Thursday, February 28, 2019

Joined-up Banking

I bank with Barclays (they gave me a clipboard when I signed as a student half a century ago and I'm still grateful). Today their normally reliable mobile banking service has failed and social media is full of angry comments from my fellow customers. Barclays has not got a lot to say about it on Twitter but did amend the front page of their main personal banking website to provide an update. It looks like this:

As you can see (if you bother to click on the image to see it full size), it acknowledges a problem and invites a visit to the service status page to find out more. I don't know if they were hoping that nobody would take them up on this but here at Ramblings we take nothing for granted and, full of trepidation but determined to plumb this matter to its murky depths, we did indeed visit the aforementioned page. And this is what we found:

Hey. Whoa there. Nothing to see here, right. Just move along. Everything is just fine. We haven't bothered to update this page for four days but that's totally acceptable in an industry where the simple clearance of a cheque takes about as long.

You might think that the person who wrote the message for the main web page would have updated the service status page as well. Maybe the pressure of penning those few lines was too much for the poor chap. Perhaps he couldn't go on with it any more and even now is standing on a ledge high above Canary Wharf contemplating a bleak future whilst his colleagues, the wind whipping at their ties, edge carefully out with arms linked.

"Don't do it Johnson" shouts the Personnel Manager "Think of the firm's outing. There's some fresh blotting paper just arrived in Stationery. Come back and we'll all chip in to update that dreadful status page."

Will he do it? I'll have another look at the service status page sometime and maybe let you all know.

Monday, February 25, 2019

How Low Can You Get?

Travellers wishing to take the scenic and rather relaxing Chiltern Line north of Harrow-on-the-Hill may sometimes stray up to the very end of Platform 1 whilst waiting for the next train to arrive. Should they be thinking of a pleasant sit down they need to be warned. Only the very short will find any comfort here. For in this quiet and rather unfrequented part of the station is to be found a bench that no person of normal height is likely to use; unless they wish to incur a severe degree of back ache.

Here is that strangely undersized piece of railway furniture, looking a little like those tiny chairs found in infants' schools when compared to the ordinary benches on the adjacent platform. It's been there for a long time. I can't be the first to have commented on it.

By the way the white triangle at the base of the picture is not a camera error. It is the amazingly bright sunshine of what has become the warmest February day on record, going up to around 20c.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

An Unexpected Destination

Here's something I've never seen before in all my years travelling on the Metropolitan Line. There is a siding at Rayners Lane but it is used exclusively by Piccadilly trains. You might think that maybe this shows there is a problem further down the line toward Uxbridge but whenever there is, then they invariably halt the trains at Harrow-on-the-Hill. Indeed if a Met were to use the siding then it might well screw up the Piccadilly timetable [Not that anyone would notice: Ed]

The services wasn't that good at this time but the Met were keeping very quiet indeed about it. There were delays on the Circle and no doubt these were impacting on the Met as well.  I had to detrain at Preston Road so took the Watford and when I alighted the indicators showed the train behind was for Uxbridge. And so the mystery may never be solved.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Travellers' Tales

An unsolicited (and surprisingly badly formatted) email from Google Maps arrived bearing the following picture at its head:

It invites me to reminisce about all the places I have visited in the past month. I think I can accept the challenge ...

January 4th: We set out, with hope and trepidation, to traverse the notorious passage of the southern Ruislip slopes. As we passed no. 23 Hazel Road my wife observed that they were having an extra pint. The traffic lights at Balaclava Street were red as we approached but changed to green shortly thereafter and we effected a smooth junction with the traffic leaving the Conservative Association annual jumble sale. At length we were able to signal a left turn and arrived safely at our destination, the Home & Colonial Stores or whatever they are called these days.

January 11th. A light rain failed to impede our journey into Hazel Road. A man in a white van obscured our view of no. 23 but my wife thought he vaguely resembled the actor Sam Kydd and this afforded us some consolation. The traffic into Alma Avenue was heavier than usual thanks to the Liberal Democrat Dog Show and we reached the shopping emporium some two minutes later than we might have expected. The place seemed oddly familiar until my wife reminded me that we had shopped there the previous week.

January 18th: Magnificent blue skies with fluffy white clouds and a glorious sun casting a golden light on the miles of sandy beaches. Not in Ruislip, I hasten to add, but apparently the weather that morning in southern Namibia was spectacular. For us, sadly, it was a chilly drizzle and it was no surprise to find a puddle of water in the road near no.25 Hazel Road. Of the inhabitants at no. 23 there was no sign; my wife was of the opinion that they were visiting the in-laws but I thought it likely that they were merely late risers. The road south lay before us and we were afforded some gladness as we saw the hitherto red traffic lights turn green on our approach. The Labour party had a very poor turnout for their display of Victorian plumbing fixtures and hence we arrived at our destination early for once.

January 25th: I realise that these tales of our journeys are a trifle repetitive and would not have ventured to set pen to paper in the first place had it not been for the promptings to reminisce. But today all was changed! The car failed to start so we joined a caravan of some two hundred camels and a crowd of local tribesmen. Bandits attempted to ambush us outside no. 23 (where a pot of yoghurt lay plaintively by the boot-scraper) but we beat them off. Making a crude bridge out of twisted liana strands, we managed to ford the rapids at the foot of Ruislip Broadway and then we commenced the ascent of Inkerman Way, despite a chronic shortage of oxygen. The porters demanded extra backsheesh for the perilous descent into the alley behind the Post Office; we compromised by offering raffle tickets for the Ulster Democrats (Ruislip branch) annual dinner and dance and at length saw the lights of the Stores twinkling in the twilight to guide us home.

I trust these reminiscences will truly illuminate the fascinating travels of the past month and that my readers will excuse the minor embellishments with which I have sought to add some spice to the somewhat bland fare of the mundane. I wish to add my grateful thanks to Google Maps for prompting this rich flood of memories, to all at no. 23 and hope the rash clears up soon, to the family of the late Sam Kydd for making it clear that he was not in Ruislip on January 11th and, of course, to my dear travelling companion and fellow-reminiscer, Mrs Commuter. The liability for any errors or mistakes that remain in the text are entirely the fault of Google Maps and nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Shock! Someone thinks something might happen.

I was utterly riveted by the headline today in the Daily Express, which surely encapsulates the very best in English journalism. 

Let your tongue caress the lengthy vowel sounds of the so-enticing, yet in this case entirely misleading, word "Revealed". For as you peruse the rest of the "story" you realise that it entirely consists of someone, who has had a baby recently at a hospital near to where the Duchess of Sussex lives, reckoning that it would be a jolly good idea if the royal baby was born there as well.

That's it. Someone has thought that something may (or may not) occur and it has turned into some sort of world exclusive scoop that has been "Revealed" to us. I mean, the Gospel of St John has got absolutely no chance of competing here. It had never even crossed my mind that the Duchess would go to hospital for the birth - I assumed she would find shelter in a nearby barn or perhaps bang on the back door at Buckingham Palace and request use of a broom cupboard at the critical hour. But now, thanks to the unwavering dedication to journalist excellence that is the Daily Express, we learn - no, it is revealed - that she will go to hospital. And that hospital may well be one near to her home. Amazing.

Although - and here is a twist so cunning it could leave Christie, Le Carre and Deighton gasping for breath - she may not go to that hospital. We just don't know. Experts are divided. Those who think she will go there think that she will, but others, who fail to share that opinion, disagree. Experts eh? What do they know?

Don't bother to rush out and buy the paper (or even to click on the link above). There is nothing else of substance in this story.

Anyway, if she does go to that particular hospital she will, apparently, be in excellent hands. The lady whose thoughts on the subject gave rise to this story is of the opinion that it is "fit for a duchess". How she knows that, unless she herself is a duchess (or at least a countess), I am not sure. After my last spell in Hillingdon Hospital for an infected foot, I definitely thought that the place was up to the standard demanded by holders of the CBE, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Best in Show at Crufts, but worthy of a duke? No, I don't know for sure. Not a real duke. Maybe one of the Dukes of Hazzard or Duke Ellington. But never mind all this prevarication. If the Express wants to run an world exclusive headed "Revealed: Queen might get her next prescription from a Ruislip chemist", I'm certainly prepared to brief the journalists, pose for photographs and get onto the chat show circuit.  After all, why let the truth get in the way of a crowd-pleasing headline?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Avoid these months

There is a highly contagious trend afoot whereby a worthy, or maybe just fashionable, cause is linked to a particular month and a horrible hybrid word concocted. I first became aware of this with "Movember", something about growing a moustache in November for reasons that were never made terribly clear. Now we have come to the end of "Veganuary" where we were supposed to eat vegetables in January, for reasons that I have no interest in being made clear. I suspect others are on the way. The only way to defeat this smarmy, look how clever we are, we've put two unrelated words together, movement is to swamp it with ludicrous alternatives and thus drown it all out in a wave of popular derision.

Here, then, are my suggestions for forthcoming events:

  • Celebruary - Wear dark glasses even on dull, sunless days, walk down the street going "No interviews, please" and address everyone as "Darling". Score one point for each person who scratches their chin wondering who you are, two for anyone who takes a quick snap of you on their mobile and five when policeman begin linking hands to hold back the admiring crowds.
  • Parch - Don't just give up alcohol for March, stop drinking altogether. You'll be amazed at the weight loss.
  • Stapril - See how many pieces of paper you can join using just one staple.
  • Heymay - Spend the month going "Hey" to random strangers. Or "Hey, hey" if you happen to be a Monkee. [One for the older generation there: Ed]
  • Silverspoonjune - One for the wealthy amongst us. Flaunt it. Although you probably do that anyway.
  • Unrulyjuly - Refuse to comb your hair or brush your shoes, for charity of course. Or maybe as some form of protest. Perhaps a little mild chanting of "Down with this sort of thing" at events of which you disapprove.
  • Rawgust - Actually I'm getting a bit bored with this now. Do what you like.
If you have any suggestions for similarly pointless campaigns do please send them in to the usual address. There could be valuable prizes awaiting the most irritating.

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