Monday, 24 August 2015


And another thing.............!!!!! It is often trivial irritants that make me 'eff and blind' rather more   profusely than the major ones. I suppose this is because many people, even those of influence, wax lyrical about the 'Big Issues' of the day and nobody, other than the likes of me, gets much worked up about the little bits of grit in life's vaseline. Regardless of all my 'constructive' outpourings and 'helpful' letters written to nameless functionaries in order to address such trivia, it stokes my boilers up even more either to get no reply or receive some 'standard' vapid explanation which doesn't even try to address my highly pertinent observations. A case in point, in my travelling mode, is the matter of those interminable blasted announcements we are bombarded with (a speciality of the UK I hasten to add) on the rail and underground networks which are all, it was explained in a rather condescending letter of complete claptrap I received from Transport for London, in the interests of our 'comfort and safety'.

Comfort and safety my arse! In the interest of covering their own arses more likely.  Most of these public announcements, often automated, are unnecessary, irrelevant, patronising, frequently incoherent, sometimes misleading, or just plain wrong. They occasionally overlap whereby none are audible and cause, at their maximum volume and output during peak rush hour periods, a cacophony of sound which only serves to increase the stress amongst an already over-stressed horde of manic commuters. In fact the only people who might possibly benefit from some of these announcements are foreigners, unfamiliar with our system, who make up a sizable proportion of travellers in and around London... but then as they probably don't speak much English, if any, they are unlikely to understand them. Whoopee. Having said that, one sometimes wonders if these announcements are indeed made in English such are the strange and unintelligible 'multi-cultural' accents (including Geordie unless you come from there) of the alien sounding persons making them. It all goes to make travelling, especially on the London Underground during the busy periods, an even more hellish experience. I often have great difficulty in stopping myself screaming at the ceiling: "please shut the f##k up!!"

And now for some examples of the most infuriating blather broadcast to the long-suffering captive platform audience:

How about those nannyish warnings when, in summer, the temperature, unsurprisingly, rises to moderately warm (considered in places like Baghdad to be a tadge on the chilly side) they caution you to make sure you have brought enough water to drink and if you feel unwell to "please contact a member of staff".  As if we are incapable of lasting a journey of less than 30 mins without a constant intake of water. I believe you can live for between 3 and 10 days without water, depending on varying factors.......and that we are considered incapable of deciding for ourselves when we are thirsty. Pathetic. I expect during the colder months they will now announce that we must wrap up warm and wear a scarf to save us from hypothermia. As for contacting a member of staff if you keel over (on evidence, usually affecting those who have had too much to drink) is that possible? Difficult to find one at the best of times let alone when you are semi-comatose. They broadcast warnings of "not to run and take special care as it has been raining and the platform might be slippery" (is that a surprise?) even when the rain stopped hours ago and the surface is now perfectly dry. Perhaps they should also warn us to breathe in and out regularly  to avoid becoming unconscious.

On longer train journeys, usually about 20 minutes after departure, along with the tedious, scripted and unnecessary 'welcome' aboard by some grandiosely entitled functionary (the conductor to you and me) advising you to read the safety instructions (I've never seen any and couldn't care less) you are informed, for example, that "this is the Newcastle train, calling at Peterborough, Doncaster, Darlington, Durham and arriving at....etc". Well it's a bit late to tell you that if you thought you were going to Plymouth or Exeter isn't it? For those incapable of boarding the correct train, perhaps it would make more sense to announce this vital information before departure! Some time following this, just as those passengers lucky enough to have a seat are (relatively) comfortably settled and want to be left in peace to snooze or read the newspaper we are rudely interrupted by Sharon or Tracey, the 'on-board catering manager,' to tell us that "the buffet car is now open for the sale of hot and cold beverages, sandwiches, snacks, crisps, cakes, wines, beer, soft drinks and other delicious delicacies". I mean, what the hell do we expect them to sell........tractor parts, cruise missiles, wellington boots? Anyway, if you are that desperate for sustenance and when you eventually locate this grotty little counter after staggering up and down miles of lurching narrow ailses, squeezing past, or more likely having to retreat from, oncoming passengers precariously balancing paper buckets of hot drinks, tripping over bags and outstretched legs and reach the end of a long queue being served incredibly slowly by a single rather disinterested attendant who has to keep going off to 'heat things up', and inevitably behind some woman with three small yowling children who can't decide what they want, they have inevitably sold out of whatever grossly over-priced comestible you had come for, and then to hear "the buffet car will now be closed for stock-taking". I suppose it passes the time if you haven't got a seat or a book to read and need a bit of exercise.

Then there is the Karaoke Syndrome. You may be aware of this affliction which is demonstrated by offering someone a microphone into which they experience the irresistible urge to talk, shout or sing, however badly or unnecessarily, without drawing breath. Once they start they cannot stop. This is most irritatingly apparent on the London Underground during the busy rush-hour periods when passengers (sorry customers) are at their most stressed and would really appreciate some peace and quiet, or perhaps just soothing background music. Train comes in, doors open, get on, doors close and go. Simple, you would have thought, but no. The platform staff are given radio-mics, plus instructions no doubt to harass the masses, and therefore enter enthusiastically into a non-stop 'bravura' performance telling us what to do, or not do, repeating themselves incessantly, loudly and often in some totally indecipherable dialect. When you can understand what they are saying amid their screaming bossy babble you realise that all of it is  entirely unnecessary.

Even on relatively uncrowded platforms we are regaled by such favourites as  "stand back from the yellow line" and "the next train is approaching" (well, I should jolly well hope so), "let all passengers off before boarding", "move down the carriage to make room"; commands which mostly seem to be stating the bleedin' obvious and only applicable to English speaking lunatics (OK there are a few) but I suspect even more so than everyone else the lunatics don't pay the blindest bit of attention, and anyway one wonders how the system seems to work perfectly well during periods without all these bossy instructions. There are other ridiculous and even more unnecessary 'dicta' to fill in any possibility of a pause in transmission.  One of the most baffling, to me, is the decree "use all available doors" when boarding. I mean, I tend only to use one door, preferably the one with the least number of people queuing at it. I once took them at their word and tried at best speed to 'use all available doors' and managed to get in and out of five before the train moved off, without me. What are they on about?
Then there is the frantic "stand clear of the closing doors, this train is about to depart, stand clear of the doors" repeated ad nauseam before you hear a clear 'beep-beep-beep' sound to indicate, even to non-English speakers and aforementioned lunatics, that the doors are about to close. What a waste of breath, but the minions with the mikes obviously much enjoy their moment of verbal power despite it serving no good purpose and driving the rest of us mad.

The Underground station PA announcements can be no better, unnecessary and just add to the  general mayhem...often blocking out all the other unnecessary announcements. Take that pre-recorded announcement that states, "There is a good service on all London Underground lines".  This statement deserves critical analysis:

1. "good service". Let me be the judge of that. I regard a 'good' service as one that provides a comfortable seat on a regular, frequent, smooth running, uncrowded train with minimum noisy announcements which is never subject to delays while being served complimentary coffee and buns, if not champagne, by a charming and attractive carriage stewardess. What I think they mean is a 'normal service'.

2. "There is". This is not necessarily the case. What the announcement means is that, at the time it was made (possibly several minutes before transmission) there were no reported faults on the lines. At any second subsequent to transmission there could be any number of reasons why the whole system goes tits up, and it frequently does. I have been caught by this......stranded on a platform with trains indefinitely suspended while the PA drones on "there is a good service etc...".

3. "On all London Underground lines". Why bother to point this out? Are they concerned that if they didn't mention it we might think they were referring to the Azerbaijan tram network?

What they mean to say is "At the time this announcement was recorded, five minutes ago, there was a normal service operating. We cannot guarantee that it is now or at any second in future". In fact this announcement is entirely superfluous. Why not just report line closures and delays when they are  actually in force and let us assume the rest are operating 'normally'. Idiots.

I often wonder, due to overload of information, if there were to be a really important announcement to make, such as "please evacuate the station quickly due to a nuclear device imminently about to explode on platform 2" that anyone would bother to listen, or understand, or care.

I could go on but will save you from any further 'announcements' save to say that I am about to embark on a railway journey to Italy which is an 'organised' tour. With the exception of North Korea I haven't been on one of these before. I will keep you posted from 1st September......assuming we make it through the Channel Tunnel.

Chin chin........