Tuesday, December 31, 2013
A couple of days ago Mrs. Commuter and I celebrated our Silver Wedding with a nice family party in a very pleasant venue nearby. The best part was watching the younger generation (and I mean the very young) running around with the total enjoyment of making a noise and living entirely for the moment. I sometimes feel that I can do that now (and I don't mean run around shrieking); I mean live more for the moment and worry far less about what I have to do tomorrow. Time is much more elastic. The weekend is no longer the special time for relaxing and for doing the weekly shop. And of course, though I still check on whether the trains are running normally I don't really give a toss if they are or not.
So what of 2014? A little too early to tell. But you have my best wishes for a happy one. [and from me: Ed]
Sunday, December 15, 2013
So, yesterday both of my teams were in action. Both were playing away. Both played teams based at the seaside, indeed in well known seaside resorts. The names of both of the opponents begin with the letter "B". My teams won the games, each by a margin of 2 goals. As a result, team A head their league and team B are second in theirs but with games in hand on the leaders.
Spooky or what?
Sunday, December 08, 2013
It was rather a surprise when an "A" stock appeared first - I wondered if this was some form of tribute but it was the rail adhesion train going in the other way so just a coincidence. Quite nostalgic to watch it dwindle toward Eastcote -how many times in my commuting past have I run up the stairs and emerged panting on the platform to see this very sight?
This grand carriage was once used for commuters from Aylesbury and beyond. They don't make 'em like that any more.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
And just for the record I took another trip to museum-land today, and therefore another jaunt on the Piccadilly, and this time the homecoming Rayners Lane train was not aborted at Acton Town. Good. The fact that it was the fourth to arrive, and that number two was only going to Northfields, and therefore probably started life as Uxbridge-bound, we will record, with that passive resignation that comes from regular tube travel, and pass on.
Thursday, November 07, 2013
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
At this point, if you know about these calls, you probably hang up. If you don't, you may be fooled into thinking that the call is genuine. Because he will go on to ask you to open the Control Panel on your Windows desktop (if you are not running Windows and say so, he will hang up) and display the system log. This log is stuffed full of fairly meaningless Microsoft internal code messages and can be safely ignored by anyone except a real IT specialist. He will then ask you read out one or two lines and will then say this proves it, your computer has a serious virus and is about to crash, and the solution is to download some software from him that will fix it. Of course, if you do this, you will download a piece of malicious code that really will lock up your computer, forcing you to pay these crooks to get rid of it, or perhaps conning you into buying even more "fixes".
There is a third way, to go on the attack and see how much of his time you can waste. I tried this on when I received one of these calls today. I spent some time asking him to prove how he knew my computer had a fault. The obvious question is to ask whether he knew my IP address, the unique number that identifies my computer whilst making internet connections. This morning's caller did not, of course, because all he had in front of him was a script to read as the automatic dialler selected its next victim. But, he foolishly told me, this was known to his technical department. So put me on to them, I helpfully suggested. Ah, for some reason he couldn't do that. But he still gamefully insisted that he knew, because it had shown up on his "firm's server" that there was a problem. Well, which computer was it? I've got more than one, I truthfully replied. He didn't know so he improvised brilliantly and said "All of them. They will all crash". "What, even the one running Linux [An operating system some people use, different from both Windows and Apple's IOS: Ed] and the C64? (a games console from the 1980s that you can, if you really want to, use to connect to the Internet but frankly, banging your head against a wall would be more fun)" I asked, no longer speaking truthfully and waiting for him to say yes, so that I could ask him how that could even be possible.
I think he became a little offended and made some comment that he was trying to help - my response, well, you're not doing a very good job, so he added that he was calling from Microsoft, as though that might strengthen his credentials. This was a foolish thing to say. I asked him which department, what was his payroll number and whether he knew my good friend Jim Atkinson (a fictional character). He floundered - now he was working for a company that was a sub-contractor. We fenced a little more until I tired and hung up. That's 7 minutes of his life he will never get back, and for which he will have earned nothing. As for me, well, it's given me some pleasure and the inspiration to write this piece. So I make that 1-0 to Ramblings and look forward to meeting my new friend, his mysterious technical department chums and maybe even his supervisor (a.k.a. the guy sitting next to him) in the next round, when if he tries the Microsoft line again, I shall ask if he is going to their Sports & Social Club Christmas Dinner & Dance to be held in the firm's canteen.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
There were, sadly, some fatalities. One man was killed in Watford by a falling tree on his car and a couple died in Hounslow in a gas explosion caused by wind damage. Ruislip is pretty well mid way between those places. It seems strange that, when most of the attention to windspeed was centred on the coasts, the most dangerous area to be in was right here in Middlesex.
The immediate response on Twitter was a series of photographs taking the mickey out of the forecasters - dustbins or garden gnomes on their sides with the caption "We will Rebuild" are fairly typical - but compared to 1987 the forecasters did a brilliant job. Several days in advance, they identified the storm, predicted its arrival times and track, and enabled transport operators and local authorities to be properly prepared.
Monday, October 28, 2013
16 October 1987
A refreshing night's sleep. Apparently there was a lot of wind in the night. The trains are disrupted a bit.
Yes, I have to admit, the first I realised that anything at all untoward had happened on that fateful night was when I arrived for my morning commute at North Harrow station (for I was living in those parts at that time, gentle reader) and the Met was out of service.
Not so last night. With warnings on all sides, Mrs. Commuter and I prepared for the worst. The garden chairs were carefully stacked at the side of the house. I reinforced a loose bit of fence with some carefully chosen bits of old wood. Then to bed in the knowledge we had done all we could. It rained heavily, but not excessively in the late evening. In the early hours we could hear the wind roaring over the rooftops and one or two interior doors creaked. Around 6:30am Mrs. Commuter looked out into the front and saw - well, nothing at all to speak of. No trees were down. No damage to property. Our drive seemed cleaner than usual, as if the wind had removed all the leaves and scoured the surface. Later in the morning I found that one of the fence panels I thought was secure had come loose, and that the wind had been strong enough to lift off the cover from a water butt that had been weighed down by a brick. Exciting stuff, eh?
There must have been more than this going on. Here is a snapshot of the Tube's service status
As I pen these words [I love these colourful archaisms: Ed] there is a strong breeze providing a reminder of what have been. The skies are full of grey-white cloud in huge fluffy sheets. It is not raining. And that completes the weather report from beautiful Ruislip so let me leave you with the outlook - probably more of the same, I should think. Move over, Michael Fish - there's a new sheriff in town.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
OK, I've had some coffee, I am at my desk, the house is quiet. Time to focus the mind. Gravel. What does one say in a review of it? Funny word, gravel. A bit like grovel and a bit like gavel. Shingles is a nasty disease and a case of Pea Shingles sounds vile. What are the, ah, good and bad points of the bag of these little miniature pebbles? They are hard. They make a satisfying rattle if you rub a few together in your hand. They are undeniably a great boon to those of us who must, from time to time, erupt from the house to confront a goldfish-poaching cat; nothing moves faster than a moggy with a handful of stones converging at speed on his rear end. They make a crunchy noise when walked on - anyone trespassing nefariously onto my land at night will have to walk with exceeding care if they don't want to wake up the neighbourhood.
No, that's it. I've had a good think and now I'm bored. I can't be bothered to review this bag (or any of the 19 other bags purchased at the same time). It's Pea Shingle, it does what it would say on the tin if it came in a tin, and it's millions of years older than I am. Maybe dinosaurs walked over the cliffs that became the rocks that became the pebbles the sea pounded into little bits that Messrs. Wickes harvested for my benefit. Perhaps some of the bits once made up a rock lobbed by an ancestor at a woolly mammoth. There's plenty of romance in the bag, if you want to look for it, but I think I've had enough.
So nul points for the bag of shingle, no "like", no "followers". Don't go rushing off to the Wickes web site because there won't be any stars against this little chap from me. And there aren't any for the nails, bags of cement and other stuff I've bought over the years. I really don't care.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Friday, September 20, 2013
I have never flown Ryanair and have no intention of so doing, certainly not until the present senior management no longer have anything to do with the company and there has been a significant change to the way they do business. And even then I probably won't, because flying is so unpleasant even with the better airlines and, as I have commented before, there is really no reason, baring some family emergency or special holiday, why I should ever need to do so again. So if my foregoing remarks get me put on to the Ryanair blacklist - no problem, guys, no problem at all.
Friday, September 13, 2013
The misuse of words by commerce is always a source of great irritation. I suppose the battle to restore "typeface" to its rightful place and to relegate "font" to mean a particular size, weight and slant of that typeface is lost for the moment. The word "manager" has ceased to mean someone who manages (directs the work of others) and means (in the words of Bill Oddie) "anything you want it to be". As does "executive". And don't get me started on "customer service".
But the assumption that any sound recording is a song indicates the cultural barbarism of the software houses, their obsession with teenagers and their ignorance about, well, just about everything really. I have at least managed to rename the "My music" folder that Windows 7 insisted on creating for me, even though I did not want it to, as "Sounds". I suppose it will get renamed back one fine day after yet another round of system updates.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013
Just think, I might have spent that time doing a cash flow forecast or processing a batch of invoices.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Regulars will know that I am keen on trams and whilst we we were there we saw the final tests on the brand-new system in Tours. In fact it was due to start today. So we were unable to ride any of the futuristic, glittering trams but here is a picture of what you can expect should you go there.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Prompted by a newspaper article saying spam was still on the rise, it occurred to me that it has been a long time since my contacts in Nigeria have been in touch. I am due a considerable amount of money – probably at least $500,000,000 (FIVE HUNDRED MILLION as they would undoubtedly put it, since I am patently unable to understand a number unless it is spelt out) and all I have to do is just send a small amount – about $2000 should do it – to one of the Bank Presidents or Lawyers or Government Ministers, all of whom (strangely) have Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses, and all whom require cash sent via Western Union.
I don’t how to account for the drop in this fascinating correspondence. Maybe they don’t think I am worthy to receive this unexpected beneficence. Perhaps my failure to respond to any previous emails has put a black mark against my name. All the DEAR FRIENDS and the dying widows, the ex-politicians and the children of air-crash victims – who are they inveigling now?
And on the same theme, the “Compensation Help Line” who phoned about my terrible accident and promised at least £4300 in damages – well I have not had any accidents but maybe they know something I don’t – but they haven’t been back, they didn’t write to confirm and so I am left here, hurt and alone, bereft of aid. I mean to say, can’t you trust anyone these days?
Friday, August 02, 2013
So this little bloggette is written using Live Writer and now I will press the little button that says “Post draft to blog” and see if it works. Note, if you are reading this then it has worked.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
So my previous why, oh why can be marked "case closed" and salted down for long-term storage. That's a relief. But will this be the mark of things to come or is merely a chimerical phantasm [that's the worst kind of phantasm. Ed:], a dream of what may befall, a cruel mocking mirage to be swiftly replaced by severe delays, service outages and advice to use alternative means of transport? I think I better pack up those exclamation marks and put them safely away, just to avoid tempting fate.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Then a very serious derailment in Spain on 24 July
Yesterday a coach disaster in Italy on 28 July
and now another train crash, in, of all places, Switzerland is reported today.
This is becoming worrying for those of us who prefer public transport whenever possible and especially on holiday. And these four countries are certainly in my top 10 holiday destinations. I have written in this blog about travels in each of them. I hope and intend to go on holidaying in these countries and will use trains as an automatic first choice of transport. Let us hope this is the end of this horrible sequence and Europe's trains and coaches resume normal, safe, operations.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I don't know what is going on. Regular readers [?? Ed:] will know of the times I have bemoaned the delays whilst commuting, especially on the Piccadilly Line. Nowadays I travel into town only about once a week. Last week my journey was affected by delays. Today there were severe delays on the Metropolitan due to signal failure at Baker Street which screwed up the line for about 5 hours. The notice on the LU website advised passengers to use a different line, not too helpful for my plan to go from beautiful Ruislip to Finchley Road for which only the Met is suitable. Fortunately the worst of it was over by the time I had to leave home and apart from a forced detraining at Harrow, the journeys to and fro were OK. But most days are trouble free. Why (oh why) do these problems hit on the very days that I choose to travel?
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Hitherto Watford has only been easily accessible by car from beautiful Ruislip. It will be nice to have the option of taking the Met there.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
England obliterate the Aussies at Lords
Heatwave subsides to a perfect afternoon. No plans to commute into central London next week when it may move up a few degrees back to the hot and sweaty.
Nobody seems to be lighting a barbecue anywhere near us in beautiful Ruislip.
That's enough to be going on with. Ed, take the rest of the weekend off. [Thanks awfully. Ed:]
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
With these grim words about seven hundred people abandoned ship and thronged up the stairs to change trains. There was a wait until a Circle train arrived - it was almost totally full so not many could squeeze on. Fortunately there was another close behind with enough room to take us. And just as well because not only were the station staff making announcements that if we did not all move down the platform they would close it to prevent overcrowding (no hint of an apology that it was their system that had failed, it must have been that it was all our fault for actually wanting to travel) but twice during the wait it was announced that a good service was operating on all lines. Twice, whilst the Met suspended service from Baker Street and there were severe delays on the Circle and Hammersmith lines (as was posted on the tube website not very long afterwards).
But of course the best was to come. We made good progress up to Kings Cross, stopped just short and then limped in. And having limped out, we stopped in the tunnel and waited there for some ten minutes. Today was perhaps the hottest so far this year, about 30c in London. The Circle Line trains are of venerable stock that is not air-conditioned. On arrival at Farringdon, about half an hour late, sweating and uncomfortable, I could reflect on how nice it is not to have to make such a journey on a regular basis.
Monday, July 15, 2013
In glorious sunshine, and just a tad more heat than was strictly necessary, we embarked by tube to Harrow and then by Chiltern Line diesel to Amersham to board our first bus.
We broke off in Uxbridge for a leisurely lunch break in a pub showing the sensational climax to the Ashes test (England needing 1 wicket, the Aussies 40 odd runs to win - the match won shortly after we left with the visitors just 15 runs from victory) and it was off, crossing both the M25 and the River Thames, to tourist-jammed Windsor. During this journey we tracked Chris Froome's equally sensational stage win on Mont Ventoux in le Tour de France. Our vehicle this time was a double-decker.
I rarely write about buses because my commuting experience has always been based on trains - buses are the emergency fallback when the tube is down - but it was a pleasure to go out for a day with some really knowledgeable enthusiasts and to see the care with which these vehicles are maintained.
Monday, July 08, 2013
Saturday, July 06, 2013
So here are some pictures of the giant auditorium complete with vast cheering audience, the death-defying sky ride ("it goes up, it comes down", the mind-boggling whirling tea-cups and afore-mentioned vehicle.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Not only that, but next week is the Ruislip Manor Fun Day, the key event on the social calendar in these parts. The council have taken up and relaid the perfectly serviceable pavements in preparation. All Ruislip holds its breath. Your correspondent will (probably) be there and there may be a full report of proceedings on this very site. Or (and here's a cunning plan), I could send my literary collaborator, assistant and dare I say it, friend, to cover the story for me. [Sorry, I'm having tea with my aunt. Ed:]. OK, down to me then. We shall see how I feel on the day.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Anyway we got there in the end, and at least as our Baker Street bound train reached Harrow there was an Aldgate on the adjacent platform, with the driver actually watching those of us who crossed to it (sometimes they keep their eyes rigidly ahead and move off whether or not passengers are in-transit and most frustrating it can be). So it was a seat for the journey rather than standing on a crowded Central Line from Baker, and for this small mercy let us be grateful.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Oddly for such an incident there were people on the platforms as well as LU staff, but no sign of anything untoward, so presumably it had happened, and been cleared up, some time ago.
On the return journey, which started with a fast Amersham, things became much worse. After some unexplained slowness around Neasden we arrrived at Harrow and I crossed to await an Uxbridge. It pulled in, loads of passengers got aboard, glad to be out of the heat on what was one of the warmest days this year, and we sat there. And waited. Eventually we were told that the power was off and nobody knew when it would come back on, and this related to a trespasser on the track in the Wembley area. Great. Hundreds of us left the station in search of an alternative. In my case I joined an eager throng in the bus garage trying to board a 114. The driver seemed keen that nobody should board. He shepherded a few who had made it to the top deck out of his vehicle and then did mysterious things with the control panel.
After a few minutes another 114 pulled in and we filled it to capacity. Thanks are due to that driver who did not object to people sitting on the stairs. Then we tried to pull away from the garage but could not because buses trying to pull into it from the main road were blocking us in. Our driver tooted his horn a few times (and what an effete sound they make) and somewhat grudgingly, as it seemed, the offenders moved out of our way and we proceeded, the long way round, to South Harrow where the Piccadilly came to the rescue for those of us travelling further west.
I haven't had to take the bus, nor indeed to grace the portals of South Harrow station, for a long time. There was a time...but you don't want to hear my reminiscences [Spot on. Ed:]. You can trawl through the posts from 2004-6 if this turns you on. I'm going to get a suitably cold beverage, fill up the peanut bowl and settle down for tonight's Apprentice.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Youtube knows who I am. I signed in. It knows the sort of videos I watch, mainly vintage TV comedies and various film clips. It knows perfectly well that I am not interested in products marketed by people who sing "oh baby", even if the next phrase contains the words "luurve", "maybe" or "eldritch" [not sure about that last word: Ed]. Yet they go on screening them. And I turn off the sound and as soon as possible click to end the ad, usually well before I have the least idea what they are trying to sell.
So an ad utterly wasted, several seconds of my valuable time utterly wasted, frustration all round. Although the bloke with the nappies obsession presumably got paid for his efforts.
Update a few hours later: Now they are screening a L'Oreal ad (yes, I did listen long enough to catch the product name). And who buys this product? Ladies. Does Youtube think I am a lady? It's part of Google, they know who I am. So why do they choose to stream this ad at me? [I take that is a rhetorical question, right?: Ed]
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
The joy of Bath is in its size - large enough to contain plenty to see but small enough to make it easy to get around on foot. Our car was parked on arrival and not used again until the morning that we left.
And so back to a little commuting. This time last year everyone was panicking about the Olympics, with a wave of Government-sponsored hysteria about how jammed the trains were going to be, and how terrible it would be to get about London and how anyone with any sense had already left town [with thanks to B. Dylan: Ed]. No such sense of imminent doom now, just the long awaited summer now finally happening and the pleasurable anticipation of some decent cricket against the Aussies.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The late spring bank holiday weekend is over. The weather was simply perfect here in beautiful Ruislip. Other parts of the UK may have had chill and rain but we were treated to blue skies, steady but not overpowering sunshine and temperatures into the high 20s. And to cap it all, as we all go back to work today it has turned damp and colder with blanket grey-white cloud.
Well, okay, when I say "back to work" I am of course speaking generically. I shall not be commuting this week but, you know, I shall be thinking in a kindly and well-disposed sort of way of those who are. I remain on standby, to "take the call" from any of my clients but I am confident that neither the phones nor the interweb will be bearing any communications from them for a while.
I suppose now is the time to record the sad news that, for the first year in memory, not a single frog has been seen in the aquatic centre on my estate [the pond out the back: Ed] and therefore no frogspawn or tadpoles have ensued. There is a nationwide decline of amphibians and it has reached Ruislip. On the other hand birds that seem to be sparrows have been nesting in the thick shrubbery on the garden fence. Sparrows were once so plentiful we took them for granted. In recent years they have been wholly absent from the back garden. It's heartening to see them return.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 09, 2013
And on arrival back in beautiful Ruislip, Mrs. Commuter greeted me with the news that a fence panel between us and next door was blown down - it belongs to my neighbour so he can have the pleasure of trying to stick it back.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
They say you never forget how to ride a bike. What they don't say is that you can easily forget how to fix a flat.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Well, we now have ways to beat the system. The combination of the net, a tube app and a smart phone equips the traveller in a way undreamed of just a few years ago. So this morning, on my way from beautiful Ruislip into central London, and faced by those dreaded words "severe delays" and "no service between Baker Street and Aldgate" I made a cunning plan. A Piccadilly came in almost at once - fine, I took it on the grounds that if things looked bad I could stay on it pretty well all the way. But this is a second-best option, it is way slower than the Met and nothing like as comfortable. Decision time was four minutes away when the lines divide at Rayners Lane. By then I could see on my phone that Mets were running in good numbers and some were going through to Aldgate. So I debarked at Rayners to take the Met that I knew was a couple of minutes behind. Arrived at Harrow to find the train on the adjacent town-bound platform was out of service and lots of evidently disgruntled and just-turfed-out passengers waiting for us. Naturally my train was a slow one and we were quickly overtaken by a fast Aldgate that was almost empty but that is pretty well par for the course in these parts. My point is that on arrival at Finchley Road my phone told me there was another through train behind us and once more I debarked and changed trains.
Not too long ago this would have been too much of a risk. I would have remained on the Picc and emerged much later to change at Kings Cross with my back aching from those low spongy seats. So thank you for the modern communication systems that empowers us hapless commuters in these difficult times.
Friday, April 19, 2013
[There was some talk a while back of a Xmas bonus - is that still on by any chance? Ed].
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
But today, reports the Guardian, they are terribly upset and crying and saying "it's not fair" because some demonstrators in the South had a go at the nutter-in-chief Kim Il-Sung. They are demanding - and get this, irony-lovers, - an apology. Yes, they are on the verge of deploying missiles and threatening invasion but first they want someone to say sorry. Ah, bless. It's a scene straight out of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy - this one, in fact
... distant Galaxy where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of frightful interstellar battle.
The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time. A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of the Vl'hurgs, resplendent in his black jeweled battle shorts, gazed levelly at the G'Gugvuntt leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of green sweet-smelling steam, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed star cruisers poised to unleash electric death at his single word of command, challenged the vile creature to take back what it had said about his mother.
If it wasn't for the fact that the North Koreans do possess weapons that they seem keen to use, gales of derisive laughter would be sweeping the world.
Given that most Facebook users are children this is desperately sad. The peer pressures to be on Facebook are immense, and growing as some websites require a Facebook login for access, never mind the ludicrous and evil association that classifies all your casual contacts, and indeed the relentless advertisers in the background, as "friends" with contributions that are to be "liked". And who knows what data is being collected to hand over to advertisers each time a user connects with a real friend or makes a posting?
Brand advertising is relentlessly pernicious. I have from time to time on this blog pointed out particularly irritating examples. Happiness is not about buying things, or choosing to consume one branded good over another. Indeed, although the foundation of classical economics, itself the root of modern day market theory, is built on the idea of choice, the idea that choice = happiness is utterly unproven. It is just something that has been asserted and then succeeding generations of economists have taken it for granted. I think there are real studies of consumer behaviour that suggest that the profusion of brands and choice, typified by modern supermarkets, bewilders and distresses. And if there aren't, then there ought to be.
So anything that "delivers" (their word, not mine) even more advertising to the most vulnerable in our society is to be utterly deplored. This website was supposed to be about students keeping in touch with each other not a goldmine for commercial interests.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The next exciting development will be feeding them. They respond to warmth but we haven't had much of that so far this year. And there is still no sign of the frogs. More later (if indeed there is any more).
Saturday, March 30, 2013
I have listened to this stuff for years and normally it goes straight through one ear, several times round the cranium and vanishes without trace in a puff of unused neurons, though on the way it pushes out stuff I'd prefer to remember such as where I last put my car keys. But lately it has begun to grate. Why (oh, why) do they do it? Every person on the planet who listens to the BBC knows that they broadcast the Archers, a programme that has been around almost as long as I have. Every person knows that it comes after the news. Why do they trail it? If you are new to radio then you certainly won't start listening because of the lifeless trails. And everyone else knows all about it. So telling us something we either do not need to be told, or don't care about, surely achieves nothing.
[whatever happened to Hugo Barnaby? Ed]
Last year it was shirtsleeves weather and the onset of a drought (at least until the unceasing rains started).
So there you are, nature lovers. Don't forget to call in around about this time next year for a further gripping instalment.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
a) I already knew this
b) I live in London and am old enough to have a "Freedom Pass" (or bus pass as some readers will know it) and therefore have no interest whatsoever in any other means of paying for this form of travel
c) The credit card company knows my address and date of birth and spending patterns and therefore they know that either
i) I must have a Freedom Pass or,
ii) I do not have one because I do not need one
and in any case they know that I have a car and they know when I buy petrol.
So why did they send me this text? Just a general mail-out (or text-out or whatever the phrase is)? Ah, you will say (or at least those of you with some knowledge of these matters) - you can request them to stop sending texts. Yes, I will reply, and that is what I did. Their text included the instruction for informing them that I no longer wished to receive such missives. I sent it off. And naturally yesterday I received another unwanted text from the same source informing of precisely the same thing that they had already told me about, viz, that their card works on buses.
What are we to conclude? The people who run these advertising campaigns are thick or uncaring? That they don't know how to use the data at their disposal to target their adverts intelligently? That when they tell you you can text them to stop further messages, this is a lie or that they are too incompetent to actually do anything about it? Yes, all of these things. I find the defendants guilty on all charges. Case dismissed.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
They met soon after he decluttered his room. He was an inveterate gambler who often bet on whether gold would go up or down but he always slept well on his foam memory mattress. It was at the International Camp Suisse that they fell in love but alas, almost at once there was trouble and a family law specialist was needed. He had to put his holiday home in Cornwall up for sale, aided by his solar powered charger that kept him in touch wherever he was. And then - she came back. He bought her some contemporary jewellery and a 1940s style dress but she had begun hearing voices in her head. They had to get away, assisted by a euro denominated cashcard and soon they were cruising in the Baltic with an Abba tribute band to make it just perfect. Too perfect. On their return he crashed the car, requiring body repairs and worse, the Children's Air Ambulance had to be called out. They split and he looked for new romance with a professional singles dating agency. He hired a 4x4 to help him pull the birds, and he had his decluttered room redesigned with the help of an architect. Even his trusty pet had a makeover. At last she returned, after her brief stay at a girls boarding school in Devon. They celebrated with a USDA steak at a specialist restaurant and at last he bought her a zebra scarf as a sign that their love would never end.
It's got something don't you think? Let's hope it is not catching.
Saturday, March 09, 2013
I am so glad that I don't have to travel down to the City as much as I did when I was young.
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
...blithely ignoring the crowds jamming the train as we pull out of Baker Street
...and still even more blithely ignoring the same, yet even more jammed, crowds as we pull away from Harrow.
It's all in the timing, you know.
Saturday, March 02, 2013
Actually the theory of utility, a major plank in the theory of markets, has nothing to offer when considering commuting. We do it because there are only so many places in the centre of cities to live and therefore most of us must live away from them albeit many of us have jobs which are in the centre of the cities. How far you choose to live is perhaps up to you, trading off cheaper house prices with the increased time and cost of travelling in, but few of us have any choice about the fundamental decision to use a public transport network to get to work in the first place. Choice is at the heart of utility theory so it really should not be used in this instance. Like almost all of classical economics, it is irrelevant to the way we live today (and was just as irrelevant when it was formulated at the end of the nineteenth century). The theory is right in a particular sort of economy but nobody on this planet has ever lived in it and nobody ever will because one of the fundamental requirements is that there is no future, only a continuous present. If you would like to know more, you know how to get in touch [Careful, this could open the floodgates: Ed]
Anyway, Lanchester's observations on how people behave on the Tube are well worth reading so I commend his article to you.
Monday, February 25, 2013
There was no other sheltered space provided - no lounges, no bathrooms, absolutely nowhere for privacy or peace and quiet. The passengers could always go up on deck of course - provided they stayed the right side of the white line painted on the deck that divided the ship in half. Only first class passengers could walk in the rear half. And people travelled this way across the Atlantic and even to Australia. Certainly puts our day to day commuting problems into the shade.
Friday, February 22, 2013
So imagine my surprise and reaction to the much leaked news that the world's ponciest, let's charge twice as much as anyone might think and we'll get away with it because it is so reassuringly expensive, corporation is to issue a watch. A smart wristwatch. Never mind your iphone or ipod or iglass or whatever, they are all obsolete because now you have to put something on your wrist. And if you want to know the time do you have to talk to it and wait for a computer to say (hopefully in Dalek tones "It is ten after three and you are late, earthling" or must you jab away at a dinky little keypad in a manner reminiscent of the first generation of these products that Douglas Adams so memorably satirised in Hitchhikers - " a planet whose ape-descended lifeforms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."
My watch is a Casio. It tells me the time (and because it is digital, I really mean the time, not the approximation of a couple of hands pointing roughly at a dial), it has an alarm and a light. It cost about £26 and I have had it years and years. No, it is not smart but if it breaks I don't care because I shall buy another at the same amazing reasonable cost and it works whether I have an internet connection or not and it does not have bloody iTunes. So when the queues start forming outside the Apple Stores you will not see me there. But you may get more vitriol later when we learn more about the iWatch (or is it the iTimepiece, the iChronometer or the iDontCareItsLotsMoreLovelyMazooma?) Because it is such a fun subject to write about, and in the immortal words of Lady Constance de Coverlet "For fun I'd do anything"
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
What a courteous man. And as we crawled at walking speed into Harrow there was a nice fast train to Aldgate waiting at the adjacent platform. I, and most of my companions readied ourselves to debark and catch it. Now I am sure that regular readers can fill in the next line but for the benefit of newcomers to these parts, just as we were ready to open our doors the other train closed its, and off they went. Bingo, my journey time lengthened and an uncomfortably full Circle Line to take at Baker Street in place of a comfortable seat on a through train.
You see, that's the thing about travelling on the tube. Plenty of genuinely useful words but when it comes to practical co-ordination of train journeys, well, the lights are on but not only is there nobody home, they've gone away for a long holiday, cancelled the milk and given the au pair the rest of the summer off.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Actually Clarke was not alone. Isaac Asimov, no mean scientist himself and author of a huge number of SF books, was obsessed with the idea that one computer (which he amusingly called "Multivac", probably a jibe at the Univac series of early computers) would do all the world's computing and only men wearing white coats would be allowed anywhere near it. Oh, and all communication with it would be by punched cards and input tapes. In his most famous work, Foundation, set thousands of years in the future, he envisages his scientist heroes using "calculator pads spotty with age", although to be fair, they can control their monitor displays using brain power alone (but I suspect that we may be able to do this in a generation or so).
Cheap and fast space travel is as far away as it was when 2001 was published but the leaps in computing power enabled by networking and by the Internet have surpassed the imaginations of some of the giants in SF. Funny, eh?
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Anyway, here is one that demands to be given a certain respect. Fresh from the BBC, I give you Norway Goat Cheese Fire Closes Tunnel. It sings out, doesn't it? It invites delighted questioning. Who knew that cheese could burn? What was it doing in the tunnel? Was it all started when a couple of weary hikers unpacked their rucksacks and prepared their evening meal
"Eivind, where are the firelighters? I can't see much inside this tunnel in which we have taken shelter."
"Oh my, Hans, I left them in the fjord"
"Then we must use the goat cheese - but be careful, that stuff is like dynamite"
"Hans, I know what I am doing, jah? Now I'll smear a little here and strike a match...HELP!!!!"
Two men with blackened clothes and singed beards hurtle into the open and the rest is history
*With apologies to Monty Python and the friends of Brian Elquator (like round the middle of the earth only with an "l" in it)
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Friday, January 18, 2013
I suppose anyone who buys burgers that contain no more than 67% identifiable beef (according to the packaging) should chew away determinedly, swallow hard and think about higher matters than the source of the remaining 33% of their meal. Perhaps a blinkered approach would be helpful, oops, there I go, an easy horse-racing reference slipped in almost without thinking. So here's a nice one from the net - What do you want on your burger? - A fiver each way. And let's not get started on people taken ill with the trots who are now in a stable condition. Or any references to fast food.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
I began riding the Met regularly as a schoolboy in 1962, so can claim to be have been a commuter for more than one-third of the entire lifetime of this railway line. As soon as I can think of a suitable livery to don to celebrate this remarkable achievement, I shall do so.
Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Oh dear. Where to start. [Control yourself. Take one of your pills: Ed] I'm sorry Mr. Moss went the wrong way and entirely missed Ruislip. I'm not impressed that he did not twig that the two Metropolitan line stations (that he does not mention) might just possibly be where Ruislip town is centred. I'm even less impressed that he did not bother to look at a map which should have shown him, in no uncertain terms, that Ruislip does indeed have a town centre and it is anchored on its medieval roots with the ancient church, almshouses, 16th century pubs and the Great Barn, built in the 13th century and one of the finest examples of its kind in Middlesex.
So do come back Mossy. Take the real railway, the Met, next time. Emerge at the classic late-Victorian station of Ruislip (not West, not South, just unadorned Ruislip). Stroll up the High Street. Enjoy a drink or meal in one of the many bars, pubs, cafes, bistros and restaurants that line it. Wander round the Manor Farm estate, where there is a real village green and pond, a Norman motte-and-bailey mound and the meadows through which the River Pinn runs on its timeless course to the sea [er, junction with the Colne actually: Ed]
Oh and the sex-obsessed suburban couples that Mr. Thomas chose to populate his book? They're here all right, nudge nudge, know what I mean squire? please excuse shaky typing, arf arf.