Thursday, 27 June 2013

It Must Be Thursday: Five Useless Things About Trains

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

Well folks, I'm still without a computer to call my own and as there haven't exactly been people banging down my door saying "Hey Pixie, where are your posts" I've been taking a break until such time as a good idea popped around to my door, let itself in and made me a nice refreshing cup of tea.

My life over the past couple of weeks has mostly involved travelling on trains which has inspired me to create one of my much sought after list of fives that never add up to five.  This time its things on trains that annoy, frustrate, or are down right pointless

#1 Train Announcements
Don't get me wrong here, having an announcement - automated or not - at every station is generally a Good Idea.  What I object to is the train guard coming onto the tannoy five seconds later and telling you what Automated Lady told you five seconds ago, then the Automated Lady coming on again to tell you once more incase you were too stupid to get it the first two times

Enough with the announcements already - once when we are about to leave and once when we are about to arrive is enough.

Although, to be fair, the train announcer who announced the following probably deserves some kind of prize:
"Ladies and gentlemen we would like to apologize for the fact that it's Monday morning.  The problem has been reported to management and we expect it to be resolved in about four and a half hours"

#2  Trying To Sleep
It can't be done.  Firstly because of the endless announcements which seem to be specifically timed to shout at you over the tannoy just as you are dozing off and secondly because of the seats. The train seats are specifically designed so that there is no way to put your head back without suffering some spinal injury, that the wall is too far away to support your head at an angle without the same result and that the window ledge is too thin to rest your arm on to support your head.  Plus if you DO decide to place your bag on your lap, rest your shoulder on the contents and your face on the palm of your hand (resulting in a suspicious looking red mark on your face) you risk the ever-embarrassing headbutt as you nod off into the person sitting next to you

#3 Ticket Booking Sites
If you were too look on the train website you could be easily convinced that every day for the past couple of weeks I have been breaking the laws of physics and performing an impossible journey - BECAUSE NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU LOOK THEY DON'T TELL YOU ABOUT IT.

Usually you will find that the website tells you one, or maybe two, routes which they consider to be the fastest.  They won't necessarily be the most economic or the best one for you and the only way to find these out is via a series of trial and investigations that would leave Sherlock Holmes whimpering in a corner.  Plus the savings are mostly imaginary or only available if you can afford to buy the £12,000,000 ticket that works out a whole 50p cheaper

#4 Too Many First Class Carriages 
Anyone who has ever travelled on a high speed train in England will know the pain of standing in a train corridor for an hour because there are no seats, or be familiar with the smell of wet armpit on the subway.  But what is particularly galling is that all of the people standing could easily sit in relative comfort (well, as comfortable as train seats can be) if they just took one, just ONE, of the totally empty first class compartments and replaced it with another second class one.  Yes, I know that they charge twice as much for the privilege of having half a train to yourself - but simple maths alone should tell you that a full carriage will still earn you more than an empty one at twice the price.

#5 Train Station Prices
There are few places less lovely than a train station forecourt.  They are full of the noise of endless announcements and the smell of desperate people ready to jump over each other to grab one quarter of a seat should the arrivals board ever prove to have more than a passing resemblance to reality.  So what else can they do to make you miserable and take even more money from you: yes, that's right, allow a chain store to move in and sell you expensive chocolate, coffee, cold pastries and wetsuits (if anyone can explain to me why motorway service stations 400 miles away from the nearest puddle and train stations have suddenly started selling scuba gear please let me know)

Of course the smart person walks around the corner to the kiosk outside where everything is priced as per usual, but then rail executives know all too well that a person in a train station is a Person On The Edge, and therefore gullible

#6 Annoying Kids Making Endless Beep Beep Noises with the latest Gadget-o-thon
Don't think I really need  to argue this one very hard, other than to say that I was once an extremely annoying child - and to anyone who met me on what were the permanently broken down trains of my youth when I used to carry my magic tricks around everywhere - I am deeply, deeply sorry.

However, that does NOT excuse the kids that sit with their Nintendo DeeplyStressing machine turned to full volume

Anything I missed, please let me know

Thursday, 6 June 2013

It Must Be Thursday: The High Street We Deserve?

The ongoing saga of a weekly That-Was-The-Week-That-Was posting.
Commenting on things that caught my attention for better or for worse and left me shaking my fist at the sky and shouting "Whyyyy!!!" 
After all: until science brings us a better use for Thursdays - what else is there to do?

I can just about remember shops that specialized.  Little corner shops that would order you something in if they didn't have it, sweet shops that would weigh out a pound of gobstoppers, little electric shops where a chap in a brown overcoat would locate some solder and a 9" screwdriver from a dusty shelf.  Butchers and Bakers who would cut your meat or wrap your loaf of brown bread for you while you waited

There was even a greengrocers shop at the end of the road, next to the hairdresser who looked like Benny Hill.

Now, of course, we live in a fast paced world where we don't seem to have the time or patience to go to specialist shops - we want everything under one roof and we want it cheap and thus the supermarkets are doing a much better job of taking over the high streets than any invading army ever did.

Not that small shops don't exist - they are still out there, but in my view they are missing a trick by failing to offer the personal service that is missing in a big sell-it-all shop.

For instance - at the moment I am looking for a tablet computer, as I will shortly be without the laptop that I have been using to write these blogs with - something that I can use on the move for reading, something that can be used with a keyboard so I can write and something that can store and allow me to play with music apps - but getting clear advice on which one is the one for me is a pain.

Lets take an imaginary shop and call them: PC Supermarket - this is a shop that sells TVs, laptops, fridges, printers, ink cartridges, stereos - but inevitably the staff, as a result, are mostly focused on sales and don't actually know a great deal more about it than you do

So surely there is a gap in the market for the small specialist shop that only sells laptops and tablets where you can go and get proper, informed, advice.  You'd think so, wouldn't you - but the few that I have tried so far are no better than the corporate giants

It's like earlier this year I was looking for some new music equipment - a home recording box to replace my old and battered tape system - but when I went into the local music shop the response was "none of us really do any home recording"

Not the most helpful response and not one designed to inspire confidence in the idea of future custom at that venue

Maybe this is a British thing, but my general experience of small shops is that they are generally run by people who seem to show nothing but disdain for their customers - especially in the face of a question , people who despite living what is presumably their dream job of owning a company that reflects a life-long passion seem to be longing for death and will only grudgingly take your money.  Musicians are particularly bad for this as the moment that you walk into their private guitar show room they stare at you like you are from another planet.

So come on guys - given the opportunity I'd much rather support the small businessman and would cheerfully take my hard earned money to a place that I can rely on - just give me some proper help when I need it

(NB: in the interrim period whilst I obtain a new machine there may be a break from blogging - please bear with me and normal service will be resumed as soon as possible)