Number 33 | Take part in a murder mystery …

When my friend Chris asked me if I would consider last-minute acting in a murder mystery he had written, I didn’t have to hesitate. Yesyesyesyesyesyes.

The mystery was set aboard the Battlefield Line – the steam train that connects Bosworth battlefield with some local villages (yes, I have now been on TWO different steam trains). Set in the 1940’s it concerned the death of Air Commodore Justin Cloud. I was to play Lucy Morales (pronounced ‘morals’), a new girl in the village with hidden family secrets.

The day consisted of dressing up in 1940’s secretary-slash-glamour wear, interacting with customers in the olde-time booking hall at the station (lots of customers dressed up too) and then getting onto the train with them. While they sat down to a three-course meal we would occasionally act some scenes around them, laying out clues, and walk up and down the carriage talking to them and answering their questions.

Quite a lot of people thought I was the murderer; I don’t know whether I was flattered by this or not. I wasn’t the murderer but I did get to flirt with a *lot* of men (I would like to take this time to apologise to Jeremy; your kids told me to rope you into it!)

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Number 32 | Go to a beer festival …

Not being a massive fan of beer, a beer festival is something I’ve never really planned on going to. I like the sound of it and I wish I liked beer more itself but I just don’t – I’m much more a cocktails kind of person.

Then I got invited to the Great Central Beer Festival.

I’ll freely admit that the biggest draw of the festival was the riding-on-a-train part. You go on the Great Western Railway (the steam train between Leicester and Loughborough) and at each stop there are a host of beers to try. Your £10 entry fee gets you a free pint glass and guide to all the beers and I assume the aim is to try as many as possible. I started off with some stout-thing (see, I don’t even know what it’s really called) made by a brewery called Titanic; I fully chose it because of the name. Then I tried something else – I don’t know what it was, some pale ale thing – and *then* discovered the ciders. I wish I’d found them earlier! The absolute best one was something caked Peach, Passionfruit and Pineapple. It tasted just like a fizzy squash and was immense.

Not really discovering my inner beer drinker, we caught the train back to Leicester where I got to have a photo taken with one of the volunteer guards, all dressed up in the old-school uniform.

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Number 31 | Explore a creepy tunnel …

One of my friends had asked me months ago if I wanted to join her on a tour of the Glenfield Tunnel organised by the Leicester Industrial Heritage Society. In the spirit of wanting to do new stuff, I said yes.

The Glenfield Tunnel, located in the middle of a housing estate in Glenfield, used to be the route that a steam train would carry coal from Coalville to Leicester. We met the group – some serious trekkers with proper head-torches for the most part – in the car park of the Glenfield Co-Op before following our guide leader Richard down a path and across a road into the Stephenson Court (named after the famous ‘Rocket’ designer). Walking through the estate we suddenly came across a high brick wall with a small square tunnel entrance cut into the side.

Here we heard some more about the tunnel. The Glenfield Tunnel is one of the world’s first steam railway tunnels and is just over one mile long. It was designed by the famous railway engineer George Stephenson and built between 1829–32, under the supervision of his son Robert.

The project to build this tunnel really tested its engineers, involving techniques that were then virtually untried.  Faulty trial drillings suggested the bore would be through stone and clay, when, in fact, much of the bore would turn out to be in running sand.  This necessitated a great deal more work and expense. The tunnel had to be lined throughout in brickwork between 14” and 18” thick, backed by a “wooden shell” where running sand was encountered. Bricks for the lining, after dissatisfaction with the original supplier, were made in an on-site kiln. Owing to the problems encountered, the tunnel construction ran well over the proposed budget of £10,000, finally costing £17,326 12s 2½d. which is  well over a million pounds in today’s money. However, the finished job was straight and level and was in use for over 130 years.

Dripping walls, pitch black and uneven flooring made torches a necessity. Although we were only allowed 400 yards into the tunnel, we passed three ventilation shafts. One of these comes up above ground and into someone’s garden. Standing underneath it was not advised as water was constantly dripping through.

On reaching the end point we were played a sound effect of a train passing through the tunnel. It was incredibly atmospheric, especially when we thought about the refuge arches we’d seen on our journey down the tunnel. These were put in on both sides of the tunnel wall every so often and were for workers to stand in when the train was passing, to avoid getting hit. Apparently it was a very close shave.

After such a long time standing in the past, as it were, it was different to be out in the real world again. Covered in soot and dirt, too.

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Number 28 | The canal lift …

Today I saw an actual olde worlde canal lift down at Foxton Locks.

The Inclined Plane Lift, to give it its proper name, was built during the Victorian era between 1900 and 1911. I also went round the canal boat museum, learning about the history of boats and other assorted information. It was actually quite fun.

Here are two quite badly taken photographs of the remains of the boat lift.

Number 27 | I touched a bird …

I TOUCHED A BIRD. HOLY CRAP, I TOUCHED A BIRD.

Anyone who knows me will know about my crippling ornithophobia. Basically, I hate birds (apart from ducks, penguins and tiny finches). Yet I went to a farm recently and managed to hold a tiny chicken.

It was a chick rather than a chicken but not a tiny, cute, yellow one. This was a teenage, scrawny thing with flappy wings that were terrifying even when I wasn’t holding it.

My friend Mitch took it first and showed me how to hold it – one hand under the feet, one on the top holding the wings down. Encouraged (or shamed into it, more like) by the little girl next to me who said, kindly, “it doesn’t hurt”, I took the chicken … AND HELD IT. There is photographic evidence of what was quite a big deal for me.

Then I went into the chicken coop and stroked a quiet, adult chicken. I am a GODDAMN LEGEND.

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