Friday, October 30, 2009


The lack of trams across Manchester city centre has done wonders for my waistline and circulation as the two mile-long walks a day take effect but has had the side-effect of putting an intolerable strain on my powers of concentration. I have come to the conclusion that pretty young ladies with long legs should not wear black leggings, especially if they have long red hair pulled back into a pony tail. There appears to be a profusion of them and it is very distracting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chuggety chug

I've always had my suspicions that Passenger Focus was a bit closer to the industry than its stated aims might suggest. Its annual statements of the state of the travelling nation's railway experiences have never really chimed with my own, nor with those of anyone I know.

Up until recently the only time I'd ever been surveyed by Passenger Focus was about ten years ago. Mid-afternoon on a nice sunny day travelling on the slow train between Carlisle and Barrow.Which was a pleasant thing to do if you got the chance. I couldn't complain about the journey: it was very agreeable and it was on time. I can't help noticing that these days they've halved the number of journeys on this route and replaced the double-carriaged sprinter with a single carriage so that it doesn't matter what time of day you travel it's going to be standing room only and there's no space for bikes, buggies or wheelchairs. Such is progress.

They did a survey of passengers in Manchester the other week. A lady stood at Victoria Station, a rail terminus, handing out the forms. As hordes of passengers came in on late, badly over-crowded old and rackety trains, or arrived late because the previous train hadn't bothered to stop at their stations so that it could arrive at Victoria in that state of "On Time" that only exists in the minds of Railway Performance Managers, they were handed forms asking them for their opinions on their outward journey. These people had arrived. And Passenger Focus didn't want to know about their inward journey.

I asked the organisation if there was any way that passengers could flag up repeat failures of services. After all, there's a world of difference between a one-off cancellation due to exceptional calamity and a service that's routinely twenty minutes late or cancelled three or four times a week. The answer is no: they "want the train operator to have the opportunity to resolve the complaint first." "Resolve the complaint" in this context is "send a stock reply within a week or two of the complaint." So long as you get your fob off in the alloted time all is well with the world.

As you stand, crushed nose-to-armpit, hurtling through Suburbia at a steady two miles an hour in a rusty old egg crate that should have been mothballed permanently a decade ago, it's good to know that somebody, somewhere doesn't give a flying fuck.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I'd forgotten it runs in the family. My father was telling my wee niece a selection of the usual daft stories when he reminded me of one I'd completely forgotten.

The 1960s for so many of us was more Sheila Delaney than Carnaby Street and it was all black and white up to the summer of 1968 when Mrs. Gmerek brought in some tubs of lime green and mandarin orange paints and infant class 3 tried to go psychadelic. By then we were living in the flats in the suburbs. Before then we'd shared my nan's terraced house in Old Trafford, five yards away from where it became Hulme and Manchester corporation rates. Times were hard but they had their sense of the ridiculous to help them get by. Which is how it came to pass that one day my mum and nan had the fright of their lives as an ugly old tart popped her head round the doorway and said: "Hello dearies! What's for tea?"

It was my dad, dolled up in my mum's Max Factor war paint and with granny's shawl round his head.

There it would have been, just another daft little thing in the scheme of things but for one unforeseen happenstance.

The lipstick wouldn't come off.

Max Factor industrial strength kiss-proofed carmine lipstick. (I have quizzed my mum about this and she says she'll tell me about it when I'm older.) Nothing but time would shift it.

Which is how come my dad turned up at the plumber's yard the next day with cute little red rosebud lips and two rouged circles on his cheeks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reaffirming my cultural identity...

Sing along now!

(I'm still not sure how the last line of that song ever got past the censors of the time!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

There are some things that man can never understand

This morning was the first properly cold one we've had so far this autumn, with a biting wind whistling through the undergrowth. As I stood on the railway platform it occurred to me that I should have brought my gloves with me. One of my fellow passengers, one of the familiar faces, puzzled me somewhat.

She's in her late thirties. Today she was wearing a short skirt, low-cut top, short-sleeved cardigan...

...and a scarf.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Half the people round me are having a worse time of it than me so I should buck my ideas up.

(Spider alert for arachnophobes)

I think I'll dig out my Trapdoor videos and make a night of it.

The voice is Willie Rushton. The animation is Cosgrove-Hall. Rather nice.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Health news

"You'll have to start watching what you eat," said the doctor.


"Why's that doctor?"

"You've got it all down the front of your shirt."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The shock of self-awareness

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, in her pomp, declared that any man over the age of thirty who was still relying on bus services was a loser.

Belatedly I am come to the conclusion that the bitch was right after all.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I think we need this...

(We were always enthralled by the idea of a Junior G Trout)

(We're re-thinking the image...)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

While I'm in the mood...

Sunday singalong

I've been trying, and failing, to write something out of my system. Which should come as a great relief to the passing reader.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

News from behind the iron curtain

It's been a lovely, sunny autumn day full of that crisp splendour that makes a walk in the woodlands so very, very wonderful. So I wasn't chuffed to be hanging round the station waiting for a bus to take us into town because some scallies had nicked the lead off the roof of the signal box down the line. And then, having got in, having to negotiate my way through the cordon sanitaire they've had up all week to keep the latest bunch of nitwits away from the consequences of their fantasies. Last year it was New Labour, this year the Tories, next year who knows, save that there'll be a ring of steel around the City Centre yet again. I've been trying my best not to go off on one about it, so I wouldn't even have mentioned it here save for a conversation I had with a couple of folk this evening.

"They have to do it for security reasons," insisted one.

"Bollocks," replied the other. "Both parties are supporting wars and curtailments of civil liberties because we're all targets now. If we're all targets now we should all have proper security, not just them buggers. It's nothing to do with security. It's all about keeping the political classes safely cocooned from everyday reality."

"They do go out and about every so often you know. MPs' surgeries, constituency visits, that sort of thing."

"They're just playing at being shepherdesses in the gardens of Versailles."


"If it was really about security, they'd put the political classes into some sort of quarantine."

"What sort of quarantine?"

"Well, I was thinking something like Rockall..."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday singalong

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Every so often the testosterone kicks in and I find myself doing Man Things. Not scratching my goolies and staring at ladies' bottoms. Well, not just scratching my goolies and staring at ladies' bottoms anyway. Luckily, the hardware shop on the way to work has closed down so I can't drift in to browse the sandpapers or pick up an odd half-ton of assorted wood screws. It's not like I'm any good at DIY, I just succumbed to that same primitive urge that pulls you towards the old Biggles books in the Oxfam Shop or makes you fall in love with steam trains.

There I was, quietly reading a learned journal when my eye wandered to the outdoor clothing adverts. A padded waistcoat with a thermal lining and 17 pockets. Thornproof, waterproof exterior fabric and 17 pockets. Lightweight and flexible and with 17 pockets. Breathable interior, subtle lovat shading and 17 pockets. I could do with having a decent weatherproof waistcoat for when I'm out for a walk. And something warm on my back seeing as I'm not as young as I was. And it has 17 pockets.

Ladies' handbags are a matter of mystery and terror to us poor mortals. Exploiting secret advances in tesseract technologies, they cram their bags with all matter and manner of things of which we daresn't speak aloud. The last time I was in a relationship of any sort we used to snuggle by the fireside listening to "Educating Archie" but I still end up being the one who stands in the shop "just holdings this" while one or other female acquaintance looks for their purse/bus pass/lipstick/tape measure/whatever. It's like being a contestant on 'Crackerjack' without the cabbages. Well, usually. Somebody did once have a small savoy cabbage in her handbag. We were in an art gallery at the time. The same people who walk around with all this crap in an over-priced bag will then witter on and on and on again on about men's pockets.

"They've always got to have things in their pockets."

Well yes. We do. That's what they're there for. It isn't rocket science. It's a design classic. Sheer functional elegance. That's what I say. (I think I talk back too much to be in a relationship with a member of the opposite). It isn't a good idea to sew up the pockets. No. It isn't.
"It would stop you spoiling the line of the jacket."
Listen, let's get real: me getting into the jacket spoils the line of the jacket. So we don't sew up the pockets. And we sympathise when I buy a jacket that only has the one functioning pocket: the left-hand one is just a dummy with a pocket flap. No, seriously, we do. I mean, I've got to fit all the gear into one pocket. By the time I've put in the small change, the keys, the receipts, the commonplace book, the pencil, the white mouse, the box of chalks, the lump of cobbler's wax and the screwdrivers I'm walking with a distinct list. Luckily, I'm balanced out by the bag full of paperwork, newspapers, books and stuff so I'm not twisting the spine too much.

17 pockets. I wonder if they're all sewn up.