Saturday, January 26, 2013

Henry James joke of the day

They are remaking the Ronnie Barker classic TV serial "Porridge" but starring Mr. Mackay the tough Scottish warder. It will be called The Turn of the Screw.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sorry I had to bring the goat cheese*

News is a perishable business. Today's stories that seem so important mean nothing a few days later, overtaken by the pressure of events and the dynamics of the news business itself, creating something to broadcast or print so as to have something to sell. But there are some news headlines that simply must be preserved for future generations to enjoy, timeless stories that speak to the heart and provide for us all a beacon that links us in a shared chain [yes, yes, get on with it: Ed].

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

Glimpsed on a train

Mrs. Commuter and I were watching Dan Snow's TV programme on the history of the railways last night. Whilst young Dan enjoyed a steam ride on the north Norfolk railway, two familiar faces popped up amongst his fellow travellers. Mrs. Commuter's brother and sister-in-law, no less.  Rather jarring at first, until we recalled that they had holidayed in that area a few months ago. It was only a little cameo scene and we look forward to their next feature.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What's in your burger?

It seems only five minutes ago I was dissecting the full page newspaper ads taken out by Tesco to apologise for a problem with contaminated petrol [actually it was in 2007: Ed] and, blow me, they are at it again. Responding to a news story that will supply material to comics and wits for a long time, the giant supermarket chain has discovered traces of horse in some of its "beef"-burger ranges. The contamination is caused by dodgy practices at the Irish factories where the burgers are made. To those of a certain age, the fate of the kidnapped champion race-horse Shergar must surely spring at once to mind.

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

150 up

The Met is celebrating its 150th anniversary. Passenger services on the world's first underground railway system began on 10th January 1863, in the smoke-filled cut-and-cover tunnels dug mainly by hand between Farringdon and Paddington. And today your correspondent rode that very line (well most of it anyway) in a train decorated to fit the occasion. Alas the photo I attempted to take on alighting at Farringdon is not worth reproducing as the train was already moving out at speed and my phone isn't up to that sort of challenge. But there are plenty of examples on the net, such as this video of that same train on Youtube, so no need for another one here.  As usual, thanks to District Dave for providing the link.

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

Ruislip obliterated

The Guardian has published a series of articles to mark the 150th anniversary of the first services running on the tube. One of their reporters, the intrepid Stephen Moss, undertook to travel the entire length of the Central Line. He gets points for starting at Ongar and taking the privately run train to North Weald and then bus to the terminus at Epping. And more points for treating the branch to Ealing as of lesser importance than the bit that goes out to our part of the country. He "felt the lure of West Ruislip at the end of the line" and went on (and all this is going in into our dossier, you know) " What is it about Ruislip that makes it a national joke?" and then the inevitable reference to Leslie Thomas' Tropic of Ruislip. [A comic novel published in 1974: Ed] He made it safely to West Ruislip and this seems to have caused him no little distress and bewilderment. He emerged, in the dark, onto the flyover that crosses the mainline that continues up to High Wycombe and beyond, and saw nothing of note. He asked someone if there was a town there and was, quite wrongly and perhaps maliciously, pointed toward Ickenham. He then concluded, unbelievably, that despite having three stations named after it, Ruislip did not exist and ended his journey in a pub not far from the station. He didn't even make it into central Ickenham where he might have admired the well and the fish bar.

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.