The Anonymous Widower

The Reliability Of Online Reviews

Wake Up To Money this morning on BBC Radio 5 was talking about the reliability of on-line reviews.

So I sent in the following text.

As a coeliac, I find if I type “gluten free restaurant” with the city I’m in, I find somewhere good. Perhaps coeliacs don’t want to drop their peers in it!

It wasn’t read out directly, but someone else had said the same thing and the two messages were combined.

The method has certainly found me some very good gluten-free meals.

November 6, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Food, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free In Virgin First Class From Carlisle!

Crisps and a banana!

That is just not good enough!

But it was aerved with a smile!

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , | Leave a comment

The Ultimate Gluten-Free Product

This morning, I bought a new gluten-free product from Marks and Spencer.

It may only be a humble seeded brown roll, but I think they have pitched it right for the market.

I ate one for lunch with one of their smoked salmon parcels.

I have tasted other gluten-free rolls that were slightly better, but none came anywhere near the 50 pence, I paid at The Angel.

I suspect, I’ll regularly use one for my lunch with an appropriate filling.

I called it the ultimate gluten-free product, as it is precisely targeted at the market.

  • I would expect, that the taste is acceptable to most people; coeliacs or not!
  • It is in a sealed packet with a Use-By Date of the 1st of September, which is four days from today.
  • You don’t have the waste of a loaf, which gets thrown away half eaten after a few days.
  • It would be ideal to buy, if you’re going to a party, in case the host doesn’t have a clue about gluten-free bread.
  • It would also be ideal, if you’re hosting the party and know that perhaps two out of twenty are gluten-free.
  • You could even pack a couple in hand-baggage, if you’re going abroad for a weekend and aren’t sure of the hotel.
  • I’ve stayed in a couple of excellent B&Bs, who would have found this product very useful.

At just fifty pence a time, you could even feed them to the birds or make breadcrumbs , if some are left over.

I’m certain at that price, M&S won’t make much direct money out of the product.

But if it takes off, how many will the product attract to the gluten-free section, who will then buy other products?




August 28, 2017 Posted by | Food | , , | 1 Comment

A Low-Alcohol Beer With Flavour

I was buying my usual gluten-free IPA in Marks and Spencer in Islington, when I saw this beer next to it.

This beer is just 0.25 units for a half litre bottle.

It also has flavour, as it is brewed by Adnams.

But the amazing thing was I had no adverse to the beer despite being coeliac, although I’ve never claimed to be a serious one.

August 24, 2017 Posted by | Food | , , , | 1 Comment

The Spanish Like Their Beer

I took these pictures in Spain

I actually drunk four or possibly five different varieties of gluten-free beer in my week in the country.

I was also surprised to see gluten-free Brewdog and beer from St. Peter’s in El Cortes Ingles.


July 2, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

An Excursion To Axminster

My Devon Day Ranger allowed travel to Axminster, so I took a trip.

These are my comments on various topics.

Peninsular Task Force

According to the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, the Peninsular Task Force has made recommendations about this route.

  • An improved line.
  • An enhanced South Devon Metro
  • A better diversion route.
  • Speeding up of services between London Waterloo and Exeter by 36 minutes.

It will be interesting to see what actually happens.

Axminster Station

I was surprised to find that Axminster station is quite a sophisticated one as the pictures show.

It also had an excellent cafe that made me a fgluten-free bacon sandwich.

Class 800/802 Trains On The West Of England Line

The West Of England Line is currently certified for InterCity 125s, so it would probably allow Class 800 and Class 802 electro-diesel trains to use the route.

It might need some updating to some of the connecting routes East of Yeovil Junction.

Speeding Up Services Between London Waterloo And Exeter

Most of the services on this route are run by 90 mph Class 159 trains, which are well-matched to the 90 mph West Of England Line.

The current trains are diesel, which means they can’t take advantage of the electrified section of the line between London and Basingstoke.

In the June 2016 Edition of Modern Railways, this is said about services between London Waterloo and Exeter.

Journey time improvements of up to 36 minutes between Exeter and London Waterloo are forecast through a combination of linespeed improvements and trains calling only at Salisbury between Clapham Junction and Yeovil Junction.

The described stopping pattern would cut seven stops, at how many minutes a stop?

I have read that cutting a stop saves around three minutes a stop, but the amount will depend on a large number of factors.

  • Braking for the stop.
  • Accelerating back to line speed.
  • The ease with which passengers can enter and exit, which is helped by wide doors and large lobbies.
  • The quality of the driving.

Looking at the timetables various stops can take between three and seven minutes.

As an example, the Class 159 trains take 52 minutes between Basingstoke and Waterloo with stops at Woking and Clapham Junction, but a 100 mph electric train does it in 45 minutes with just a stop at Clapham Junction.

Without the actual figures, I can only take an educated guess.

An average of four minutes would mean finding eight minutes from linespeed improvements.

But there would be one simple way to speed up the trains.

Running Class 802 trains would certainly reduce journey times.

  • They are electro-diesel trains, so could use the electrification between London Waterloo and Basingstoke.
  • They have a 100 mph speed on diesel power, if speed limits allow.
  • They have a 125 mph speed on electrified lines, if speed limits allow.
  • Their undoubted power would get them quickly up to linespeed, thus reducing stop time.
  • They have probably got better braking performance, than the current Class 159 trains.

But also consider.

  • If linespeed is increased from the current 90 mph to perhaps 100 mph, the Class 159 trains can’t take any advantage.
  • Running on electricity between London and Basingstoke, could also save a few minutes and some carbon emissions.
  • Upgrading the line West of Basingstoke to allow higher speed where possible.
  • Adding some more passing loops, at stations like Whimple.
  • Any extra electrification past Basingstoke would be welcomed.

This could realise savings of perhaps fifteen to twenty minutes.

I am assuming the following.

  • The more powerful Class 802 variant of the Class 800 train will be used, as speed on diesel power will be important.
  • The trains can be fitted with third-rail shoes, like the closely related Class 395 train.
  • I wonder, if it would be prudent to make all Class 802 trains dual-voltage.

Operationally, the trains may offer other advantages.

  • If they are closely related to the Class 802 variant used by GWR for Peninsular services, this must be beneficial, as FirstGroup is involved in both train operating companies.
  • It appeared to me at Exeter St. Davids that the Class 159 trains need a lot of refuelling, so the large fuel tanks of the Class 802 trains might save refuelling time.
  • The joint fleet could be serviced at the same depot in perhaps either Exeter or Plymouth.
  • Running similar trains on both routes from Exeter to London might give a marketing advantage.
  • Five-car and nine-car Class 802 trains could be used as appropriate.
  • It might be economic to extend some Waterloo services past Exeter.

A quick calculation shows that to provide an hourly service needs the following number of trainsets.

  • Class 159 trains with a round trip of 7 hours – 7 trainsets of two trains.
  • Class 802 trains with a round trip of  6 hours – 6 trains.

This could make the smaller Class 802 fleet easier to manage.

A South Devon Metro

The Modern Railways article has a brief reference to an enhanced South Devon Metro.

Currently, between Yeovil Junction and Exeter, there is generally one train per hour (tph).

This is not enough.

So in addition to the current service could the South West be seeing a modern diesel service from perhaps Yeovil Junction or Salisbury to Plymouth, at perhaps one tph.

But ideally, there should be four tph on the route to provide a Turn-Up-And-Go service.

New Stations

The stations at Axminster, Cranbrook and Whimple have recently opened, reopened or rebuilt.

There is also this article on DevonLive, which is entitled Second Cranbrook station still in the pipeline.

So could the eco-village of Cranbrook, get a second station called Cranbrook East?

I suspect that development of the line West of Salisbury could see some more and better stations.


The recommendations of the Peninsular Task Force should probably be followed.

I think we’ll see the following on the West of England Line.

  • An enhanced service of at least 2 tph from Yeovil Junction to Exeter, with some extended to Plymouth.
  • London Waterloo to Exeter in under three hours.
  • A variant of Class 800 trains working the route.
  • New and improved stations.

One great advantage is that First Group are at least part-owners of the two train operating companies in the region.


April 7, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Food On The NHS – Again

In August 2015 , I write Gluten-Free Food On The NHS.

My view hasn’t changed. But my list of foods has changed slightly.

I still think, that those prescribed a gluten-free diet, should get a small payment each month, either as a voucher or a direct transfer into your bank account.

The current system is bureaucratic and expensive. A lot of money also goes on products that are crap and I wouldn’t give to a starving beggar!

March 28, 2017 Posted by | Food | , , | 3 Comments

Two Marks And Spencer Mini Meals

The picture shows two of Marks and Spencer Mini Meals

The ingredients say that they are gluten-free and freezer-friendly, so I put them in my freezer for an emergency meal, if I arrive back home without any food in the fridge and am rather peckish.

I must check to see if all of these mini-meals are gluten-free!

March 20, 2017 Posted by | Food | , | 3 Comments

From Liverpool To Huddersfield

These pictures document a trip I took between Liverpool and Huddersfield.

Some thoughts on the trip.

The Class 319 Interior

The first batch of Northern’s Class 319 trains are very much pack-it-in specials for running commuter services around the Blackpool, Liverpool, Manchester Airport triangle.

They are good for a thirty-year-old train, but they could be better.

In Porterbrook’s Class 319 Flex brochure, they show a proposed interior based on a Class 319/4 with the following.

  • A mix of 2×2 and 2×3 seating.
  • 12 First Class seats
  • 255 Standard Class seats
  • A full-accessible toilet.
  • Two luggage racks per car.

It would certainly be a much better passenger experience.

Works At Edge Hill

Buckingham Group obviously have a big project on to the East of Edge Hill station.

This Google Map shows the lines through and to the East of Edge Hill.

Note how to the South of the Retail Park and/or warehouses, work seems to be going on. Are extra tracks being created?

There is also a white scar at Wavertree Technology Park station, so if this was two fast lines, then fast services between Liverpool and Manchester and Wigan could storm in and out.

The Atherton Line

The Atherton Line is part of the Manchester-Southport Line and runs between Wigan Wallgate and Salford Crescent stations.

Wikipedia says this about Improvements to the Atherton Line.

There is ongoing feasibility into the conversion of parts of this line (Wigan–Atherton–Manchester) to operate as a Manchester Metrolink service with a higher frequency metro service for the Greater Manchester Boroughs of Wigan and Salford into the city centre. In November 2013, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority approved a recommended strategy for reconfiguring existing commuter services into tram-train operation, identifying the Atherton line as providing an opportunity for extending potential tram-train services from the south-east (Marple, Glossop) across the city centre and outwards to the north west.[2] Southport and Kirkby services on this line would be diverted to operate via Bolton. Additionally, Network Rail has identified electrification of Wigan to Southport, together with the Ormskirk–Preston line and the Burscough Curves as a possible source of new services.

I also think that the route from Salford Crescent to Southport via Atherton and Wigan could be ideal for electrifying in stages using Class 319 Flex trains to bridge any gaps.

The tools seem to be there, now is the time to think about how the work will be done.

Salford Crescent

Salford Crescent station could look very different in the future, as modern station design might be seen to favour two island platforms, one face of each dealing with Manchester Victoria station and the other Manchester Piccadilly station.

  • Passengers going in to Manchester, needing trains to the other terminus, would just wait on the platform and catch the next train.
  • Passengers coming from Manchester, who needed a different distination would change at Salford Crescent to their desired train.
  • Comprehensive information would be provided.

The platforms would be built with lots of space, waiting rooms and coffee kiosks and would be well-staffed.

Manchester Victoria Station

Manchester Victoria station is starting look dirty again.

It must be all those elderly diesel trains.

Huddersfield Line

The Huddersfield Line took me to Stalybridge station and then later on to Huddersfield station.

There was no sign of any electrification work.

Stalybridge Station

As a coeliac, I found Stalybridge station one of the most gluten-free-unfriendly stations I have ever found.

In future, if I’m going that way, I’ll make sure that I stock up in Manchester or Leeds first.

TransPennine Express

The train was crowded and getting on at Stalybridge for the short trip to Huddersfield was delayed, as the conductor couldn’t get near to the doors to open them. Whereas the driver could have had a clear view.

It’s about time the NUR stopped this Driver Only Operation farce, which nearly all passengers think is sillier than the Teletubbies.

I hope the idiot, who landed TransPennine routes with the inadequate number of Class 185 trains, now has a job where he can do no harm, like in charge of the railways on the Scilly Isles.


I don’t know Huddersfield and the only thing I’ve ever bought in the town is a ticket to the football.

You arrive in the Grade I Listed Huddersfield station and walk out into the magnificent St. George’s Square, which should be a welcoming gateway to the town.

Compare it to Kings Cross Square, where there is generally something going on and on a Friday is bustling with food stalls.

I walked to the shops and did find Marks and Spencer in a prominent place, but why wasn’t the route for pedestrians only, as it was crammed with traffic and parked cars.

Huddersfield needs to think how they organise their town centre, as except for the square ut’s about as weloming to visitors as Turkey is to the Dutch.

This Google Map shows the area.

I feel that Huddersfield needs what most European towns of this size would have and that is a tram, that goes through the centre.

You would walk out of the station and in the square would be a tram stop. Trams would go South along a pedestrianised John William Street and New Street. Obviously the route would be designed to go through the town to the main hospital, the University and if possible the the Council Offices, the Courts and the football/rugby stadium.

Incidentally, if you search for Huddersfield Hospital, you don’t find the NHS hospital, but a private one. All major hospitals should have a name like Ipswich, Reading or Crawley Hospital. It should also be galleria for sports venues to constantly change their names.

Huddersfield might wonder, why it doesn’t get the visitors, it thinks it should. It’s because it isn’t visitor friendly.

If I was a businessman wanting to set up a depot, warehouse or whatever in a large town in the North of England, Huddersfield would put me off because of its non-existent and chaotic transport system, built around everybody having a car with a sat-nav.



March 10, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lunch In Buxton

These pictures show my time in Buxton.

The lunch in the Hydro Cafe was excellent.

Onward From Buxton

There are lines that branch off to the left as you reach Buxton. This the closed Ashbourne Line, which still carries stone and other quarried products from Hindley.

I wouldn’t be surprised that some of this route and others in the area, were reopened to passenger traffic.

March 9, 2017 Posted by | Food, Travel | , , , | 2 Comments