Monday, January 23, 2006

A game of birdbrain

I’ve written before about the perils that await those who dare to cross the A40 by Barons Court Station. There seems to be a new game of “Chicken”, in which the winner is the person who can delay the longest in reaching safety in the face of the traffic. Let me elaborate.

People wishing to cross either wait for the traffic lights to change or they look for a break in the oncoming traffic and then walk across to the central reservation before trying their luck with the other side. There are lights and reservations on either side of the junction. On the Hammersmith College side the numbers of pedestrians are greater than on the side that I use, and the reservation is a dogleg shape, making it hard for people to move quickly through it. So when there are twenty people crossing at the same time they tend to straggle back a bit.  The traffic moves fast on this section of road. Cars, seeing an empty road ahead and the green lights, may be moving at 70mph. Motorbikes are faster. These vehicles can appear virtually out of nowhere and with their eyes fixed on the traffic lights, the drivers are not too conscious of the pedestrians spilling into the road.

The trouble is that the pedestrians do not always seem that conscious of the dangers either. They seem to think that if they are queuing to get off the road and into the reservation that they are somehow safe. Several times in recent days I have heard the blare of horns as vehicles have sped up to and through the scattering crowds. It is only a matter of time before someone skids on a wet road and loses control.

What really worries me is that the tail-enders seem unperturbed. As soon as people begin to cross, even though the pedestrian traffic light shows red, everyone moves in unison. Those at the back of the queue drift over the road, eyes ahead rather than looking to the right at the road. If a car appears they may look up or they may ever so casually quicken their pace but on no account must they show any sense of haste or unease.

Chicken is not really the right word. Sheep might be a better description. Except that sheep are very good at avoiding danger and know when to run. Birdbrain possibly?

Thursday, January 19, 2006


It’s all gone rather quiet. Services on the Piccadilly ‘twixt beautiful Ruislip and the heart of darkness, aka Hammersmith, have settled down. Frequency and reliability are back to the standards of last summer when I made far fewer claims for delays than in the past. This is not to say the service is a particularly high standard – a ten minute gap this morning with at least one Piccadilly cancelled shows that. But all things are relative.

Ruislip Manor station continues to be a builder’s tip – what do they do all day, these men with their JCBs and colony of Portakabins? Some coils of wire have appeared adorning each of the metal poles on which the station lights are mounted. Maybe they will be used to hoist some brightly coloured bunting to cheer us up in these dark January days. Or to put in a loudspeaker system? That would be a waste of time. No useful announcements are ever made at this station – there are almost no staff to do them. Today there was a plaintive message on the information board that tells you about delays – it read “Unable to display information – our computer is down”. Quite out of the question for anyone on the staff to phone for info, of course.

One blessing is that there are no advertising hoardings but no doubt they will return. Meanwhile those of us pacing up and down (thanks to unannounced ten minute gaps, see above) can at least admire the view.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


These people with rucksacks are a real nuisance. They take up so much extra space and it can be hard to squeeze past. Take this morning, when I attempted to leave a crowded Piccadilly train at Baron’s Court. Two young men each with a rucksack stood near the door. I had to push and dodge to get past, and then nearly fell over a bag someone had carefully placed on the floor.

The fact that I too carry a rucksack is neither here nor there, your honour, and I move that this be struck from the record. [objection: Ed]

Monday, January 09, 2006

Happy 2006

A new year begins [1] and once again I have been asked [2] to write a few words…

  • [1] Yes I know this is January 9th but some of us have been on holiday. An extended Christmas break including three days in the fair city of Bath communing with the Roman remain and the ghost of Ms Jane Austen, if you must know.

  • [2] This is a lie. I took this onerous duty on myself

Yes, where was I? A few words to greet 2006. It’s my first day back at work and there is a strike on the tube. How appropriate is that? Actually it is the RMT union taking “action” and it seems to be only some station staff who have walked out, closing about 25 stations. They struck over New Year’s Eve as well and hit 45 stations so it seems that they are losing support. It didn’t affect me this morning so I can’t claim to be too bothered.

At least the weather is warming up and the days can only get lighter and longer so we have something to look forward to, until we get 2cm of snow and everything comes to a complete halt in the time-honoured English, “blimey what’s that white stuff, better stop the trains at once” tradition.

And as I prepare to leave, what is this on the Transport for London website? – yes, “severe delays” on the Piccadilly line tonight. Welcome back. Its business as usual.