Special Interests

Long standing obsessions


'When is an obsession not an obsession? When it is football'. - Luke Jackson

This quote from the author of 'Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome' sums up our attitude towards obsessions. In one sense, some consider watching 22 males on a football field as weird as spotting roundabouts. This is good coming from me.

'What's your obsession?'

In my time, I have had several 'obsessions', of which some that have come and gone in weeks, and some have lasted several years. Some of them have recurred in phases.

My longest serving special interest has lasted for just over two decades. That is public transport. This, I claim, began in April 1984, with a trip to the National Railway Museum in York. Later on, this was followed up by a trip to the Bury Transport Museum (now part of the East Lancashire Railway). From about 1985, my love of trains extended to buses, mainly those of Greater Manchester Transport. The extremity of this is reflected in the architecture of this website.

The greatest influence of this long-serving interest were long distance journeys made to Ayr, Barry and Skegness prior to starting school, on family holidays.

Greater Manchester Transport

Having used public transport all my life, from the 346 bus to Ashton-under-Lyne to a train to York, hauled by Class 45 Peak, I developed a fascination, with the buses that made the journey. This, I claim was triggered by my Nana's move to Mossley. The result of this were odd journeys on 343 or 344 routes to Mossley, Brookbottom. I fell in love with scenery and the views from the top deck of one of GMT's 700 Leyland Atlanteans.

Another one of my favourite routes of the first ten years of my life was the 409 to Rochdale. A change of school from Yew Tree Primary School to Ewing School in West Didsbury fuelled the obsession more. As well as offering weekly trips out on the minibus, there was the bonus of Ewing School being on the route of the 41, 43 and 44 services - and the odd journey to Manchester using these buses.

This intense interest even extends to various seat moquette designs, and bus stations. The latter interest also traverses past the GMPTE boundary, with renewed interest in the subject extending to designs in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire. A knock-on effect of this has resulted in me dedicating sketch books of speculative bus and rail interchange designs, based on personal experience of using such termini. The last five years have also seen me gain interest in transport policy itself.


It had only been in the last few years I had taken music seriously. Until about 1999, I was only content with what was offered on radio stations. Before then, I was more into music trivia than the actual bands or albums themselves (for example: chart positions). I also had a phase in 1996 of listening to the The Pointer Sisters' 'Break Out' album.

Since 1999, my tastes have become more eclectic, listening to anything from The Fall to Black Dyke Brass Band. From that period, I had started getting into the actual albums other than retrospective 'greatest hits' type albums. I also have phases, whereby one year (as I did in 2001), I would scour the planet (as far as Bridlington!) to find Cabaret Voltaire albums. There are only two bands which I had enjoyed listening to from beyond 1999.

The two bands concerned are Supertramp and the Electric Light Orchestra. My first memory of Supertramp was listening to 'It's Raining Again' from the radio of a 409 bus bound for Ashton-under-Lyne, at the age of three. As for ELO, an auntie of mine (who is a big ELO fan herself) played on of their albums on one visit to her house at the age of ten. There I got into the most part of their 'Discovery' album, mainly 'The Diary of Horace Wimp'. This withered away at the end of 1989, but had re-manifested again in 2004, and in a big way, thanks to a greatest hits compilation, purchased in Halifax. From there, ELO releases mushroomed, with 'Out of the Blue', 'Eldorado', 'Discovery' et al, entering the collection.

For people wishing to enter the ELO canon, the 2CD compilation 'The Ultimate Collection' is a good starting point. My personal favourite ELO album is 'Out of the Blue', which still sounds fresh, nearly 30 years after release. The best Supertramp albums to start off with are 'Breakfast in America', and the 'Very Best of Supertramp' Volume 1. If you can find it, 'Classics Volume 9' (also sold as 'The Autobiography of Supertramp') is a worthy addition. My personal favourite Supertramp album is 'Crime of the Century'.

My other favourite bands are Half Man Half Biscuit, The Fall, Black Dyke Brass Band and Kraftwerk.


I have often said to fellow comrades, over how little television I have watched. However, television is another long-standing obsession, of similar length to public transport. In fact, I would say longer than public transport by two years.

From 1982, I was fascinated by the idents used by ITV franchise holders (for example: Anglia's steel statuette, or Yorkshire Television's flying 'Y' as seen on '3-2-1'). Some even used to frighten me, with the old ATV ident one example. By the age of five, I was one of a select minority of five year-olds able to recognise the TV-am and Granada logos as well as the shape of the British Isles. Even fewer woke up to see 'Daybreak' on TV-am or the Open University programmes!

Thanks to the internet, I had been 'reunited' by these old logos, and get shivers from the ATV ident. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee, I am able to think 'I used to scream at that'.

Stalybridge Celtic

This obsession has lasted for just over ten years. As an avid supporter of the non-league side, I have seen my fair share of home games from friendlies to the F.A. Cup Second Round proper. My first 'Bridge game was a GM Vauxhall Conference fixture on the 26 November 1994, against Woking. Lenny Dennis opened the scoring for Woking, but Paul Clayton and Robert Jackson (through a penalty) replied for Stalybridge Celtic, with a 2-1 victory.

I have also travelled to a few away games, including friendlies. I have been to the bright lights of South Elmsall. Plus, I have walked for thirty-five minutes in near darkness to the nearest railway station from one ground (off the M53 motorway). Why do I do this? There is more to following non league football than the ninety minutes on the pitch. Firstly, there's the craic of drinking with away fans (impossible with any Football League or Barclays Premier League game). Secondly, visiting idiosyncratic grounds run by locals rather than venture capitalists or FTSE shareholders. The other is just travelling to the games, whether its an overcrowded train or a hired minibus with a dozen other fans.


My first experience of computing began the same way as most British children of the 1980s. This was through school, with the BBC Model B, playing computer games. By 1990, I got into the Acorn Archimedes and the Commodore 64. A further addition to the repertoire was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k model. In my last two decades, I had gone from the BBC Model B to the PC and the Apple Macintosh.

My taste in computer games are pretty old fashioned, with 3D Deathchase and Arkanoid my favourites. On a more esoteric note, I also like Sheep in Space and Attack of the Mutant Camels by Jeff Minter.

For over six years, I have been gainfully employed as a search engine consultant. Thanks to my current job, I now spend more than fifty percent of my waking life in front of a computer screen. This duration takes into account the time I spend computing at home.

My main interest in computing lies in cyberspace, with my most passionate interests in website accessibility, the semantic web and CSS. Lately, I have gained great interest in tableless layouts, XHTML 1.0 and HTML 4.01 Strict. Another area which interests me in cross browser compatibility, the art of making your site work in all browsers. This version of the Stuart Vallantine Web Experience (coincidentally) extols these beliefs.

I am also an Apple Mac enthusiast and proud user, also gaining further interest in Linux operating systems.