Thursday, November 30, 2006

It isn't paranoia if they really are after you

I've a day off and I've made the mistake of subjecting myself to public transport. I thought I'd best get a bit of Xmas shopping done, so I went into Manchester and did a shop, which went OK. Getting home wasn't OK: I gave up on the bus towards home after waiting half an hour for our ten-minute service (by that time it was ten-past five and the crowd was pretty big) so I decided to get the tram to get the quarter-to train. What the trams didn't tell us was that there were signalling problems at GMex. Or at least they didn't tell us until we'd been sat between stops at Bridgewater Hall for ten minutes. We then had to wait another quarter of an hour to wait for our turn to go up the slope in emergency stop mode (this involved two emergency stops, not fun in a packed tram with no proper handholds!) All the larks. Let's hope I've had my quota for the week now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Whatever you do, don't let relatives read your blog. I've been given a "George Formby grill" for my birthday!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Twopenny blues

You've got to hand it to the New Model Royal Mail with their new e-stamps. Instead of going to the inconvience and expense of going out to the post office and buying a stamp and then sticking it on an envelope you can now go through the palaver of buying a stamp online with your credit card, print it out and then take the letter to the post office for posting because it's a non-standard size, only to find it's been closed and turned into a discount sock warehouse.

Of course, this is all part of the nonsense of pretending that public services are business units, a model that works so well on the railways. The government has its share of the blame. Nowadays, instead of being able to nip down to the post office to buy a new TV licence you've got to either log on online and pay by card or else send a cheque in the mail. In either case instead of having a done deal pdq you've got to wait for the new licence to arrive in the mail. Whenever that gets delivered these days.

In the Sherlock Holmes stories cries for help often came by post and he rushed to the rescue after consulting his Bradshaw's for the train times. Whiz for progress. The poor buggers would be dead, buried and subject to a Time Team dig by the time he got the note these days.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


We're often told that the male sex drive is at its peak at 18. We're not told that till our 19th birthday, mind. Usually by older relatives who sit back in their chairs, tap their pipes out on the cat and say: "it's all downhill from here on in tha knows."


Having reviewed my relict powers I reckon I'm just as capable of thirty seconds' worth of ineffectually emabarassing fumbling about as I was quarter of a century ago.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Only in Yorkshire

One of my colleagues bought an elderly relative one of those George Foreman grills that let you eat entirely unhealthy cuts of meat smug in the knowledge that all the fat will drain down into a little plastic gutter on the front. A few days later he made the mistake of asking how he liked it:

"Reet champion, lad. I can have sausages for my tea and then I can have the mucky fat on bread for breakfast the next day."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The man in black

For some reason my 1950's semi-detached Valhalla has three street lamps stuck on the pavement in front of it.

It would be neat if any one of them was working.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Adventures in commuterland

If I had my time again I wouldn't stick with public transport for one moment longer than absolutely necessary and sod the future of the biosphere; let it go to Hell in a handcart, which it seems to be doing pretty well of its own accord anyway regardless of my travelling martyrdom. I dream of the day when I get into work and then come back home by public transport without any sort of incident or adventure. I travel about twenty-three miles to work. It's not like I'm doing the Silk Road or exploring the remoter reaches of the far Kalahari. I'm commuting across one of the major conurbations in one of the richest countries on the planet. Here's today:

  • Half an hour late into work because the train into town is cancelled.

  • Coming home,

    • the 1823 in to town turns up at 1849.

    • Once in town the trams are subject to delay so I walk into the city centre to try and make the connection to the station for the train home.

    • I know that if the tram doesn't turn up by twenty-five to eight I'm going to miss my train, unless I'm lucky and my train's late.

    • I give up at twenty to and go for a bus. At ten to eight a bus turns up. It's not my bus but it gets me close enough to home to give me a fighting chance; and if the worst comes to the worst I should only have to wait quarter of an hour for a bus home.

    • Unfortunately, the city centre's gridlocked: a bus has broken down just outside the bus "station" (actually it's just a big traffic island with bus stops on it).

    • By quarter past eight we have managed to travel literally the length of six buses. I give up, resort to a tram and get the train that runs an hour later than the one I would have got had the trams not been piddling around earlier.
  • I get home at a minute to nine.

If it were down to me, all Members of Parliament and all directors of public transport companies would be debarred the use of cars and taxis and forced to go about their business by public transport. The arguments against are well-rehearsed...
"It would be quite impossible to get to all our important meetings by public transport."
For shame.
"There are no public transport links to the sites I need to visit."
And your point is?
"Public transport isn't an option for security reasons."
Welcome to your world. If public transport's unsafe, unreliable, inconvenient or non-existant you'll be well-placed to damned well do something about it, won't you?

These people are the architects of our workaday hells. Their being featherbedded from the consequences of their activities gives them no incentive to make things any better.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


My train into work was twenty minutes late. Sadly, this isn't the novelty it would have been under British Rail (isn't it an awful indictment of the private rail companies that we see the shoddy services provided by British Rail as some sort of Golden Age?) It was already over ten minutes late when it arrived at my station but then we stayed there while the guard attended to a lady passenger who'd had a panic attack as a result of the severe overcrowding in the carriage.

It's a reflection on Tony Blair's "Respect" agenda that rail passengers are subject to conditions that contravene EC regulations on the movement of farm animals. And the farm animals don't have to stump up a week's salary for the ticket to ride.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Insomnia's a damned nuisance. Too tired to read or do anything remotely useful, I end up resorting to slobbing out in front of the TV. Have you any idea what sort of rubbish there is on the TV in the wee small hours? It makes daytime TV look like Glyndebourne. Every so often I'm lucky enough to get a decent movie. More often than not I'm channel-hopping between documentaries, infomercials and odd bits of cheap tat. Being dead cheap myself, I've got cable but won't buy the extras. So when it comes to the sport channels I'm strictly low rent, just getting the sports that were left over when the money ran out. Curling, biathalon, rhythmic gymnastics... that sort of thing.

Then once in a while you bump into something that makes it all worthwhile...

Solo synchronised swimming. Live from Austria.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The dangers of living alone

People who think too much shouldn't be allowed to live on their own. They really need somebody around to ask the important question: "Aren't you thinking a bit too hard about this?" Especially when you find yourself spending an hour worrying about Korky the Cat. It started when it dawned on me that Korky trolls about Dandytown all day stark naked and then he puts on pyjamas to go to bed. Then I got to worrying about the state of the local economy when shopkeepers trust the delivery of the produce to the first passing cat with a go kart.

Last summer I started to fret about the satisfaction I was taking at my attempts at the wholesale destruction of slugs and snails in the garden. Was it really right? My conscience started to nag. So far so good. But then I got to thinking about it. If you think back to those monster movies in the fifties where they kill the monster at the end, you'll remember that about half of them it turns out that the monster was a misunderstood emissary of hope. "They came to help mankind and we killed them." Perhaps that was it: perhaps they were trying to tell me something. One night I spotted a snail climbing up the outside of the living room window. Without even thinking about it, I found myself perched on the window ledge trying to read its lips.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


It's strange to think that the best you can hope for your friends and relatives is that they'll eventually get to be old people.

If I survive so long, I've promised myself:

  • I won't start queueing up for my pension outside the post office an hour before it opens. What is this about? I'm paying taxes to fund winter fuel payments for people who stand outside in the cold for no apparent reason.


  • I won't go shopping in Marks & Spencer on a Friday lunchtime. They've got all week to do their shopping; why wait until Friday lunchtime? I blame the cynical bastards who are obviously running the charabancs that take them there. You can't kid me that all those pensioners turn up simultaneously by accident.

Standing at the bus stop trying to check the time of the next bus I was distracted by one of the old ladies sitting on the bench. She kept bobbing from side to side to see past me. I glanced round to try and work out what she was trying to see. Just a row of shops. She tutted. I was obviously stopping her keeping tabs of some important narrative or other. I got irritated and decided to spoil the ending for her: "The butler did it, love." She scowled.

Taking my turn in the queue, I rehearsed all the usual thoughts. The bubble was suddenly burst when another of the old ladies offered me her seat.