Personal and undiluted views
First Great Western

2504 days ago

The 57 year old Punk from The Stingrays makes my day on a train journey of two halves

Gone are the days when I could start my working day at 3.30 AM on Monday, down two bottles of wine during the day, work through the night and a full day Tuesday, stay up all night fretting about a Court case, suffer a High Court ordeal, down a pint of champagne and feel totally on top form on the Wednesday evening. I guess I am getting old. And so by the time I arrived at Paddington for the 7 PM to Bristol Temple Meads I felt like death warmed up and just wanted to get home to the cats and my bed. The Mrs is still with her mother.

I sat in my seat, wrapped up warm and tried to sleep. But life is not always easy and the first part of my journey just made me feel like even more of a grumpy old man who wants to leave this rotten country and sit on my Greek mountain away from everything that is ghastly abut Britain today.

Being the first off peak train it was crammed and the vague smell of cheap fast food wafted through the corridors since many of my fellow passengers had grabbed some junk to gorge upon as they rushed to get home.

In the seats behind me a kid was doing maths with his mum. 19 + 19 is 28 he insisted. The generation that will look after mine in retirement is not only thick as two short planks but also shows no deference or respect to its parents. The mother was simply wrong, the kid insisted as his voice rose. But I guess like all the other morons he will grow up to be a wannebee celeb so his stupidity won’t be an issue.

A drunk gave me a long gaze as our eyes met. I’m a nice drunk. He was not a nice drunk. I shifted my eyes rather glad that there was an older gentleman sitting between me and the drunk who promptly collapsed and spent most of the time between London and Swindon lying prostrate in the aisle or trying to do the sort of pointless exercises that only the totally inebriated consider demonstrate that they are half sober.  I and the other passengers exchanged embarrassed smiles at his antics.

First Great Western apologised in a blundering, we really do not give a fuck, but pretend we care way as the fast train turned out to be a very slow train indeed, all the way to Reading. As we crawled into the City where Wilde was jailed I thought lovingly of life at the Greek Hovel and my friends in Kambos and contemplated booking a flight next week and just not coming back.

Pulling into Didcot I saw that the older gentleman next to me was interested in shares. His mobile thingy device had messages from Hargreaves Lansdowne and so I piped up “I see you are interested in shares”. We started talking. We will gloss over his ownership of Afren which I warned him was not perhaps the wisest investment, something 100% vindicated today. He has a very prudent and sensible approach to creating a balanced portfolio weighted towards collectives. He knew his onions.

The chap is a social worker but not, I think, the sort that steals your kids if you vote UKIP, but what was truly fascinating is that he was and is a real punk rocker.

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2592 days ago

The more I travel First Great Western the more I hate it

I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads for the 4.47 AM in good time but a bad mood. My driver at V cars had attempted to sting me with a £1.80 penalty for getting into his cab at 4.26 AM – six minutes after it was booked for. By the clock in his cab – which tallied with the clock on my phone - that meant he had managed the journey door to door in five minutes which is impossible. I queried him – as a V-Cars regular - and he relented at once. He was trying it on and knew that I knew that he was trying it on.

Instead of handing over a tenner and not asking for change as is my wont I dutifully counted out the now agreed £8.50 exactly and handed him a pocket full of change. He was grumpy and so was I.

Inside Temple Meads the ticket machines were today both not functioning properly. That is to say they were not taking cash. Since my battered old cashpoint card is not accepted by FGW ticket machines although it works in ATMs from Cork to Kalamata, I always use cash on the train. I wandered onto the concourse, explained and a big burly man said that it would be okay to pay on the train.

Sitting comfortable at 4.42 AM the “train manager” announces that this is a penalty fare zone” and that if any passenger does not have a ticket they must return to the machines in the ticket hall to buy one. The message is repeated in threatening tones.

But there’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in my fucking bucket why is it that the ticket machines at Bristol Temple Meads never ever work properly you bastards. And so I sit here tapping away awaiting my fate.

Postscript: The Ticket collector was most understanding and I seem to have escaped the “penalty fare zone.” FGW is not all bad.

 

 

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2633 days ago

First Great Western ‘avin a bubble

I once again bring you the photo of one of the two ticket machines in the main hall at Bristol Temple Meads. This is now week four (at least) of “an engineer has been called”.  For all I know the same sign was up for half the summer when I was in Greece.

Catching the 4.47 AM it is of no import to me as Temple Meads is hardly bursting with passengers wanting to buy a ticket. But I imagine that later in the day this is a real pain in the neck.  I realise that First Great Western does not give a toss about its passengers or telling the truth but it might, at least, to maintain a vague pretence of caring.

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2647 days ago

First Great Western Telling Lies

I am a man of habit on the travel front. At 4.20 AM on every other morning V cars of Bristol picks me up and I arrive at Temple Meads by 4.30 despite the routine warning from the cab firm that if I miss my 4.47 AM train it is my own fault if I book a cab any time after 4.02 AM. I could walk to the station in 45 minutes, at this time of morning the drive is a breeze.

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2934 days ago

First Great Western: Can we have no slurping your coffee like a Warthog carriages?

The man on the other side of the aisle on the 4.47 AM from Bristol is drinking a cup of coffee. I lie, he is not drinking, but slurping it down very loudly and in excruciatingly painful small slurps. This torture has lasted from a few minutes before Didcot almost through to Reading. I imagine that an ill-mannered warthog drinking a Great First Western latte would sound similar. I find it very annoying.
 

We have special “quiet carriages” on this train and there is also an entertainment carriage. Could First Great Western perhaps introduce a couple of “No slurping your drinks like a warthog” carriages? I would be truly grateful.

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3173 days ago

The Early Morning Train with Fred West

I would rather not have arrived at Moreton last Thursday at 11.30 PM. But there is always a thrill in being on a train on a warm but blacked out summers night as it hurtles through the countryside. Let down the window between the carriages and some cooler air rushes in as you speed along. But this morning it is the 4.47 from Bristol, the first train of the day and the only one before 8.30 where you avoid paying the GDP of Guatemala as your fare.

As we speed past Swindon and up towards the capital no-one outside the train seems awake. The sun is just starting to appear but still you cannot see the detail on buildings or on trees – they appear in start silhouette only. The street lamps are still turned on and the, largely empty, train is the only noise in town.

Having a whole bank of four seats and a table to myself is a rare treat. My partner is not so keen on me taking this train as it involves a 3.30 alarm call, something that in deluded lefty world is hard to imagine. I gather that it is a breach of her human rights under some European treaty. But I love this train. The shock of a 3.30 alarm call, a hasty shower and 10 minutes with an opinionated cabbie is not a great start to the day.  But thereafter the space to work, think and stretch your legs is a rare treat on Great First Western. And the English countryside at this time of day, before it is invaded by cars and populated by people is a delightful distraction from my laptop and the acres of train space I currently enjoy.

As we approach Didcot the fields are now clearly green as the Sun emerges from behind a cloud. Less than an hour to the hell hole that is London.

Incidentally the ticket collector bears a remarkable resemblance to the late Fred West. He sounds as if he might be from Gloucestershire. Would it be impolite to ask if they were related by any chance? I suspect that it would be and shall keep that thought to myself.

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3176 days ago

Paddington Bears & Foxy Rebecca S-H

And so it is off to see the deluded lefties of Sheep Street, my family in Shipston, Warwickshire. It should be an easy enough trip from Paddington to Moreton in the Marsh on the 7.22. But that assumes that First Great Western are remotely competent. Oh no.

At 7.15 we were warned of 20 minutes delays due to “a failure of railside equipment” at Hayes. At 8 PM it was 35 minutes. And so on. It is now 9.24 PM and at least I am now on the train but I doubt, if my taxi driver is still awake at Moreton that I will make it to Sheep Street before midnight. First Great Western I detest you.

And so how to kill almost three hours at Paddington? I have written a couple of pieces which, like this, I shall load on Friday. But by chance I bumped into a well-known bear (who else would you meet at Paddington) and so we enjoyed a drink and a discussion about Quindell (QPP) and Cupid (CUP). I sense things are moving apace on both stocks, both of which – as it happens are represented by foxy PR bird Rebecca S-H. She does know how to pick ‘em.

More on both of those fine upstanding members of the AIM cesspit community to follow.

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3183 days ago

First Great Western – Eva Braun on the tickets

If you travel before 8.30 up to London the cost is prohibitive. You need to take out a second mortgage to get a seat (if you are lucky) on one of its trains. After 8.30 the cost falls. And so that is my train. But rushing to get my return ticket from a machine that does not explain the options on Wednesday I seem to have purchased a super off peak rather than an off peak.

How many of you know the difference? The difference: an unsympathetic public rebuke and an extra £13. “I will just charge you the difference” said the ticket gauleiteress. The implication being that I was lucky not to be charged a penalty as well. How nice of you Ms Braun.

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3214 days ago

First Great Western can afford to be useless

The train up to London is overcrowded. Even as we approach Reading there are folks who have been standing all the way from Bristol. We left there on time. We are now 40 minutes late. We have been sitting outside Reading for 15 minutes “waiting to be signalled in.” The train “manager” apologies over the loud speaker now and again but she took sincerity lessons from Tony Blair.

Of course there has been no hint of compensation when we arrive an hour late into Paddington (although I gather that we can claim compensation although I bet it is a real waste of time). There is no suggestion of a free coffee next time we travel on this monopoly service. It is a monopoly and so I shall use this company that I loathe with a passion once again.

It is suggested by a fellow passenger that this is a result of privitization. Saints preserve me. About the only thing that can be said in favour of First Great Western is that it looks like a gold standard customer service provider when compared to British Rail. I just wish that it might treat its customers with a bit less of the open contempt that a monopoly provider can afford to show.

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3259 days ago

Pot smoking on First Great Western Trains

By the time we got past Chippenham on the 9.45 from Paddington last night the carriage was almost empty. The lager louts who had got on at Swindon had left the train, much to my delight, and all was calm. I sat there writing an article and across the aisle a mother and her young son chatted amicable. And then a clear smell wafted its way along from the gap to the next carriage, the very powerful smell of weed. The mother and I nodded at each other – we both recognised what was happening.

A couple of minutes later the smokers wandered along the corridor. A lanky fellow with glasses, greasy hair and wearing a suit lead the way laughing out loud. He looked as if the suit was not his normal gab. What do you call a weed smoking loser in a suit? The defendant. Behind him was a man with little hair, obvious tattoos, wearing a parker and clutching a can of cheap lager. The scowl on his face was an ugly one and he strode menacingly along the aisle. I made temporary eye contact and regretted it as his look said very clearly “what the f*** are you going to do about it?”

The answer, of course, is nothing. As I am reminded ad nauseam, First Great Western operates a strict no smoking policy and the someone like me would simply not consider smoking a Marlboro Light on one of its trains. I am used to the pompous H&S message repeated after every station as I try to sleep or write saying that if you see anything suspicious report it to a First Great Western train manager or a Policeman. But in reality there is no-one on board that train to stop folks not only breaking train bye-laws but the actual law of the land. It is all a pretence.

Law abiding nice people like me put up with all the silly rules. The trash at the bottom of society does not give a damn and do what they like and get away with it.

Perhaps it is time that First Great Western recognised this and changed the oft-repeated announcement to “First Great Western operates a strict no smoking of tobacco policy on all its trains but if you are a tattooed monster who wishes to take drugs (and probably has not even got a ticket) go ahead and do what you like because no-one dares stand up to you.”

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3382 days ago

Insider Dealing on the 8.30 to Paddington

Folks are remarkably indiscreet on trains. I sit here quietly tapping away on my trusty old keyboard but all around me important conversations seem to be going on. It is hard not to see this as an opportunity.

On the other side of the aisle in “the entertainment carriage” of this First Great Western into Paddington, is an man with the sort of glasses yuppie geeks wear and no hair. He had a long chat about a programme to save £200 million over a couple of years before starting talking about “new retail paradigms.” I rather scoffed at that but see that he has notes out on his table and am half tempted to move seats and find out more.

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3389 days ago

‘Elf n’ Safey on First Great Western

I could not hold out. The dulcet tones of Steve “the customer host” lured me to wander along to the “customer service (food and beverage) interaction zone”, formerly known as the buffet bar. Okay, I made that last renaming up but I am sure that if I drop it into a suggestion box, First Great Western will take it seriously.
One latte please.

That will be £2.30 sir. Mein host was a smooth and pleasant. Wish I could say the same about the faux-latte.

“No need to put it in a bag” I said because I am, as you know, a bit of an eco-warrior.

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