9:13: Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester Victoria.

Commuter Life With the recent announcement about the possible new HS3 route from Manchester to Leeds, there was little mention of the introduction of a new service which already shaves about twenty minutes off the usual journey. Leaving Lime Street at thirteen minutes past each hour, the new service skips all the stations between Liverpool and Manchester Victoria meaning a journey which usually takes an hour is reduced by half. The service then continues on to Leeds then Newcastle.

Having taken this journey on many an occasion (notably when I was travelling to and from the Commonwealth Games back in 2002) and sighing both internally and externally as it pulled into every station on the way, I had to try it at least once for the novelty.  So at 9:13 this morning I was sitting on the half empty Transpenine Express train pictured above and having grabbed a window seat had the vague (well ok not all vague) excitement that's inherent within an unknowable train journey.  What would would it take?

In the event, spoilers, it took the usually Lime Street to Victoria route via St Helen's Junction simply hammering through all the stations, too fast even to see the faces of the passengers waiting on the platform for the service waiting to take the slow path.  Despite having paid the same amount as usual for a ticket, there was still a frisson of being briefly amongst the privileged, how it must be on a Royal train as it traverses the country between appointments or will be when the actual high speed rail link begins in several dozen decades.

Not that there's really anything that special about this.  There are half hourly services between Manchester and Liverpool, if not more.  I took one home, from Oxford Road, which deposited me at Liverpool South Parkway in Garston about thirty minutes later.  Granted I then had to get an 80 bus home which added an extra twenty minutes to the journey including waiting time, but if I lived in Garston or closer, the whole notion of going all the way into the town to get this half hour service to Victoria is laughable.

Nevertheless, on the basis of getting onto a train in one city centre and alighting slap bang in the middle in half an hour, it works and as we pulled into Victoria having had barely enough time to put down my bag, the novelty didn't wear off which is why I took the photo as I walked up the stairs from the platform attracting a few sideways glances.  Will I do it again?  If it's available, yes, though it's rare that I enter Manchester through Victoria now, preferring Piccadilly with its easier access to Vinyl Exchange.

I spent the day visiting the Sculptural Forms: A Century of Experiment exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery and marvelling at Rachel Whiteread's Untitled doorknob, the last remaining remnant of her House, seeing Whitworth Park: Pleasure, Play and Politics at the Manchester Museum which catalogues an archaeological dig in what are now essentially the grounds of the Whitworth Art Gallery currently being refurbished before closing a circle and seeing Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle at the Cornerhouse, more on which in the usual venue.

Since this was a day for novelty, I ate my lunch on the university campus, in the park outside the library.  The area's changed a bit since I was there, with more chairs, new food hall and offices but it still felt much as it did back then which is one of the few places where I've ever sensed that I belonged.  As I sat with my Kindle reading this article and munching through the triple chicken sandwich pack which used to also be my treat when I was commuting to Manchester the first time to the call centre, I, well let's just say I had mixed emotions (mostly because I can't put them into words).

Yes, essentially I'm Rob Lowe in St Elmo's Fire but without the ability to "score" anything.  But if you want to enjoy the longevity of this blog, take a look at the old posts from back then and the period I'm referring to.  That was eight years ago.  The blog was already five years old.  It's like that younger version of me is still out there somewhere with all of his hopes and dreams.  But I'm straying into the territory of Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle and as I said we'll return to that in the usual venue.  The short version is - I need to get over getting old.

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