Friday Fictioneers: The Journey

This is my entry for this week’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s picture prompt was provided by Dawn Q. Landau. The challenge is to write a story within 100 words.

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Copyright – Dawn Q. Landau

 The Journey

They weren’t together, her opinion was unchanged – they just happened to be travelling in the same direction. If at times they shared a meal beside the path or a philosophical chat about the significance of the journey, it was purely the passing company of the road. Every evening Rachel found shelter in a hostel and Scrap slunk off into the night.

There were too many bad memories for anything else, too many kicks and blows. Too many broken promises.

If occasionally Scrap enjoyed an ear rub, resting her head on Rachel’s knee, it was not because she was softening.

Word Count: 100

Click the little blue frog to see other entries.

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The Mystery of the Stones

I have been nominated by Nowathome to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge and by Lrod to participate in the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge. This post is my day 5 response to both. It took me a while to edit it down, but today’s story is right on my target – 500 words exactly. I hope you enjoy it.

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Castlerigg Stone Circle, Lake District, UK

The Mystery of the Stones

Sarah sighed happily as she gazed over the Castlerigg stone circle, the majestic backdrop of the Cumbrian peaks adding to the scenic romance. She’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time.

“They say they’re impossible to count,” she told her husband. “Everyone gets a different number.”

“Load of bollocks,” George replied. “They’re just a bunch of bloody great rocks in a field.”

“They were a place of magic and ritual for centuries.”

“And now they’re a tourist trap. You’ve seen your rocks – can we go?”

Sarah ignored his moaning. “I think we ought to count them.” After spending most of the day in an over-hot warehouse full of ‘classic’ cars she would not let him dampen her enjoyment. He knew these places were her passion. “I’ll go this way, you go that. When we get back here we’ll compare totals.”

With George grumbling under his breath, they divided to walk the circle.

“How many did you get?”

“39.”

“I counted 42!”

“Wow,” George deadpanned. “Must be magic. Now can we go?”

“One more time around. Let’s have another count.”

“Sarah…”

“Will you quit complaining,” Sarah finally snapped. “We’ve been here fifteen minutes. We were at your flippin’ car museum for hours! You’ll count those stones again or you’ll be sleeping on the floor tonight!”

Sarah was halfway around when she realised George was gone.

She stormed back to the car, ready to scold him for his selfishness. He wasn’t there. It was then she began to panic. Where was he? Surely he hadn’t just walked off and left her? Maybe he’d fallen somewhere and was lying in a ditch. He could be dead!

“George,” she shouted.

It was then she saw the second circle. She blinked, shaking her head. There was no second circle at Castlerigg! But there it was, larger even than the first.

And walking its circumference was George.

Do you want him back? a strange voice whispered on the wind.

She tried to approach her husband but something held her back. Fear grew.

Do you want him back? It was louder this time.

“Of course I do!”

Do you want him back? It was a shout this time. Sarah covered her ears and forced herself to consider her answer.

Did she? Really? Grumpy, opinionated and rude, he was a hard man to live with – but he had his moments… He’d drop everything to help her. He always supported her, even if he didn’t agree. He’d shared her life for nearly twenty years, putting up with her foibles as much as she did his.

She couldn’t imagine life without him at her side.

“I do,” she called. “I want him back!”

The force released her and the second circle faded from sight.

“Are you ready to go now?” George asked, oblivious to events.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too. What brought this on?”

“Just the romance of the place.” With a last glance at the stones, Sarah climbed into the car.


Today’s photo was taken last year at Castelrigg stone circle in the Lake District.  The circle was built in approximately 3000BC, in the late Neolithic – making it one of the oldest stone circles in Britain, possibly in the whole of Europe. Tradition does indeed state that it is impossible to count the exact number of stone, though this is now thought to be because some people count smaller ‘packing’ or ‘support’ stones that have ‘appeared’ beside the larger ones.

The second circle appears in only one description of the site – the very first mention of Castlerigg was by William Stukely who visited it in 1725. He said that ‘There seemed to be another larger circle in the next pasture toward the town.’ (Stukeley 1969 Vol. II, 48). There was never any other mention of this circle and no archaeological evidence of it has ever been found.

If you would like to read more about Castlerigg you can go here or here.


 

The rules of the 5 day black and white challenge are:

1) post a black & white photo daily for 5 days
2) Invite someone different to participate each day.

The rules of the 5 Photos-5 Stories challenge are:
1) To post a photo every day for 5 days
2) To write a story to accompany your photo for 5 days (this can be fiction or non-fiction, a page, a paragraph or a poem)
3) To nominate a different person each day

My nomination for day 5 is Francesca Smith.

There is no obligation to accept the challenge but if you wish to do so you can choose to do the 5 Day Black and White Challenge, the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge or a combination of the two as I have done. Enjoy. 🙂

Cobblestones

I have been nominated by Nowathome to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge and by Lrod to participate in the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge. This post is my day 4 response to both. I again managed to stay below 500 words. Yay! Today’s story is 450.

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 Cobblestones

The feel of the cobblestones beneath his feet transported him straight back to childhood and David couldn’t help but reminisce as he trod the familiar route. There’d been many happy times growing up here, a host of good memories. He’d climbed the quiet lane to Minto and Jen’s house so many times, eager to see if his friends were free to play, Goose and his two sister’s usually trailing close behind.

They’d been a close-knit group – the only children in their mainly middle-aged neighbourhood. As the eldest, he’d always been the one their parents left in charge. They used to race down the hill to the corner shop where they’d spend their pocket money on penny sweets and silly toys. There was a park around the corner where they’d play football and see who could get highest on the swings. They seemed to be endless days filled with laughter.

He was thirteen when everything changed. That was when Minto ran in front of the car.

He only came back once a year now, on Minto’s birthday. He had his well-paid job in London with his bachelor pad full of mod-cons; his parents had long since moved away. There was little to draw him back, or that’s what he told himself. The truth was, the feelings of guilt had never really left. He had been in charge of the younger kids. He hadn’t seen the car until it was too late. All of his memories were tainted with a bittersweet tang – Minto would never again run on the cobblestones.

He drew a steadying breath as he stood once again before the familiar door. After a brisk knock it was opened by his grinning friend.

“David – you made it!”

“Hey, Minto. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Despite being paralysed from the waist down, Minto’s enthusiasm for life had not been dimmed. His wheelchair sped around the old house with ease – fifteen years-worth of modifications making the place his own. An electric wheelchair sat beside the front door for when he needed to venture onto the hilly streets outside.

“Minto? What a flash from the past! You haven’t called me that in years.”

“Sorry. Tim. I’ve just been… remembering.”

“Ah. You know, I don’t mind you calling me Minto – not as long as I can call you Buzz.”

“Then we can tell you to buzz-off,” Jen laughed at the old joke, entering the room and giving him a smile. “As long as nobody ever again thinks to call me ‘Bean’!”

David smiled back, feeling the familiar old flutter as he looked at her. His sense of guilt eased with their unchanged banter.

Maybe he did need to visit more often, after-all.


The black and white pictures for this challenge really seem to be inspiring melancholic stories. Sorry if I’m depressing anyone. On a positive note, though, I’d originally planned for at least one of the characters in this story to die…

Today’s photo was taken in Lincoln (UK)  last November  on one of the little side streets around Steep Hill. I don’t really know much about the area – not even whether there’s a corner shop or a play park anywhere nearby.

Before anyone says anything about the angle of the lamp post or wall – that is actually how they look! The whole area is really uneven. I rather love the fact that nothing seems to stand up straight. 🙂


The rules of the 5 day black and white challenge are:

1) post a black & white photo daily for 5 days
2) Invite someone different to participate each day.

The rules of the 5 Photos-5 Stories challenge are:
1) To post a photo every day for 5 days
2) To write a story to accompany your photo for 5 days (this can be fiction or non-fiction, a page, a paragraph or a poem)
3) To nominate a different person each day

My nomination for day 4 is desleyjane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist. If you haven’t yet checked out her blog, go and do so! She has some wonderful photography and also shares great little science experiments that you can do with children. 🙂

There is no obligation to accept the challenge but if you wish to do so you can choose to do the 5 Day Black and White Challenge, the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge or a combination of the two as I have done. Enjoy. 🙂

The Viewing Point

I have been nominated by Nowathome to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge and by Lrod to participate in the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge. This post is my day 3 response to both. I was determined to keep today’s story a little shorter and set myself a word limit of 500. It came in at 490!

Claife Viewing Station

Ruins of Claife Viewing Station, Lake Windemere, Cumbria, UK

The Viewing Point
Genre: historical – English Regency

Her world was cast in shades of grey.

The looming shadow of financial devastation leached all colour from Sophia’s existence, leaving a life of joyless desolation stretching interminably ahead. This trip was a final chance to claim a wealthy husband before news of her father’s foolish losses spread north of Town. Once it became common knowledge her suitors would quickly disperse.

The only other option was to enter ‘Employment’ and she knew her mother’s opinion of that!

She supposed she should be enjoying today. The weather was glorious, the Viewing Station over Lake Windermere was one of the most fashionable places to be and the company was… perfect. Sir Hugh Warrendon would be an ideal catch: a wealthy, middle-aged land owner who had always shown interest. He’d gallantly offered his arm as they stepped from the ferry. A proposal was imminent. The thought left her cold.

They were accompanied along the path by society ladies and gentlemen of varying ages, all dressed in their finest outfits. She tried to smile and laugh with the debutantes as they flirted with the young bucks. Her mother, along with several other matrons, walked at the rear of the group, her domineering gaze putting a further dampener on Sophia’s mood. An older man, his young wife on his arm, walked just ahead with two children trailing desultorily behind. Their conversation carried clearly to her ears.

“I’m not their mother, Leonard.”

“They’re my grandchildren, Eliza. My heirs. Haven’t they lost enough without being shipped off to school?”

“Then we need to hire a governess. You can’t expect me to look after them!”

She could do that – be a governess. She’d always liked children…

She didn’t know why she even considered the idea, though. Her Mother wouldn’t accept it unless no other option remained. Even then it would be a battle.

Finally they reached the entry to the Viewing Station and stepped into a place of exquisite wonder.

“It’s like looking through a rainbow!” The girl stood beside her, holding tightly to her brother’s hand as she peered, wide eyed, at the many coloured windows and the tinted views beyond.

“It is, isn’t it?” Sophia replied. The girl turned a toothy smile her way and she felt her heart melt. “Each window shows a different season, time of day or weather,” she continued. “Look – the light blue glass shows a wintery scene.”

“It looks like there’s snow! In the summer!”

“The orange glass gives us Autumn.”

Gazing through the windows with the sound of children’s laughter in her ears, colour returned to her life. By the time they left the Viewing Station Sophia had made her decision. Her mother could complain all she liked – she would not be marrying Sir Hugh or anyone. Her father could find some other way to repair his finances. From now on she would support herself.

Those children needed a governess and she was the perfect candidate for the job.


Today’s picture was taken from on board a ferry crossing Lake Windermere last summer. The rather ruined building is Claithe Station, constructed in the 1790s as a place to view the most picturesque scenery over the lake. It had six windows, each a different colour to give the views the appearance of different times of year, day and type of weather  – yellow for summer, orange for autumn, pale blue for winter, light green for spring, dark blue for night and lilac for stormy weather. It was a great tourist attraction during the 1800s.

For more information about Claithe Station you can go here or here. I had to do a fair bit of research before writing this piece as I actually had no idea what the ruin in the picture was! This is my favourite link as it has period descriptions of the place.


The rules of the 5 day black and white challenge are:

1) post a black & white photo daily for 5 days.
2) Invite someone different to participate each day.

The rules of the 5 Photos-5 Stories challenge are:
1) To post a photo every day for 5 days.
2) To write a story to accompany your photo for 5 days (this can be fiction or non-fiction, a page, a paragraph or a poem).
3) To nominate a different person each day.

My nomination for day 2 is Sabina Ayne from Through My Aquamarine Eyes and Orange Marmalade Press. This lovely lady was one of my first followers when I joined WordPress and made me feel so welcome as I began exploring the blogosphere. I love her posts about nursery rhymes!

There is no obligation to accept the challenge but if you wish to do so you can choose to do the 5 Day Black and White Challenge, the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge or a combination of the two as I have done. Enjoy. 🙂

One-Four Challenge: February Week Four

Here’s my fourth edit for Robyn’s One-Four Challenge.

For this final edit I wanted to  repeat the soft, dreamy look of week 2 but with a few changes.

Ponies week 4.4

1) I selected the crop used on last weeks image.

2) I wanted to reduce the brightness of the whites on the ponies backs, an issue that had been raised in previous weeks by lensaddiction. I did this using by selecting these areas and using the levels adjustment to reduce the white output.

3) To create a softer image, I slightly lowered the midtones and reduced the contrast and saturation.

4) I  imported the image into PicMonkey where I added a frost edge and some glowy bokeh.

At stage 4 I also imported the image into Fotosketcher where I played around with the different artistic effects – I rather liked the watercolour effect so I thought I’d share that one with you as well!

Ponies week 4 watercolour

Here’s all the edits for comparison:

 

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The Phonebox

I have been nominated by Nowathome to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge and by Lrod to participate in the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge. This post is my day  2 response to both.

I’d originally intended to write a single little flash fiction piece for today’s picture, but then I started getting more ideas. This is now a collection of 6 little stories, generally unconnected other than by the fact that all of the characters live in the same village and the stories all center on the phone box. I hope you like it.

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The Phonebox

Victoria

She waited by the phonebox every Wednesday evening; waited for the ringing that would set her fears to rest. It was usually around eight o’clock when the call came, sometimes a little earlier, sometimes later. The late ones were the worst – her constant worry morphed quickly into outright terror.

What if something had happened? What if he had been discovered? What if…? What if…? What if…?

The call only ever lasted a few minutes but it was long enough to hear his voice, to reassure herself that he was still alive. He called from a different number every time, he reassured her, nothing that could be tracked. But it was dangerous, she knew that only too well. They were playing a perilous game and the odds were much too high for taking such risks. For now they believed him to be dead; if they discovered their error they’d act quickly to remedy it.

Then one week the phone didn’t ring.

Aidan

He leant against the phonebox as he waited for Olivia to arrive. They met there each morning, around the corner from her sprawling house, well away from her father’s disapproving gaze. They had to be careful to keep their relationship quiet – the grumpy git had never liked him. His own parents, meanwhile, looked on with an indulgent eye.

It would be a lie to say his thoughts didn’t stray towards sex more often than they should. He was a teenage boy, after all, and Olivia was dead sexy. But it wasn’t just about that. He loved her.

He kissed her tenderly in greeting before shouldering both of their schoolbags. Hand in hand they walked to the bus stop.

Muriel

In all her long years living in the village she’d only used the phonebox once, back before mobile phones became common. She prayed she never had to do so again. She couldn’t even look at it nowadays.

Everywhere else in the village she lost herself in bittersweet memories of Jacob’s childhood. She remembered watching him standing on the swing in their garden, running with his friends on the quiet lanes and climbing the trees on the green. There were times when she could almost hear the sound of his laughter drifting on the wind.

Sight of the phonebox, however, took her back to that day: frantic fingers dialling those three numbers, her panicked words to the calm voiced operator on the other end of the line, dashing back to the house only to hold her baby boy for one final time.

Others may think the phonebox to be a picturesque glimpse of old England. She just wanted it gone.

Peter

He watched the world through his window, as he’d done for so many years. He rarely left his arm chair these days, rising only when necessary, his old bones creaking their complaint as he moved. The only people he ever saw were the man who delivered his shopping and the nurse on her weekly visit. He didn’t know any of his neighbours, didn’t know their names or their stories, so he let his imagination roam through increasingly bizarre scenarios as he watched them pass before his house.

Someday he’d go out and talk to some of them, find out who they really were. He’d ask the young lady why she paced by the phonebox every Wednesday night, ask the teenage couple what it felt like to be young and in love. He’d ask the walker why she cried, her shoulders stooped and eyes downcast.

Someday… But not today.

Imogen

The telephone box had been a teasing glimpse of hope for so many years. It wasn’t all that far away – a hundred yards at best – but between her and it were two locked doors.

Until the day he forgot to turn the key.

She had to wait until he had left the house before she could escape the bedroom, the place that had been her prison cell for over a decade. She couldn’t stop shaking as she crept down the stairs. Her heart raced. What if he came back? Maybe he’d remember that he hadn’t locked the door… If he found her out of the room she didn’t dare to think what he’d do to her. She had to get away as quickly as she could.

The front door was locked. She’d expected that. Eventually she found a window that opened just enough for her to climb through. She wasn’t even aware that her feet were bare until she felt the bite of the gravel drive on her soles. The cold tarmac of the road was a welcome change. It was the feel of freedom.

The relished the sensation all the way to the phonebox.

Michael

He longed to make the call: every night he dreamt of doing so, dreamt that he could hear the sound of her voice; every morning he woke with the number playing on a loop through his head. But he knew it was too dangerous. If they found out that he was alive they’d stop at nothing to find him and kill him for real.

When he’d been warned that they were watching her he’d known… It was better this way. Safer. For both of them. He wouldn’t put her life at risk. Not again.

The mistake had been his, not her’s. He had gambled everything and lost. Until Grey and all his goons were behind bars he wouldn’t, couldn’t, contact his beloved Victoria again.


The rules of the 5 day black and white challenge are:

1) post a black & white photo daily for 5 days
2) Invite someone different to participate each day.

The rules of the 5 Photos-5 Stories challenge are:
1) To post a photo every day for 5 days
2) To write a story to accompany your photo for 5 days (this can be fiction or non-fiction, a page, a paragraph or a poem)
3) To nominate a different person each day

My nomination for day 2 is Exploratorius.

There is no obligation to accept the challenge but if you wish to do so you can choose to do the 5 Day Black and White Challenge, the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge or a combination of the two as I have done. Enjoy. 🙂

Seeking Shelter

I have been nominated by Nowathome to participate in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge and by Lrod to participate in the 5 photos – 5 days challenge.

Here’s my picture for day 1:

dales barn

Yorkshire Dales, UK

 Seeking Shelter

They finally stumbled into the barn, windblown and muddied, as the first droplets of rain began to fall.

“We’re here, Jamie,” Annie murmured into his ear as she lowered him to rest against the wall. “We made it, you hear?”

Jamie’s reply was an unintelligible mumble. Annie sighed, brushing the hair back from his pain-drawn face. She didn’t know how he’d remained conscious for as long as he had. For the last part of their trek she’d carried far more of his weight than was really bearable, but he’d fought constantly to retain awareness, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. His refusal to quit was one of the qualities she most loved about him.

Their day had started so well: a romantic picnic and the question she’d been so eagerly awaiting. It had been pure bliss.

It was as they walked back to town that the nightmare began. Jamie had been laughing, joking as he always did; not paying attention to the route he walked. His foot had landed on loose stone, sliding out from beneath him. Before Annie could even gasp, he’d fallen, tumbling down the slope to land in a crumpled heap below. Blood streamed from a gash on the back of his head. His ankle was clearly broken.

On the horizon storm clouds had gathered.

With his arm looped over her shoulder they made their way to the nearest shelter. It was a trip of barely two miles; it had felt more like twenty.

Annie knew, though, that for her it was not yet over. She had seen injuries like that on Jamie’s head before. He needed a doctor, and fast.

“I need to get to town,” she told him. “I need to fetch help.” She didn’t know whether he registered her words. He mumbled something, his hand tugging weakly at her’s, but his eyes were glassy and unfocussed. Placing a kiss on his brow she rose to her feet and headed out into the storm.

***

Jamie’s body was found the following morning by farmer Oldham as he checked on his cattle. It was several days later before they found Annie. It was generally agreed by all present that she had fallen, lost in the storm.

The gash on her head was identical to that on Jamie’s.

They say that sometimes you can hear them laughing, together, there in the old barn. And that during storms you can hear them weeping.


I’m not really happy with this story but as I want to get it up today (and it’s already 11.55pm) it will have to do. I’ve been out at work all day today with little time to write – usually I’d spend several more hours editing! Tomorrow I have little to do other than write so hopefully I’ll be happier with my day 2 offering.


The rules of the challenge are:
1) post a black & white photo daily for 5 days
2) Invite someone different to participate each day.

I have also been nominated by Lrod to participate in the 5 Photos – 5 Days Challenge

The rules of this challenge are:

1) To post a photo every day for 5 days
2) To write a story to accompany your photo for 5 days (this can be fiction or non-fiction, a page, a paragraph or a poem)
3) To nominate a different person each day

My nomination for day 1 is the lovely Carrie at The Shady Tree. There is no obligation to accept the challenge but if you wish to do so you can choose to do the 5 Day Black and White Challenge, the 5 Photos – 5 Stories Challenge or a combination of the two as I have done. Enjoy. 🙂

Just realised that this is my 100th post! Yay!

Book Reviews, Book Promotions And A Hint of Spring

Millie Thom’s writing is beautifully elegant and her books an enjoyable read. If you like historical fiction then check her out. 🙂

Millie Thom

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All writers know the value of reviews to the success of their books. Yet most readers don’t review- even if they’ve really enjoyed the book – for a variety of reasons. Time is always a factor in the hectic, modern world. There are some people, of course, who simply don’t like the idea, or aren’t comfortable expressing their thoughts for others to read. Perhaps they feel daunted when they see the long, detailed reviews done by Amazon top reviewers and professional editors. Yet even short, to the point reviews are greatly appreciated by authors. Every single one adds to that all-important number that shows up on Amazon or other online retailers.

That said, from today, Saturday 20th February, until Wednesday the 24th, the first book of my Sons of Kings Trilogy will be free on Amazon. It’s entitled, Shadow of the Raven. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m…

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Word of the Week (WOW): Dilettante

wow

This post is in response to Heena Rathore P.’s Word of the Week (WOW). This weekly meme is a great way of improving your vocabulary.  If you wish to participate, simply create a post with your word and leave a link in a comment on Heena’s WOW post.

Here’s my WOW for this week:

dilettante

Word
dilettante

Plural
dilettantes or dilettanti

Part of Speech
both noun and adjective

Pronunciation
dil-et-tante (dĭl′ĭ-tänt′)

Meaning 

noun – someone who dabbles in an art or field of knowledge

adjective – amateurish, superficial

Synonyms

noun – amateur, aesthete, dabbler, nonprofessional, sciolist, smatterer, trifler, uninitiate

adjective – amateurish, dilettanteish, dilettantish, nonprofessional, sciolist, unprofessional, unskilled, unskillfull

Antonyms

noun – expert, master, pro, professional, specialist

adjective – able, capable, competent, good, skillful

Word Origin

C18th Italian lover of the arts, from present participle of dilettare, to delight, from Latin dēlectāre

Use in a sentence

noun – Whilst he professed to be a master of the subject, in truth he was a dilettante, merely skimming the surface in order to spout superficial inanities.

adjective – It was a dilettante effort, completely unprofessional in brushstroke and content, and would never be accepted at the academy.

 

If you want to discover more great words then visit Heena’s page Word Treasure.

Cee’s Which Way Challenge 2015: Week #7 – Station

York Railway Station

York Railway Station, UK

Away from the pushing and shoving, from the crowds that jostle impatiently for place, you wait in the chill winter air. Cold light, cleansing in its purity, filters in through the iron and glass lattice of the cathedral-like roof. You close your eyes, tilt back your head and feel it wash over you. You tune out the noise that burbles from all sides: the hum of voices, the rumbling of engines, the chime of announcements – all fade into a background hubbub that affects you not. Refreshed, you are prepared for the continuation of your journey.


This is my entry into this week’s Cee’s Which Way Challenge.

This week’s picture was taken in York Station in December of last year, when we visited the city for its Christmas Market. The station was built in 1877 to replace the old station that had required through trains between London and Newcastle to reverse out before continuing their journey. It was designed by Thomas Prosser and William Peachey, architects working for North Eastern Railway along with the Engineer in Chief Thomas Elliott Harrison. It had thirteen platforms and was at that time the largest station in the world.

For more information you can go here or here.

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