Saturday, September 30, 2006

Burning the Candles at Both End

I had to go to Glasgow earlier in the week. Up at 04:45 to catch a bus to Heathrow Airport. Caught the 07:00 flight to Glasgow. Hung around for an extra hour because the colleague I was meeting's plane had been sat on the tarmac at Stansted for an unexpected extra hour and then we were off to a day of customer meetings.

The return flight touched down at LHR at just after 21:00 and I was home by 22:00, absolutely shattered. Travelling for work is NOT glamorous.

It became apparent the next morning that I had sapped too much energy, because I woke up with the begining of a cold. Grrrr!

Fast forward to last night. Straight from work to babysitting my Niece and Nephew in the Richmond area. Little darlings... eldest one (10) did eventually snap out of being half a nightmare, took herself off to get ready for bed and then read me a six page chapter from her book, really well.

Younger one (7) is very wearing. I have no parenting skills and didn't manage to get him off to bed (and to stay there) until 22:15. Dinner then went in the oven.

My little sister and her husband got back well after midnight but I chose not to stay over.

Sometimes... public transport in London can be brilliant...

Bus at 00:30 to the Piccadilly Line, very late train to Heathrow airport, Night Bus home. No longer than a two minute wait for anything (one connection was five seconds!) and home by 01:25. Result!

Dose of Nightnurse. Woke up at 11:00. Washing machine on. Haircut later.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

This one is politics

My blood pressure started to increase when I read the headline "Brown in pledge to devolve power" on the BBC News site this morning.

Until that nice Mr Brown came along, we had a private pensions system in the UK that was the envy of the world. Gone.

Until that nice Mr Brown came along, most people took responsibility for themselves, with Society helping those who couldn't. Now, through the tools of tax credits and means testing, we are in a position where more and more people rely on hand outs in some form or other to pay for life and its many luxuries. A fundamental relationship change.

Until that nice Mr Brown came along, we were beginning to get a grip on public sector costs. The proportion (%) of all workers employed in the public sector has gone up slightly since 1997 (Source: Office of National Statistics), but as the total number of people in employment has significantly increased. This increasing proportion is a sign of how inefficient the public sector is and how wasteful it is with our money.

Until that nice Mr Brown came along (and his mate next door, Tony), we had a governmental system in place that worked. Responsibilities were clear and extra layers of government (ie cost) were kept to a minimum. We are now in a position where devolution has occurred for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland [See: The West Lothian Question], and there has been pressure placed to have locally elected mayors, though thankfully the population seem to have seen through the sham.

Why does all this matter? Well, with Power comes responsibility.
  • If you destroy the future hopes and aspirations of millions, you must take responsibility.
  • If you increase peoples' reliance on state handouts you must be doing something wrong and must take responsibility.
  • If you increase the number of people YOU employ in the public sector, but choose to forget that everyone else has to pay for them, you must take responsibility.
  • If you crave power but pretend to devolve responsibility while retaining control of the purse strings, you are not only being irresponsible but you are hoaxing the British people. For this you must take responsibility.
I, for one, do not want Gordon Brown to be the next Prime Minister.

(Now, I'll get off my soapbox and back to writing about trains and stuff)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Extra Platforms opened at London Marylebone

The two new platforms (4 & 5) have now opened at London Marylebone as part of the Chiltern Railways Evergreen 2 project. [Chiltern Railways: Please update your website]

Hopefully it will mean fewer occasions of the late notification of platform numbers at Marylebone. Mind you, the new platforms 4, 5 & 6 at London Marylebone are so far from the concourse that two or three minutes has to be allowed to get to them, with hiking boots optional.

The platform barriers look as though they are having a significant upgrade and increase in numbers, though if my experience with the new gates is anything to go by, they need a bit of tweaking. My perfectly valid and otherwise functioning Oystercard received the flashing red eye of doom last week.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A New World Record, Two Lives Gone... and Chaos for Thousands

I saw earlier in the week that a new World Record had been confirmed for travelling to every station on the London Underground. The record beat, by five seconds, the previous one of 18 hours 35 minutes and 43 seconds set by Geoff Marshall and Neil Blake in May 2004.

So, on Thursday I though I was on course for my own record. From street level on Charing Cross Road outside Tottenham Court Road to setting foot on the Central Line platform at Ealing Broadway took 27 minutes. Now as the journey is only timetabled to take 27 minutes, even with Lancaster Gate closed, that's about as good as it gets!

At Ealing Broadway it was however absolute chaos. No-one was being allowed onto the First Great Western platforms, there were stationary trains in both west bound platforms and all passengers were being advised to use alternative routes. For those going to Reading that would involve going all the way back into London and catching the alternative Reading Line from Waterloo.

I subsequently found that the cause of the total suspension was an apparent killing and subsequent (linked) fatality on the line at Hanwell. How do things get that bad?

For me it only meant shopping at Marks & Spencer on Ealing Broadway rather than going to my original destination. For many it was an extremely long jorney home and, of course, two people never got there. It puts life in perspective!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How The Heck Does Google Work?

I added a web counter to this blog last week. The number of visitors goes up (ever so slowly) every day and none of the hits are mine!

What I find incredible is that:
  1. The most popular word that drives Google users to my words is "Leprachorns" and
  2. If you type "Leprachorns" into Google this blog is top of the list.
I can only assume that I've spelt the word wrong!

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Common Theme - Public Transport Seems To Be Working

You may have missed it, but according to a poll conducted by the TripAdvisor company, London had been voted the best city in the world for public transport (and is also considered to be the most expensive).

Here's a log of my recent journeys:
  • Saturday: Two buses to Feltham then one stop on the train to Twickenham to watch the rugby. Same trip back. All absolutely fine- the thousands of people piling on to trains at Twickenham after the matches did make us all give passable sardine impersonations.
  • Sunday: Some minor travelling locally on the Central Line.
  • Monday: Central Line to Tottenham Court Road. Then return trip to Canary Wharf using Central Line and Docklands Light Railway, then home via Shanks' Pony, No 27 Bus, Chiltern Railways and the Central Line. Not a blip.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Airport Security Checks (Part 2 - The Answers)

Following my post earlier in the week, here are the brief descriptions again, along with the names/locations of the airports to which they refer.

All opinions are mine and are non negotiable unless negotiations include offers of free flights or similar!
  • a) Hi-tech (digital photo taken, barcode placed on boarding pass). Small queues. Efficient. (Durham Tees Valley)
  • b) Massive queue but well managed. Loads of tourists getting stuff confiscated. Grave danger of missing flight if extra time not allowed. (Edinburgh)
  • c) Ten Minutes from getting off bus to being in departure lounge. No queue. Efficient and effective. (London Heathrow)
  • d) Officious. Over the top. Plenty of staff. (Newquay, Cornwall)