Sunday, June 27, 2010

After the match

No penalty shoot-out after all. Just outclassed. Now we can join France and Italy and think about what might have been. I am disappointed but not surprised. Ah, the fragility of hope. And it will all start up again in four years time with more media-led rubbish about "This time we can win it".

A touch of heat

I was writing recently about how dull and gloomy June was. Not any more. This weekend the temperature has soared, so much so that an old thermometer, left on a table in our conservatory by a sun-facing window, broke; though as I was not there at the time I could not tell if it was one of those cartoon-type moments where the top bursts off and the mercury shoots into the air.

Today may be one of the hottest days this year with the shade temperature reaching 30c. How fitting then that most of us, this afternoon, will be huddled around a television with the curtains drawn, wondering if we can survive the penalty shoot-out with the Germans with some sort of dignity. Yes, the heat is on in more ways than one (well, two ways to be precise).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Things that go bump

I had a little moan about the Metropolitan Line yesterday and on my way home last night with the Bakerloo doing its usual excellent thing and my Uxbridge train waiting for me at Baker Street, I thought I might have been a bit harsh. But no. Arriving at Rayners Lane we were informed that there was a signal failure ahead that might delay us. The faulty signal was the one at the platform on Eastcote and a man in an orange safety jacket was peering at it anxiously. Our train driver was reassuring, explaining he was going to go past it anyway and we would feel a bump so anyone standing should sit down. We moved off, there was a jolt, not particularly heavy as we were doing barely walking speed, caused by  the train emergency brakes coming on as the safety system kicked in. Then there was a wait until the air pressure was restored and  we lurched down the track to Ruislip Manor in a curious stop-start form of motion.

It is a long time since I was last in a train that had to bump through a stuck signal. At times like this you realise how antiquated the Tube systems are. The driver knew it was safe to proceed, obviously the Line Controller had authorised it yet still he could not override the train's braking systems and we had to continue crawling until we left the section controlled by the failed signal.

And speaking of failure and things that crawl along, England's shaky World Cup bid reaches make or break time this afternoon. Will we be derailed or off down the fast track? More on this later...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Met creaks

Is it me or is the Metropolitan Line going through another awkward phase? A bit like a surly teenager who now and then brightens up and says something intelligible before lapsing into reticence. Many journeys are marred by some sort of niggly problem, be it signal failure (the old favourite), or too many trains on a stretch of track, or trains with problems or passenger related stuff like the dreaded "person taken ill" a.k.a. another one's snuffed it. Nothing terribly serious to report in the past few weeks, just this on-going set of faults that somehow, every day, add 5 or 10 minutes to a journey. Doesn't sound too much? Let's restate that as a 12 - 25% increase in journey times.  It all adds up but you can't ever make a Customer Charter refund claim because a delay has to be 15 minutes on a single journey to count.

I've written about this sort of thing before and then comes a period when the trains just run as they should and nobody is taken ill and one begins to get used to one's train coming in on time and arriving on time.  And of course this creates a kind of "golden age" in the mind to compare to when the usual problems recur.

Oh well, at least the summer is nearly here so the trains should become less crowded, and the heatwave that seemed to be threatening us has vanished into a dull grey and downright chilly late June murk. The English football team performed about as badly as we feared in the opening stages of the World Cup but what the hell, the French are worse, Italy could only draw with New Zealand and the Germans lost to Serbia and missed a penalty. I almost expected a man with a monocle, a duelling scar and a plumed hat to call in at the Serb Embassy the next day and hand in a final note demanding reparations.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A spot of gloom

Continuing with the meterological theme of my last posting, it is the first of June today. It should be bright and warm, with fluffy white cumulus chasing across the deep blue sky. It should lift the heart.

Actually it has been raining most of the day. A heavy grey cloud over London has reduced visibility to about a mile. From my window high over Waterloo I can barely see St. Pauls and the three Barbican towers are mere grey fingers against a shapeless background. Everyone on foot outside scuttles along under umbrellas.

Meanwhile BP are in deep dudu as the oil flows unstoppably out of a big hole in the Gulf of Texas, the Euro is struggling with a loss of confidence and England are finalising their squad for the "Is this our year?" - "No it isn't, you berk, not unless Brazil, Argentina, France, Italy, Germany and Spain all get knocked out first" World Cup.

I suppose the only happy thing to report is that this morning my "slow" London-bound train arrived at Harrow alongside a "fast". Most people left my train to fill the other. We left first. At Wembley Park I could see them behind us in the distance and assumed they would thunder past as we waited to follow them on the Met's single track. But no. We glided swiftly in (in recent weeks trains have stopped regularly just outside the station then crawled along) and pulled out almost at once. I sat in my snug corner seat and reflected on the unfairness of life.