Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Britrail Passes are a rip-off. Save $100's by booking online direct

My wife and I were going to buy Britrail passes from a third-party (the only way non-UK citizens can buy them). A flexible 8 day pass (Senior, Standard Class) was going to be $539 AUD each.
We had our itinerary worked out, so we decided to try booking individual journeys online.
NationalRail website
Choose your time and fare

  • Go to  
  • You can book up to 12 weeks in advance.
  • You can get an overview of the cheapest tickets possible. 
  • After you select the cheapest, you will be redirected to the local rail company's booking website (e.g. Virgin Trains, CrossCountry Trains)
  • Prices can be as low as 5 pounds (e.g. Inverness to Edinburgh). Sometimes First Class is the same price.
  • When you choose your journey, you can select seats as well. You are emailed a booking reference number with your itinerary. You simply take this number, as well as the credit card you used to pay for the trip to a ticket machine at the station. 
Tallying up the 9 journeys around England and Scotland, we saved over $400 by booking directly. 
The train guru website: has a similar topic.
Plan ahead and save heaps. Avoid Travel Agents.

Another tip. Accommodation on a Saturday night can be ridiculously expensive. Either travel on a night sleeper or check out B&B's for a fraction of the price.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

White Night, Melbourne 2018

More consistent than previous years. No 'dead areas'. More performers. Excellent crowd control. 
Tip to avoid the crowds and the queuing: 
Arrive in the early hours of the morning. Trains and trams run all night. 
We arrived at 3:40 a.m. (from Parliament Station - closest to Exhibition Building) then headed south on Swanston Street, finishing at N.G.V. and Alexandra Gardens, leaving on 7:00 a.m. train from Flinders Street.
Town Hall, with opera performance from balcony

National Gallery of Victoria

"The Secret Life of Books" projections inside Reading Room, State Library

Retro projections, Forum Theatre

State Library

Friday, 16 February 2018

"Vicious Circle" Joe Pickett #17 by C. J. Box - review

The immensely enjoyable crime-fiction series about the Wyoming Game Warden has not run out of puff after seventeen books. The latest instalment is one of C. J. Box's best.

Published 2017, 367 pages
Missy Vankueren, the mother-in-law from Hell is back. Retired assassin and master falconer, Nate Romanowski, returns half way through the book. Joe's knack of attracting trouble is an understatement in "Vicious Circle" - there's a plethora of varmints and villains.
Whether you are a first time visitor to Saddlestring, Wyoming or a regular, you will enjoy this read.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

"The Shadow District" A Reykjavik Wartime Mystery by Arnaldur Indridason

Book 1 published 2017
You know what to expect with an Indridason thriller. Recurring themes are: secrets, guilt, loneliness, social class, old age, the past meeting the present, folklore and the power of the Icelandic landscape.

This new series introduces the 1940's detective, Flovent, part of the city's fledgling C.I.D. and Thorson, a liaison officer for the occupying U.S. forces and the Icelandic police.
Flovent has a fascinating backstory comprising an abusive father, dodgy seances and a spell in Edinburgh studying criminology. Thorson is a loner and closet homosexual with a passionate sense of  honour and justice. Flovent seems to be an ongoing character. I do hope we return to Thorson in later books. This character is as rich as the aging detective Erlendur (from previous novels).

"The Shadow District" is cleverly structured. Present day (retired) detective Konrad investigates an old crime - a young woman is found strangled in 1944 (prior to Iceland's independence).
Past melds with present as both Thorson and Konrad carry out parallel investigations 70 years apart. A simple murder in a shady part of Reykjavik escalates into a tangled tale of rape, sexual mores, misfits, superstition, political intrigue and family secrets.