Weblog entries for February 2003


I read a lot

My journey to work would at first sight appear to be uncomplicated. I get on the Northern Line at Stockwell and travel nine stops north to Angel. I leave the house at roughly the same time every day and should therefore arrive at work at roughly the same time.

Most of my Tube journeys are done on autopilot. I rarely remember passing through many of the stations between home and work, but somehow I always manage to regain consciousness as the train arrives at my destination. I usually read on the Tube, too. I'm a fast reader: on average I read a page per minute. The book I'm reading at the moment is going quickly, though.

At the end of each journey I can guess quite accurately what the time is by knowing the time I got on and how many pages I've read. Yesterday I got to Stockwell at 9:11 and read 34 pages, arriving at Angel at 9:30. This morning I got on at 9:06 and read 55 pages, and eventually made it to Angel at 9:45.

The inconsistency of my journey times is mind-boggling, especially considering the simplicity of my journey. I pity those poor souls who have to wait for connections or travel into major London rail terminals. The faces on the platform at London Bridge every morning look pretty unhappy.

It's not only the Tube. Travelling from Christchurch to Waterloo on Sunday a couple of weeks ago, the journey took two and a half hours, as expected. When I made the same journey last Sunday evening, there were engineering works at Basingstoke. I had to use three trains and a bus, and finally arrived at Clapham Junction over four hours after setting out. (I managed to read an entire book during this journey.)

What conclusions can drawn from this? Avoid this country's rail transport like the plague, for one thing. I'd consider getting a car but driving in London (traffic calming measures notwithstanding) is a nightmare on four wheels. Perhaps a motorbike is the only answer.


Ken's big idea kicks off

The congestion charge started yesterday. Hurrah! I know it's not particularly scientific to analyse a single data point, but what the heck.

It's hard to judge its success, not only because it's half term and the roads are therefore quieter anyway, but also because the only road in the zone I see much of is St John Street and it's never particularly busy (southbound, at least).

The tube wasn't very crowded yesterday either, which was a surprise. I was expecting it to be quite horrific. It always seems to be at its worst on Monday mornings and Friday evenings, although perhaps that's just because my desire to be on it is at its lowest at those times.

Today the tube was pretty bad. The platform displays weren't working and the train was overcrowded, although I did manage to get a seat at Kennington so it definitely wasn't as bad as I've seen it. On very bad days I have to do my sardine impersonation all the way to Angel.

Perhaps they should introduce a congestion charge on the tube.


I'm all dressed up

I've got my timings wrong again. I don't need to leave until about 2:30 but I'm more or less ready now. I'm going to a wedding this afternoon, you see. A shirt is ironed, my shoes are shined, I've trimmed my beard and now I just have to wait an hour until I can suit up and leave.

Simon's parting words to me on Friday night were, ”Have fun at your wedding.” Hilarious! It's not my wedding! It's my second cousin... actually, I'm not sure: the bride's mother is my dad's cousin, so how are we related? Answers to the usual address please.

If I was a selfish person, I might be complaining that this will be the first time this season when I have missed a Fulham home game. Yes, it may only be the FA Cup and yes, it may only be Burnley, but still. I'm sure Dad will be tormenting his car passengers with the radio coverage of the second half. One day I'll manage to attend every game in a season.

Speaking of one day (which I'll be entering in the Most Tenuous Link category in this year's Weblog Awards) the new series of 24 starts tonight and I'm going to miss that too. I'm not too bothered: there are still 23 other episodes for me to figure out what's happening. Yesterday's Times was rather scathing about the first episode too.

Still, I gather Kiefer Sutherland can be seen sporting a beard in it, so it can't be all bad. (And that's my entry for Most Gratuitous Mention Of Beards.)


I Heart Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day when you're single: not great. Valentine's Day when your girlfriend's on the other side of the country: arguably worse.

Still, I don't think either of us gets particularly soppy when we're confronted with giant swathes of gaudy pink monstrosities in every single shop. I'd use the word 'tacky' here, but that would cheapen its stock far too much.

I mean, seriously, come on, does anyone really find the idea of a teddy bear with a ribbon that says 'you and me were meant to be' romantic? If so, please report to your nearest neurosurgeon. You need help.

That's not romance. Romance is getting up at 6am to hand-deliver a card to a girl who lives halfway across town. Or is that foolishness? I forget. :-) Either way, top work, I salute you. You know who you are.

And in answer to the question posed by my secret admirer: you're the one with the giveaway postmark. :-)


I'm late for work

As I said before, life is one long search for weblog content.

This morning it became apparent that I don't need to search for content; wander around London long enough and the content will come to me. Not even wandering is needed: I can just step out of my front door and weird things happen.

This morning there was an Addison Lee car parked outside my house, and the driver waved at me and asked if I'd mind helping push his stalled car off the road.

What felt like an eternity later, we'd managed to get the car round a corner, over a speed bump and narrowly avoided bending the door off with a bollard.

This was all caused by Matthew again going in the bathroom when I wanted to, which meant I was running late anyway. If I'd been out of the house ten minutes earlier, the Addison Lee driver wouldn't have been there, and things could have been completely different.

Mind you, I dread to think what could have happened. Pushing a car off the road is normal by comparison to some of the bizarre things I've encountered on the tube recently.

For example, on Saturday afternoon I was on the Tube on the way home from football, and as we left Sloane Square, a man opposite me said, “Goodbye Chelsea. Goodbye Mr. Clinton.”


They slipped the surly bonds of earth

Although I hadn't seen any news over the weekend, I was still incredibly shocked that I hadn't heard about the loss of Columbia.

Many people more eloquent than I have commented on the tragedy, so I won't say much. These are the best words I found.


You can't beat the tube

Apparently there's another firefighter's strike on. I haven't been near any news source of note since Friday so I had no idea until I got on a tube at Waterloo tonight.

The automatic woman's voice came over the intercom (come on Londoners, say it with me) “The next station is Kennington.” The driver smoothly followed with: “Which is closed due to the firefighter's dispute. This train will not stop at Kennington.”

A minute or so later, we arrived at Kennington and of course we stopped. But then the doors opened. Everyone looked around, rather surprised, but they closed again almost immediately.

Then the train remained in the station with the doors closed for a couple of minutes, before the automatic voice helpfully reminded us that “the train is ready to depart. Please mind the closing doors.”

Bless 'em.

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