Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Is that seat free?

Lox mentioned in one of his responses the thorny issue of how to keep the seat next to you empty.

Many of us that travel the railways will at one point or another just want a bit of space rather than sitting next to someone you don't know and be forced to actually touch another member of the human race... Imagine the horror as someone sits down next to you and either:

a) sits on the bit of your coat that has accidentally on purpose been left on the other seat
b) actually is large enough (as I am) to wedge themselves into the seat forcing your thighs to be in such close proximity that they are touching...

There are then a variety of methods for keeping the seat next to you free...

1) Place an additional bag on the seat and tell anyone that asks that the person has just popped to the loo in a bit of a rush.

2) Get tattoos of things like daggers and pagan sacrifices on your forearms and up your neck. Add to this a menacing look that tells everyone you eat human flesh for breakfast lunch and tea.

3) Adopt the "I'm too posh to sit next to anyone" look which is instantly unnerving but not always guaranteed to succeed.

4) Put a copy of the sexual offenders register on the seat next to you with a pen on top of it as if ready to sign...

5) Start talking about Jesus in a loud voice.

There is also the other side of this where we all know we pack ourselves into sardine can like trains and every bit of space is precious.
It is therefore unacceptable for anyone to grunt at the polite enquiry as to the status of the adjacent seat "Yeah, I s'pose so". Have some manners.. Unless you are using any of the 5 methods described earlier..


Monday, 29 October 2007

Delight at Etiquette

Regular and long term readers will know of my appreciation of Commuter Etiquette.

I had the fortune to sit opposite a very nice lady on my way home today. At one point on the journey she addressed me and enquired (in a very nice voice) where I would like to stretch my legs under the table so that she could put hers the other way.

Fantastic. This is exactly the co-operation we need in order to deal with the hot, over-crowded, ill mannered and late First (Last) Great (Worst) Western. Later on we entered into a discussion about the dreadful new coaches which, due to their tinted glass, makes it even more depressing on the way home because it's soooooo dark you think you are in the pit of hell or somewhere... (making the wild assumption that Hell is indeed a dark place.... and I think it is... except for the burning sulpher.....ok enough.)

I was also pleased to be able to pass out this blog address to her as well - so if you've found it, welcome - I hope this drivel is not too irritating... And thanks for the legroom.


Thursday, 25 October 2007

Overheard conversations and solution MP3

So... I was on the train on the way home tonight - caught the early one on account of... well couldn't be bothered.

There was a lady about 2 seats away from me who proceeded to have quite a personal conversation at quite an astounding volume. Now, before I incur the wrath of anyone reading this, I am not about to have a go at this woman like I did that other one a few weeks ago who was pleased to tell everyone how great her life is..

I genuinely tried not to listen to this conversation - and I really wanted to be sympathetic but she was talking loudly about a relative who had sadly passed away and who had the left the specific instruction that she should have an "Eco-funeral". What is this pray tell? Well... cardboard coffin, no undertakers etc etc. Conversation followed about how on earth you organise something like this..... "I don't know what to do - you can't go to the hospital with a hired transit van and pick up the body..." Wanted to shout with all my might "GOOGLE IT" but instead plugged in my MP3 player and fantasized about being Jack Bauer.

New Staff

There was considerable excitement at the station this morning as the area manager for Last Worst Western was on the platform talking to passengers. Sadly she didn't get as far as me as she was enduring a grilling from another passenger. I did over hear that the woman actually uses the train - from Cheltenham to London - and as a result is fully understanding of the trials and tribulations of us passengers. Not a very good way to manage the railway though is it? Trying to empathise when you're in senior management and can actually do something about the problem? The one thing this did actually prove is that the woman exists - I've only seen pictures of her on the notice boards before and made the assumption that she wasn'treal.

Another feature of the train in the last few weeks has been the addition of cleaning staff - I am guessing this has something to do with a quick turnaround for trains at Paddington - on our train they have employed a lovely African lady who stands at the end of a carriage and announces in a loud voice "GOOD MORNING EVERYBODY..... (pause)...... RUBBISH PLEASE". I've got used to it now but when she first did it, I was sleeping about 2 feet away from the door and jumped out of my skin spraying tea and laptop across the train. Not a good look when you've managed to appear neat and tidy and very "City" up to that point. The rest of the passengers pointed and laughed at me (although not out loud and without the actual pointing).

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Those of you who have read this blog for a while may remember TeaMan from the earlier days. He's the one that drinks lemon and ginger tea and was slightly disappointed with me for having milk in my earl grey.

Anyway, I saw him yesterday and related the story of the lost thermos flask (I left it on the train a few weeks ago. I often think of it languishing in some lost property cupboard in Paddington all on it's own in the dark....Alternatively, a train manager may have given it a good home and even now it may be travelling the UK's rail network giving faithful service to another tea lover.....)

Anyway, TeaMan was very sympathetic but did point out in a somewheremercenary manner that another flask can be purchased very cheaply at a number of outlets. So I now (thanks to my long suffering wife) have another flask and I am once again enjoying Earl grey on the way to work.

The balance of the cosmos is restored. Crisis over.


Winter warmers

The unfeasibly tall, good looking man (who went to see the Rugby in Paris last weekend) was at the station this morning. He was wearing a very amusing knitted head warming kind of arrangement (pretty patterns etc). It covered his whole head with little flaps coming down over his ears. He was also wearing a jumper under his suit. But no overcoat even though it was 0 Degrees on the platform this morning.

The thing is, he actually carries it off. He just looks cool. I don't know how he does it but I do know that if I tried it, my dear wife would collapse in howls of laughter (such is her way of giving me feedback).

As an aside, you may be interested to hear that some member of our little community decided to share all their germs with us by sneezing very loudly and lavishly in the hermitically sealed carriage. They must be punished. With Sudafed. Does he not know that any display of spontaneity is strictly forbidden by the Commuters Code of Etiquette, Chapter 3, Sub-Section 7, Para 4 "Any spontaneous activity, whether voluntary or involuntary is strictly forbidden and individuals should first consider an unpleasant death before disturbing their fellow commuters (who will studiously ignore the plight of the individual concerned even if they are lying on the floor whimpering "help me").

Beautiful dawn this morning (isn't that a song?). Wished a had the presence of mind to capture it on my camera.


Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Sign of big earnings?

I have been wondering whether where you stand on the station platform is an indicator either of how much money you earn or how important you think you are... I know that this is a major taboo and that discussing salaries is a major no-no in this country (although if you go to America, you are almost required to tell people I understand).

At my station, the 1st class carriages end up alongside the platform at the end beyond the footbridge. My suspicion is that you have to earn above a certain amount to be able to stand in this area (or at least have an inflated sense of their own importance). In fact, I believe there is a special club you have to be in to even venture beyond the footbridge. Passes are checked and special handshakes exchanged.

So here's my theory. In carriages A - E (assuming the classic InterCity 125 HST) there is a general mixture of people earning between say £0k and £70k. If you go beyond £70K you are automatically diverted to the 1st class end of the station and initiated into a club. These people will generally wear an expression of bored harassment. (an oxymoron if ever there was one).I believe there is a link here with the Blackberry rule I mentioned a week or so ago. I should point out that I am definitely in the standard class accommodation...

Now, onto more important things... Did anyone see Spooks last night? Did it feel like it was dredging the barrel a bit in terms of plot line? Still good to watch of course but it seems poorer to me since the loss of the GCHQ woman in the last series...?

Comments and feedback are required.


Tuesday, 16 October 2007

People Still Care

Train was late AGAIN today. It was raining and we all got wet. Goodlooking tall man was there today and mentioned on a number of occasions that he has the day off on Friday and he is going to Paris.... This makes me angry as he is going to the Rugby World Cup final. I took my revenge by splashing him with a puddle and then stealing his lunch and throwing his bag into the bushes.

When on the train a nice little family got on the train and were immediately separated by the selfishness of regular commuters - i.e. get a seat with a spare one next to it so that you can have your own space - sadly for the little family they were forced to sit apart from each other as they got on the train too late. However, a nice business man in a suit turned to the father and said "would you like to swap seats so you can sit with your daughter". Lovely. Felt a bit embarrassed not to have done the offering myself.

Anyway, for the rest of the journey they read their books and behaved very nicely indeed - unlike the St Edwards children at the end of the carriage who behaved in their usual manner and showed absolutely no respect for their fellow travellers, They are old enough to know better.


Monday, 15 October 2007

What people wear

Years ago when my father commuted into London there was a very strict dress code as to what commuters would wear. This was probably dictated by their jobs rather than the commute but there are some interesting observations that can be made:

1) Normally suited people - variety of jobs but probably finance or some such industry

2) Casual wear - but clearly on way to work. These people probably work in advertising or some really cool web development company.

3) Uniform - pretty obvious what they do. However, there was a chap this morning who dresses in a way I really admire - he wears a suit like me and I have commented before on his socks which were fantastic. But today he was wearing a very nice pin stripe suit with a mustard yellow jumper underneath. I wish I had the guts to that. It's just so different and loud. Anyway, he looked like he works in the city..

Train was very late today. The children at the end of the carriage (the ones that get off at Oxford) were very noisy.

It was dark when I got up and it'll be dark when I get home.
The train was full.

Friday, 12 October 2007


A prolific commenter on this blog, Lox has made a number of highly amusing points here. I particularly enjoyed his comments about WWJD and WWJBD.

Those of you who know me will know of my admiration for Jack Bauer (although not so much the drink driving actor).

Lox, I think with reference to the posh lady getting stuck at Stonehouse, Jack would have pushed her out of any old door and the gone to her family explaining that he "is sorry for their loss but he needs them to focus on the primary objective right now..."

Looking forward to seeing season 7. Keep the posts coming.


Another part of the journey

I do take different routes to and from the station - this is partly a matter of staying interested in the journey and also the current security advice for the Cotswolds which suggests you should vary your route to work in order to confuse any surveillance that might be on you.... Ooops got caught up in a film there.

Right, back to reality. The thing I have noticed in the last few days is the amount of road-kill on my journey. We all know the rules or roadkill.. You can't pick it up if you have hit it etc. etc. But there's been so much pheasant on the road to the station in the last few days I have felt seriously tempted - I suppose a problem arises when you pick up the animal, throw it into the boot of your car and motor off to the station. There 2 things that will happen (although there is a 3rd option):

1) The bird is still alive and, when it recovers from it's unconscious state, it starts to make short work of the boot of your car. Feathers and blood everywhere. Imagine the scene as you get back to your car in the evening and find it has been demolished by an ill-tempered pheasant that is just getting ready to have a go at you. (Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock's"The Birds"?).

2) The bird has been dead for a bit too long. You come back to your car at the end of one of those confusing autumn days that starts of at a temperature of 3c and ends at 25c. Your car is like an oven thus providing the maggots and larvae present in the body of the bird a delightful and fruitful breeding ground. So you arrive at your car in your perpetually weary state, open the boot, ready to throw in your bag, coat, umbrella or other assorted crap and you are confronted by a wave of decomposition and a very smelly car. There are maggots and flies making their home in the upholstery, the putrid air has started to dissolve the plastic in the car and there is no way you can use it. I am now beginning to understand what happened when we found a burned out car at Kingham station one morning. Simple answer. Roadkill. No sense in keeping the car. Just burn it.

3) Take the roadkill on the train to work with you. They'll love you in 1st class. Imagine the disruption of a live bird flapping it's way through the carriage. No etiquette for that situation is there. Only possible option, take out sawn off 12 bore from laptop bag and start blasting..... (ok,caught up in a film again) So, the moral of this story is: Don't stop for roadkill on the way to the station.

Just to finish this off, I was driving through the delightful village near Kingham this morning - the place where ducks go to meet other ducks honestly, there's millions of them - mainly mallards if you're interested)and I had to do a full on emergency stop as one mother duck decided that the moment had come to lead her babies across the road in a nice orderly line. She didn't even blink as 2 tonnes of barely controlled car screeched towards her with clouds of smoke emitting from the tyres and the driver braced himself for impact.

Anyway, I managed to stop. They were fine, so was I. End of story.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Nice Things

Visaman's friend joined us on the train today. Apparently the 7.18 is more like catching the train at lunchtime for him. This Jolly decent fellow went to buy us all tea from the buffet which was very nice. Sadly I have lost my thermos flask - left it on the train earlier this week. A part of me wondered if one of the regulars might have noticed and picked it up for me but to be honest I didn't really expect anything. The Lady Wife informed me that the flask was £3 from Wilkinsons so not a great loss... actually the price of 2 cups of tea from the buffet.

Very high quality of announcements today - sadly not the quite brilliant Roy Harley but this chap gavce details of where we could travel to if we wanted to get off the train at places like Oxford and Didcot. The possibilities are almost endless - if you include Reading, they are ACTUALLY endless.

I'm waiting for when we hear the annoucement along the following lines: "Laydees and Gennelmen, we are now approaching Reading. Change here for trains to the south west, south wales, connections to the North and the rail air coach link to Heathrow Airport with connections to Africa, America, South East Asia and mainland Europe. Those passengers wishing to take the Mars Explorer will need to go to Terminal 4 and take the 0900 hours BA flight to Houston from where they may take an onward service into Space."

The other one that I notice at the moment is "Laydees and Gennelmen, we are now on final approach for Reading and we should be at the platform in 2 minutes. Please remain in your seats until the train has come to a complete halt at the platform and the driver has turned off the seatbelt signs. CREW: Doors to manual and cross check."

Hmmmm, anyone missed out on a career in aviation?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Blackberry - a measure of seniority?

Anyone who gets the train in the morning, or indeed just goes out of their house everyday will come across people using their "berry".
Sounds a bit rude but really these people are chained to their work by an invisible, unbreakable, almost narcotic link.
I used to have one of these things - I also had a mobile phone and a laptop. You can imagine the joy I brought to every train carriage I went in.
But now I have changed jobs and I no longer have a berry or a work mobile and have only just been "upgraded" to laptop. I have never been so happy. I used to really want these gadgets because it made me feel important to work and that they needed me. Not true. They wanted my soul but they didn't need me. Well at least not that much.
(I should say that I did leave the last job by choice... not because they didn't need me. Ok, face saved there.)
So I got to wondering the other morning if having a blackberry is a measure of your importance to your employer. Is the fact that I don't have one - or even a work mobile - a measure of my lowly state?
Perhaps there ought to be some sort of measure - if you start picking up emails on your berry at:
6am - Probably in Sales and wanting to chase down the next new deal.
7am - Senior management - covering one's back by email for the last managerial foul up you made (come on, we've all been there).
8am - Personal users- ie. those who choose to have a blackberry as distinct from those who have one foisted upon them.
10am - CEOs, Chairmen etc. These people have staff for dealing with emails and only really need a berry so they can swap numbers with their chums at their Gentlemens' clubs, Lodge meetings or other gathering. (Note the gross generalisation).
Never - just not trusted enough by work to look after a valuable piece of gear like a berry (this is me).
I don't know if this has any value but it would be interesting to try it out. My point remains the same though... I am free because I don't have one... anymore.

The stuff we carry around

I think most of us at one time or another carry around a load of stuff we just don't need.

This morning I sat opposite a chap who had the thickest wallet I have ever seen in my life... see pic below:

I could see at least 5 credit / debit card things, a LOT of receipts, no money strangely, and probably some photos of significant others. Also, we men are weak willed when it comes to business cards. We carry our own and we collect others. I recently filed mine in a "little black book" but really it has taken me 20 years to do.

I suppose this is the male equivalent of the handbag in which your average woman carries a:

half eaten chocolate bar
lipstick (or in the case of the nice lady opposite me today, an entire make up kit)
nuclear launch codes
mobile phone
iPod or other generic music playing device
address book / diary or PDA or Blackberry
48pc socket set
12v car battery

The list goes on but I thought this chap had a very thick wallet which, as you can see from the photo is about 3 times thicket than his exceptionally cool iBook.

On another point, I noticed this chap's shoes. They had not been polished in a (very long) while. Now I know this is a silly thing to notice but it just served to make this fellow look even cooler. I spend ages polishing my Barkers and I never look cool so maybe I should take a leaf from his book...


A brief rant

By the way, trains were on very poor form today with a very nasty colour scheme from a borrowed "Midlands Mainline" train - honestly felt sick. On way home, the entirity of a 125 had to offload into a 2 carriage sprinter turbo thing.. Intimate doesn't even cover it. I know some people a lot better than I needed to. FGW, what are you up to?

Monday, 8 October 2007

The debate goes on

I'm pleased to note that we can have a nice debate about what is acceptable in terms of one's train of thought (again no pun intended). Normal service will be resumed soon - I just want to put this one to bed.

I would like to refer to my anonymous commenter's new points just to make sure there is no misunderstanding (although the fact that I have to go in to this represents something of a sense of humour failure - sorry to be so blunt)..

Anonymous said...

Interesting response to my comments...just a couple of thoughts?

@Neil...Fairy as in 'gay' or as in something else?#

What Neil is meaning is "gutless" as in, if one is going to make reasonably direct comments, they should be made privately and in person. You might want to throw that one back at me ref. "smelly man" but he is unidentifiable and actually, as readers will note from this blog, I am prone to a bit of exaggeration - the chap merely smelt a little bit of sweat - he'd probably been at work all day and was thus suffering the effects of exertion - something my job sadly does not require.

@Nait...I disagree that there is nothing offensive...Neil thinks it should be ruder (read more offensive??). Are you saying that it is fine to say what comes into our heads? Regardless of whether someone may find it offensive? Also, i didn't say Al was a snob...I said it 'comes across' like that sometimes.

What Neil and Nai are both getting at here is the absurd political correctness we have to tolerate in this country where we cannot be direct or say how things really are. ... criminals are not bad, just misunderstood.... undoubtedly true but not exclusively so.
The point is that we've become so liberal and wishywashy in this country it's almost a crime to tell the truth... e.g. God created the heavens and the earth.......... I should be in court for that one...... Do you see what I mean?

@the another anonymous poster...I know what the real world is like...i live it on a daily basis. What I try and do though is treat others how I would like to be treated.In summary, I just expressed an opinion...as i said, I know the blog is tongue in cheek and can be hilarious. Sometimes it makes me cringe to read it and other times I laugh...however I feel a tad uncomfortable thinking about:a) what the 'smelly man' would feel like reading it? Would he find it funny? Would it hurt him? Would it make him think about his hygene? I don't know but maybe rather than quietly laughing at him it would be more courageous to think about striking up a friendship and talking to him...maybe even getting to the point where you could raise the issue with him. b) the difference between what we feel/think and what we do/say. Just because we feel/think something about a situation or a person doesn't mean that it is right or that we should verbalise it.

I refer to my earlier point about being prone to exaggeration. I'm glad it makes you laugh - just remember that when I talk about characters I see I am probably pulling together several different attributes from different observations rather than just one person and then adding to it for comedic purposes (ooops my secret's out) Perhaps helps a few other people to have a lifted spirit... or maybe not.

Anyway, there we go...just my own thoughts.

The End.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

A little change

I watched the rugby with a certain amount of delight this weekend - always nice to see England winning and the Australians lose - I say this even though my mother is an Aussie.

So... I was amused to see the BBC website half way through the game when England took the lead and there was a bit of a howling typo... See below...

129:10 very amused.


Feedback on my ramblings

An anonymous writer made the following comment:

"I know that this blog is a little 'tongue in cheek' but the more i read about it the more i think that you come across as being a snobbish, ultra critical, uncaring, upper middle class, judgmental, picky, intolerant and self righteous person. It seems you like to look down your nose at others and judge them at all times whether it is 'smelly man' (how demeaning to describe him as such), women on phone, people with kids...I'm glad that not everyone judges the way you do...maybe, just maybe, you need to live and let live and realise that not everyone is as perfect as you."

I am saddened by this comment as the person clearly doesn't know me very well, much less understand the intention of this blog.

I am probably (almost definitely) all those things that have been said above at some point or other. However, the intention of this blog is actually to reflect what I perceive as the collective train of thought (forgive the pun) of my fellow commuters. This perception is gathered from the snippets of conversation one hears, the looks people give and so on. But here's the point - no one actually says anything to anyone. There is an unwritten code of commuting and I find it hilarious that some people break "the rules".

I admit that the day on which I wrote the article refered to I was probably in a bad mood and one thing is for certain, I am not perfect.

I would refer the commenter to posts about Roy Harley the train manager who, as I have said before is a lovely fellow.

Response over.


Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Had the misfortune to pick the wrong carriage and the wrong seat on the way home tonight. I have joined the ranks of other work harrassed commuters and been issued with a laptop of miniscule size (aka the IBM flea).

I got into carriage B. Unusually for the 17:50 I managed to get a seat straight away and I settled down to do some work - this in response to my boss saying "he wants more from me".

Anyway, I managed to position myself next to "Smelly Man" and within earshot of "Pretty, loud, glamourous, LOUD woman" who did not stop talking on her mobile to her "luscious" friends about the plans for the weekend and "hey, how great is my life, I'm so cool, yeah, great - ok, Ya, I'm on the train. Ya, come over this weekend, it'll be lovely"... etc etc for an hour.

Well actually she did it for 59 mins because just before I got off the train I grabbed her stylish mobile phone from her manicured hand and made her swallow it followed by a dessert of newspaper scraps I had got off the floor.

Smelly man went to sleep so I sprayed him down with Right Guard.