Richard Raeburn's Blog

August 1, 2012

Farewell to my barber; you were supposed to outlive me

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardraeburn @ 7:19 am
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Yesterday I went to my barber’s funeral. Ivor Edwards was not an occasional barber but someone who had cut my hair month in, month out since 1975 – which I reckon makes it something like 37 years of care. Of course it was not a monthly haircut, Ivor fully understood my chronic inability to get back to see him before I was long overdue for the next cut. His sudden death (from lung cancer) was a shock but not a real surprise; he had had one lengthy stay in intensive care five years ago and the last time I sat in the chair in his salon, some six weeks ago, Ivor was finally starting to look his age as he approached his 80th birthday.

I used to joke with him about the possibility of his ever retiring, something that filled me with dread: it’s not easy to start afresh after 37 years with the same barber. Ivor’s response was always that he had no intention of ever stopping. I suspect he knew full well that he would work until death overtook his ambitions.

Ivor was no ordinary barber. He had a background that had taken him from a mining family in Wales and on to Yorkshire (on his own, apparently, and with just £2 in his pocket); National Service in the Coldstream Guards, including time in Suez, was followed by involvement with antiques in London and then hairdressing. He must have learnt his barbering skills whilst on National Service: at his funeral a long time friend Edward Wilson spoke of Ivor having a good working arrangement with the Military Police, enabling him to trade potential punishment for whatever minor offence he had committed with a haircut.

Ivor’s first barbershop was in the Royal Lancaster Hotel. He once told me the circumstances in which he eventually had to close his operation in the hotel. These involved the extent to which there were extracurricular activities associated with the barbershop; the amusing aspect of the story was the level of moral hypocrisy on the part of the hotel’s senior management.

Whilst at the Royal Lancaster he probably built the colourful circle of West End friends from entertainment, sports, politics that stayed with him for the rest of his life. On occasion he’d be in the middle of a haircut with me when he would break off to deal with an old friend who had come into the shop. It was never very clear just what (if anything) might be being discussed or transacted. I always assumed that some of it had to do with horseracing. Ivor appeared to have an uncanny knack of successful betting.  When I would ask him from the chair how he was doing there always seemed to be a winning double or treble bet on which he was going to collect as soon as he had finished with me.

For some years before his death Ivor divided his time between the salon in Shepherd Market and White’s Club, said to be the most traditional of London’s gentlemen’s clubs. Ivor was no doubt amused by the inability of clients such as me to remember which days he would be working in the salon and which would see him at the Club. He was loyally discreet about his work at the Club. Just occasionally the two very different worlds would come together; I might make a comment about the client who had preceded me in the chair and Ivor would say “oh, that’s the Duke of X – I normally see him at the club”.

Ivor’s personal life beyond the salon was never easy; over 37 years I learnt bits and pieces about it but always without any suggestion of self-pity on his part. What was clear from it was the enormous loyalty he showed to people whose circumstances were more difficult than his – and how much he would do for his daughter and grandson.

There was a small but true-to-character reference to Ivor and his death in the Daily Mail. There was not a large crowd at his funeral yesterday but it appeared to embrace the several different worlds in which Ivor had lived. Afterwards we mingled together outside the chapel on a grey and damp afternoon; one White’s Club member was overheard saying to another “he did look after us well, didn’t he”.

So farewell Ivor; I will miss you and those comfortable chats we used to have about this and that and nothing from the chair in your salon. And darn it, you were supposed to outlive me not just as a barber but most importantly as a friend.


July 18, 2011

A day (or part of one) in Paris

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardraeburn @ 8:00 pm

One of the reasons for the scarcity of blog updates on this site is that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time going backwards and forwards to Brussels on the fascinating subject (at least to me) of the planned regulation of derivatives; and occasionally on other subjects of interest to corporate treasurers, such as the SEPA system (yea – a standardised structure for payments in Euros within the eurozone).  More of all that – and more frequently – in my ‘professional’ (EACT) blog.

Unusually I was in Paris rather than Brussels today.  Still on treasury matters – indeed, the regulation of derivatives.  But it was a different day in several respects; I had one meeting and was then a free agent – hence in particular the reference below to a good lunch.

My trips to Brussels and Paris involve Eurostar of course (three cheers for Eurostar – whose reliability in my experience is great but I know of course that when things go wrong they go seriously pear-shaped).

Some reflections triggered by the visit to Paris:

1)  How good it is to deal with the Dutch.  My meeting was with a very senior European (Dutch) regulator.  Detail is unnecessary here but the conversation was straightforward and the areas of ‘legitimate concern’ recognised and respected.  Would that all my contacts on European issues were like this.

2)  Franglais advances despite all the best intentions of parts of the French establishment.  The very wonderful Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have a new film out in Paris.  Look carefully at the top of the poster advertisement to see how the film is described:

3)  Lunch remains important.  I had steak and frites in Polidor, a wonderful secret discovered by my father-in-law when he was a student in Paris before the end of the 1930s.  What more needs to be said:

4)  And finally a more sombre reflection.  I have always thought that the underclass of Paris is more acutely deprived than that in London.  I am reminded of this every time I use the public transport system (underground and not the buses – the latter seem to remain the preserve of middle-class Paris).  And I had noticed that the ‘RER’ system – the underground lines with fast and limited stop services – is particularly heavily used by people clearly at the margins of above-ground Parisian society.

An excellent piece in today’s Independent by John Lichfield makes just this point and explains it in the context of how the RER system in Paris has developed.  The lines link the multiracial banlieues – neglected, as has been the RER, by French governments of left and right.  So in John’s words the RER has become, outside the rush hours, part of the banlieues.

I still love going to Paris but I wonder how life there will evolve for all Parisians – above and below ground.

October 14, 2010

Best paw forward – onwards to one hundred!

Filed under: Archie — richardraeburn @ 8:08 pm

This blog attracted modest early interest because of a number of references to Archie, an occasional pub companion and all round ‘good egg’.  I was cautioned against subverting the blog so that it became Archie-obsessed; wise early counsel perhaps, but the scarcity of my recent blog postings suggests that perhaps I would be better served just focusing on Archie.  He has the potential to be the source of many stories of fair to middling interest, certainly to Archie’s many friends but also maybe to the random blog surfer, should such an individual land here.

I have picked up the keyboard again because Archie is on my mind.  It is a Thursday and I am yet again on the train to Brussels – a journey for which I should hold what in the old days we used to call a ‘season ticket’ but now must be some kind of super Oyster card (a London travel reference – non-Londoners click here).  All being well – and today that means the French strikers not deciding to blockade the high speed rail line – I should be home this evening in good time for the (occasional) 10 pm Thursday visit to the pub.  I have missed the last few Thursdays; I gather Archie himself may also have missed some of them, which will have distressed him, as his week is said to revolve around the chance to be sociable on Thursday evenings.  Like many of us he becomes impatient and restless if he knows that it is a day to be somewhere at an agreed time; he will check that his metaphorical hat and coat are ready for the expedition, way ahead of the time by which he should be leaving.

So I look forward to seeing Archie and other friends this evening.  There will I am sure be some discussion of birthdays, as one of our number celebrates his 60th this coming Sunday; goodness, I can remember that.  Coincidentally the date is also Archie’s birthday; he will have reached the ripe old age of 98, which is quite an achievement.  More importantly perhaps, I have calculated that Archie will be 100 on 29th January next year.  This landmark is easily determined: they say (who are they?) that a dog year is equivalent to seven human years[1]…..the rest is simple arithmetic.

[1] This simple human/dog ratio begs a number of questions to anyone with an interest in human longevity.  I spend some time thinking and talking about pensions issues, a subject in which at least in the UK there are rapid changes and challenges aplenty.  Our own increased life expectancy is forcing those responsible for pension provision, whether for themselves or for others, to rethink core assumptions.  Although there are the equivalent of climate change sceptics who will take issue with financially pessimistic assumptions about increased longevity, I feel I need to ask whether anyone is working on a reassessment of the assumption that one human year equates to seven dog years.  Are the drivers of increased life expectancy for us capable of being read across to dogs?  What does this mean for pet insurance policy costs?

August 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardraeburn @ 5:46 pm

[This is a slightly edited version of a posting on my Penygroes blog]

The photograph below may look like just a concrete platform in a hedge on a remote country lane.  Slightly surprising to chance upon, perhaps, but that is of course what it is.

For me however the bit of concrete is redolent of childhood memories.  This is no ordinary platform and its existence is a relic of an agricultural life that has changed completely since I first came down to deepest West Wales 60 years ago.

My grandparents’ farm, Llanferran, was heavily based on dairy cattle – for the production of milk and beef (veal too, no doubt).  Throughout my childhood summer holidays were spent on that farm; whilst the rest of the family had other priorities I wanted to do nothing more than to potter around the farm and be made to feel useful.  For farmers with dairy herds needing to be milked twice a day that was – and of course still is – a huge demand on the working day.

Milking machinery was noisy and complicated but a key part of the process was to place the suction cups on the cows’ teats; I have no recollection of ever being promoted to do this and it still sticks in my mind as evidently a task for men not boys!  My main contribution was to help bring the cows from the fields to the sheds; not an onerous task, as the cows always seemed to be more or less on autopilot when milking time came.  So my contribution was probably to chase a few stragglers and to encourage overall forward movement of the herd by making the strange guttural noises beloved by farmers and understood by cows.

The milk ended up in those wonderful churns that no doubt are now only available as ‘collectibles’.  These were the churns that must form part of everyone’s idea of a rural, steam-age railway platform.   Each morning the milk production from my grandparents’ farm had to be moved in their churns to the point where they could be picked up by the milk company’s truck.  I remember large brown labels – presumably to identify the source of the milk, since one churn looks very much like another – being attached to the churns.  We then loaded the churns onto a Massey-Ferguson tractor, which was specially fitted with its own small wooden platform to carry perhaps four churns.

By this stage I felt I was being useful (although I am sure I could not move a full churn without help).  I would stand on the side of the tractor and we would set off down the farm lane.  Health and safety rules were not a concern.  We were heading for a milk platform and here I have to be honest: until prompted by a friend or relation with a better memory, I am not sure whether Llanferran had its own platform or whether we went 50 or so yards down the road to the Trelimmin[1] platform; ‘Trelimmin’ because it is at the head of the lane leading to the farm with that name.

There was of course a time deadline to be met – the arrival of the milk company’s truck.  I remember one or two close shaves but do not believe we ever had to come back to the farm with the full churns, which would surely have had to drained and the milk wasted if we had missed the pick-up.  We did of course return with new, empty churns.  That was the daily routine.

What happens now?  Well, children, the supermarket plastic bottles full of milk do not grow on trees.  The farmers still have to bring their cattle in for milking morning and evening but now a tanker truck does the daily round of the farms.  I rather miss the churns; thank goodness we have more than just antique furnishings to remind us of how it once was.

As we are talking about farms I cannot resist including this picture of the lane leading to Trelimmin.

Those that know Welsh farmers – perhaps farmers from anywhere – will doubt that this is a lane leading to a farm.  Farmers are usually far too busy to maintain a lane so beautifully.  Trelimmin is no longer a working farm but home to a retired couple.

[1] Should you happen to pass the platform you will notice a sign for ‘Trelimin’.  I have used the spelling to be found on the Ordnance Survey maps – and in my childhood the farm certainly was Trelimmin.  Perhaps there has been a slip of the pen at some point over the years or maybe the current owners prefer the shorter name.

July 23, 2010

Good news (seriously): more people are dying in care homes

Filed under: St Christopher's Hospice — richardraeburn @ 9:55 am

One of the more pleasurable consequences of deciding to cease to be a wage slave has so far been the opportunity to send time on a range of quite diverse interests.  Aside from the obvious demands on my time – such as a serious reading of the newspapers, dedicated watching of cricket, irregular Thursday pub nights (Archie was in good shape last night) and not enough books – I have three external commitments, each of which bears no logical connection with the other and all three as a group can therefore be fairly described as ‘diverse’.

The three are in social housing, the European treasury profession and care of the dying.

My involvement with the care of the dying is as a trustee of St Christopher’s Hospice, which is where the ‘palliative care’ movement started through the work of Dame Cicely Saunders.  Time spent at St Christopher’s is always fascinating.  The hospice self-evidently fulfills a hugely beneficial role in what it does both for its patients and for all those involved with the patients.  Our chief executive, Dame Barbara Monroe, is both a professional leader and a highly skilled communicator about the work done at St Christopher’s.  That latter skill is particularly relevant because the hospice each year depends significantly on the voluntary donation of funds.  Barbara will always talk movingly about the work of the hospice and the individual experiences of patients who approach the end of life under the care of St Christopher’s.

So, back to the good news.  More people are dying in care homes.  I spent much of yesterday in meetings at St Christopher’s and amongst the encouraging and the discouraging this observation about mortality in care homes struck me as particularly worth ‘taking-away’ from the discussions.  Its significance is simple.  One of the major objectives at St Christopher’s is to improve the ability of care homes to handle residents approaching death.  This is not simply a whim of the hospice but a vital part of our strategy; it recognises both that care homes need help in understanding how palliative care can be offered within their facilities and that the demographics we face mean that more and more of us will reach the end of life in such homes.  But most importantly of all, the objective reflects a central part of St Christopher’s philosophy, which is that nearing death in familiar rather than alien surroundings is desperately important.

The work St Christopher’s is doing with care homes in its area is now evidencing growing numbers of deaths in those homes.  This looks like very good news, suggesting increasing skills and confidence on the part of care home staff.  And I have to add – since the expertise I bring St Christopher’s is financial and not medical – this trend also means that the limited resources we have in the hospice can be deployed even more efficiently.

July 11, 2010

Is being Welsh an embarrassment?

Filed under: Wales — richardraeburn @ 11:20 am

A short reflection on the topic of being Welsh.  I am half Welsh – my mother is I believe proud of her own pure Welsh origins and from my earliest days I well remember how she would always speak from London over the phone to her Welsh family in the language.  One felt slightly excluded.

Growing up I spent a lot of time on what was initially my grandparents’ and then my uncle’s farm (qv the Penygroes blog).  So happy was I there that as a young and no doubt confused young teenager I resolutely refused to join the family on the first foreign holiday they ever took, a trip to Majorca.  Instead I invited myself – I guess – back to the farm, where I could potter around, help with the harvesting if so trusted, and generally have a wonderful time in contrast with what I thought must be perfectly ghastly, a family beach holiday in the sun.

There were many joys for me of living on the farm, not the least of which was being able to drive tractors and then Land Rovers way before I was anywhere near a legal age to be driving.  And I learnt some Welsh.  Or rather, I learnt to swear in Welsh.  Herding cattle (typically, for the morning or evening milking) is a stressful occupation as cows are notably recalcitrant and Bolshevik in nature.  It used to require a lot of shouting and then swearing.  So one or two Welsh swearwords became part of my vocabulary.  Years later even I was slightly embarrassed when a kindly relative pointed out just what I was occasionally saying in a context other than herding cows.

The Welsh language can clearly be fun.  A couple of gems from a recent visit:

No, goats are not coaches; and vice-versa.

Dim parcio = no parking; cue non-PC references to parking skills, all of which will be resisted.

My frustration is that I can only enjoy the way the Welsh language looks and indeed sometimes sounds.  I should be learning the language but as ever there are other and failing priorities that still loom larger.

So is being Welsh an embarrassment?  No, not at all; the embarrassment is the inability to deal with my Welshness as I should, on proper linguistic terms.

June 30, 2010

Session drinkers

Filed under: Uncategorized — richardraeburn @ 9:02 pm

A long time ago I worked for a large brewer in the UK.  We struggled to maximize our ‘barrelage’ – the term used by brewers to measure beer volumes.  Occasionally I would be taken on tours of our ‘estate’- the pubs that we owned, managed or leased.    The briefing beforehand would always seek to characterise the type of customers in each pub – those we were either attracting through our management skills or having to put up with through our management failings.

A key category of customer was termed ‘session drinkers’.  These were essentially good news; individuals (probably solitary figures) who came to our pubs and consumed large quantities of beer without making many further demands on us – such as an insistence on spotless floors and fresh decoration.  This was of course long before the term ‘gastropub’ had been coined and we were little troubled by thoughts of how pubs could actually become attractive places to spend time in.  That’s a little glib on my part but anyone who was a pub-goer before the 1990s will probably know what I mean.

But back to session drinkers.  I spent most of today at a cricket match at the Oval in London – a needle game between England and Australia.  Next to me was a pleasant looking middle-aged chap.  He was there on his own and had a large pair of headphones plugged into his radio, allowing him to listen to the ball-by-ball commentary as he watched the game.  So, a serious cricket enthusiast.

At the beginning of the game he installed himself with four pints of lager in one of the splendid paper carriers the bars at the game provide.  Four pints is the maximum the bars are allowed to serve a customer.  My neighbour steadily drank through his four pints, carefully setting the empty containers aside as he finished them.  After three and a half hours there was an interval in the game – the equivalent of half-time in other ball games.

My neighbour reappeared with a further four pints.  I remarked to him that he was setting himself up well for the second half; he replied ‘yes – I expect it to be a long innings’ (without getting into cricket technicalities, the length could in practice not exceed a further three and a half hours).  We did not talk further as he was happy listening to the commentary.

He then drank the four pints.

Now that’s what I call a session drinker.

June 28, 2010

Where was I? Ah yes, Archie and Wales

Filed under: Archie,Wales — richardraeburn @ 6:23 pm

Those of you kind enough to take an interest in this blog will have noticed the infrequency of its postings.  No excuses for this from me, just a multiplicity of half-explanations that verge on the self-pitying:

– I have bitten off more than I can chew in my rather strange, semi-retired pro bono work life

– I have made the mistake of aspiring to be a serial blogger; at least my entries in my other ‘professional’ blog are more regular – but then the progress of the regulatory campaign in Brussels with which I am closely involved lends itself more readily to topics

– I have vowed not to use the blog as a diary, believing that to broadcast a personal diary smacks of arrogance, presumption and insensitivity – and that’s just for starters

– I was cautioned – wisely – not to allow this to become a blog about Archie

But there comes a time when an update on Archie is overdue and we are now there.  You will recall that whilst occasional domiciliary visits are kindly made, my primary contact with Archie is on pub night.  In theory these are every Thursday but in practice we all lead busy lives – and take holidays.  So our gatherings are irregular and Archie’s presence cannot be guaranteed.

The less frequent the contact the more striking can seem the occasional transformational changes that take place in his life.  So I want you to see these ‘before and after’ pictures.  Archie – who is a very old dog – is rejuvenated by being sheared.

And now the bad news.  I am starting a third blog……  I have been writing this entry at a family owned cottage in West Wales.  The Penygroes blog (Penygroes is the name of the cottage) will serve as a forum for those who visit there, to share their experiences of the area and what can be enjoyed (mainly, superb walks!).  Just as a taster, here’s a local view.

June 11, 2010

Hampstead: the Dulwich of North London?

Filed under: Dulwich,Hampstead Heath,South and North London — richardraeburn @ 4:40 pm

Today I have almost entirely ignored the world of work that in my ‘retirement’ I vaguely inhabit and have been for an extended walk with A, a friend with a far better organised life than mine and an excellent companion (nay, leader) on the occasional expedition.  Our first walk together was along one stretch of the Capital Ring, a wonderful circular ‘green’ walk around London, using parks and pathways wherever possible in preference to suburban streets; that filled me with enthusiasm to do more.

Today the weather was not expected to be good and both A and I needed to finish by mid-afternoon.  So the agreed proposition was an extended walk zig-zagging through Hampstead at both the beginning and end, with a comprehensive exploration of Hampstead Heath and its linked parkland area of Parliament Hill.  A is a Hampstead local and clearly relished the challenge of a South Londoner temporarily migrating to his territory.  I protested that I had indeed been in his part of London on many occasions and was not predisposed to be unduly prejudiced.  After all, I do live in Dulwich, which the locals occasionally suggest is the ‘Hampstead of South London’.  Should you not read on, I can now safely declare that that claim is naïve and without substance!

The zig-zagging around Hampstead was a revelation.  I suspect I would not like to live there – quite apart from the astronomical property values it is perhaps just all a little too ‘twee’ for the hardened, street-smart South Londoner.  But the maze of alleyways and the outrageously beautiful period properties makes a visit just delightful.  Perhaps I was in too good a mood at the outset: I emerged from the underground station to meet A and within a matter of moments we were seated for coffee and (in my case) pain au chocolat.  The combination invariably improves my humour.

The most notable aspect of the expedition was perhaps the discovery of just how enormous is the area covered by Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill.  We probably walked for five miles, almost all of which was in the parks.  So many things were noteworthy in Hampstead and in the parks; in no particular order I would report on:

– the extent of the ponds, most of which were in fine condition

– the extraordinary view from the top of Parliament Hill, looking across on a grey day through all of the City, much of the West End, then onwards to South London (whence I come) and the North Downs

– two graves in the Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead – one of John Constable, the painter, and the other of Hugh Gaitskell, the one-time leader of the Labour Party, a good man who died at the age of 56 and might yet have been a great Prime Minister

– learning that Hampstead was a fashionable spa in the eighteenth century – which of course mirrors the area that is now known as Crystal Palace in South London

Kenwood House – which I did indeed know but whose art collection I had certainly not seen for many years and which (continuing the North/South London comparison) is a worthy peer of our own Dulwich Picture Gallery

But most sensational of all – and here I am sworn to secrecy – the sight of Kiwi fruit growing in the open in a public park.  I have promised not to divulge where…..and if A (who assured me he has tasted them) will kindly let me know when the fruit are ripe and ready I could perhaps venture north again.

May 26, 2010

Of trains and names

Filed under: Trains — richardraeburn @ 4:01 pm

A frailty of mine involves trains (and not dogs, as I have been at pains to state in earlier blogs); I am reluctant to admit to any other frailties.  The innocent pleasure I derive from trains is not that of the peculiar British institution, the train-spotter.  I do not accumulate records of trains I have seen but I do enjoy the slightly ‘out-of-our-time’ relaxation of sitting on a train and going somewhere distant without the stresses we impose on ourselves when driving or flying.

Yesterday I had to travel to a social housing board meeting in Newcastle by train, thanks to the cabin crew strike at British Airways (which has succeeded in grounding domestic but for the most part not international flights).  Despite my enthusiasm for train travel this is a journey that I would normally do by plane.  But it was peculiarly enjoyable yesterday – for reasons I shall describe – even if the pleasure was slightly marred by the presence of a dog that shared at least one of my good friend Archie’s characteristics.

When I was young – really young – I used to travel each summer with parents and sisters to West Wales for a couple of weeks staying with grandparents on their farm.  We would be seated in one of the chocolate and cream painted carriages of the Western Region of British Railways (don’t ask what these have been replaced by – that’s too upsetting for an old sentimentalist like me).

The express trains were individually named: I remember the Pembroke Coast Express and the Red Dragon.  The train names were displayed on long narrow panels that were somehow added to the sides of the carriages and remained there for the duration of the journey.  If we were especially lucky we would be taken to eat in the restaurant car – after the steward had come through the carriages offering tickets for either the ‘first sitting’ or the ‘second sitting’ of lunch.  And there was further excitement – at least for me, as something of a closet train enthusiast – from the fact the trains divided en route; with carriages ending their journeys in two or even three different Welsh towns.  This was all a huge adventure and the most exciting start to the holiday.

Named trains barely survive today but there must be a few around, or so my trip yesterday showed.  I had without any premeditation booked myself on the ‘The Northern Lights’, which was to run from London King’s Cross to Aberdeen in Scotland.  As I have still not been anywhere as far north in the UK as Aberdeen this seemed quite exotic.  I had three very relaxing hours on the train, reading all the papers I needed to catch up on in advance of the board meeting.  The train was operated by East Coast.  There is a long and quite tedious story behind how and why East Coast, which is a nationalised business, now holds the franchise for these services.  I will simply note the irony that having previously been in private sector hands for a number of years, the service operated by the state seems now better and more efficient than it was whilst privatised.  I had an excellent lunch – on a par with what I might have enjoyed on those trains to Wales nearly sixty years ago, although we had certainly never heard of rocket salad then.

Back to the dog.  A fellow passenger had a large Labrador; I didn’t know pets were permitted on these trains but a quick check now of the FAQs on the East Coast website produces a topic headed ‘Baggage and Pets’.  Up to two of the latter are allowed with each passenger provided they (the pets) do not occupy a seat; a little like the airline rules for children under two years’ old.  The dog was – how shall I say it – slightly fragrant.  When I left the train at Newcastle I bumped into one of my colleagues who it turned out had been on the same train.  She asked me whether I had encountered the dog.  I said that I had indeed been aware of its presence.  Apparently the dog and its owner had started the journey in the same carriage as my colleague but had selflessly decamped and ended up adjacent to where I was sitting.  The fortuitous aspect of all this is that it allowed me to link a blog about a real if restrained passion (for trains) with a deep affection for one particular dog, frailties and all.

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