Hi! Yes I’m on the coach!!!!!

Hi! I’m good, how are you? Oh yes. Really looking forward to it.

I’m sorry folks, I’m relaying this conversation completely inaccurately. This is what she really said…

HI!!!!! I’M GOOD!!! HOW ARE YOU???? OH YES!!!! REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO IT!!!!

For fuck’s sake woman, you’ve got a mobile telephone handset. Why can’t you use that instead of shouting?

Are you deaf or something?

I said are you deaf or something?

You know that safety announcement that you’ve just listened to? The one that included the line ‘be considerate to other passengers when using your mobile telephone or personal stereo’?

Didn’t you fucking hear it?

No of course you didn’t. Because you were too busy shouting down your telephone.

Some days I hate people, some days I love them. Today isn’t your day.

B.

The Art of Guilt

I am sitting in the mobile fast-food restaurant, we’re currently dodging London village taxis (you’ll understand that they aren’t bound by the normal rules of the road especially in regard to signalling?) and I’m feeling guilty.

The smell of burgers, chips and freshly fried chicken is thick in the air. And fried grease, that too.

Actually, I’m on the coach.

Two lads got on, one with a McDonald’s sack which contained a burger and fries, another with a KFC sack of fried chickien pieces. And fries.

They sat opposite me and started unloading their nosh – which began the whole air-filling-with-the-stench-of-fast-food thing, just as two other lads tried to get on.

They too had similar sacks of food, but the driver’s nose had alerted him to the presence of fast food and, in accordance with the rules he refused to let them on.

The two lads opposite me overheard the exchange, picked up their food and… disappeared upstairs to scoff it.

Should I have said something to them?

Should I have said something to the driver?

I didn’t.

I’ve had a shit of a day full of the bitter, brain-stunningly, disappointments that usually go hand-in-hand with the wheels coming off two of one’s projects because of circumstances entirely beyond one’s control.

If I’d had a word with them it would have just involved hassle, and if I’d told the driver about them it would have just put hassle on his plate. And I just couldn’t be arsed to get my paddle out and start rowing around in seven tenths of shit.

The sun is low and my enthusiasm for any kind of interaction with my fellow carbon-based lifeforms is lower.

So as a result of my inaction I sit here, steeped in the combined and almost equally-balanced stench of second-hand fast food and guilt. The former because of them, the latter because of me. Because I did nothing.

Christ, sometimes I can’t win.

I’m wondering if my inaction puts me on a par with them in the selfish twat stakes.

B.

Broken down again

This morning’s Oxford Tube coach service to London got as far as Shepherd’s Bush before it broke down. Again. The pattern that is clearly forming with regard to the Oxford Tube reliability is at best… not realiable at all.

This is the fourth breakdown (that I’m aware of) in three weeks.

Is this an acceptable rate of attrition?

No, of course it isn’t.

Well done Oxford Tube.

And well done Stagecoach – the organisation behind the service.
B.

Phone call

“Hi. It’s me. Yeah. Fine. You’ll never guess who I saw this morning. Taragon. Taragon Fuller. Yeah. She saw me she knew it was me but she just ignored me.”

(at this point I may accidentally have vocalised ‘there’s probably a reason for that luv’ which made the guy sitting opposite smirk)

So I shut the chavvy little girl out; I plugged in my iPod, switched on and cranked up the volume to drown out the rest of the conversation. I looked around the coach. It was plain that other people wished they had a similar retreat from this aural onslaught.

If this girl makes it to her 17th birthday in one piece it will only be because someone teaches her how to conduct a telephone conversation in the correct tones.

B.

Fishing from an Oxford Tube bus?

To fish

A well-established phrase meaning to entice, through means of bait, an object to a position where it may be captured.

People fish for sport.

The public is supposed to be protected from corporates who fish.

Unfortunately Oxford Bus are a corporate fisher. They are guilty of preying on a public who appear to be unprotected. Appear to be unprotected because there are no signs of corporate governance on the part of Oxford Tube.

Let me explain…

This morning I arrived at the Oxford Park and Ride at 05.33

I’d obviously just missed a bus to London, but that didn’t bother me because Oxford Tube advertise a service, at that time of the day, that runs every 12 minutes.

So I waited for twelve minutes.

Twelve minutes came. And went. 05.45.

And then another twelve minutes came. And went. 05.57.

And then…

Another twelve minutes came. And went. 06.09.

The yellow-jacketed ticket dispatcher-guy came out of the waiting room, made some radio calls and received a phone call (good grief, his mobile phone ring tone is the Rocky theme! I wondered if that is a euphemism for the kind of service we should expect from Oxford Tube?) and gave us the news.

‘He’s broken down and had to go and get another bus from the depot’.

Yeah right. And we’re all so completely gullible that we actually believe that one guy is capable of driving three buses at the same time. Or you think we can’t add up. Come on, pull the other one.

Now I know that the Oxford Tube timetable says that the actual times are dependent on traffic conditions – which is fair enough really.

But are we really expected to believe that between 05.33 and 06.09 the traffic is so severe that all of these buses have been caught in a massive snarl up?

See my earlier comment about gullibility.

Anyway, when the bus did turn up it was 06.14 which, anyone with a degree of common sense would have to agree, is waaaay outside the ‘every 12 minutes’ service that Oxford Tube advertise at that time of the day.

So we (we being a very long line of people in various stages of unhappiness) piled on the coach and off we set.

We got as far as the next stop – about ten minutes away – which is where the bus broke down.

Now look guys and girls, the yellow-jacketed dispatcher guy at the park and ride told us that the first bus was late because it had broken down, right?

And now this bus breaks down too?

Is there an issue with maintenance here?

Shouldn’t you mention this on your adverts, so that your fare-paying passengers become aware that there is a massive reliability issue with the buses?

I only mention this because last night another of your buses broke down; we picked up those travellers from the roadside just outside Hillingdon.

So that’s three breakdowns in less than 12 hours. Sounds like a reliability issue to me.

So hey, Oxford Tube guys and girls, there’s still a taste of you in my mouth. And it’s not good.

What are you going to do about it?

And what are you going to do about raising your service delivery to the levels that you claim you have?

And while we’re asking key questions, what are you going to do about the maintenance issue you obviously have as well?

Well, we’ll see what a little truthful wordage via this post does for a start.

Oh, and by the way, if you advertise that you have WiFi on all of your coaches and it actually only works on two buses out of three, that’s an advertising untruth which, I believe, is illegal.

Who owns Oxford Tube?

Gosh, it’s Stagecoach. That’s worth noting for the future.

But on the positive side folks, your driving staff have been exemplary on every occasion (if totally embarrassed on behalf of their employers at the corporate inability to give them a tool fit for the purpose of moving people from A to B on time).

B.

Not a morning person

I’m guessing a certain amount of stuff here but one thing is for certain. She is not a morning person. Or maybe she is and this is her best feature. In which case… Be afraid, be very afraid.

The coach this morning is full.

The seats at the two tables on the lower deck were full-ish; two people seated at each table.

But – and I soooo hate this – the woman who was sitting in the window seat at one table had occupied the seat next to her. With her luggage – a rucksack sort of thing. Or maybe it was a very large handbag.

Kind of attractive in a mid-30s and knows it way but a definite steely ‘don’t fuck with me’ air about her.

You know the sort of person.

Had a completely successful sense of humour bypass at birth.

So I asked her to move her stuff so I could sit down.

Know what she did?

She pointed to a vacant seat at the other table, and said I could sit there instead.

Ha.

I guess I could have told her to eat shit and die but the truth is I laughed and did as she asked.

And the coach filled up behind as more people got on.

Until the person five behind me in the queue asked the Divine Ms Grump to move her stuff so that she could sit down.

This time the coach was full and she had no option.

So.

Every now and then I catch her eye – The Divine Ms Grump.

And I smile at her; actually it’s pretty much a slightly restrained full-on laugh.

Know what?

She doesn’t return the smile.

In fact she still looks as though (as Soph would say) she has a face like a slapped arse.

I really hope she isn’t a morning person and that this really is not the best side of her personality!
B.

Chiltern Ramblings: 02

This week I’d like to introduce you to David *yr*. Dave, for short.

Unfortunately I encountered Dave on Friday’s train from London Marylebone to Warwick Parkway.

I sat in a four-seat arrangement – facing rearwards.

Dave sat opposite me.

I disliked him instantly.

The way he worked very hard to spread himself out; sitting sideways, legs in the floorspace of the seat next to him.

That wasn’t good.

The way he’d strategically positioned his laptop on the table so that it took up more than its fair share of space.

That wasn’t good either.

But the way he spent almost the entire journey on the phone?

That was really, seriously not good.

In fact Dave, for that crime alone I’m so tempted to publish your full name, your employer and your home address.

Because I’m eagle-eyed Dave.

And it’s because I am eagle-eyed that I know your name is David *yr*, and your address is T*mpl* B*rn, Br**ght*n Gr**n, Droitwich and your employer is J*hns*n & J*hns*n F*n*nc* Ltd.

I know something more about you too Dave.

I know that you are a CUNT.

Yes indeed, you are one of Chiltern’s Unbelievably Nasty Travellers.

You win this award not for your selfish positioning of your body in the seat.

Or for your selfish positioning of your laptop.

No Dave, you win this award because you spend almost the entire fucking journey on the phone.

Why does this cause me such a problem?

Because we were in a silent carriage Dave.

No mobile phones, no music to be played aloud.

There were signs that said no mobile phones on every window Dave.

You seemed – for the first half of the journey – to be completely unaware of these notices.

Eventually though, somewhere around Bicester North, you realised that you shouldn’t have been sitting in your seat in a silent carriage taking part in more telephone conversations than the north London telephone exchange.

So what did you do about it?

You got up off your big fat arse and stood in the dividing space between half of one silent carriage and the other half of the same silent carriage and continued with the flow of telephone conversations.

Twat.

Not content with inflicting your tiresomely boring droning voice on one half of a silent carriage, you then inflicted yourself on both halves.

I was going to ask if you are this inconsiderate at home but I’m not going to.

I think I know the answer.

Do you know what made it worse?

I’ll tell you.

You made things even worse for the rest of us when you started wandering from the dividing space up and down the corridor in my half of the silent carriage.

CUNT.

Anway, the train eventually rolled in to Warwick Parkway and you got off.

So did I.

You drove out of the car park ahead of me but I caught up with you on the dual-carriageway because my lane discipline is better than yours.

And on the M42, we drove fairly close together.

By the way Dave, your cuntishness isn’t confined to your behaviour on public transport.

You also drive like a CUNT.

At least now I know what kind of car a CUNT drives.

Which reminds me.

Now I can add your car registration number to the list of information I know about you.

Anyway Dave, you are now a fully-paid-up member of CUNT – Chiltern’s Unbelievably Nasty Travellers.

Enjoy.

B.

Road (train) trip – the second Monday

Yes, the medication is obviously working and I’ve been allowed out of the office again.

Today I went off to play with some nice grown-ups in Liverpool. As opposed (he added hastily) to the nice grown-ups I normally get to play with in Wiltshire.

Phew, that was close. Think I got away with it though.

And it meant being on the train again which was brilliant; though strangely, neither the 2+ hour journey northwards from Birmingham New Street nor the return were on an InterCity train.

On both occasions it was a ‘sprinter’ sort of thing.

Look, no-one else cares B, let alone knows what you’re on about. Just get on with it, eh?

The day broke down in to neat little segments:

Waking up:
Not normally a thing worth wittering about. But this morning my trusty 05.15 alarm didn’t do its stuff.

Probably because – for some inexplicable reason – it was switched off.

I blame aliens.

Anyway, a mad dash around the house resulted and I was still on the platform on time.

And noticed a friendly face walking towards me – a guy I worked for on my first contract as an independent consultant.

I didn’t know you lived here!

Not a brilliant start by me, but at that moment I was desperately ferreting around in the corners of my brain for his name and where on earth I knew him from!

Know how that is?

Just can’t place the face – so many to choose from?

So we had a chat and a catch-up on the way in to Birmingham which was nice.

The on-going train from New Street – as you may have gathered – surprised me, but I’ll let that slide.

It was a fantastic morning; one of those Spring/Autumn classics – blue skies, not a cloud in sight, slightly frosty start.

Our second stop was in Wolverhampton (the first being one of those nameless, faceless stations lost in the Birmingham urban sprawl).

Wolverhampton – many canals!

Which, incidentally (despite the towpaths being built for horses to walk on to pull barges), horses are not allowed to be ridden on!

Even today though, I could take a horse on a towpath if it were pulling a barge; but not ride one or lead one in-hand if it weren’t pulling a barge.

And not just those of Wolverhampton, this rule applies to every canal side towpath.

Much madness.

Third stop was Penkridge which, from my seat, seemed to be a very small station in the middle of a series of fields. Very pretty.

Then Stafford, which looked like Allotment City.

Crewe, frankly, looks as though it’s been plonked down in the middle of some of the prettiest countryside that England has to offer; many half-timbered countryside residences in evidence on the outskirts of the place.

Winsford, low-lying countryside showing much evidence of flooding but looking very green.

Hartford, very beautiful but I can’t help wondering how they got that commercial airliner to just hang in the sky like that.

Acton Bridge, much prettiness, very green and rural, a real ‘green and pleasant land’ postcard kind of place.

Runcorn, didn’t see much of the place because the railway runs in and out through a deep cutting but the town looks nice from the train. Fantastic views over the river estuary on the way out – and the design of the bridge that carries the railway is brilliant!

Liverpool South Parkway is prefaced with a large industrial area that contains the Jaguar factory (I’ll have one if you’ve any spare on the production line!). This is the started of the Liverpool urban sprawl; light industrial/small factory units and some late Victorian terraced, red-brick houses.

Liverpool Lime Street, the most striking markers are the towers to the city’s two cathedrals standing head and shoulders about the city skyline. There are other tall structures but I don’t know what they are.

As the train pulled to a halt in Lime Street the girl/woman/female opposite me got to her feet and pulled her The Beatles, Rubber Soul handbag over her shoulder.

She was probably born twenty-five years after that album was pressed!

The train journey was pleasant – but the lack of 13amp socket was a bit of a bummer.

Also the steward on the refreshments trolley; his scouse accent was so thick it was impenetrable.

The cab I got in was called Lady Madonna and had a sign down the side saying I should ask the driver about taking The Beatles Liverpool Tour.

Sadly I didn’t, I had a meeting to get to.

And so the face-to-face portion of the day began; on the way up I’d read a 64-page software manual, transcribed four pages of notes in to English from the peculiar type of hieroglyph that is my hurried scrawl and written half a page of observational notes which have become what you’ve just read.

Not bad considering I got to the meeting venue at 09.15.

At the end of the day I got back to Liverpool Lime Street, waited 45 minutes for a return train home and, when it arrived, got on, installed my iPod and listened/dozed back down to Birmingham.

The only sour note was the toilet at Birmingham New Street.

For crying out loud people – you charged me 20p to pee in a building site!

Not acceptable.

I realise that major work needs to be done from time to time but when total devastation occurs, can’t you see some reasonableness and stop charging people?

B.

A big day out

OMG there’s a guy over there – a student – whose ring tone is ‘Jerusalem’. But not in a good way, I mean in a cheesily cheesy Casio kind of way.

So this morning’s train journey – look, you’ll have to forgive me, I get easily excited by new stuff. And old stuff excites me too, if I haven’t encountered it for a while.

I arrived at my local train station with two minutes to spare, my face glowingly pinkly from the cold, breath steaming on the air, my laptop bag clasped firmly, iPod giving me an episode of No Agenda, feeling much like a ‘new boy’ having his first day at school.

Has it really been so long since I took a work journey by train from my local station?

Yes. Because the train operators have issues carrying passengers where they want to go.

The train arrived bang on time.

And the train was full.

Actually that’s not accurate.

The train was over-full.

If there are no vacant seats and people are forced to not only stand in both ends of the carriages, they also have to queue down the length of each carriage, the train is over-full.

Hmmm…
Isn’t that a health and safety violation? Don’t I remember reading that after one particularly awful train crash, the train operators were told that the number of fatalities and injuries was so high because people were forced to stand in lines through the carriages?

Anyway.

I handed over less than £10 for a return journey – which isn’t bad – but I have to stand all the way there – not good.

The standing meant that the conductor gave up trying to collect fares when he looked at how many people were crammed in to the next carriage.

We arrived at the destination – three minutes late but I’m not complaining about that.

Four minutes walk later I arrived at my destination.

How cool is this?

Yes, I did ask you to forgive me for being simple. Perhaps Soph’s right. Perhaps I am a bit simple…

Yeah, and you so don’t need to comment on that last bit. 🙂

We’re on a break right now – looking forward to lunch though – but this morning has been very interesting.

Today I like people.

Except for that student over there with the cheesy Casio ring tone.

I hope he falls on his mobile and accidentally breaks it.

Evil cackle

B.

Road (train) trip – the first Monday

Tomorrow I shall be leaving my fellow motorists unscared as I swap my driving gloves (not really) for a return rail ticket from Bromsgrove to Birmingham.

Yes, I’m exchanging my home collective of scientific bods for an away fixture.

The best thing about this is that I’m able to do this journey on a strange metaphysical construct some people have chosen to label as…

Public Transport (duh, duh, duuuuuuh!).

I shall leave the house, walk the five minutes to the train station and (presuming the train turns up) hop aboard where I’ll join the cheery throng of Monday morning commuters.

Fully equipped with my 21st Century weaponry (iPod and laptop) I’ll take my seat and will be swiftly conveyed through the countryside towards the hustling conurbation that is the City of Birmingham.

I’m sad.

I’m sad because I’m actually looking forward to having the opportunity to travel on the train – but only because my normal five-days-a-week trip is (according to the train operators) a journey that no-one (wants?) should be able to make.

Bless.

Next Monday I get to take another train. Couple of trains. Destination Liverpool.

But for tomorrow, Birmingham is enough.

Today Birmingham.

Tomorrow the world!

exits stage left cackling evilly…

B.