Archive for the ‘Commuting’ Category

A New Flame

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

(Simply Red, 1989)

The Olympic flame came to Southampton on Saturday.

Now my general feeling about the Olympics is pretty well known – I don’t like the fact that London residents and businesses have been made to pay for it, yet received no preferential ticket allocations; I don’t like the fact that little or no advantage in ticket allocation was given to grass roots supporters of the sports in question; I don’t like the arrogant way that London businesses will only be allowed to receive deliveries between 11 PM and 6 AM, to keep the roads clear of commercial vehicles so the “Games Family” can speed unhindered between sites; most of all, I don’t like the fact that London’s commuters are being told to plan alternative ways of getting to work, because public transport is going to be jammed solid with those games tourists who are not part of the Games Family, and therefore don’t qualify for chauffer driven limos and sepcial traffic lanes.

All that said – and to clarify doubts that someone raised as a result of a Facebook post I made t’other day – I hope the Games are a rousing success: I hope London shows off its best face, that the Underground and Bus networks get people where they’re going without problems, that all the spectators, volunteers and competitors have a great time. I truly do hope all these things – it’s just that experience – together with the stories that have appeared in the press over the last few days – makes me think that at least the middle of those hopes – on which the other two largely depend – is unlikely to be realised.

Anyway, the flame came to Southampton, and Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much), Mini Fred, another friend of ours, and I, all went to see it. It has to be said that the adults in the party weren’t keen – I know it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but so was the Black Death and I’m quite glad I missed that – but we went anyway. Even though it rained all afternoon, I was sure we’d need to get there early or we wouldn’t find a parking space. And Yes, PF(WILVM), I freely admit I was wrong about that. Still, it would be worth turning up early, as Southampton’s Guildhall Square, that magnificent public open space in the town centre, had been turned into the “Olympic Activity Village” to entertain the crowds. Here’s a picture of the Olympic Activity Village in the Guildhall Square:

The Olympic Inactivity Village

We spent three minutes in the Olympic Inactivity Village, but only because that’s how long it took to walk from one side to the other, stopping to take a picture on the way. We found ourselves a good spot to see the flame in the rain, and awaited developments. The crowd were all getting into the spirit of things, even the non-human ones:

Dog with flags

Then three sponsors vehicles came round the corner, handing out freebies (we didn’t get any): The crowd surged forward, leaving just enough space for the flame carrier and his escorts to come through, and the flame carrier came and went. This picture was provided by PF(WILVM), as at the key moment of flame-passingness, the person next to me leaned forwards and blocked my view:

The torch bearer passes by, version 1

From the place we’d chosen, we knew we could easily get to another bit of the route before the torch did, so we headed off through the parks for another go – more in the hope of being more successful at getting freebies than having a better view. More by luck than planning, however, we’d chosen a spot where the flame passed from one torch bearer to another, so it went a bit slower, and we’d also chosen a spot that the flame had to pass twice: As it had been through once, most of the crowds had pushed off to the pub, so we had a much better view:

The torch bearer passes by, version 2

The Police people were friendly – we were also at the changeover spot for the escort teams, and a couple of the motorbike cops were posing for photos with the kids in the crowd, and we have to admit we were all glad we went.

And then we went home to change into dry clothes and warm up.

Capital Idea

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

I have a brilliant idea. I think I should maybe patent it.

Passing through my least favourite railway station earlier this week, I was offered a free walking map of London – the idea is to get people walking and reduce reliance on the public transport, and in the words of the map-giving-away person, “get ready for the games”. Transport for London have already accepted they don’t have the capacity for all the games spectators AND all the normal London people going to work, so they’re doing everything they can to ease the process.

I have an idea to help London Underground prepare for the games which may be even better: As anyone who travels by public transport regularly in London knows, the cheapest way to get around is with an Oyster card, a pre-loaded charge card with which you swipe on to a bus, or into and out of the Underground. The system keeps a record of the use of the cards, which is handy if you use one for work travel as you can get a printout from the internet and whack it in with your dodgy exes claim.

So, my master plan for the Olympic Summer is this: during the period when public transport is expected to he disrupted by Games crowds (which seems to start a month before the opening ceremony and finish two weeks after the paralympics), between seven and nine in the morning, and five and seven in the afternoon, you won’t be able to enter an Underground station except by using an Oyster card that has at least 100 journeys in the previous six months. That averages to just under four a week, which would easily cover London’s workforce, and make sure that most people can still get to work without much trouble.

Of course my plan isn’t perfect – it does nothing to help anyone who starts and finishes work outside the normal rush hour times, nor does it help anyone who hasn’t been working in London for very long. But it’s a start, and it’s a lot better than what we have now.

St Pancras

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

I mentioned in a recent post on The Facebook, “I truly loathe St Pancras railway station”

I know St Panc is a Marmite thing – you either love or hate it – and I suppose it all depends on what you look for in a railway station. When I pass through, I’m not looking for a ten-course fine dining experience or the chance to buy French groceries, and I’m certainly not in the market for tacky souvenirs of a tacky sports event that hasn’t happened yet, and I (and most Londoners) will be keeping clear of when it does.

When I’m on a railway station, the most I want to buy is a bacon roll and maybe a newspaper – but what I really want, and would gladly sacrifice the chance to buy anything for, is to be able to get from the station entrance (and in London, the Underground terminal) to the train as quickly as possible, with the minimum fuss. Whoever designed the refurbished StP was so fixated on making it a major experience that the only way to fit in all the shops and overpriced eateries was to put the platforms so far from the station access that by the time you get on the train, you’ve already walked halfway to where you were going.

Incidentally, you can get a decent bacon roll at St Panc, from the Camden Food Company by the upstairs platforms. Just don’t be in a hurry.

If the designers of this commuters’ nightmare want some ideas for what a railway station eatery should look like, they need to go back in time and visit Kings Cross before the recent “improvements”. They’ll find a lovely old inn called the Duke of Wellington, with reasonably priced food and free wi-fi…all gone now, of course, in the need for modernisation.

But my favourite railway station food place is the sushi bar at Paddington. Not for the food, although I do like sushi, but for the statue of Paddington Bear in the middle. Of course the fact that the statue is also a virtual geocache helps!

Information

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Last night’s journey home from work didn’t go as well as it might.

Now let me say at the outset that I’m not over-dramatising here – I know that for all that I was forty minutes late home, someone has died, and their family and friends, a train driver and all the witnesses had a much worse evening than I did. And I know that whem a tragedy happens on the rail line, trains have to be disrupted while certain things get done.

It’s the information I get annoyed about: People have complained that there wasn’t any information about what was going on, where really the reverse is true – there was too much information, on the platform boards, on the concourse displays, on the official South West Trains Twitter feed and on the website. All of it contradictory and all of it bearing no resemblance to what was actually happening.

I got to Waterloo to be told the Southampton train (or more precisely the Weymouth train, which goes through Southampton) was at platform fourteen – so I went there, to find a crowd waiting to board the train who’d been told it was going to Reading. It didn’t matter, the train was locked down with no crew anywhere in sight, so wherever it was meant to be going, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Then someone had a phone call from someone at home, who’d seen on the website that the previous Weymouth train, which should have already left, was still on platform seven, so we all scrummed down and beetled across to there. Well the train was still there right enough, but so full of people that you couldn’t have squeezed a chocolate swiss roll (or other confectionery of your choice) on board, never mind another person. They must have been taking it in turns to breathe on there, and I wasn’t getting involved with that.

So we charged back to the tunnel again, this time in response to a tannoy announcement that there was a Basingstoke train on platform nine, and that would at least get me partly home and there’s a better selection of trains from Basingstoke. And sure enough there was a train, and there was plenty of space – in fact it was only half full – because the guard had shut and locked the doors, and didn’t open them again before the train left five minutes later.

Then exactly the same thing happened with another Basingstoke train, this time from platform eleven after another dash through the tunnel between platforms.

Then there was a call for a train to Southampton from platform eight: I was one of the lucky ones who made it there before the doors were shut, and as the train pulled out we were told that this had been going to be the Southampton train, but for technical reasons it was going to terminate at Basingstoke, Arrrgh…still, at least I was moving in the right direction.

And then I got to Basingstoke, and after running between platforms one and four three times (because that was what the announcements led me to do, not for fun or anything), I got on a train home which wasn’t run by South West Trains, so went very smoothly.

The thing is, the only sensible explanation for all that confusion – and I use the word “sensible” loosely – is that the person deciding what information goes out to the waiting passengers isn’t the same person who decides which trains will go where – and they aren’t talking to each other. Not only that, but the Twitter feed, website and station information boards are all run by different people as well.

I’m not sure if this is most like Schroedinger or Einstein, but it seems the only way to really know where a train is going is to get on it and go there. I’m sure it didn’t ought to be like that.

Four Words

Friday, March 16th, 2012

I mentioned that I’d been reading Tom Reynolds’ book, along with my general preference to avoid blogging work-related stuff.

Something I can share with you – which I’m astonished Reynolds doesn’t mention – is the power of a simple four word phrase to irritate public sector workers.

Actually, there’s two of them – four word phrases, that is, not public sector workers, although I’m sure Call Me Dave has a target date by when that will also be true. The phrases are, “I know my rights” and “I pay your wages”: the first of those is obviously a Key Performance Indicator for every “English as a second language” school in London, as we frequently hear it from people who then insist we rustle up an interpreter (at fifty squid an hour, paid for by the taxpayer) as their English is too poor to explain their fantastically-complicated problem to us (and of course I’m already contravening their yoomin rights by not understanding their language). Nine times out of ten, the problem will turn out to be completely outside our remit, and all we can do is send them off to some other agency to repeat the process.

Actually, that’s often true of the fluent English speakers as well.

The second of those phrases (check back two paragraphs, just before the mini-rant) is most often heard, completely without irony, from people who’ve never done a day’s work, and therefore never paid a penny in income tax, in their lives.

There’s a third phrase, used by one particular frequent flyer, which is guaranteed to wind my mate Brian up no end: this guy prefaces each of his demands for sepcial treatment with “We the people insist…”. He’s never specified what marks him out as one of The People, and Brian as NOT one of The People, but whatever it is, he’s pretty fixated on it.

Whatever he – and spouters of the other wind-up magic words – mean by it, it seems to be symptomatic of a feeling that’s becoming pretty widespread, if my extensive research (the comments from the ranting idiots who respond to stories on the Echo website) are accurate: a feeling that the working population is divided into two groups: the private sector, with their Victorian working conditions, poor salaries, lack of job security and enforced flexibility of contract, and the public sector with their massive salaries, gold-plated pensions, total security of employment, early retirement, and contracts that tie down job descriptions to within an inch of their lives.

While I’d be the last to deny that private sector working conditions are pretty grim at the moment, things are no better for public servants. I’m paid significantly less than I could earn in the private sector (if there were any private sector jobs going in my speciality) and I haven’t had a pay rise for three years, in spite of increased responsibilities in that time. My team is two people down because of redundancies, and is picking up more work because of redundancies in teams around us. My pension looks pretty rosy, at least compared to the state pension, but only because I’ve contributed heavily to a private scheme for years. I get fairly decent amount of holiday – or at least I would, if I had time to take it. I’ll be carrying the maximum-permitted number of days over at the year end, because I haven’t had time to take them. I actually had to cancel a booked holiday so another member of my team could get married in half term week – his fiancee’s a teacher and couldn’t have time off anywhen else, and there isn’t enough flexibility to allow us both to be off at the same time, even though if you looked at our contracts you’d think there was no overlap in what we do.

Please understand I’m not telling you this to make you think I’m anything sepcial, quite the opposite: my working conditions are no different to ninety-nine percent of public sector workers.

I was employed – and technically still am – as a Health and Safety sepcialist, but an expectation of flexibility and a desire to stay employed means that I’m expected to do more and more little “odd jobs” on the side. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve –

  • Investigated a suspicious package which our mailroom team thought might be a hostile device. It turned out to be a broken washing machine part that one of our regular contributors thought we should see.
  • Scrambled around on my hands and knees making secure a broken security gate. I wouldn’t have been allowed to go home and leave it insecure.
  • Explained to a colleague that the reason he hasn’t got his new ID card yet is that he refused to supply a photograph, or to attend to have one taken.
  • Explained to another colleague that the reason it isn’t warm enough to sit in the office in shirtssleeves might be connected to the snow in the ground outside (his response was“it’s all right for you, you’ve got a pullover on”)
  • Spent 45 minutes trying to explain to a member of the public that turning up without an appointment, at five o’clock and without an apparent reason means he’s not going to get to see our Chief Executive. And that swearing at me and offering to sort me out outside doesn’t help his case. And for the record, he was wrong – I’ve seen my parents’ wedding photos.

All grist to the mill of the average public sector worker.

Belsize Park, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Tuna Fish

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

There was an interesting piece on the BBC news website the other day about new research into earworms.

These, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are those annoying tunes that get stuck in your head and go round for ages. The research looked at what causes them to embed themselves, and what triggers them. It could be hearing a bit of the tune, of course, or a sight or smell, most commonly associated with the first time you heard the tune. On which subject, I have what might be called a reverse earworm – or maybe,
rather grossly, a noseworm – as every time I hear Crosby, Stills & Nash singing Marrakesh Express, I can smell microwave tuna pasta bake. Don’t ask.

My most common earworm trigger is the phrase “Belsize Park”, which always starts Marillion’s Kayleigh running in my head.

Do you remember, barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars
Do you remember, loving on the floor in Belsize Park

As I see maps of the London Underground quite a lot, I’m exposed to the words “Belsize Park” more than you might think – it’s an area of London with a station on the Northern line. I even tried going up there one morning before work (and doing a cache there, naturally) in an attempt to root the worm out, but it didn’t work.

It’s lucky I like Marillion really, although I prefer Lavender to Kayleigh. At least it isn’t Marrakesh Express.

Can anyone smell tuna?

Joe

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I’ve had an email from Joe Kent.

No, I’d never heard of him either, but it seems like he’s a researcher on the BBC TV programme “Inside Out”. He’s read my blog on the subject of travelling to work during the London Olympics, and wants to talk to me about it. It raises the interesting point of why people I don’t know at the BBC are reading my blog – I suspect my Facebook buddy Chris, who’s a producer with BBC News, might just be the link there, but it would be lovely to think that somewhere in the bowels of the BBC News department, there’s a team of specialists dedicated to scouring GottleBlog for newsworthy items.

I haven’t responded yet, although by the time this blog goes live, I will have done. But never fear, dear readers – I shall be following the media-savvy advice of Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much), who suggested ”Whatever you do, don’t give them anything they can edit to make you look like a ranting idiot”.

Ranting idiot? Moi?

Another Olympic Whinge

Monday, September 19th, 2011

No, not a whinge of Olympic proportions…just a whinge about the organisation of the London 2012 Games.

Today’s Evening Standard carries two stories about the Olympics: In the first, 93 of the firms who were forced to move premises to make way for the new stadium have yet to receive their promised compensation, four years after their original sites were compulsarily purchased – although that may not be the best term given that purchases – even compulsory ones – normally involve the transfer of an agreed amount of cash. In this case, £78 million is still owed to claimants.

The second story shows that, having stiffed over the businesses of the Stratford area, Games organisers are turning their attention to those of Central London, and in particular those in the Bloomsbury area. For five weeks next Summer, Russell Square and the surrounding streets will be closed to traffic, becoming the world’s biggest coach station. Seventy coaches an hour will run, transporting journalists from hotels in the area to the Games locations. And of course to ensure the scribblers aren’t delayed, Southampton Road, from Holborn to Euston, will form part of the “Official vehicles only” games lanes.

So, businesses all around Bloomsbury will lose vast amounts of trade because no-one other than journalists will be allowed through – and the journos will only be passing through, not stopping for the shops. A main commuter route from Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations into the centre of the City will be closed to all traffic, forcing everything – I’m guessing – to use Grays Inn Road or Tottenham Court Road, both of which are bad enough in the rush hour as it is. And because plenty of bus routes will be unusable, even more people will resort to the already-overcrowded underground.

I have a thought about those Olympics-Traffic-Only lanes…I’ll share it in a future edition.

Unfair Games

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

An advertisement in the Evening Standard asks London businesses, “Are you ready for the games?”, before going on to explain that the London Olympics are less than a year away and that traffic routes throughout the capital will be severely affected by athletes, officials and spectators travelling to the games. Businesses should be building contingency plans against staff being unable to travel to work, deliveries failing to arrive on time or at all, and customers staying away to avoid the crowds.

There’s an argument that the Games will be good for tourism, of course, although the experiences of Beijing and Sydney both suggest that for all the tourists who come to London for the Olympics, an equal number of ‘normal’ tourists will stay away to avoid the crowds and the inflated hotel prices. But London’s businesses and residents – everyone who pays tax of any kind to the London Assembly – have already made a huge financial contribution to the Games, even though many will get no interest or business advantage from them. Drivers and public transport users have suffered two years of disruption while networks are “upgraded” in a probably-vain attempt to ensure that tubes and busses run properly for a couple of months next Summer, before the whole creaking shambles falls over again.

What I’m leading up to is the question, why aren’t the powers that be in London protecting businesses and residents – and commuters – from the consequences of the Games, rather than bending over backwards to accommodate the sports and advising businesses to tell their staff to stay at home (which is the advice that the organisation I work for has received)? These taxpayers are London’s employers, not the travelling circus of the IOC.

Conversation

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Two blokes were standing near me on the bus this evening – what follows is the unabridged entirety of their conversation…

Bloke 1: “Steve”
Bloke 2: “Steve?”
Bloke 1: “Steve”

(pause)

Bloke 2: “Chris?”
Bloke 1: “Chris”

I’d love to know what that was all about, but I don’t suppose I ever will.

South Park

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Further to previous discussions on the odd destination boards you sometimes see on SouthWest Trains…

101122.jpg*I’m going down to South Park…* – I shudder to think what happened to Kenny in that episode.

In other news, it looks like I was at least partly wrong about the other event I referred to last week. It’s not being organised by the people I thought it was, so the comment about Brownian Motion doesn’t apply. All the same, I haven’t changed my mind about the actions of the subcommittee being pretty shabby. I have my own theories about their reasons for doing what they did, but I’ll keep them to myself.

Above Average

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Today is the 201st day of the year. And today I found my 202nd, 203rd and 204th caches of the year. I also failed to find two caches, but we’ll draw a veil over those…

It’s the first time in the year I’ve been ahead of the one-cache-a-day average, although I don’t expect it to last – New Wine starts this Friday and there’s no way I’ll maintain one a day there. But I’m happy with where I am for now, and averaging one a day would see me end the year on 1591.

I can feel a Christmas 1600 coming on…

Top Shelf Goodies

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

I usually get my lunchtime sarnie at Sainsbo’s, on the way in to work.

That’s not because I like Sainsbo’s sarnies especially – they’re OK, but I prefer Tesco. Actually, I prefer “Eat”, but I have a deep rooted objection to spending longer queuing for my lunch than I’m going to spend eating it, to Tesco or Sainsbury it has to be. And there’s a branch of Sainsbury within easy walking distance, but I’d have to divert well off course to get to a Tesco.

Part of the problem with Sainsbury is their uninspiring range of sandwich fillings: Cheese and tomato is only interesting for so long – about two seconds – and even the all day breakfast is stodgier than the bread it comes in. And don’t get me started on smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese? Oh, OK then. Who the hell had THAT idea? ”Hey guys, here’s an idea: Y’know how smoked salmon has a really light, delicate flavour, and a texture that melts across the tongue? Well, let’s make a sandwich out of that, but slather it in really cheap cream cheese to stop people noticing how unpleasant the bread is!”

The reason I mention all this is that I spotted something in Sainsbury this morning that I’d never noticed before: Their sandwich section has a top shelf! And just like all the racier stuff in the magazine section is on the top shelf, so it is with sandwiches. I found a pork, apple and stuffing sandwich that was not only made with real pork, apple and stuffing, but also had bread that didn’t taste like cardboard!

I will return to Sainsbo’s top shelf again…maybe tomorrow…

Nice

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

I was going to have another Lord Young related rant this evening, but then something good happened…

The train was late getting into Southampton – about fifteen minutes late, thanks to Notwork Rail signalling problems at Waterloo. Those of you who knew Henners may detect his hand at work…and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Normally the train being that late means waiting for an age for the bus home, but the 17A must’ve been a bit late and came round the corner as I came out of the station.

I really couldn’t be bothered to run for it, especially as I’d had one or two gins on the train (two, actually) and there was only one person waiting to get on. But then that one person saw me coming, recognised me as someone who usually catches that bus, and made the bus wait for me!

Restores your faith in human nature…a bit, anyway!

Sorry…

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

…I haven’t blogged for so long. Over the weekend I was too busy having fun to tell you about the fun I was having, and I meant to blog last night – but some train related entertainment, combined with a rather long job that I had to do last night, meant I never got to it.

The train was late. In fact, due to a number of signal-related problems, nearly every train in the south of England was running late. And then when I did get on it, I wasn’t thinking straight and sat on the wrong side, so I was by the window that had the sun all the way home. And the cooling on the train wasn’t working. And by the time the train got into Southampton, it was late enough that Southampton busses were on the “one bus whenever we feel like it, which isn’t very often” timetable. It would’ve been quicker to walk, but it was still warm and I was wilting, so I bought a litre of water from the Co-Op, and drank it before the bus arrived.

Cool dudeAnyway, as this fabby picture (taken by m’lovely Purple Fred, whom I continue to love in increasing amounts) shows, we had some fun at the weekend. Saturday was my Luvvly Mum’s birthday, so we took her out to lunch. Sorry by the way to the excellent Bel, whose surprise party I couldn’t attend – I’m afraid my Mum got first dibs on me being at her birthday!

Then PF and MiniFred and I went to the beach and found a geocache, and I came home with half the beach in my socks. I wasn’t wearing them – they were being used as handy bags to carry the stones and shells that had been collected on the beach.

And on Sunday I was being a Raynet person at the Marwell 10k race, so while I was working hard, PF and MF looked round the zoo, and tell me they had a lovely time. And then we rounded the weekend off with stuffing envelopes for the next drama group production mailshot.

I received a letter from the drama group today with a mailshot in it. There’s one envelope we needn’t have stuffed!

Overheard

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

…on the train:
“My Dad crashed his plane”
“Was he on the ground?”
“After he finished crashing, he was”

More Caching…well Sorta

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Not my most successful geocaching day.

On the way to work, I trled for Long Tall Alley – it was the second time I’d tried this one, or the third if you include the time I couldn’t even find the alley, never mind the cache. I know within thirty feet or so where it must be, but still can’t even spot a likely hidey hole.

Then at lunchtime I went for a walk and had a go at St Georges Garden and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Cache, both nice enough hides in little parks, and I now know where both of them are – they were under the bums of people eating their lunches.

Oh well, I’ll try for them on my way in one morning sometime.

Bleep…

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I’ve been doing a multicache :-)

Inspired by Purple Fred (whom I love very much) I’ve been forsaking the bus and walking to the office in the mornings, and to stave off boredom, I’ve been varying my route, rather than going the same way every day. And to make things even more interesting, I’ve been searching out some cache clues.

I’ve tried to start the cache “London Invasion” a few times, and being unable to find the first point, have given up a few times :-( . But on my morning walks I’ve spotted a few of the points further round the trail, and been inspired to have another crack. The basis of the trail is a number of tiled mosaic “space invaders” peeping out at you from hidden nooks around the capital – like this one:

and this one…

Three days into the week, I’ve found ten of the thirteen clues – and if the rain holds off tomorrow morning I’ll try for a couple more. I’m having fun!

Guard!

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

There’s something about train travel that’s been puzzling me…

When the train pulls into the station, the guard opens the nearest door to him, gets out and looks up and down the platform. When he’s satisfied, he unlocks all the other doors and the people can get on and off.

The thing is…what’s he looking for? I can understand him checking before he shuts the doors, to make sure he’s not shutting anyone’s leg in or something, but unless he’s looking out for Ghengis Khan and his ravening hordes about to invade the train, I can’t see what he’s checking for before he opens them.

Peter Hedgehog – I look to you for sensible suggestions. And everyone else – I’m relying on you for some daft ones.

In other news, PF (whom I love very much) and I have been working on the website for her amateur dramatic group. It’s still nowhere near ready, but there is at least a holding page there now with a bit of information. So in an attempt to start the page moving up the Google ranking, why not click on this link and see what we’ve done so far. In fact, why not click on it lots of times?

First Class!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I had a bit of a result on the train this morning.

My normal train from Southampton was cancelled – as were the ones before and after – because of power supply problems nothing was moving eastwards across the New Forest. We were all advised to cram ourselves into a local shuttle going to Southampton Parkway, from where we could catch a train that started from there – meaning that it wouldn’t be rammed full, and nor would it be affected by the engineering issues.

Riding the shuttle, I formulated my plan: Southampton Parkway has a long platform, and most people congregate near the centre: by moving right to the end I’d easily get on the train, and win the inevitable race for seats caused by three or four trains worth of people trying to get on.

The best laid plans of mice…Parkway was rammed solid with people, there was barely space to get behind the yellow line, but I thought I may as well stick to the original plan: I got on the second coach from the front (the first one that isn’t first class), and lost the seat race. Figuring that being cheeky never hurt anyone, I asked the guard if he was planning to de-rate first class – they do sometimes when the train is packed – and was told “If you can find a seat in first class sir, then I’ll give it to you”.

So I got a free seat in first class, and some heavy dirty looks from people who later got on the train who’d paid for first class tickets, and had to stand ;-)

Ice and Fire

Friday, January 15th, 2010

I had another dodgy journey to work the other day.

It had been snowing afresh, so the walk to the station was slippery, and when I got there the 6:15 was waiting…and waiting…and waiting. Apparently it was waiting for its guard, who came in on the 6:30, which was my train to London.

We took off and sped through the falling snow – I can’t tell you much more than that because I was asleep. I woke up to find the train stopped and the guard speaking on the PA.

“We’re sorry about the delay to this service: The line is blocked by a train on fire at West Byfleet and nothing’s moving. I’ll let you know when I know any more.”

We were stuck there for about forty five minutes before first, we saw a train heading south – so we knew the line was at least partly clear – and then we shuddered forward. We stopped after a mile or so, and this time were told “Sorry about the ongoing delay, which is caused by adverse weather conditions”. Eh? What happened to the fire? When we went through West Byfleet the service/wreck recovery train was there, so something had been going on, but nothing as exciting as a pile of smoking ashes or anything.

We made it to Waterloo only an hour and a half late, but the funniest was yet to come. M’chum Dave decided to leave work early, as he’d been warned that the snow was knee deep around his home town and getting deeper. He arrived at Waterloo to find the consequences of the morning’s issues were still rife. Or as he described it in his text…

“Every platform has a train ready to leave. None of them has a crew. The crews are all on trains waiting to get into Waterloo…but they can’t get in because the platforms are full…”

A phrase concerning parties in breweries springs to mind…