hour commute to work (I can do mornings.  It may not be pretty and I may struggle but I know I am at my best in the mornings) and a ten minute commute home.  Currently, I am slowly waking up and enjoying my morning.  When I get to London Bridge I will have to change for a Charing Cross train, which will be busy.  My commuting love will end round about then.  But as I’m being a cheapskate this morning, I will have a c25 minute walk to where I’m working and that will be partly through St James’ Park so I expect to have a second pre-work high.  I love London parks in the mornings prior to the tourist/lunch break groups taking over.  I will keep quiet about my post-work train dawdle back home!

{01/04/2012}   RMS Titanic

At 11.40pm on 14th April 1912 on her maiden voyage to New York (having set sail from Southampton on 10th April, stopping at Cherbourg then Queenstown/Cobh in Ireland, from where her Atlantic crossing commenced on 11th April), RMS Titanic hit an iceberg, after six iceberg warnings had gone unheeded. Approximately two hours and forty minutes later, at c2.20am on 15th April, RMS Titanic disappeared under the sea, not to be discovered until 74 years later, in 1986.

Royal Mail Ship Titanic, as well as being a passenger ship, was also a designated post carrier, complete with onboard post office. Most of the c seven million items of mail were destined for the US, so if by some miracle any post is ever retrieved, the US Postal Service will still deliver the post.

The sea temperature at that time was -2c. There were 2,223 people on board (she could have taken a maximum of 3,547), of which 1,324 were passengers. A mere 31.6% of people survived (it could have been a 53.4% survival rate had the available lifeboats been used to full capacity), almost 1,600 people died. The first lifeboat that left the sinking ship could have taken 65 people to safety. There were only 28 people on that lifeboat. RMS Titanic was equipped to carry 64 lifeboats, but only 20 were on this ill-fated maiden voyage.

In total, only 328 bodies were ever found. Rescuers had hoped to identify all bodies so the rescue boat sent out from Nova Scotia was loaded with embalming supples, 40 embalmers, ice (strange, sad irony) and 100 coffins. Of the 306 bodies the Mackay-Bennett retrieved, 116 were too badly damaged so were buried at sea.

The most obvious tragedy surrounding RMS Titanic is that she sank and that hundreds of people were killed. The other tragedy is that there were a lot of missed/ignored opportunities to hugely reduce the number of lives lost: on the day she sank, a planned lifeboat drill didn’t take place. The closest ship to RMS Titanic was the Californian, 10 miles away, yet for various reasons she didn’t respond, and indeed didn’t even hear the distress signals because the wireless operator was in bed. Fortunately the Carpathia, 58 miles away, did go to her rescue, but with the freezing conditions, she couldn’t get to Titanic’s aid fast enough to save as many people as the Californian could have done, yet figures reveal she saved 703 lives. The list goes on, though the more I read about it to write it here, the more futile it seems to dwell on the catalogue of errors, and in some cases even individual names of people who failed to act appropriately.

A single first class ticket, in today’s economy, was approximately $50,000.

There are lots of lovely stories of bravery, loyalty, love and sacrifice, but the story I want to end on is that, as in the Titanic film, the band did play on as the ship sank, only stopping when it was impossible to carry on. Bandmaster Wallace Hartley and his seven band members all died.

A link for the kind of music the band played:

* NB based on all reading I have done, all these figures vary so I am not 100% confident of their accuracy.

et cetera