Personal and undiluted views

3337 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.


3553 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.


3554 days ago

Graham the Train Manager – what is a train manager?

When did a linesman become an assistant referee? When did a salesman become a sales “consultant?” I do not know but consultant sounds sort of important. Salesman…oooh you mean a bloke who speaks estuary English and tries to flog you things you do not want? No that is a sales consultant. But he can’t be like that because he is not a salesman he is a sales consultant. And that brings me to Graham.

Stepping on the Great First Western train Graham, who says that he is the “train manager” informs us all that we must read the safety instructions (also in Braille) next to our seat. I have never read them and the bloke opposite confesses that he has not either. We both agree that we want to live life dangerously. Has anyone ever read them?

After a long explanation


3555 days ago

West Ham Arsenal Reviewed, Boris you are a git and now to Downton

There is little to be said about the match. It was a great atmosphere. Arsenal took their chances. West Ham did not. West Ham were not completely outplayed and – at times – were on a par. Why Fat Sam replaced Vaz Te with Taylor and not Yossi defies belief. That could have made a game of it. But the better side won.

Naturally a London Derby is going to cause high volume tube traffic. So why the hell, Mr Mayor, did you schedule major repairs on the District line and block off sections of the Hammersmith & City on a match day? You promised that post Olympics the tube would run smoothly. Well I guess that was a Nick Clegg sort of promise. You git.

Getting from Liverpool Street to Upton Park is normally one change


3614 days ago

The Crazy Economics of a Greek bus ride

The 4 PM bus from Zitsa to Ioannina arrived on time having just completed the reverse leg. Precisely nil passengers got off. Going back the bus was far fuller. This time the driver had for company both myself and a little old man aged about 93 who reminded me of Geriatrix in Asterix the Gaul. No doubt this little old man also claimed to be ten years younger.

And so here are the economics of these two bus trips:

Costs: drivers wages for 90 minutes plus time until his next journey, depreciation bus bought in 2004 (see below), diesel costs covering 60 mountainous miles, brake fluid costs, central overhead at bus company. I am not sure what that totals but I bet you it is far greater than revenues: 5 Euro 40 cents.

If Ken Livingstone was running this bus company