The Anonymous Widower

Hull Trains Seat Allocation System

When I went to Hull recently, I used Hull Trains.


These pictures show the train as I boarded at London Kings Cross.

When I got my ticket out of the machine, I was very surprised to see the phrase No Specified Seat on the ticket.

I queried it with one of the LNER staff and they said, it will be alright and anyway, it is nothing to do with them.

When I got to the gate, I asked the guy from Hull Trains and he said, you’ll see when you get inside and something like. “Sit in any seat with a green flag!”

You can see the coloured flags on the seats in the pictures. The different colours mean.

  • Green – For single travellers
  • Red – Do not sit here
  • Yellow – For two or more travelling together.

So I choose a window seat with a green flag on it.

Did it work?

  • There were no families, but several  pairs of travellers and I suspect about sixty percent of the seats were taken.
  • Everybody was socially distanced and either had a spare seat or someone they knew next to them.
  • At one table, I could see four guys all sitting together,
  • The system deals with no-shows and leaves their seat for someone else.

Until proven otherwise, I think it worked well.

  • I didn’t get allocated a seat, but I’m certain the system would work well if say some seats had been allocated by the booking computer.
  • Seats could also be indicated by coloured lights.
  • But as Hull Trains had only just restarted after the attack of the covids.

I had to have a quiet smile though.

My father was a master at designing production control systems and coloured cards were one of the tools in his box.

Often cards for his big customers like Belling, Dunlop and Enfield Rolling Mills were intricate and numbered creations, all produced with letterpress and his two faithful Original Heidelberg Plattern Presses.


Original Heidelberg

With the right gadgets in the chase, that held the type, they could number, score and perforate. You couldn’t do those operations with litho, in the 1950s and 1960s.

I hadn’t realised much about this side of my father’s work, until I met Ray Askew, whilst walking our basset hound. He had a basset too and on talking,  it turned out he had worked for Enfield Rolling Mills and it was part of his job to source production control documents and he used to design them with my father, whose firm, then printed them!

Could This System Be Used On East Coast Trains?

East Coast Trains are another First Group company like Hull Trains, who will be running services between London and Edinburgh from some time next year.

I can’t see why they could use a developed version of this system, with tri-colour lights on the seats.

East Coast Trains will be aiming for a four hour service and I suspect they’d like people to just turn up and go, so quick ticketing would be needed. A simple app, where you said how many tickets and what train and then you just turned up in time for your train would do.



October 13, 2020 Posted by | Design, Health, Transport/Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Have Just Setup My July Tax Payment

I received my Self Assessment Statement yesterday and have just setup the payment on-line.

My father didn’t do any Government printing, as he said, that they always wanted very small type and at fifty, his eyes weren’t up to it.

I find in checking the account to pay the money, that the form is still confusing and I need to get my magnifying glass out.

  • There would also appear nowhere to print a large format version of the instructions.
  • Or details in another language for that matter!
  • There is a help web-address at the bottom. In very small type. It should be in an easy-read twelve point type.

HMRC can do better!

But they don’t care, as if you put in the wrong amount, it’s your fault not theirs.


June 22, 2019 Posted by | Finance | , , , | Leave a comment

A Quick Visit To The German Museum Of Technology

I had time before my train left for Munich to have a quick visit to the German Museum of Technology.

As I do in most museums of this sort, I ended up in the printing section.

February 13, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

An Amateur Tube Map

This amateur Tube Map is published in Gizmondo.

Amateur Tube Map

Amateur Tube Map

It is a brave attempt to make something that is getting increasingly complicated, more readable.

As I travel around Europe, I see some terrible maps, but the biggest sin is places, where they show their maps far to small or place them so you have to be nearly two metres tall to see them.

London has a unique advantage in that many stations have been designed so you go down the escalators, you are often in a large spacious lobby, with often quite large flat walls. Also with the removal of booking offices, there is now often a sizeable flat wall, as you enter the station from the street.

The current common map in stations is printed in A0 format which is 841 x 1189 millimetres. But there are larger paper sizes.

So why not use 2A0 (1189 x 1682 mm.) or even 4A0 (1682 z 2378 mm.)?

They could be printed direct onto high-strength vinyl in a similar way to the advertising you see wrapped around buses and trains.

Not all maps would be this size, but I believe putting them in prominent locations on the transport network would be a good idea.

After all, we’re always being told Big is Beautiful.

Eventually, as electronic screens get larger and more affordable, these could be used.

It doesn’t really matter what the map looks like, as I hope any bad ones would never be displayed.

But size and readability is everything!

June 5, 2015 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

History Goes Round In Circles

I have just read this article on the BBC web site entitled Balloons take tech war to North Korea.

This is the first paragraph.

Some anti-North Korean activists firmly believe the best way to defeat Kim Jong-un’s regime is to break the cycle of propaganda served up every day to those living north of the border.

It got me thinking about the origins of printing with moveable type.

In some ways it was the Internet of its day, as suddenly information and books became available to anybody who could read.

My father always said that printing started to break the power of the church, as now you didn’t need a priest or monk to read the bible or learned books.

So are the balloons taking their CDs and information to North Korea, just another manifestation of everybody’s insatiable search for the truth? Let’s hope they are as successful in breaking the power of the evil regime in North Korea, as printing was in breaking the power of the Church.

May 29, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Swastikas Everywhere

There is this article about the traditional use of swastikas on the BBC web site. Here’s the first paragraph.

Swastika. The word is a potent one. For more than one billion Hindus it means “wellbeing” and good fortune. For others, the cross with arms bent at right angles will forever symbolise Nazism. Yet England is seemingly awash with swastikas. Why?

I first came across their use in perhaps 1963. Several of us at Minchenden Grammar School were looking at old school magazines from the 1920s and 1930s. We were surprised to see swastikas used to separate paragraphs in some of the articles, in just the same way that you might use asterisks today.

I remember asking my father, who was a letterpress printer about this and he said it was common to use swastikas for this purpose before the symbol’s adoption by the Nazis. But he also said, nobody used it now, so he’d sent all his swastikas to be melted down, as they weren’t needed any more.

March 14, 2014 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

The MacDonald Gill Exhibition In Ealing

I was going to Ealing to see the Macdonald Gill exhibition. There’s more about the exhibition and an example,  here on the BBC

The MacDonald Gill Exhibition In Ealing

The MacDonald Gill Exhibition In Ealing

It was very much worth visiting. I seem to remember one of his maps, prints or posters somewhere in my past.

Perhaps, it was in an Underground station or my father had one in his print works. He had the machines to print large posters and I wonder if before the Second World War, he’d actually been asked to print some.

I’ll never know, as his print works is long gone.

September 25, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Letterpress Rules OK

This is an older post, that I have re-dated and brought up to date.
My father was a printer.  And he was all letterpress. He would have used machines like this Original Heidelberg, although his two were probably older.

Original Heidelberg

Original Heidelberg

Letterpress printing with movable type is one of the classic technologies that was invented in the Middle Ages by Johannes Gutenberg.

Movable Type

Movable Type

I spent most of my childhood in that printing works in Wood Green.  I used to set the type for all sorts of letterheads, posters and brochures, but perhaps my biggest claim to fame, is that I used to do all of the handbills for the Dunlop tennis tournaments, that were held all over the UK in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Sadly, I do not have one of those handbills.  If anybody has one, I’d love a photocopy. I’ve searched for years for one, but none exist.  Even the archivist, who wrote the history of Dunlop, knows nothing about the tournaments and couldn’t find any reference to them.

I also learned to read and write with poster letters.  These are of course backwards and you’d think that it would have caused me to have some sort of reading and writing problem.  I suppose it may be one of the reasons for my atrocious handwriting in that I learned that printing, computers or typing is much better from an early age, but it did give me a strong mental alacrity in turning images through 180 degrees.

This involvement in letterpress also left me with some habits and pedantic actions.

For instance, I always refer to exclamation marks as shrieks, which I have inherited from my father.

I’m also very pedantic about spelling and some aspect of structure like apostrophes and plurals. I spell words with the proper use of ae and oe for instance. I spell archaeology with the diphthong and not as archeology.  The difference is explained here.

The one thing I don’t seem to have inherited is my father’s good handwriting.

My father also had one of the oldest proofing presses, I’ve ever seen, but sadly there are no images of it. Mpst old ones you see tend to be Columbias made in the UNited States.

Proofing Press

Proofing Press

This one is from about 1850 and was at least fifty years younger than my father’s.  His probably ended up in a scrapyard, when a museum would have been a better bet.  Printing museums are rather thin on the ground and there isn’t even one in Heidelberg!  Although I did find a whole section in a museum in Belarus.


Wartime Printing in Belarus

My father’s letterpress business died.

Offset litho technology was coming in and because of the bizarre purchase tax system in operation in the 1950s and 1960s, it was cheaper for companies to do their own printing.  Tax on plain paper was zero, but if it was printed it was 66%, so work it out for yourself.  VAT would have solved the problem.

But now letterpress is coming back and like the printer who provided the pictures in this note, it is doing well.

There is nothing like the feel of a properly printed card or letterhead!  And you can do so many clever things with a proper printing machine, like score, number, decolate and perforate.

A few years ago, I met one of people my father used to deal with at Enfield Rolling Mills.  He explained how my father would use his skills to create production control documents and cards, to smooth the flow of work through the factory. That was the pinnacle of production control and workflow of its times.

It is a strange irony, that I  made my money by writing software for project management. Is it in the genes?

August 22, 2013 Posted by | World | , , , | 10 Comments

A Proper Memo Book

I like to carry paper, so that I can write notes as I explore the world.

In recent years, I haven’t found anything that suited my tastes, but today in the excellent newsagent in One New Change, I found this one.

A Proper Memo Book

A Proper Memo Book

Not only was it what I want at just £1.50,but it proudly states British Made on the front.

In fact on checking up on Silvine, it appears to be Yorkshire Made in Otley.

Sometimes, I do think that some of the progress we make with computers, is not as good as how our grandparents managed.

Aftre all, most of the things I type in this book will just be the ephemera of daily life like shopping lists or the next appointment at the gym or physio.

In time, this little book, might just prove to be the ideal companion for my non-smart mobile phone.

March 17, 2013 Posted by | World | | 1 Comment

Cardinal Says Paedophilia Not Criminal

This astounding statement was made by Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier and is reported here on the BBC. Here’s the first few paragraphs.

The Catholic Archbishop of Durban, Wilfrid Fox Napier, has described paedophilia as a psychological “illness, not a criminal condition”.

The South African cardinal told the BBC that people who were themselves abused as children and then abused others needed to be examined by doctors.

Do these guys live in the real world?

A scandal sheet has pointed out that hailed Pope is actually an anagram of paedophile. Search for the phrase in Google and you find a lot of matches.

My father who was a stickler for spelling would probably be arguing that paedophile is properly spelled with a diphthong. As I said in this post, diphthongs in letterpress type have a really solid feel.

March 16, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | 7 Comments