May. 20th, 2002 08:40 am


hawkida: (Default)
This morning the train was extremely packed, for some reason. I arrived at the station later than I'd have liked, too. My bike currently has a slow puncture and the front tyre needs reinflating about once a week. Actually, what it really needs is a new inner tube because the valve has something wrong with it that makes it really difficult to attach the bike pump in such a way that will let air into the tyre. I've been meaning to get a decent foot pump to make this whole thing easier but haven't quite found time so the bike is out of action until I remember to set aside an hour to fight with the bicycle pump.

So I walked and arrived in plenty of time for the train, but not enough time to place myself at the front of the crowd waiting to get on. The only options once I got on were to stand or to sit in the smoking carriage.

I should have stood. I have a vaguely sore throat and I stink. I find it quite annoying that so much space is given over to smokers on the train, too. The carriage I was in was approximately 20% full of seated people, the rest of the train was packed. Clearly there isn't much of a call for the smoking carriage so why inconvenience so many other people?

Well, it's not a great start to the week, and this is the first five day week I'll have done in ages (should have been last week, if I'd not been ill) so expect grumpiness.
hawkida: (Default)
So I got the phonecall and left the building after food. I bought a sandwich and juice in Boots and managed all of about three bites of it. However the juice helped the hunger and didn't feel like it was burning through my stomach lining, which is odd because given the relative acidity of a tuna sandwich and a bottle of apple juice I'd have thought the latter more likely to do that.

Then the afternoon was spent in a relatively pleasant journey to Fleet and a hellish rush-hour-hitting return to Peterborough. Every so often I remind myself why I don't do tube trains at rush hour, and today I excelled in finding the hottest day of the year so far (or possibly not but it felt like it) to really drive home the point.

But I'm back now, I have the ear drops to ward off ear pain should it go back to aching instead of just feeling sore, and in less than ten minutes Buffy starts.

I'm having a good year. With the illness and the awful journey I've got good reason to be utterly pissed off right now, but I'm generally pretty happy with life. This is what my ankhs symbolise. Life and enjoyment of life. Even in the face of public transport.

hawkida: (Default)
If you're sitting on a train in a window seat and the person in the aisle seat next to you is reading his newspaper with his nearside elbow periodically prodding you in the ribs, what are you supposed to do? Particularly if you shuffle a bit to nudge his elbow to make it clear he is invading your space and he totally ignores it? Obviously the dark neutral stare doesn't strike fear into quite everybody I encounter.
hawkida: (Default)
I've gone all early birdish.

My alarm goes off at 5.30 and 6am. I get up somewhere in between the two, wash, clean teeth, dress, grab stuff to shove in my bag, eat raisin loaf for breakfast and glug lemonade from the bottle, then get on my bike and go down to the station. I'm leaving the house at 6.30. I arrive at the station around 6.45, lock the bike and get the train.

The GNER trains are lovely. They're quiet and comfortable, it's very easy to sleep on them and they're clean. The train gets to Kings Cross at 7.50 and I get off. I had been walking the stretch down to the office from here, but due to foot and blister related disaster and the discovery of the number 46 bus, I now use public transport. I get into the office well before 8.30 and at 4.30 I get to go home.

This is good because it means if my trains have trouble I still get in at a reasonable time, and if not I leave the building in time to get home at a reasonable time. I'm also forced to do the exercise of travelling two miles per day under my own steam.

I don't find getting up at 5.45 any more difficult than getting up at any other time my alarm goes off. It's the whole have-to-get-up-now aspect that grates and it does that whether I'm getting up at 5am or 10am if I don't have a real choice in the matter. (Not that I remember the last time I was in bed at 10am...)

It's all effort, granted, but it seems to be working out pretty well so far. And soon, thanks to the previously recommended blister-plasters, I shall be able to walk again.

But I'm still not keen to do the distance to the bank or Holland & Barratt at lunchtime, even if it is only 5 minutes away. These things can wait.

Tonight on the journey back I ride in search of the most local convenience store. says there's one just around the corner...
Mar. 18th, 2002 10:16 pm


hawkida: (Default)
Looks like the house purchase is being held up by someone further up the chain. I THOUGHT it was all going a little too smoothly. I may now be looking at 2nd April for the completion - though it may be before that as the guy I'm buying off wants to get his kid into a school in the new area by 1st April and has to be resident there by then. It's just a waiting game for now.

And I made a dumb mistake at the train station. Instead of running onto the 5.36 I thought I'd buy some earphones to replace my current ones as the left one has gone crackly and almost given up. So I missed my train, only to find there were no earphones, only fuck-off-huge big headphones in Dixons at Waterloo. And then, of course, the train I had been waiting for was delayed... I should know this by now. I should know to take the first available train. I could have bought earphones at lunchtime tomorrow - and probably will if I have time after visiting Kinkos to get that fax sorted. I could have saved myself the frustration of staring at those damn departure boards for far too long... Oh well. I'll know better next time. Maybe.
Mar. 4th, 2002 11:17 am

Paying Up

hawkida: (Default)
You don't need to know me for long to realise that I hate the train company I am forced to use in order to get to work - Southwest Trains. They run a shoddy service on run down trains and generally make getting to and from work an unpleasant experience. And then, when you get to Waterloo, they have the audacity to THANK you for using the service - as though there's actually any choice in the matter. They leave it until the last minute to advertise the platforms, causing crushes of people charging across the station. The trains smell musty and unpleasant and I wouldn't be surprised to hear there's an overly high ratio of spores in that air. There are graffiti problems, the seats are broken and slashed, the windows are filthy and many just won't shut. The trains are extremely old stock, with slamming doors that leave a draft. The seats are too small so you're forced up against other passengers. The staff strike regularly in pay disputes causing me to have to travel to the next town along to travel on the reduced service - reduced to the extent that you're lucky to even get a seat. The trains are supposed to take around fifty minutes but they actually take around an hour. There are no announcements while you stand in the freezing rain at Fleet station for a train that should have turned up ten minutes ago. And when the train does arrive, chances are it won't have the advertised number of carriages.

A monthly ticket costs �225. An annual costs �2226. A simple return ticket is just over �18.

While I was in America my train ticket expired. Knowing that I'm moving soon, there was no reason to renew an annual ticket. However, I discovered something interesting. I knew in advance that tickets are rarely checked - when they are checked it comes in flurries - three times in one day, perhaps. Or once a day for a week. But in the meantime you're left alone and not hassled. Many people just don't buy tickets. I know this because when the inspector turns up and asks to see it they buy one. This is infuriating. They aren't meant to be on the train without a ticket - they are supposed to be fined ten pounds and sold a single ticket. But no, what actually happens is they buy the return they should have had, and if they don't get asked to present a ticket they get the journey for free.

So I thought sod it. I could probably go unnoticed for a day or two without a ticket - and I did. Then, a few days on, I encountered the interesting discovery. Despite the fact that the annual ticket I hold has the expiry date stamped accross it in writing larger than anything else on the ticket, if you hold up a season pass the ticket inspector just nods and moves on. I did this four times. Now, the ticket did say "February" so perhaps they just didn't look closely at the number. But four different inspectors were fooled by this, while I sat there, ready with my fake excuses of not having noticed.

But last week the month ticked over into March, which means my ticket becomes more obviously expired and my "didn't notice" excuse appears less valid. So I planned to buy a ticket. I actually have no qualms about getting 10 days or so for free - it's overpriced and the refunds offered for those strike days are a joke. Maybe that's immoral in some people's view, but why the hell should I fund all those other fare dodgers and put up with the crappy service day in, day out? But enough's enough, and I thought I'd buy a short term ticket over the weekend.

Well, the plan to go and buy a weekly ticket failed over when I completely forgot about it. So this morning I got onto the train without a valid ticket again. As we approached Waterloo I thought I'd managed another free ride... until just as we pulled in the inspector/conductor appeared.

I couldn't do it. I couldn't pull out the blatantly expired ticket and wave it at him. Maybe it was because there was more chance of it being noticed, maybe the guilt I tried to bury was kicking in. But I couldn't bring myself to pull out that pass and act confident. "I think I've left my season ticket at home," I lied. And he sold me a ticket, no fine, and told me I could get a refund if I presented it at the ticket office along with my season ticket.

Tonight I buy a weekly. And when I move I say goodbye to Southwest Trains. Can you guess which of these two events I'm actually looking forward to?
hawkida: (Default)
The trains this morning were a joke, once again. It's a non-strike day which means that although there are multiple trains you have bugger all idea when they're likely to turn up. But I've done this rant before and you don't need the details so I'm keeping largely schtum.
hawkida: (Default)
When I tried to get to work this morning I was about halfway through my walk from Waterloo to High Holborn when I hit police cordons.

Roughly two hours earlier, as I brushed my teeth, I noted that the travel news mentioned there was trouble around the Chancery Lane area but didn't think much of it. Travel news is rarely of any use since the blackspots disappear or move given sufficient time, or you hit them just as the radio warns you about them.

The police were saying that it was possible to go right around the area if you went down to Embankment. I wasn't too thrilled by this prospect. However, they were also saying that everything anywhere near Chancery Lane was closed and given that our office is just outside the Chancery Lane tube station I made a call to see if it was open. They'd heard nothing about the cordons at all. Nor about the cause - which the police told us was a suspicious vehicle parked on Chancery Lane.

I imagined that trying to follow the route my bus takes (along Kingsway and onto Holborn) would have me hitting the cordons at the other end of Chancery Lane but with nothing better to do and no idea how to get to work via Embankment, I took the risk. Passing the other end of Chancery Lane I notice one lone policeman on a motorbike looking as though he was about to leave. I figured this meant that the incident was over.

Nope. I later found, after careful use of's usenet archives, that the incident was a man in a van refusing to move and claiming to have explosives in or near his person. There were hundreds of police swarming around the area and had been since 7pm on Thursday night. Despite the Holborn side of the road looking fairly clear at around 9.30am the seige was ongoing and actually finally concluded nearly 24 hours after it began when the police, somehow, arrested the perpetrator. Speculation in the few news articles that did come out suggest that his target was the law courts and he had some grudge.

So why the silence? Hundreds of police on red alert. A large area of the City cordoned off. The potential for a decent sized chunk of the capital city to go boom. You'd think it would make the news, wouldn't you? The news stories that day included a man being imprisoned for the reckless driving that caused a recent train crash and in depth coverage of the funeral of a politician's baby daughter. The live and ongoing story wasn't given a mention on the television or radio. There were brief mentions of "an incident" or "a security alert" causing traffic delays throughout the day during the traffic reports. Burried away in the BBC web site if you knew where to look there was a brief article and a picture. There was talk of an article in the Evening Standard's (local paper for London) web site but someone said it was pulled and when I looked I couldn't find it.

When I came home I watched BBC News 24 until the stories looped. Nary a mention. What's the point of the news being given extended hours when stories that could be reported aren't used? Was there a big cover up going on or was it really not seen as a news-worthy incident? Either way, when you come within feet of the chance being blown up and it doesn't make the news you have to wonder what else doesn't make it out to the public. And there's sod all we can do about it.


hawkida: (Default)
Max Lehmann

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