A Bygone age…..
I have written here previously about my passion for railway archaeology, so maybe it’s no surprise that my gem is an amazingly comprehensive database of a part of Britain’s railway heritage, that of Disused Stations. Thousands of them.
Each former station has photographs from the past, when the station was in its prime, when its importance began to wane, and its present location, either showing a beautifully preserved building, or, more usually, absolutely no sign of what was once there.
There’s a complete written history of how the station came into being, the progress through parliament as permission was requested for the railway line to be built, and a selection of contemporary maps showing the location, and track diagrams, and even a selection of original timetables and tickets.
The amount of history there is staggering, and it’s so rewarding for me to read about and indeed see a whole chunk of my country that is no more. A Britain that was, but never will be again. The old photos show all the trappings of a bygone age – simple but well-adorned platforms and buildings, milk churns, ornate lanterns, fire buckets and perfectly-kept gardens. It’s still a wonder to me how many of them stood the test of time – over a century of use in many cases – considering how far away a number of stations were from the area of population they were intended to serve!
Then and now pictures have always been a fascination for me, whatever the subject, but never more so than with former railway stations. Here’s a link to just one of those stations, one that I had not heard of until today! It was called Culmstock.
Here’s a shot of it back in 1910, and then what it looks like today.
This is a site that I use every single day – like I do with the BBC website for my daily news and sport fix. So a warning to anyone who may be tempted to give this site a go – it’s an incredibly easy way to use up time. Luckily, that’s something of which I possess loads!
A gem of a website
These days I don’t think I’ve got any gems if we talk about websites.
I often visited one website in the early and mid-2000s, when I used to have a long-time Japanese girlfriend. It wasn’t even a tech thing to me, I was more interested in its content than in the interface itself.
Surely, I was very interested in Japan then. She told me many interesting things about it, from the insider’s point of view. When I first visited the country in summer 2002, it was a positively shocking experience to me. The natural beauty of Japan, its cutting-edge technologies, its lifestyle, Tokyo’s ‘big city lights’, relations between man and nature based on the Shinto (the Way of Gods) – everything was awesome.
I was seeing the country not as a tourist but as a gajin (a man from outer world) who lives inside a Japanese house, inside the family’s inner circle, which is a lifetime experience.
So, as I didn’t speak Japanese, I found an English-language news website that was like my own window to Japan, its URL is https://japantoday.com/
It still is the country’s #1 news website. Back then, in the 2000s, I was getting lots of first-hand news from there, especially from its ‘Food’ and ‘Lifestyle’ sections. I was reading restaurants and bars’ reviews made by local Americans, including stories about trendy Tokyo wine and sake venues. Or some fashion stories as Japan was (and is) one of the street style fashion trend-setters. I was also reading various trekking reports with lots of pictures as the country is very picturesque.
It was to me truly a virtual trip to Japan. And this was priceless.
P.S. Now I sometimes visit the website just to check out what’s going on in the country, what trends are actually there but, surely, it is different now. The magic is gone. No emotional bond anymore, only sentimental things that I still treasure as an important slice of my life.
You know, at first I thought this would be crazy easy. Then the more I thought about it, the harder the question became. This is so subjective and you may hate things I think are uber-cool.
Here’s one I like: Radio Garden. Think Google Maps for radio. You start with the Earth below you and you can spin the globe, Google-Maps style, to find the town you are looking for. Click on that town and you’re exploring the local stations.
How about Radio Feel 102.2 FM Odessa, Ukraine, or maybe Dublin’s Q102, or IFM Radio 102.2 FM, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa. Years ago I worked at a Q102 FM in Chattanooga, USA, so I have fun exploring this stuff.
Maybe a more serious topic is in order: YOU are being followed: right now. There are several things you need to do to slow down the multi-nationals and this isn’t the article for that. But I will share one easy thing you can do: Dump Google, et al, as your search engine. Try Duck Duck Go. They don’t track your searches.
See, every time you search on the bigger search engines, they record what you are looking for so they can sell you something later. Even when you think you’re not on their website, they track you. Every website that has outside ads will put cookies on your Browser and report back to the Search Engines. Governments are also interested in this information.
Now, full disclosure: I’m semi-retired from marketing and as part of that I build websites. If you live in the US, here is something you may be interested in: Cyprus Beach House . It’s a site I built that tells a little about the place where I live, North Cyprus. If, like me, you dream of being drunk, fetched up on the rocks on some far away beach, this site gives some advice on how to live the dream. You too can buy a little villa and hang out with guys named Roger & Sergey and enjoy the ridicule that comes with being an American in a foreign land.