In Which Disgruntled Commuter makes a Brief Comeback

October 21, 2008

I was doing all right in London, until they hit me with the replacement bus service. I had regained my London legs: walking at warp speed, crossing the road more or less at random, slapping my oyster card casually down on the reader with insouciant ease. I have, somewhere, mislaid my chugger blinkers, but I think I’ve escaped more or less unscathed from the attentions of the cheerfully-clipboarded young people who kept flinging themselves in my path. I managed not to stop, stare, and loudly exclaim at the dirt, the prices, the traffic, or the casual litter-flinging habits of its inhabitants. I didn’t even get mown down by any bikes. And then I was heading back to Palmer’s Green last night, one G&T and one beer to the good, feeling rather proud that I’d remembered (this time) about the Victoria Line being closed after 10pm. At Finsbury Park I was advised to change at Ally Pally. On the way to Ally Pally it was broken to us that we would be changing onto a bus. Aargh.

The problem with replacement bus services – oh, okay, ONE of the problems with replacement bus service – is that there’s never any information on the ground. I mean, they’ve gone to the effort of planning some engineering works, and finding a bus, and a driver, and all of that, and it never occurs to anyone to put up some helpful signs. Like ‘Replacement Bus Service this way.’  Or a timetable. What we found when we got off at Alexandra Palace was a gnomic arrow that pointed us up the road to the left. This led us to a bus stop, complete with a bus (hurrah!) with a rail replacement sign in the window (double hurrah!) and a man in yellow, who told us to cross the road and go and wait at the other bus stop, off to the right. There we stood for the next ten minutes in the drizzle staring very hard at the man in yellow and his bus, trying to will him to come and pick us up. Eventually, he got out of his bus and ambled over.

‘We’re just looking for the bus,’ he explained. ‘Then we’ll run the service.’

‘It’s behind you,’ we said. But, as he explained, this wasn’t our bus. This was the spare bus. We couldn’t get on this bus, because then there wouldn’t be a spare bus and if that bus broke down then there wouldn’t be another one. When the other bus came, we could then get on the spare bus, as there would then be another spare. But not before.

We failed to see the logic of this. But then, we weren’t the ones wearing yellow, and there weren’t enough of us to overpower him and storm the spare bus, which had anyway remained at a safe distance, so we stood there chuntering in the rain until yesterday turned over into today, and the spare spare bus arrived and we could get on our way.

There have been times in the past six months, I have to admit, when I have wondered what exactly I’m doing up here and whether we were mad to come. Last night/this morning was not one of them…

Safely back, thank God.


A Weasel is Weasily Recognised*

October 18, 2008

Well, well, well, you learn something new every day. As I was riding down to the garage this morning for the paper just for a change, a long thin scuttling beastie crossed my path. I assumed it was a weasel just because I’ve always called those little scurrying things weasels, stoats seeming somewhat out of my league. But having looked it up on t’internet, it turns out that the black tip to the tail – plus the fact that it was big enough for me to think it was a squirrel at first glance – marks it out as a stoat. A nice addition to my list of positively identified wildlife I’ve seen from my bike. Not only that but a kestrel took the chance to show itself off in a sudden patch of sunshine, gliding and darting through a field of indifferent sheep. Throw in a wren, darting across at ankle-height on furiously flapping stubby little wings, and the top of a telegraph pole that suddenly transformed itself into a buzzard and flew heavily away, and the fact that I came back with a paper at all seems like a bonus, rather than the whole point of the ride. (The roadkill total was also enhanced to the tune of one dead badger, but let’s not dwell on that one).

*Whereas a stoat is stotally different

We’ll Weather the Weather Whatever the Weather

October 17, 2008

I find I’m using different words these days to talk about the weather. No, I’m not getting all colloquial, yet, although I like the use of ‘mucky’ to describe a particularly wet day, just lowering my expectations somewhat as to what constitutes a decent sort of a day.

So here’s your handy cut-out-and-keep guide to the new weather, new-speak style:

Not too bad – it stopped raining occasionally
Fine – it stopped raining when I wanted to go outside
Nice – it stopped raining long enough to put out laundry
Really nice – it even stayed stopped long enough to dry it
Lovely – the sun came out
Gorgeousand the rain stopped at the same time
Glorious – it didn’t rain at all, the sun came out, the wind dropped, and the one small blot on the horizon was that the herd of flying pigs passing overhead crapped on the laundry before we could get it in.

A similar re-calibration by financial journalists to describe the mood in the markets might come in handy, no? That way they won’t run out of superlatives by Christmas.

Baby it’s Cold Inside

October 16, 2008

We thought there had been a disaster this morning. We woke up to find the Rayburn stone cold, our only means of cooking transformed into a useless lump of iron. It had had a bit of a hiccup on Saturday, but had still been, just, alight, and it had returned to normal when we turned the oil up. Today, though, it was completely out. The other half lit it and it has come back up to temperature but this will have to serve as a Dire Warning: we need to provide ourselves with a backup. Of course, this is exactly what we said after it gave us trouble in May, and what we said on Saturday too, and at intervals in between, normally when it’s making a strange chugging noise or otherwise causing concern. But then it rights itself, and the matter becomes less pressing, and we don’t. Besides, what can we get? I’m not buying a whole cooker just for the few days when the Rayburn’s playing up. I’m leaning towards an electric frying pan at the moment, if such a thing can still be found. It was amazing what we could cook on mine back when I was a student.

Or maybe we’ll just talk about it for a while and then forget about it till the next time. That wouldn’t surprise me in the least…

Confused? You will be

October 15, 2008

Rashly, I’m planning a trip to London next week. Suicidally, I’m trying to travel down on Sunday – despite the edict of the Wee Frees that run Network Rail that None Shall Travel by train on the Sabbath (that is the reason, right?). Amazingly, it seems that I can still get a direct train from Carlisle to London because there’s a National Express from Aberdeen to Kings Cross which has decided to take the scenic route (I’m not sure I entirely believe in this train but the internet says it exists so it must be so). So far so normal in our land of the ‘integrated transport system’. But here’s where it gets wierd. If I try and book from Big Town to London, I can’t get the cheapie* Advance fare. If I try and book from Big Town to Palmer’s Green via London, I can. Exact same train, exact same time, but getting off it and then getting another train: 89 quid. Exact same train, exact same time but NOT going onto another train: 155 quid. Eh?

Now of course, I’m wondering how much cheaper it would have been if I’d tried to go even further. And if they escort you to your destination to make sure you really do get on that final train …

*i.e. just the one arm and leg

Us and Them

October 13, 2008

Coming back from a hard day’s footpath clearing today – after several hours doing battle with the skin-tearing, hair-tangling three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that is the gorse bush – we encountered two walkers. ‘Oh,’ said the female half of the couple, spotting our implements of destruction. ‘Oh good, I’m glad someone’s doing something about it. I was just saying we should …’ I smiled politely, ready to direct her to the guy from the council who would happily provide her with the opportunity to join us on the next task. ‘Email somebody and tell them they should do something about it,’ she went on.

See, all this time I’ve been thinking that I was one of ‘us’. Only now do I discover that actually I am one of them, the great they that gets things done, or doesn’t, depending on whether a public-spirited citizen has emailed to remind them. Still, at least that makes me a somebody after all these years. Next up: what they, sorry, I, should do about the credit crunch…

More Bus Mysteries

October 9, 2008

Why is it, that with just five buses from Big Town to Nearest Village a day, they start at four different locations? Are they trying to shake us off?

And why is it that even if I get the bus from its supposed starting point, there’s always another passenger already on board? Is there a secret bus terminus we incomers are not to know about? Or is riding the bus back and forth on your free pensioner bus pass the way to keep warm?

Come back TfL, all is forgiven. Still, at least I’m guaranteed a seat.