Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Img_0797Oh something quite possibly worse than bugger.

Yeah, suddenly finding oneself talking to potential employers while swaying slightly is not really great. Especially not as I hadn't even been drinking, as I was somewhat aware that the small cluster of Japanese Rice Crackers I'd had when I arrived were technically breakfast. And I'd just humped a few tonnes of completely unnecessary articles across London during evening rushhour; a feat only bearable by heading in vaguely the wrong direction, plus the delightful knowledge that any arrogant sods who insist on causing a very heavily laden me to take avoiding action will soon encounter the curious feature of a man bearing racksacks both fore and aft, which is that while the frontal width may not be much, flow exposed area is vastly increased during any manouerving. I know a traditional broadside involves projectiling the foe, but in this case I found that the truly selfish will cause me to undertake such dramatic collision avoidance procedures that they are exposed to a full broadside, as they plow trollface first into the side of the rear rucksack, and thus recoil under the full weight of the law (well, some the lesser regs) in a daze, stumbling back to ask the nearest person in crosseyed bewilderment, "Where am I? Who am I?", the latter question can then be readily answered with the name now embedded in their face: Douglas Gill.

Although they really should be glad I naturally veer right, otherwise they would end up permenantly branded "Yachts and Yachting" (we're a PBO family, but my brother's occasionally in the results only found in Y&Y, hence the free bag which is better than most boat-show freebies [although, traditionally we repeatedly raid that strip of Southampton repeatedly every year, as the free bags are the perfect size of lever-arch files, and we can remain calmly oblivious to the extortions to buy Yachting Monthly [for those with hair bleached by generations of G&Ting] or Motor Boat [it doesn't have a mast! Not even rowlocks!]. Raymarine fairly recently upped the stakes by producing a fabric bag, so now one sees teachers across southern England carrying the marking in bags extolling the virtues of the world's most expensive bits of grey plastic, which of course not even the year six pupils, adept with every piece of technology, can use. Which reminds me, GPS is very useful though (except when it screws up mid-Channel telling us we are sailing a few hundred miles east of Moscow), as I've just heard news that she who currently is somewhere Atlanticish has been having fun with the sextant and was only sixty nautical miles out on the last reading]).

All of which probably suggests I'm a bit tired. Blame... Canada. Blame things not quite going to plan, blame me not doing stuff I ought, blame my general ineptiness, blame my ability to imaginatively interpret the concept of time (I had to leave by 3, I got the 16.51), basically blame me. Oh, and "Sorry, What Trains?" (other variants include sloth, waste, slow, wait, sluggish, whale, so what, stupid, wanker, sodding, whore, slight, while, some, wimpy and timetable, ticket, transport. SWT is a division of Slowcoach).

You know I've ranted before about the Young Person's Travelcard being unusable on SWT? Because of the minimum ten pound charge, and their curious inability to sell returns (why? becuase "you can't buy a return"). Well, it turns out I'd been unfair to them. Apparently the single fair I'd been paying was the reduced price, because someone tried charging me the full nine-pounds something for a 45-minute journey.

Actually it's not 45 minutes anymore, so I guess if I travel for longer it's only fair I pay more. Except it only takes longer, it's still 37.8 miles as the AA drives, and that's station to station (including dodgy starting directions which will probably take you into a pub car park, and worryingly, the AA claim it's only about ten minutes longer than the train, including driving into Central London. Admittedly, the timings may well represent a normal Christmas Day, or use a secret tunnel under Clapham High Street).

Actually, if I use values for the actual journey, rather than to the nearest zone two station (what, why pay for something twice. I know technically this means I'm supposed to get off at Clapham Junction, walk out down and out of the barriers, come back in on my Oystercard, but I had two heavy bags, it was rush hour and I was liable to beat any reprimanding member of staff to death with some turgid tract on efficiency. Which has a certain aptness, given the inefficiency of a system which requires me to walk half the length of a train, get off, walk half the length of the platform, walk half the length of the tunnel, walk through some beeping bits of metal and plastic, and then turn round and do it in reverse.

And that's assuming I could even get off the train. "Customers for Britain's Busiest Railway Station, please make your way towards the front of the train. Due to short platforms, only customers in the first five coaches of this ten coach train may alight at this station". No, not due to short platforms. Short platforms are those which can only take Annie or Clarabel. Short platforms are not those which reach nearly all the way down a ten coach train. It is not due to short platforms. It is due to poor wiring. It is due to poor design. It is most likely due to cost cutting. Which is why I can sit near the end of the train, wondering who chose the font used on the lettering of the platform painted "mind the gap", while unable to mind that particular gap as I'm about three or four carriages back from the nearest functioning door.

I've ranted before, that's because it's bloody daft. It was mistake, but one which hasn't been fixed. It hasn't even been mitigated, as they still don't bother to mark internally or externally which coach is which. So only if you reached the driver, or have passed through five coaches, can you be fairly certain that you are now far enough forward. Which given the number of obstacles one encounters, including the ubiquitous multipushchaired hoard in first class (who are sitting in first class, and therefore see no reason why the plebs should have right to roam access across their territory, and anyway, the nanny moves the pushchairs, but she's been sent to find the third class carriage), and the many, many futuristic car-crusher doors, whose movement sensors are fooled by lack of movement and so close perpetually on any traffic jam (fortunately the systems seem to have bedded in now, and so enough sensors have failed that the doors are losing their ability to close automatically)). Yes, I did just carry over that closing brackets from three paragraph's ago.

To the terminus it's £10.50, which works out as 27.7 recurring, or 28 pence per mile, or 19.8 pence per scheduled minute (although even when they run on time, this journey still includes admiring the view from somewhere where the sleepers are made by Tarmac, and where the couple behind me got to ponder the "forest of pipes" coming out of the roof of a housing estate). Or 0.71 miles per scheduled minute, which is 42.8 mph. Which doesn't seem to take into account the slow trundles near Woking or the ambivalent coasting from Epsom onwards (or parking a couple of train lengths out of Waterloo).

But then I did the classic thing when the train arrived in The Sticks Station (which apparently will appear in a Cameron Diaz film. Somehow I'm guessing it's not going to be a remake of Brief Encounter), after first sending Slinky signals along the track (I'd forgotten that noise; it's not the same on the Northern Line) of standing like a Londoner waiting for the doors to open. Oh, you push a button. How quaint! (er, I'm not sure how this tallies with my like of proper trains with openable windows and lean-out, twisty-handle, slammable doors).

I think the correct name is ruched. It's that process whereby one makes permanent corrugations in material. Apparently being late, panicking, running, Tubing in rushhour and carrying a bag as a rucksack when it's not designed as such are all excellent ways of engineering telescopic sleeves on a shirt. Between wrist and bicep my right arm has twenty three ridges running across the inside of it. I shall have to wear this shirt more often, so then I can smile freely without having to worry about people noticing the creases round my eyes.

Anyway, I probably ought to apologise for the lack of bloggery (or do I mean bloggage, or just simply blogging?). I found myself over the weekend in a lonely place, far removed from the land of functioning telecommunications. Ok, so one computer refused to consider the internet, and I couldn't find where my parents had hidden the laptop (yes, it was suggested I make use of the comforts [please note the sarcasm] of my parents' house while they were away, oh, and while I was there, would I mind watering the garden [apparently they no longer trust the neighbour to do it]).

So after discovering my back pain was computer related (cunning hiding place, although that might explain the subsequent unhappiness of the drive D, and no, it wasn't under a rock, not even an Innovations Special Key and Fake Russian Spying Scandal rock. I can't tell you where. It'd be like saying where one's PIN numbers are written down, and what the code is, if one were to do such a thing. Bet my mother forgets where she'd put it [and blames me]).

I'd forgotten how swampingly green that place can be (yet the overgrown and overshadowed rear lawn has already taken on the look of the savannah. It could just be overzealous use of weedkiller though [although in my book, all use is overzealous and the rest of the garden suggests my parents aren't really that concerned]. But I think it's just summer, as it's sand, and it normally goes like that; I have a memory of some neighbour complaining to my father one year about the state of the front lawn, as it wasn't the regulation golf course green. I remember wondering why, although photographs of the period suggest that unwatered lawns played upon all summer tend not to have much grass left, much less anything remotely green. But what did he expect with children playing tennis over the flowerbed between two houses, artfully volleying over and round the lupins? I don't know what my father said in response, but he who came to chastise slinked back up the hill to hide behind his pampas grass and net curtains [why move into a house with walls half made of glass if you don't like the concept of transparency?]). And how insect ladenly humid. There must just be a stream of midges falling from the sky, as they suddenly discover their wings make excellent nucleation sites for the saturated air.

Eek, it's somewhat later than I wanted it to be, and I ought to be in bed (having managed to wake at 3 this morning, to notice the distinctly non-black sky, and then not really slept again).

Saturday will have to wait (last Saturday - RA plus parties. I'm not sure what's on this Sat, but it may involve trying to ask someone what the sea is like for hours on end [I think The Altanticess is due back this weekend]).

I'm tired and trying not to type "gtfrdrftgtf" with my temple.


A PS type thing. Man on the train down, on phone, having answered the phone with a traditional "I'm on the train", is in discussion with someone who knows what's he's doing and where he's going, and is in obvious haste to get rid of the person on the other end. The end of the conversation:
"Yeah, but, nu-yeah, you see, oh tunnel, it's going to br... The one by Notacity. The long one. That's it. It's bray k' bye. Goooorsh. [Hangs up]".

Which would have worked fine (ok, I think the onomatopoeia was unnecessary, and most phones don't descend into static anymore, they go for pixelation in the style of late-nineties pop, and I'm not convinced by the timing as the tunnel receded while he confirmed which tunnel it was) if only the automatic announcements hadn't just announced "The next station will be Notacity. Change here for Writing, services via Soot, Geeking, canal link to Ulan Bator and Gatwick Airport. Notacity is the next station".

Which would mean the train from London is north of Notacity. Big tunnel south of Notacity. He big lie. As the person on other end apparently know the route, he heap big trouble.

Anyway, any fool knows that on a train you either have to feign being in the quiet carriage and therefore are culturally obliged to whisper against a background of tuts and have a legitimate excuse for hanging up quickly, or you just suddenly pretend you can't hear the other person (preferably before they get to the awkward question you know they want to ask) and so stop mid sentence, say hello a couple of times, and then say either "how odd" or "rude sod" before hanging up.

That latter technique also works when you're not on a train, and can be combined with quirks of electromagnetic radiation, which means that there's no signal in the kitchen (this was actually the case in my brother's old flat), and so one can say "I'd love to talk" but mention you've just got to go and stir the spaghetti or get the washing out, and so hang up the moment they hear you go through the door.

If they ring back, accept the call, wait for a couple of seconds, say one non-wordish syllable (I find "ni" works well, as it sounds like the middle of some word, suggesting loss of information) and hang up again. They can then imagine your annoyance at not being able to talk, they'll decide to leave it until you've finished cooking before ringing back, by which time they'll have forgotten and so contact has been made without either party having to attempt proper communication.

And of course the kitchen is that heart of the home, and so one can always be going in and out.

The other great part of living in London is the Tube. Simple rules for London living; turn your phone off. If anyone complains, ask when they rang, and explain you were on the Tube. The other advantage of London is that mobile telephony was retrofitted, and so it's patchy and hopelessly inadequate on occasion. Move away from a window and the signal goes. Try to use the phone in the evening anywhere central and the network is busy (regardless of network).

Take full advantage of these features often enough and you can end up with the world emailing you instead. Which just means you can then forget about them all as each day shunts them lower down the page.

This also means that if you find yourself somewhere without functioning internet (or functioning computer), suddenly one becomes incommunicado. And then suddenly you do want people to ring.

[Please forgive the Google foiling name changes. Or in the style of SWT "Do try to forgive…" Instead of requiring people keep possessions with them at all times, we are politely entreated to try to do so].

Hehe, thanks for that advice. I shall bear it in mind if "Mike" from Toucan calls again.
Now Anyhoo, I know how much you like pedantry.

You know I've ranted before about the Young Person's Travelcard being unusable on SWT?
It's called a Young Persons Railcard - and yes, that's right: you do see a complete lack of apostrophes as well.

And the minimum charge doesn't apply on weekends or bank holidays, which would explain why you are sometimes sold discounted tickets and sometimes not. Not to mention the cheap day single being different from the standard day single...
I give very good neck/back massages. Just saying.
Az: Ever heard of TPS?
MQ: Piss' away!
Just be glad I didn't call it the YP's Oystercard. Anyway, it's not the name, it's the obscure and unpredictable nature of the function which annoys me.
Sin: I'm not sure I have a very good neck/back.
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