Tips for Travellers: find your train’s kissing point.

Train enthusiasts frequently get a bad press given their perceived tendency to loiter on railway platforms, camera in one hand, thermos in the other; but what the un-enthusiastic don’t know about the enthusiast is their ability to understand train behaviour in ways in which ordinary Joe or Josephine Commuter never sees in their normal hustle and bustle to work and all stations to Bletchley. Take a train’s kissing point for example.

A train’s kissing point is when two trains pass each other and their noses almost – but don’t actually – touch. You can see the kissing point best at railway stations when two trains travelling in opposite directions are scheduled to arrive at more or less the same time. If the northbound train arrives slightly ahead of the southbound train then the kissing point is towards the north end of the station, and vica versa if the southbound train is first.

If they’re timetabled to arrive simultaneously then the kissing point is around the central point of the platforms.  Most frequently kissing points occur at the end of platforms, hence the location of the enthusiast there, camera in one hand, thermos in the other.

If you’ve not had the chance to see two trains kiss then you should find the time and enjoy what enthusiasts have known for nearly 200 years: there’s nothing as romantic as watching two trains approach each other, giving the impression initially that they’re about to crash into each other, only for them to gently glide by each other, having exchanged a tender kiss in the process.

This is why you hardly ever see enthusiasts at the side of the railway track deep in the remotest part of the country: not because it’s dangerous to get close up and personal to a Virgin Pendelino rocketing along at 150mph (although of course it is – very) but because its kiss with its oppositional cousin equates to no more than a smack on the jaw and a kiss to forget. Enthusiasts may wear ill-fitting anoraks and dirty brown loafers but they know a good romantic train moment when they see one and waiting patiently next to the high voltage line for two West Coast Pendolinos to cross each other isn’t one of them.

One of the most famous railway romances of course is the story of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in the film, Brief Encounter, which was filmed at Carnforth Station in Lancashire. All repressed emotion, unrequited love and surging Rachmaninov, Brief Encounter is nowt but a B movie to the full time enthusiast. They know that the real romance of the railways lays in the moment when trains kiss: moments of heightened suggestion brushing gently against thwarted reality which linger long into the memory well after the 17.47 to Bletchley has trundled on up the line to meet its maker.

Tips for Travellers: Panna Kitchen and Canteen, Liverpool

Dreaming of musical reunions at the dreamy PANNA café.

PANNA Kitchen and Canteen is a chic café on Tithebarn Street in Liverpool. The kind of place where you might meet aspirational, visionary and sparky musicians of the future, it was setup by Slovakian business partners Peter and Ivana, and offers a refreshing relief to the myriad of chain coffee shops which populate the Liverpool commercial district. It was a new business start just a couple of years ago so it’s a real joy to see how a business which was just a business plan then has come to fruition.

The food is fresh, based on artisanal baguettes and salads, continental pastries and a unique in-house coffee blend which doesn’t leave you feeling wired after a couple of cups. The continental feel is tangible everywhere you look or sit – from the cool graphics, to the furniture to the whitewashed walls – you could be in Berlin, Bratislava or Vienna.

It’s crying out for a pop in lunch visit by by David Bowie, Brian Eno and Robert Fripp – 3 of the UK’s most influential musicians and artists. They haven’t collaborated properly together since Bowie’c iconic Heroes album in the late 70s (and I don’t count Lodger as it wasn’t a brilliant album) so that dream lunchtime date would be bound to rekindle their experimental and pioneering spirit in the best European tradition. PANNA would be a perfect venue for that rekindling, especially over their coffee and continental pastries.

Pitch a Film on a Friday: A Lifetime in 5 Years

Pushing through the market square, many mothers sighing, a 16 year old boy with knife in hand, blooded, hunting for somebody, pushes baskets aside, stalls, traders, horses, fruit goes flying, carcasses of meat crash to the floor. He’s pushed over and he wakes with a start: his day dream over, KEN finds himself herded out of a police van, through the front gates of HMYOI (Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institution) St. Albans in the Home Counties in the Spring of 1972.

HMYOI St. Albans provides ‘a family for those with no family; a jail which provides a respite from the prison of normal life (according to the institutions mission statement).

1621 is Ken’s prison ID number and highlights the 5 years he’s been sentenced for, following the alleged knife attack on his step father.

1621 is the 5 year story of his progress through the penal system and his appeal against his imprisonment. It takes 5 years for us to find out whether he was guilty or not.

The stories of HMYOI St. Albans are about the stories of young people who are about to lose 5 years of their lives. But it’s not just about the usual, stereotypical things we associate with prisons: haircuts, drugs, rough diamonds, violence, solitary confinement, bullying, Dear John letters, boredom, the inanity of it all.

1621 is about friendships, moralities, justice, criminalisation, socialisation, the subterranean lives of young men locked up: the secret laws, codes of conduct, languages, allegiances, ‘otherness’, punishment, reward, the journeys through adolescence (for both teenagers and staff), the myths of childhood, of adulthood, of adolescence.

But 1621 is not only their story; the program follows the stories of staff, friends and families who converge on the prison and play out their own conflicts and dramas over a 5 year period.

1621 is not a soap played out in ‘current real time’ but has a historical perspective. It starts in 1972 and has a cut off date, 1977, which is reached 5 years after the start of the series. It is seen as a mix of ‘soap opera’, ‘faction’ and ‘fly on the wall documentary’ with a cast of professional and non-professional actors. It is played against the soundtrack of the era, opening with David Bowie’s 5 Years from Ziggy Stardust.

Pitching Your Film on a Friday

In these days of austerity, going out to the cinema is beginning to cost more than a good night out. You’ll need to be thinking about parking, candyfloss, 3D glasses, meal after and before, a few drinks in the intermission never mind the price of the seat. And then there are all those interminaable adverts to sit through!

So why not settle back, buy in a few six packs and create the film in your own head?

Pitch a Film on a Friday allows you to do exactly that. By giving you – absolutely free – a pitch for a film that hasn’t yet been made, this blog enables you to become your very own film maker, casting agent, distributor, audience and critic all rolled into one. You can even imagine your own awards ceremony!

Pitch a Film on a Friday is released every Friday (surprisingly) just in time for the weekend. Settle down, settle back, put away your credit card and throw away your parking ways: the film is in your head and its just about to begin!