Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Clever Branding

Whenever I have family round, which I did on Sunday, I always buy a carton of Innocent Fruit Smoothie. It's for the kids, but not really.

The drinks are yummy, though not cheap. The cartons are very clever - they are witty, often carry jokey comments and give the impression of beguiling innocence.

Of course I don't expect the folk at "Fruit Towers" (I kid you not) to be all folksey and sucking on straw. I suspect that, to the contrary there are some very clever minds, outsourced product suppliers and a not insignificant marketing budget.

As I was squashing down the empty carton just now, I noticed that the latest bright idea is to print a secret code on the side . Entering that code on a website means that a tree is then planted on your behalf. It's all jolly clever - if over time the 'tree count' below changes, it will show that the Innocent people have mastered technology as well as making yummy drinks (and probably lots of money as well).

A superb example of successful branding.

Fruit Towers is actually in Shepherds Bush in West London- still at least they are nearer to Goldhawk Road station (Hammersmith and City Line) than to the currently closed Shepherds Bush Central Line station at the far end of Shepherds Bush Green.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's warm down there

Yesterday afternoon the Bakerloo Line had 'minor' delays due to signalling problems at Queens Park. This morning (as at 06:30) the problems have moved down the line a bit to Baker Street.

You can check the departure boards for Baker Street here, to gauge whether things have got any better by the time you read this.

What I can say is that it is going to be jolly uncomfortable down there today. Today's weather is forecast to be hot and sunny, a little warmer than yesterday. I know that the British definition of hot is not the same as in some other parts of the world, but nevertheless I can vouch for the fact that the Bakerloo Line was sweltering yesterday. It is likely to be just as bad today.

It is probably a good idea to heed the official advice - carry a bottle of water with you. I'm still tending towards tube avoidance, so walking today will probably raise my temperature just as much as entering the underground furnace.

Be careful out there.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Voyeurism in Reverse

One of the things that I find fascinating about this blog is the nature of the vistors to it and, particularly, how they get here and whereabouts they are.

I had a first this morning - a vistor from Zimbabwe. Specifically their ISP is said to be located in "Mashonaland Central", which apparently is in the North of the country. Whoever you are/ were: Welcome!

Given the current problems in Zimbabwe and the tight control over many aspects of the media, I suspect that one has to take some news items with a pinch of salt. However a quick skim through the headlines of a Google News Search shows the dreadful state that the people are in. Can you imagine living somewhere where you are sentenced to 6 months in prison for organising a political meeting?

What is reassuring is that this morning's vistor was 'normal' enough to be visiting the most popular post on this blog. Quite why an innocuous article about steam trains should be read so much is quite beyond me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Using the phone when on a train

Would all users of mobile phones please note the following:
  • Rule 1. All mobile phones are fitted with very sensitive microphones. If you cannot hear the person on the other end, shouting will not make any difference. Do Not Shout.
  • Rule 2. Some trains on the National Rail network have 'Quiet Zones'. If you sit in one of these areas, it really is quite simple. Turn your phone off if you are sitting in a designated Quiet Zone. The world is not going to stop spinning on its axis if you are temporarily unable to make or receive calls. The alternatives are to (a) sit somewhere else or (b) stand by the doors, but always remember Rule 1.
  • Rule 3. Mobile phones do not work in tunnels, unless very short.If you are traveling on the London Underground this will generally be a concept with which you are familiar. If you are on the phone and you lose your signal while it has 'suddenly' gone dark outside, you have probably gone into a tunnel. Do not try to use your phone in a tunnel. Banging your phone sharply on a hard surface or shouting "Hello, Hello, Hello" into the phone will not, by itself, alter the fact that you are now de facto in a Mobile Free Zone. Should you already have been breaking Rule 1 or Rule 2, your fellow passengars will each be breathing a sigh of relief at this stage.
  • Rule 4. Swearing is not clever, nor is it a sign of intelligence. Swearing in public demonstrates an absolute lack of consideration for others and many find it offensive. Do not swear in public. With very few exceptions, the amount a person swears is inversely proportional to their IQ. Unfortunately anyone who breaks this rule probably doesn't even understand Rule 1, Rule 2 or Rule 3.
  • Rule 5. If you are unable to comply with Rule 1, Rule 2, Rule 3 or Rule 4, then please walk.
Please note that the events leading to the publishing of these rules are not fictitious. Any similarity to real life events, or references to the behaviour of any person living or dead, is totally none-coincidental and probably deliberate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Toilet Talk

The new gents toilets at Marylebone Station have opened.

I think they opened a few days ago, but I only found them this morning.

The new facilities are slightly further away from the centre of the concourse than was previously the case, though presumably this means that the ladies will be much enlarged once the refurbishment is complete. They can be found just past the Etsu Cafe and opposite the cheese shop.

The highlight? A row of Dyson Airblade hand dryers.

Oh, the things that make me happy....

Later: Less than 90 minutes after publishing this post, my blog had a visit from the people at Dyson. It's probably a good thing I didn't say anything bad!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Birthdays all round

It's a popular week for birthdays:
  • Tuesday: Station Supervisor
  • Wednesday: Central User
  • Friday: Ian P (who I first met on the way to Venezuela in 1997 and who hosted a reunion for us on the south coast at the weekend). Thank you.
  • Sunday: Julie P (wife of Ian) who was super-organised and a great hostess. Julie had two Grandchildren when we arrived and three when we left, so there were plenty of distractions.
Happy Birthday to the three who aren't me.

In terms of the weekend, I went by car. The best I could manage on public transport was this ferry, which has to be the least formal mode of public transport I have been on in the UK. Happy days.

Oh, and we did drop one of our party off at Chichester station to travel back to Yorkshire by train. I cannot speak for the whole journey, but the Southern train to Victoria departed spot on time.

The ripple effect

There has been a building on fire this morning in South Molton Street, close to Bond Street tube station. The fire was reported in the early hours and was under control by 05.54am.

This means that Bond Street station is closed at present and neither the Central Line nor the Bakerloo Line are stopping.

The closure* will lead to elongated routes for many (Bond Street is a surprisingly busy station) - journeys out to Canary Wharf are particularly painful anyway for those changing from the Central Line, due to ongoing interchange difficulties at Bank.

*As always, I should point out that this blog is not a 'live travel service'. I recommend you use alternative sources of data for up-to-date information.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Chiltern Railways Timetable - It Does What It Says On The Tin

I can tell that quite a few people reach this blog looking for public transport information.

Sometimes it's weird and wonderful routes (often repeated) and sometimes, like many people, I think 'How did Google dish that one up?'.

Anyhow, a recurring theme is the Chiltern Railways timetable. Chiltern Railways run from London Marylebone to High Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Aylesbury (and other stations in Buckinghamshire), Birmingham and Stratford-Upon Avon, to name but a few.

Rather than host the document myself, here is a link to Chiltern Railways' timetable page. The full timetable is a pdf at the foot of the page, but there are other options dotted around.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Damn - I've Been Rumbled

I really am a silly sod!

A few days ago I'd sort of made an informal commitment to pop in to say hello to the Station Supervisor on my way home from work. It would have been sensible to have blogged about a thing or two during the last few but no... muggins here walked straight into it...

SS was very pleasant about it. Paraphrasing slightly, I think the the comment was along the lines of "Yeah, I'd noticed you hadn't been posting so much". Ouch.

London Underground Life has just passed the 100,000 hit mark, against my paltry nearly 10,000 hits. Congratulations on this significant milestone.

There is of course one major reason for the difference in blog traffic and that is content. Content is King.

If The Sun or The Mirror decided they occasionally couldn't be bothered to print a newspaper, they would over time lose their readers. It's the same for a blog - if you don't type, regular readers wither and disappear. Write regularly, and about things that people are interested in or can relate to, then repeat visitors and referrals grow exponentially.

So John, first of all thank you for offering to meet up. It was good to say hello to you and your colleague. Secondly, thank you for your kind comments. Thirdly, now that my (pc) problems appear to be out of the way, I shall endeavour to try a bit harder!

Why has this post got a logo? 'Cos that's what it looked like to me!