Friday, November 21, 2008

TGIF revisited

I wrote last week about the curious lack of people on my London-bound morning journey by tube. Today the Met was moderately busy but the Bakerloo very crowded. Not only that, but not a soul left the last carriage of the train that arrived at Baker Street and I stood until Oxford Circus, a most rare occurence. So much for the station announcer's obsessive chants urging passengers to walk to the end of the platform

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tube English 4

The station announcers are fond of telling passengers to move along to the ends of platforms where frequently fewer people are waiting. This is fair enough, at one level, yet one must ponder what would happen if everyone followed this advice. Surely the crush at the end of the platform would seriously inconvenience all, whilst leaving space in the middle carriages. So what they really should be asking is that sufficient passengers move along so as to spread the load out evenly. Rather hard to know how to put this into a short pithy and easily repeatable-through-a-loudhailer phrase though.

Friday, November 14, 2008

TGIF

Friday morning, and the trains into London are significantly less crowded than in the rest of the week. We are not exactly stretched out with feet up on the opposite seat but people who stand are doing so from choice. Is this down to people taking holidays, or just skiving off for a long weekend? Or is it the harbinger of the economic downturn? One might have thought that people would be working as hard as they could in the current climate, not taking time off. Unless they are forced to work a 4 day week.

In short, there is no obvious conclusion to the conundrum so there let it remain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Downpours and delays

Torrential rain lashed our office building, high above Waterloo, all day yesterday. At times the sky was so dark, and the clouds so low that buildings just half a mile down the road could barely be seen through the mist. The few lonely tourists on the London Eye must have looked out from their near-empty pods and wondered why they bothered.
To match the awful weather the underground put in an awful performance. Arriving at Baker Street for the Metropolitan in the evening I found near-blank indicators and huge numbers milling about on the platforms. No staff to be seen and no announcements to be heard. Having dimly heard something about “minor delays” whilst enroute, I decided to try another route and took the Bakerloo back to Oxford Circus to take the Central home. Once more huge crowds jammed the westbound platform entrance. A suitable train appeared and another was signalled just behind. I stayed back and let the crowds surge on. No sooner had the train gone then the one behind vanished from the indicators. I took the next anyway, waited at North Acton hoping at least to get a seat and found when a Ruislip bound train eventually turned up that it was full. Finally, having reached Northolt we were unceremoniously turfed out so that the train could turn round there, and there was a final 5 minute wait for the train behind.
Signal failure at Finchley Road and a security alert at Bank were the reasons cited for 35 minutes added to the normal journey time.
Moral – better to have gone out at Baker Street and had a drink. Sadly the pub that used to be inside the station is long gone. A commercial opportunity missed, one may conclude.

On another note altogether, Mrs Commuter and I enjoyed a post-concert dinner at St Pancras station the other night. The restaurant, Carluccios, has an open section on the Eurostar platform so that one has the the glorious ironwork roof above one’s head and the statue of Betjeman (back to us) not far away. Even the constant whine of the diesel engines made for a suitable auditory backdrop, given the setting. What commuter could ask for more?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama - The voice of Ruislip speaks

As everyone else in the world is writing about Barack Obama’s election as US President, should Ramblings join the frenzy of scribbling or remain disdainfully aloof? Given that every newspaper carries massive coverage, and that samples were to be found scattered throughout the trains that bore me to work these past few days, I think it fair to say that this does fall within my brief.
There is a sense of similiarity with Tony Blair’s victory in 1997. A tired and discredited administration fell to a young and untried, but enthusiastic and charismatic, challenger free of much of his party’s historic baggage. Of course in 1997 John Major was standing for re-election whereas John McCain tried to put distance between himself and George W. Bush but it was not enough.
So will Obama live up to the massive weight of expectations? Of course not. Much as I disliked the late Enoch Powell, his quote “all political lives, unless they are cut-off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure” will surely apply. What Obama may be able to do is point the US in a different direction, away from confrontation and first use of force, and change the kneejerk hostililty of much of the world into a readiness to listen. He doesn’t look like a typical hard-faced, shoot first and ask questions later, anyone who is not for us is our enemy, white¸ American. Until he starts acting like one, this will count for much.

By the way, sorry about the pretentious title for this piece. But it got your attention, didn't it?

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Monday morning diversion

After my little rant last week, Friday's journeys to and from work were fine and this morning's started out ok too until on arrival (by reasonably punctual Met) at Baker Street we were told that the Bakerloo was suspended due to a person under a train at Oxford Circus.  Meaning to go south, but wishing to avoid the crowds, I took the escalator that leads to the northbound platforms then cut across to the Jubilee southbound by devious means feeling like a character in Colossal Cave* - "you see a maze of twisty little passages". They had gone so far as to close the gates leading to the Bakerloo and when I peeked through I saw a train with its lights out waiting forlornly on the deserted platform.

No sooner on the Jubilee than we are told of delays due to a passenger taken ill at Canning Town. I love the way they enrich the details by telling you where the problem is, as if that makes the slightest difference - I don't give a toss where it takes place, I want to know how long the delays are going to be - but I suppose just being in Canning Town must be enough to make most people sick, and was it named after the moderately famous nineteenth century politician or did they do a lot of food processing there? anyway, where was I, oh yes, the pleasure of standing in a full train wondering when it might depart. Having crawled down to Bond Street, the driver told us that the problem was sorted and we gradually reverted to normal speed.  Let us see what the rest of the week has in store.

Update: At 5:30pm there are now delays on the Central Line with someone under a train at Bethnal Green. What is going on? What's wrong with jumping off Tower Bridge - you get a much better view and there's a good chance the river police will rescue you and then you get a nice cup of tea.

* a venerable computer game, the archetype for the now-obsolete genre text adventure