Monday, 22 November 2010

Sick joke...

This morning I was already in a negative mindset insofar that it was raining, my bus was late and when it did arrive it was packed requiring me to stand precariously holding my bag and soggy umbrella whilst trying (and failing spectacularly) to maintain some level of balance in a dignified fashion!  This late arrival unsettled my routine (I get great comfort from habitual organisation) and so I was far from pleased to be greeted upon my arrival at the train platform with the sight of one of the NHS Crew vomiting on the station platform.

Whilst it is unfortunate that he was feeling unwell (though admirable that he soldiered on and was heading to work) I found the whole episode entirely unacceptable!  To set the scene, he was sat on a bench, in close proximity to the station toilets, sipping a hot beverage and perusing a copy of the day’s free newspaper – when seemingly out of nowhere, he projects what I can only assume was his breakfast (given its undigested state) mixed with presumably the contents of his hot beverage across the station platform.  Without batting an eyelid, he nonchalantly took another swig from his drink and continued to read the paper leaving a mixed state of anger, concern and pity for those around.

Call me old fashioned but at least some level of embarrassment on his part was called for!  If not for being an adult allowing themselves to vomit in a very public place (presumably able to judge whether they feel unwell or not and able to seek the refuge of the lavatory readily on hand), then certainly for getting said vomit on the shoes, bags, coats and trouser legs of those around.  His total lack of acknowledgement for what had just occurred was simply astonishing!  Another of the NHS Crew saw fit to bundle him off to the toilet (presumably to at least ensure he had finished and rinse his mouth thoroughly before boarding the train) and had the good grace to look sheepish on behalf of his friend.

The ensuing commotion from those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the splatters ensured that I was unable to get my usual prime platform position when the train arrived, resulting in a rear facing squashed journey in to the office this morning.

Needless to say, not the best start to my week and I hope it isn’t a sign of things to come…

Friday, 19 November 2010

Attack of the clones…

Not of the Star Wars variety, but in this instance of the Vidal Sassoon hairdressers (or ‘Stylist’, ‘Technician’ or some such!).  Having boarded the train on my way to work, pleased with the fact that the train was running on time, I sat down at a table only to be trapped moments later by a hoard of Vidal Sassoon workers struggling with numerous Vidal Sassoon bags and vanity cases. 

Whilst they settled in for the journey (tipping drinks over the table as their bags toppled, searching for lost tickets (only having to buy more as they couldn’t subsequently locate two), storing their vanity cases in the luggage storage area and setting out their magazines, make up bags and iPhone 4s across the whole table) I was overcome by the clone like nature of their party.  Despite the visual similarity of all young, slim, donning varied versions of trendy outfits (all black of course) and sporting hairstyles all of a similar ilk (coloured within an inch of its life and coiffured into seemingly gravity defying styles), their actions, squeals and mannerisms were worryingly identical.  Is the Sassoon Academy Education akin to some form of Stepford (Wives) institution?!

It transpired that they were off to undertake some show in Hull (who would have thought Hullensians were at all astute in the ways of follicular fashion?) and were busy going over their proposals for the 3 models sitting away in the neighbouring carriage.  Terms such as Tecktonik hair styling and kinetic cutting techniques (for the benefit of those as confused as me: tecktonik and kinetic) were bandied about and it made me somewhat aware of quite how old and stuck in my ways I am becoming!  Claims were made at how developed and scientific hair cuts and styling are and how really, the whole practice is increasingly academic. 

I like to think that my barnet is somewhat vaguely de rigueur but I am at a loss as to why hairdressing is aiming towards becoming a science in its own right.  Granted it is a skill and I accept it requires an aesthetic eye but scientific?  Of course, I didn’t want to burst their bubble, particularly given how excitable they were.  After all, certainly a change from the normal passenger on the early commute…

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Ready and waiting...

As touched upon briefly in my earlier post The Poet and the Noisy Eater... a regular issue I have with my homeward journey is the wait on the station platform.  My embarking station is the beginning/end of the line so when the inbound service terminates the train remains idle on the platform for a period of at least 20 minutes.  This not only serves to exacerbate my frustrations with the fact that the service is hourly, but also results in a mad scramble when the doors are finally opened to the impatient hoards.     

The powers that be have decided that it is beneficial to all involved that passengers be made to remain on the platform (invariably in the cold) rather than boarding at their convenience apparently under the ruse that they are cleaning and preparing the train (such preparations invisible to the naked eye!).  What aggravates the matter further is that invariably the driver is merrily sitting in their compartment sipping coffee and reading a newspaper totally blasé to the plight of the ever increasing masses outside his window.  The one saving grace is that fortunately the platforms are covered so passengers are at least protected from the rain.  However, the simple open nature of a station platform and the absence of heating ensures that temperatures are usually towards freezing and the prospect of a regular wait in the coming colder months is hardly top of my wish list.

Given the train’s engine is usually running and the presence of the ever watchful eye of the CCTV cameras in the carriages, it does seem odd that passengers are not permitted to board.  Perhaps it is all part of some clever ruse to make the customer more grateful of the train’s limited comfort and therein their journey, irrespective of whether it is running on time.  However, I tend to think disgruntled train staff enjoy a sadistic kick watching bemoaning passengers shivering outside on the platform whilst they enjoy 20 minutes peace and quiet tucked away in their warm cabin!

A slight element of comedy arose recently whereby a rather disgruntled gentleman approached me to ask why the doors were locked and passengers were not boarding.  I advised him that this is all quite usual and the doors were not usually opened until a few minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.  This failed to appease him and despite the fact that I am relatively confident that my usual business attire isn’t akin to a train driver/conductor/platform assistant, he was certain that I was wholly responsible for the delay and felt it necessary to vent his frustration at me for a further 15 minutes!

Perhaps I should time my arrival later to limit the time spent waiting – but then I wouldn’t be secure in the knowledge that I was towards the front of the queue ready to scramble upon the train like a scavenging vulture the minute the door light comes on…

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Breaking from tradition…

Well I am not too sure that I can realistically refer to ‘tradition’ just yet given the relative infancy of my creation but nonetheless, this is certainly a move away from the intended spirit of my blog.

I always feel a little awkward and uncomfortable (for want of a better description) around people begging or frantically shaking charity collection pots in my face as I feel somewhat put on the spot, particularly when in close proximity to ATMs or queues in general.  In the typical instance that I don’t have any spare change, or even any money at all about my person, I am left feeling mean and uncaring which I find a little unjustified.  Although I am selective with my charity, reserving it for what I deem worthy causes or for those begging who make a bit of an effort (be it genuine pleasantry to passers by, selling the big issue, singing or even just refraining from throwing curses and insults at those who decline assistance or don’t give enough) but I wouldn’t consider myself miserly or cold hearted. 

Whilst I don’t expect those in need of a little help to behave akin to a performing monkey, nor be overly grateful for any assistance given, I do appreciate some minor recognition that, for the vast majority of society, every penny in a persons pocket has been worked for and usually isn’t in abundance (especially in the current austerity).  I accept that thankfully I am fortunate enough to never have been in the position where I have had to resort to appealing for financial assistance from anyone (other than a bank or my parents) so I acknowledge that I am not particularly representative of the collective that I am passing judgment on.  Nonetheless, surely it makes sense to make those who you wish to give money to you relaxed, comfortable and willing?  So, particularly in reference to disgruntled recipients of spare change (where they themselves consider the amount given is insultingly small), every penny counts and by berating the giver for what you deem an offensively small pittance, just puts people off giving anything at all in fear of reprisal?

Anyway, back to the actual premise of today’s blog - as those in good old Blighty will be all too aware, the temperature has dipped quite considerably this past week and with the nights drawing in increasingly early (NB – daylight saving this weekend) standing around outside of an evening is hardly an enjoyable experience.  So whilst I had a mix of pity and rage (for reasons aforementioned) with regard to the homeless person camped out at the bus stop on my way home, I did feel inclined to give the chap a quid in the hope that it would at least get him a warm drink.  However, what happened next made me feel all warm and fuzzy (and more than a little meagre in comparison) – a young bloke cycled past and came to an abrupt stop, resting his bicycle up against some nearby hoarding.  He then trotted back and produced from his bag a rather appetising looking baguette, a fleece and a handful of cash which he promptly presented to the homeless person before, without pause, dashing off back on his merry way – a purely selfless act without any desire for thanks or acknowledgement for his offering.  

That made me ponder that such actions are undoubtedly far more appreciated by those in need and although a quid here or there toward a litre of cider may seem ideal in the short term, a good meal and some long term assistance at keeping warm wins hands down.    

So, breaking away from ‘tradition’ I am going to put myself in to check (and anyone reading this) and prompt one and all to go that little bit further to help someone out, especially during these tough economic times.  A vagrant existence isn’t exactly a lifestyle choice and perhaps I need to be a little less blinkered about how I am made to feel by those seeking charity, and concentrate more on just how I can make their day that little bit easier – be it a chat, a bite to eat, a coffee or just whatever money I can muster, however scant…

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Tuesday's Rage...

So Tuesday is possibly my least favoured day of the week – primarily as I no longer feel refreshed from the weekend past and the next weekend seems so very far away. As such, the work day drags (I always find Mondays fly by even if the weekend has been less than relaxing) and I tend to struggle for motivation for the more arduous tasks. This obviously isn’t helped by my commute, with Tuesdays raising additional trials of patience just to make the day all that but harder.

My gripe is in respect of weekly bus passes, with Tuesday apparently the day of choice to purchase (I can only surmise that this has something to do with bank holiday Mondays). I am always eager for all aspects of life to run on time and to schedule so the resulting delay challenges my patience no end.

It seems despite standing in a queue for what seems like hours waiting for the arrival of a bus, a ridiculously large number of people will not utilise this otherwise wasted time to get their fare or ticket handy in readiness for boarding. I must admit that women, given their want to carry a handbag with them wherever they go (cramming in as many worldly possessions as they can muster), are usually the worst offenders in this regard and as such, usually rank towards the top of my mental hit list (don’t even get me started on the frantic ringing mobile phone handbag scramble)!

It seems bus drivers also share my pain and too seem quite put out when a weekly bus pass is requested. Not only does it mean that notes are tendered (thereby pillaging their precious stock of change), it also involves having to place the printed ticket in to a holder and sticking down some sticky back plastic. This all takes time and as a result, you can rely on the bus reaching every stop later than usual (providing even more opportunity to ready your fare!) which invariably results in a collective fluster for all passengers eager to catch a connecting train/bus service.

Buses and trains also seem to be busier on a Tuesday. This I imagine has something to do with fewer passengers on a Monday (perhaps taking a long weekend or having overslept from a heavy weekend) but I don’t imagine it is particularly any busier than a Wednesday or Thursday – it just seems that way as I am already in a bad mood merely in expectation of the day ahead. This means that space and seating is a premium commodity on all forms of transport and sweaty frotting seems the order of the day – not ideal (even to the most willing recipient of the frot I imagine).

So, if you want to make one small change which will make your life, and those around you, that little less testing – try having your bus fare or travel ticket handy upon arrival at the bus stop/station. Not only will it keep things moving with relative ease thereby improving the life of those around you, it will also stop me wanting to pull your handbag from your rummaging grasp and beat you round the head with it…

Friday, 22 October 2010


As set out in my post Study Aid… a regular feature during my commute is the Radiographer.  Now, not that this should really have any bearing on the matter, but the Radiographer is a very pretty young lady indeed (possibly why she caught my attention initially!).  However, one should not be fooled by the attractive veneer as within minutes of being in her company, I would challenge anyone, even the most tolerant of people, not to be repelled by her!

As previously explained she is a newly qualified radiographer and is somewhat proud of that fact (as she has every right to be given the reported national shortage).  For those around her who may be hard of hearing (she seems to raise it in every telephone conversation she has – and she tends to be talking loudly on her mobile phone throughout the duration of her journey) she helpfully wears her staff pass in the most prominent position possible.  Whether her hair is up or down, or whether wearing a coat or braving the elements without, she ensures that her staff pass is ever visible to those around.  Just to be certain, though without any apparent thought or intention, she regularly gives the staff pass a reassuring pat to check it is still present (akin to someone having a moments thought about the location of their keys or wallet about their person) and fully on display for all to see. 

To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she is particularly fastidious about following some protocol set down by her employer which other workers  commonly disregard (including the NHS Crew who are presumably employed by the same NHS Trust); or maybe she has a habit of falling asleep on the train and hopes that the staff pass will act as a prompt for those around her to wake her up as she approaches her station stop.  Who am I trying to kid?!

The thing that I find most abhorrent is her clear loathing of the trainee radiographers.  Having just qualified herself, you would imagine that she would feel some affection toward and affiliation with the eager trainees, offering support, advice and direction to assist them on their way to qualification.  Conversely, the Radiographer seemingly prefers the tough love approach and takes great joy in recounting the shortcomings of her colleagues – perhaps not the wisest of things given the ease of identifying her hospital (the catchment hospital for many a passenger on the train).  From the content of her tales of widespread ineptitude, I am somewhat relieved that, save in the case of an emergency, any radiography requirements I should have would take place at another hospital entirely!

Clearly the Radiographer must be intelligent given the requirement for either a BSc (Hons) Diagnostic Radiography or a BSc (Hons) Radiotherapy so I can only assume she is aware of the effect she has on others.  Maybe she is on to something and I should seek to emulate her overt feelings of self-worth and embrace such narcissistic tendencies as a lifestyle choice for myself.   On second thoughts, perhaps not…

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Poet and the Noisy Eater...

It was the end of a long day and travelling on the train from work to home, I was looking forward to finishing off a rather good book to unwind in readiness for the evening ahead.  My boarding station is the beginning of the line so, having arrived in good time (therein raising another gripe for another day!), I had a wide selection of seats to choose from.

Having boarded the train I managed to secure my favoured forward facing table spot in the front carriage, a promising start, though a few minutes later I was joined by a rather ostentatious chap who chose to sit diagonally across the table from me.  Given that the train was far from full and the availability of alternative solo seating options, I was a little perturbed, but given the pile of notebooks he subsequently produced, I was somewhat relieved that he clearly intended to keep himself to himself throughout the journey ahead.  It subsequently became apparent that he was somewhat a budding (or perhaps successful?) poet as I nosily snooped at his notebook - whilst referring to a ream of notes, he was penning a poem entitled ‘Life in a Mirror’ (as such, he shall be referred to as the Poet).

Cue the arrival of a rather generously proportioned lady who decided to choose the pair of airline seats immediately behind me (to be known as the Noisy Eater for reasons to follow).  With a great wheezing effort, the Noisy Eater piled an abundance of carrier bags on to the window seat and proceeded to perch quite precariously on the edge of her seat, leaning awkwardly toward the gap between the neighbouring seat and my own.  As the train set off from the station, and after much rustling and commotion, the Noisy Eater tucked in to a packet of crisps (you may have gleaned from my previous reference to the Bacon Sandwich Lady, I am more than slightly prickled by noisy/messy eaters, particularly those choosing to do so in public).  My concern here however didn’t centre solely on the rustle, crunch, smack and ferocious finger sucking between each mouthful (as an aside, why do finger suckers ever think it is a good idea to share their food?), it was the fact that her chosen and frankly unnecessary ‘edge of seat whilst leaning forward’ stance created a greater proximity to my ear. 

In an attempt to somehow curb the behaviour, I made a great show of leaning forward away from the offending goings on, throwing in a generous mixture of audible sighs, tuts and frowned expressions for good measure.  Despite my stellar performance, the Noisy Eater - clearly finding the whole affair quite amusing - merely snorted, chuckled and continued on with her feasting.  Finally, as she crumpled up the empty packet and slurped on a drink, I breathed a sigh of relief and sat back in my chair - raising a knowing smile from the Poet. 

However, just as I began to get lost in my book, the Noisy Eater produced a further packet of crisps and proceeded to repeat her performance!  After this process had been repeated a number of times it became apparent that Noisy Eater had a family sized multi-pack of crisps at her disposal, and had every intention to consume the whole lot during her journey. 

Reaching the end of my tether (in a typically British way) I turned around and having gained eye contact, tutted and proceeded to turn back round whilst shaking my head in disdain.  This again raised a chuckle but this seemed to be the final straw for the Poet who proceeded to pipe up ‘if you really must munch your way through all of those, please have some thought for those unfortunate enough to be sitting around you, and do so quietly’!  Cue a small cheer from those within earshot and a rather hasty exit by the Noisy Eater who set off pursuit of alternative seating.   

I am not condoning a cause for belittlement or victimisation, but it does raise the concern that some people (dare I say most), clearly have no thought for their fellow traveller.  Travelling (especially at peak commuter times) is a necessary chore which can be a useful time to get on with some work, catch up on some reading or most ideally, prepare for/wind down from the working day - so that you can arrive at your destination in readiness for the rest of your day/night ahead.  Having some level of regard to those around you (be it personal hygiene, loud music, loud telephone calls or some other form of anti-social behaviour) just makes the whole experience more tolerable and perhaps enjoyable (light and vista playing a key role here arguably).

So to the noisy eaters out there – if you really can’t wait to tuck in to that meal/snack until you have disembarked from the train/bus, spare a thought for those around you (especially if the snack is noisy or pungent) who may not enjoy your feast quite as much as you…

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

A study aid...

Having already undertaken my new daily commute for a month now, I already have some tales of note which I believe are worthy of report.  Further, given the sporadic nature of this blog (some days thankfully have very little of note worthy of account here) and the recurrent nature of some of my tales or the characters therein, this post can act as a handy reference of defined terms hereafter.

My actual journey from home to work involves: a short walk (or admittedly stumbled jog on the seemingly regular occurrence that I am running a few minutes late), a 17 minute bus journey, a 57 minute train journey and finally a 10 minute walk from station to office.  The return is pretty much the same save that the train is reportedly 2 minutes faster (one fewer station stops) and the bus journey is a few minutes longer.

So, with the boring bits out of the way I shall move on to set out some of the now recurring characters.  I have already come to realise that many other travellers routinely share parts of my journey and some are already proving to be contenders for the award of main antagonist to my plight! 

Bacon Sandwich Lady means the lady (who I now know to be a teacher/trainee teacher) who brings a toasted bacon sandwich wrapped in tin foil to consume during the journey.  The rustle of the tin foil, her inability to hold on to the sandwich between bites and the painfully drawn out ritual of eating the thing riles me no end!

Radiographer means the newly qualified radiographer who started her new position mid way through my first week at work.  An incredibly loud (by her own admission during my first encounter) annoying individual who expects reverence and special treatment because she is an NQ radiographer.  Proudly sporting as prominently as possible her staff pass, she spends the majority of each journey with her mobile phone glued to her ear keenly berating her more junior/trainee colleagues, complaining about her hours/commute/salary, pondering why her boyfriend won’t ever give her compliments and plotting how she can get said boyfriend to attend her graduation when her parents have no knowledge of his existence.  When not on the phone, she will be putting on make up or painstakingly pinning up her hair (flailing her arms everywhere without a thought for those unfortunate enough to be sat in close proximity).

Beige Mac Man means the man, invariably sporting a beige mac, who gets his coffee and cheese and ham croissant at the platform’s Pumpkin Cafe shop at the same time I arrive each morning (and on the rare occasion I get out promptly is on the same train home).  Having boarded and travelled at the rear of the train, he then proceeds to the front of the train shortly before arrival at the station to exit – clearly a seasoned commuter.

NHS Crew means the posse of NHS workers who travel en masse together.  A varied bunch that are generally harmless save for a propensity to bemoan the prospect of potential cuts as a result of the impending spending review with one breath, only to launch in to one-upmanship regarding their next ski trip or mini break in the next. 

Sleeper means the incredibly tall sleeping man who is already on the train when I get on.  Taking up an enviable table position he stretches out (blocking the opposite seat) and sleeps throughout the entire journey.

Status Quo Man means the Francis Rossi wannabe who sports a blue boiler suit and is generally the only other passenger at the bus stop in the morning.  Has a passion for Elizabeth Duke jewellery and according to said ‘bling’ is apparently a ‘DAD’.

Monday, 18 October 2010

And so it begins...

Prompted by a mixture of envy and boredom (my beloved wife's new found activity of blogging her culinary endeavours – envy; and following a change in lifestyle – boredom) I decided to dip my toe in the wonderful world of blogging. 

To set the scene, having faced redundancy for the umpteenth time, I find myself again in the position of facing a daily commute as an integral part of my working week.  Whilst I accept that this isn't at all out of the ordinary for the majority of working folk, having had the benefit of working locally for the best part of the last year, it was an aspect of the working day I had managed to avoid and as such, give little thought or attention to.

I am not the most tolerant of people at the best of times and mixing this trait (or 'quality' one might argue!) with what can only be described as the necessary evil of getting to the work place, I hope to discover an enjoyable medium to vent my anger/frustration/general rants which all too readily arise as a result of my now regular daily bus and train journeys.

So please sit, stay a while and hopefully enjoy a collection of inane ramblings from a frustrated and intolerant traveller…