Archive for the ‘Rant’ Category

Cow’s On The Line

Posted: June 1, 2012 in general, Rant, Travel
Tags: , ,

So, today is the last push before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Weekend, and so it was that I arose from slumber feeling good and positive: just the morning and evening commute to go then it’s party time. Yeah. And of course, I was buoyed by the ‘nice day’ [see previous post] that I had yesterday.

So it was, that I arrived at Hungerford station and waited for the 06:40 grown up train. Then it started, that faceless voice came over the speaker: ‘We are sorry to announce that the 06:40 will be delayed by 6-minutes.’; then it was 8 minutes; then it was 11 minutes. Then, the announcement said 4 minutes. Blimey, I thought, the train must be flying to make up that time so quickly, but I quickly realised that it was another grown up train, the 06:54 that was delayed, presumably by the 06:40.

Eventually the 06:40 arrived and everybody got on quick so that we could be away before any of the 06:54 passengers turned and tried to sneak on our train (we don’t like sharing) :-).

Under intense interrogation (actually it was one lady asking him one question), the Train Manager gave up the information we required, ‘Why was the train late?’. Well, the announcement “because of issues on the line between Westbury and Pewsey’ but we have now established that the issue actually meant Cows On The Line although we couldn’t quite tease out what we then wanted to hear, ‘The Wrong Sort Of Cows On The Line’. Never mind though, at least we found the reason and with such success, surely today would be a good day. I certainly hope so. Even the Underground looks as though it’s behaving itself :-).

Yes, the underground was as good as gold. I went straight from the grown up train to the train of the deep almost without stopping and so go to work dead on time. The omens are good: the day shall be good. All bodes well for the weekend of celebrations.

As for work, well, I spent the morning writing up my findings for a post incident report following a major power outage last Friday. All finished by lunch time, I decided to head off to St Katherine’s Dock to get a bite to eat and check out the boats. Well, There were many boats, virtually all of which were decked out with flags and bunting, presumably (stating the bleeding obvious) for the Jubilee.

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So, having viewed the boats and given my approval, I headed back, via Tower Bridge, to the office in time for my 13:30 meeting, followed by a 14:00 workshop before getting an early start (15:00) back home, to beat the inevitable crowds at Paddington. Then it happened: the naffing power went; all systems; all services down. Bother, we all thought, just when we thought the week was going to end well. I won’t go into the details: let’s face it, unless you were part of it, such events aren’t exactly high interest topics. All I will say is I didn’t get away until close on 16:00 and will have to finish what I was going to do, sometime over the weekend.

The underground behaved impeccably and I just caught the 16:36 from Paddington. This has to be a record. But, I made it, and I got a seat (don’t tell her indoors, but I upgraded to 1st class just to be sure of a seat. Looking at all the standing passengers, it was a good move). Better still, we left on time. I’m guessing that all the berating over the last few days has taught these beastly trains that they must start to behave :-). We were only 7 minutes late from Reading, which, as I’ve inferred previously, is 3 minutes early. So all in all, a good job jobbed by rail travel. Lets just hope that there are no more cows on the line :-).

Good Trains: Nice Trains.

Now, bring on that Diamond Jubilee. Yeah. Woo Hoo.

Go Podge, Go.

So, this morning I posted the rambling inane rant of a weary traveller, signing off with:

OK, I’m going to stop now, I’m rambling already. I’ve said my piece and feel better for it:

And off I went into the sunshine to Tower Hill. Now, I have to say that things are really cheering up around Tower Bridge and especially St Katherine’s Dock as the boats start to arrive ready for the Jubilee Pageant. Everything and everybody give off a very real feeling of happiness. I was feeling good and was seriously looking forward to anything and everything the would bring.

Anyway, as the saying goes ‘Time & Tide Waits For no Man’ and sure enough, the end of the working day arrived and His Podgeness had to head once more towards the unavoidable perils of rail travel. First was the Underground.

Now, I used to hate the underground, often spending a small fortune on taxis rather than venture into that warren that lay beneath London. But, of late, I’ve come to enjoy it, even to the point of exploring different lines to get to where I want to be. So far, I’ve used the Circle, District, Central, Hammersmith & City and the DLR and I’ve found them all to be fun and spookily interesting. But, of late, they just don’t seem to be working very well. Perhaps it’s the heat, I don’t know, but there always seems to be problems somewhere on the network with broken trains. Today was no exception, except this time, I was on that blithering train.

Hurtling along the Bakerloo Line between Regents Park and Baker Street the train came to an abrupt halt. So, there we all are, train packed to the gunnels sitting, standing, waiting deep underground in a tunnel wondering what was happening. Then we were told there was an apparent faulty passenger alarm which was stopping the train from moving. Eventually our determined driver overcame the machine and forced the blighter to move on to the next station, where once more it said, ‘ NO, I AM NOT MOVING’. Oh what a tinker this train is I thought as people abandoned train and headed upwards for daylight only to be replaced be new travellers who had no idea what this train was like. But, once again, Man Triumphed over Machine (I knew it was Man by the because he spoke us over the intercom, so no sexist accusations please), and the train once more set off until eventually, we reached MY station: Paddington. And, guess what? I was still in time to catch Old Faithful, the 18:33 to Exeter St David’s. Yes, His Podgeness has done well today for he has struggled through the warrens beneath London, beaten the efforts of Machine and still arrived early. Ha Ha, I am truly Podgethepuffer who will not suffer.

Obviously, nobody had told the land of the overland grown up trains as they had contingency plans, determined to thwart my attempts to get home in time for, well, anything really!

Anyway, not only did I board Old Faithful, but she also gave me a seat (sounds quite saucy really, doesn’t it). So naturally, I was feeling pretty smug. Then, almost with an air of smugness, the faceless voice came over the air to tell me that the service was running approximately 20 minutes late because of, guess what?, a broken down train at Reading (bring on the Olympics, for Yes, we are ready). So once more, I have to give in and accept it, machine does rule over man, and woman.

Tomorrow, I shall try once more. Why? I have no idea except to say, what choice have I? I have no practical alternative. It’s almost like our travel is governed by a monopoly 🙂

Go Podge, Go

footnote – The big nasty train must have sensed my anger as once we were past Reading, it must have red-lined itself all the way, so we weren’t that late after. Woo Hoo.

19:03, 19:03, where art thou 19:03?
Deny thy timetable and refuse thy platform;
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my transport
And I’ll no longer be stuck at:

Effing Paddington.

With the privatisation of most, no all, of the utilities came the promise of improved service and better value brought about by competition. With Gas, Electric & Telephone, I buy into this: potentially there is scope for competition though I’m not sure how much. With water, where is the competition? Where is consumer choice? I don’t see it, nor do I get it. Of course you could go down the same route that I have and have a bore hole installed but this comes at a price and isn’t a viable option for everyone. My real issue however is with another privatised ‘utility’, rail travel.
Yes, I know, rail travel isn’t a utility, or is it? There are many definitions of the word utility found in the dictionary, one of which is

▸ noun: a company that performs a public service; subject to government regulation

This kind of suggests to me that Rail Travel falls into this category. Sometimes however, it feels to me like a contained dictatorship: they make the rules, and that will be the end of it. After all, what are our options? We can’t exactly choose an alternative rail company can we? All the others cover different parts of the UK. Surely, this makes them a monopoly.
Let’s face it, if you were consistently receiving bad service from a supplier, would you stay with that supplier or would you seek an alternative. Obviously, unless you were barking mad, or inept, you would look around for other options. Yet, if we seek constantly bad service from rail company, such options don’t exist. Now I know that in extreme circumstances, the government can strip a company of its franchise but that isn’t exactly a responsive process and I would question it efficacy. We can of course complain to the company, we can complain to pressure groups, we can do all manner of things but in the meantime bad service may be resumed during which time, we the humble passenger [without whom, there would be no rail service, no jobs, no salaries] continue to suffer late running trains, cancelled trains, over crowded (some might argue dangerously) trains, overpriced trains. comfortables trains are nice but there continue to be those chugging ‘local’ trains making what I would unacceptably long commuting journeys. These trains are horrendous. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, in mid winter, the heating may be switched, sometimes not: it all depends on who’s crewing the train that day. On most such trains, the windows are incapable of staying shut. With a lack of heating and a winters morning, this makes for a chuffing cold morning commute.
Now I know stats will probably show that the percentage of late or cancelled trains is within a tolerable level of acceptance but believe me, it isn’t. Not when it affects the same core group of users day in day out as they make their way to and from work.
So, what has caused me to write this when the temperatures is at 25c rather than -2c or worse. Well I’ve just experienced a week of torment, although the weeks before weren’t much better.
I used to catch the 06:01 from Hungerford to Paddington which meant I was catching the early morning chugger. This was fine though as it did mean I got into work at a reasonable time. It also legitimised me leaving a little earlier at the end of the day. Then, the letter came through the letter box (where else!). ‘We will be working on the line, actually replacing the line: but don’t worry, we’ll keep the noise to a minimum’. Bugger! I thought, this won’t be good. To give them their due,they worked through the night, every night and they didn’t disturb us one bit. But, come the morning, well that was always going to be interesting. You see, the 06:01 is the first train of the day and was obviously dependant on any line work having completed in time. I think you probably know what’s coming next, don’t you? Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed, I arrive on the station at 05:50 (I like to be early), bought my weeks ticket and waited, along with all the regular fellow commuters. Then it started. “We are sorry to announce that the 06:01 has been delayed by 5 minutes” – oh no hang on, it’s been delayed by 17 minutes. Hang on a minute, isn’t the following train due in at 06:17. Oh no, don’t worry, that trains been cancelled so now the 06:01 will need to take the place of two trains. Oh hang, sorry, the 06:01/ 06:17 has now been delayed by 25 minutes. Hang on a minute, if you wait much longer you’ll clash with the 06:40. I should have realised, they have that covered: the 06:01 and the 06:17 have been cancelled and everybody will have to the 06:40. So that’s 40 minutes extra in bed I missed out on. The following day was a little better, no train was cancelled but they were late. And so this became a recurring theme.
Now, as I understand it, claims for compensation are allowed if you are delayed by more than 1 hour. So far, the latest my journey has Been is 54 minutes. Over any given week however I suspect that delays would be over that.
In normal life, services are more often than not measured by KPI’s with measured service availability of x%. Let’s be generous and call it 95% over a rolling 5-day work week. Then, let’s impose a penalty every time that KPI’S isn’t met such that they have compensate those regular commuters who pay in advance. Such a penalty would be a percentage of the travel card they purchased . Maybe, just maybe the rail companies would look harder at their performances. Of course, the government is there to ‘tell them off’ every now and then and can, and will, fine them for poor performance. I believe that Network Rail are to be fined £24m for 13.7m late trips. Wow, that’s great, but who gets the money? Not the poor travellers who experienced the real consequence of those late trips. And don’t let me get started on the subject of consequential impact. That’s never taken into account. All we hear is a recorded message saying ‘We’re very sorry for the late running of this train, and the inconvenience it may have caused’. Balderdash, words are cheap, unlike the fares.
Every evening, my thought, and that of everybody else is not ‘will the train leave on time’ (they’re pretty good in that department) but ‘how late will it be getting to its destination’. My train is always delayed getting into Reading. Why don’t they just change the frigging time table to reflect the inbuilt delay, expected to last for the next year or two.
On one of these ‘extended’ trips, I heard how one trip from London to Bristol, a distance of 114 miles, took over 6 hours. It wouldn’t have taken much longer if I’d cycled, in fact I can think two young lads at home who could have beaten the train. Maybe that should be a challenge for me. To cycle home one Friday (London to Hungerford, 65 miles). Hmm, it’s doable. Let me mull that one over a while and I’ll come back with a decision at a later date.

OK, I’m going to stop now, I’m rambling already. I’ve said my piece and feel better for it, so:

Byeeeee.

Go Podge, Go

So that was it. The May Bank Holiday has been and gone. This was a Bank Holiday with so much promise, filled with good intentions on my part.
I was going to convert the Colnago Groupset and go for a couple of decent rides. Saturday was to be the day prepping the bike while Sunday was to be the ride days. And so it was that I eventually found myself finishing off some house admin and house chores which was to be followed by The Big Shop (this was delayed pending other errands) and before I knew it, Saturday was over. By the end of the day, all I had changed was one tyre. 😦
Saturday was also blooming cold: so cold in fact that we were driven to lighting the wood burner for the day and evening. I thought May was supposed to be nice!
Sunday came and delivered quite a nice day but promised rain later. I knew I had / wanted to do my bike but I kept looking at the lawns that hadn’t been touched for three weeks, knowing that rain was on its way. I took the honourable route and fired up the lawn mower and set about the grass. It’s only when you start cutting it that you realise just how long it is and how much of it there is. After I had finished, I had a well earned coffee break and recognised that I should give it an hour in what was now a glorious sunny day and give it another cut. So off to the garage to set about my lovely bike.

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If I’ve formatted this right, there should be an image of my bike above. It’s a Colnago Geo Dream with paint job representing a map of Europe.
The bike was previously shod with Spinergy Carbon Wheels but having seen a lovely pair withColnago decals on the rims, and the right colour scheme, I just had to buy them. They had campaign hubs while the bike was kitted with Shimano, hence the plan to change the Groupset. In the end however, I decided to just try to get the wheels running without changing anything else. With some tweaking I seemed to do just that. All I needed to do now was take her out on the road. But first things first, the lawn needed its second cut.
Lawn mower fired up, off I went, to give the lawn a second cut. I have to say, by the time I had finished, the lawn looked magnificent. So magnificent in fact that I took another well earned coffee break (I had previously had another coffee break while doing the bike by the way) sat down down by the river and gazed lovingly at the fruits of my labour.
As I sat there, a strong gust of wind rushed through the trees, blowing grass and leaves signalling a change in the weather so I quickly cleared up, put the bikes away and went back indoors to start preparing Sunday Dinner (it was my turn). And then, the rains came. So, day two of the three day weekend brought no bike ride. Maybe day three will be better.
Monday arrived with all the rain that was promised. How boring. What to do on a wet, rainy bank holiday Monday. Debbie decided to clear the ironing, I decide to make myself scarce and start to tidy the garage. I was well into clearing much rubbish when the rain stopped and clouds cleared and the sun shone. Woo Hoo, maybe I can get out on my bike, or maybe, I can help Debbie I the garden, and maybe, after an hour or two, I can cut the paddock, which is exactly what I did do.
So, by the end of the weekend, all i hade really done was change two wheels, put on a new saddle, tidy the garage (a bit) and cut grass. And, drank much coffee.
Still only three weeks to go and we’ve another bank holiday and then four weeks after that we’re off on our cruise with P&O on the Oceana to help them celebrate their 175th birthday. NICE. 🙂
Come back soon.
Go Podge, Go.

Wot, no power?

Posted: May 7, 2012 in Rant
Tags: , , ,

So, here we all are, watching the street, waiting for the second half go BGT (I know, how sad are we?) when the power goes off. Bugger we all say, and up I get to switch it back on: nothing: bugger I say, it’s a proper power cut. Quick check down the street and yep, no power any where. So, I get the candles fired while Debbie phones the Electricity Company. Oh yes they say, we know: they’re cutting down some branches so they’ve switched the power off (21:30!). Hmm I thought how kind of them to let us know. They did offer to phone us when the power comes back on though. It should be back by 02:00. Passed on the phone update. All went to bed.
Anybody know who went through on BGT?
I’ll have an early night then.
Night night Podge.