Martin's Blog

Sleeper train and Spring

Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 30 April 2010 at 20:29

I had a week at home in Belfast last week. Since I resolved a couple of years ago not to fly for routine journeys, it is quite a long journey between Belfast and Paris. In the past I have always done this with a night's stop in England, taking most of two days. This time I broke my journey Paris to Belfast in Leeds for the Future Sounds of Swing weekend. This was almost the only lindy classes I have gone to since last June. It was a great weekend.

On my way back from Belfast to Paris, I took the sleeper train from Edinburgh to London. This allowed me to get from Belfast to Paris in 24 hours (with a bit more time required for travel at either end). It takes about 7 hours leaving at 11.40. The train during the day, which makes several stops, takes less than 5 hours. I suppose it goes slower to give a smoother ride and so that you can get a decent night's sleep. In fact you can stay in your cabin for another hour after it arrives. It cost me £35 with a rail card.

The room is very small with not much more than a pair of bunk beds and a sink. When I saw it I worried whether there would be space for my suitcase, but there was a shelf for it. I was sharing with one other man. It was very comfortable and the movement was barely noticeable. You get brought tea or coffee and a biscuit when the train arrives (in a disposable cup, I suppose so you can take it away if you want).

When I got back to Bures, as soon as I looked across the valley I could see that something had changed. The woods which cover all the upper part of the valley side had gone from brown to green. The leaves have come out on all the deciduous trees on the campus, which was only just starting when I left. This makes everything greener but less open.

no comments Tags lindy, paris, train, travel

Trip to London

Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 08 November 2009 at 17:54

I took a trip to London on Wednesday. It takes 4 hours to get from where I live in Bures-sur-Yvette to St Pancras by Eurostar (and under 6 hours to Cambridge, where I went for a weekend in October). It is surprisingly cheap - £27.50 if you book far enough in advance (about 4 weeks in advance to travel mid-week). In London I went to see Ed, who did Part III and is now doing a PhD in Imperial, and went to the London Number Theory seminar. This seminar reminded me that the stuff I have been doing recently is much more "geometry" than "number theory" - I am generally happiest doing something in the middle.

I only planned to go to London for the day, but my time there was nearly doubled because I was confused about the time of the train home. I discovered this as I was going to check in, bang on 30 minutes in advance as requested, which was in fact the time the train was due to depart. So I heard it leaving. This was the last train to Paris so I had to wait until the next morning. When I explained to the lady at the ticket office what had happened, she looked like she thought I was completely stupid (which I was). But she said she would class me as having missed the train (I am not sure why this was being generous; maybe it is meant for people who had delayed connections), and so I could change the ticket without paying anything. But only to the next train, at 5.25 in the morning. Fortunately there is a youth hostel only a couple of minutes from St Pancras where I could stay.

no comments Tags london, paris, train

Journey home

Posted by Martin Orr on Thursday, 13 December 2007 at 20:34

I am now back in Belfast. I came via Holyhead and Dublin on Monday. The first train was delayed, arriving 7 minutes late in Nuneaton, the time my next train was due to depart. So I was late all the rest of the way, and had to get a later ferry than planned, and to Dublin instead of Dun Laoghaire (not that that makes much difference). I got home eventually.

This article begins by remarking that there are no bins on the underground for security reasons. Some English trains and railway stations have bins, some do not; I don't know if this is for security reasons or not. This seems to render rather pointless the careful education we received at primary school to always use a litter bin. But also the effect - at least at Chester station - is that people leave their cups and packets all over the place. Could a terrorist not leave a bomb in a takeaway cup just as easily as in a bin? OK, this limits the size, but so does the hole in many bins.

Last weekend, before I came home, was spent marking the first round of the British Mathematical Olympiad. About 30 people spent a day and a half marking on the order of 1000 papers. This year for the first time marked scripts are to be sent back to the candidates. I suspect these will often be hard to interpret, and it will take a few years for the markers to properly take this into account when marking, but it should be valuable in giving people a greater idea of how the papers are marked and what they did wrong.

no comments Tags imo, terrorism, train

Train journeys

Posted by Martin Orr on Thursday, 06 September 2007 at 12:32

Last weekend I went to Cambridge for some Lindy workshops and a dance. The National Rail Enquiries website recently acquired some a new advanced search facility. Their example is to search for journeys from "Cambridge to Basingstoke avoiding London," exactly the journey I made (or at least the other direction) - avoiding London so I didn't have to take my suitcase on the underground. However I don't see why anyone would want to make this journey by train - it takes 5 hours 21 minutes, while you can get the train to Oxford and then get a bus from there in only 4 hours 48 minutes, and the latter costs two thirds of the price. (For comparison the train via London takes about 3 hours.)

On Saturday I also bought a train ticket from Basingstoke to Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin). This costs only £26 and takes about 10 hours. I have been having an increasing conscience about flying, especially going back and forth England to Ireland. I hadn't realised that you can book the ticket right through to Belfast for £35.20, although in this case that didn't cost me much because Irish Rail are doing an offer on the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise. That is even cheaper than going from Basingstoke to Belfast by plane, by the time you get to an airport, and not much more than Belfast to Cambridge.

no comments Tags basingstoke, flying, train, travel

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