Thursday, May 22, 2008


I've barely been in London this week, having been back and forth to Leeds a couple of times. I spent yesterday night in Ripon, which was different, to say the least. Getting dragged by my boss to a night club in Yorkshire on a Wednesday night was a surreal experience - to say nothing of the club itself, which took me back to my unlamented teenage years. I didn't even have any fake ID.

I had an uneventful journey back this afternoon, notable only for my stoicism in the face of the tempting (and expensive) treats on offer on the station concourse, spurning the delights of muffins, cakes and pastries in favour of the two-day old banana I had brough with me in my overnight bag. What a joyless individual I am. Thanks goodness I'm married - I'd be a crap date, probably the type to split the bill.

One thing I did notice in Leeds which I cannot possibly let pass without comment is that they were charging 30p to use the toilets on the main concourse. 30p? That's not even a coin! I have no problem with the principle of charging for the use of the toilets at stations (particularly when one knows that there's a free one on Platform 8) but who on Earth came up with the notion of asking people to fumble in their pockets for two seperate coins? I am willing to bet at least, ooh, 30p, let's say, that the average person does not keep coins of those denominations handy these days. I know I don't. They tried this in London a few years back and it wound me up then. Grrr.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Commuting - A political hot potato

So, Boris won then. Personally I still can't quite believe it. Notwithstanding the polls (or indeed the Poles, who have apparently all gone home, or at least as far as Cambridge) I never really thought that anyone would actually vote for someone who has appeared on national television in a smoking jacket enjoying a cigar with Paul Merton. Apparently it was all to do with crime, the causes of which Boris has pledged to be tough on. But don't believe what you read. Dig a little deeper and you'll see that what has actually happened here is the re-emergence of commuting as a live political issue. It's all about those bendy buses, you know.

Who would have thought that buses would turn out to be such a divisive, not to mention decisive, issue in the London mayoral elections? I don't know much about Boris's policies, if indeed he has any, but I do know that someone told me that he had a mate who'd heard from someone down the pub (I think that was the sequence) that he intends to do away with the bendy buses. London's commuters (the ones that are actually allowed to vote - see last post) have spoken! If only Ken had pinned his hopes on a pledge to sort out the District Line, instead of ploughing ahead with the Labour Party's nihilistic slag-'em-off tactics. If only the stolid, stoical Brian Paddick had come out in favour of shooting cyclists for jumping red lights - that would have split the biker vote in two, quite apart from securing him the support of pedestrians across the city. But, no, only the upper-class buffoon who can't be taken seriously realised the potential political capital to be gained by staking a claim to the commuting high ground.

So, the bendy buses. What's the fuss all about? Well, they're slow, graceless and utterly lacking in charm. One feels like on is taking one's own life in one hands whenever one gets on one, and I promise there are few scarier experiences in contemporary London than standing in the joiny bit in the middle. Civilisations have risen and fallen in the time it takes for them to turn through ninety degrees, and of course they pose a real threat to those intrepid cyclists - and despite my rhetoric, I have no wish to see cyclists wiped out indiscriminately. We all need someone to resent, after all.

Apparently Boris wants to bring back the old Routemaster (those old red buses with the steps at the back and a god-natured conductor bouncing up and down the aisles at traffic lights checking everyone's tickets, or Oyster Cards as it would be these days). Watch out also for the returns of bright red phone boxes, and maybe even the Black Death, as London heads off on a full-blown nostalgia trip. Yikes!