First Great Western bureaucracy

The level of bureaucracy in this country never ceases to amaze me. I made the grave error – a heinous crime – of jumping on a train today two hours earlier than the date printed on my ticket. I have done it dozens of times but, today, the knuckle-scraping tattooed numbskull demanded I get off at Taunton – else pay £50. I made a fuss, as you might imagine; the train was barely a third full: people were stretched out on seats half asleep. It was virtually empty. What difference will it make to anyone, other than to severely inconvenience me, by forcing me off the train?

I reluctantly agreed, to the pleasingly shocked faces of my fellow passengers who seemed as incredulous as I was, and departed in a flurry of foul language. My main reason for being so fed up was the previous journey which was full of drunks, three of whom were smoking. Now, as a smoker, I find this absolutely infuriating. If I abide by the law, so should everyone else. But none of the train staff did anything to stop them. Why weren’t they thrown off the train, like I was, and arrested?

On the same journey a group of asbos, clearly unable to communicate in anything more than primal grunts and gargling bleach or vodka, took up position a few seats down. They were your typical disgusting teenager – we’ve all seen it, and probably done it. Swearing, half-cooked and generally acting like complete losers. A pensioner, probably in her seventies, was shrinking back into her seat and was intimidated – understandable. I pointed this out to these oiks which calmed them down briefly, but they were drinking more and more and she eventually left to stand in the corridor at the back of the carriage in relative peace.

I pointed this out to the useless staff who just made an announcement over the tannoy – the gutless, spineless bureaucrats. There will no doubt be some pathetic rule to protect them that they’re not allowed to approach people they suspect as being drunk. So the passengers suffer in silence.

Pathetic state of affairs. But it does feel good to rant. First Great Western? Your service is abominable.

Richard and Judy, the librarians of Britain

That’s it. I’ve had enough of bookshops. I used to enjoy browsing through them a few years ago, looking up new authors as well as “staple diet” writers who I’ve enjoyed. But the shopping experience in today’s bookshops is overwhelmingly tacky and, well, just overwhelming. Most stores seem to have these tables, with titles piled high, underneath a sign: “our favourites this month” and inevitably there are at least two copies of Paolo Coelho’s wistful musings, and other authors (all of whom seem to share the title of “genius”…) writing about abused Russian alcoholics and Ukranian tractors.

I couldn’t see anything new or particularly exciting, so meandered over to fiction – not my favourite place. And there, emblazoned in yellow and pink and other sickly garish colours, was a stand suggesting five or six books as recommended by Richard and Judy. Good God alive.

Has society plummeted to such literary-ignorant depths that we have to rely on an overpaid, smug TV couple as our national librarians? I only looked at one title – it had a blue cover and, yes, I liked the picture – and, rather inevitably, it was all about a widower and how he’s coping. No surprise there then. I’m not here to judge the quality or writing of the books’ authors – I’m sure they’re very good books – but why the hell are we relying on two celebrities to help us choose what to read? One man’s favourite is another man’s draught excluder.

I very nearly ventured over to the sports section to read a cricket book (spit). Fortunately I found something, after an hour trying to avoid all the arrows and signs and posters demanding I buy THIS book and THAT one: London Pub Reviews by Paul Ewen, a New Zealander who’s written of his experiences and the people he’s come across in some of the capital’s pubs. Perhaps an odd choice for a trip to India, where I’m off to tomorrow, but at least it’s not on Dickhead and Booby’s list…

Strictly for our amusement?

So Ramps is going dancing. I had a chat with him the other day which you can read at Cricinfo. Should be fun to watch; he’s pretty down-to-earth about the whole thing. I wonder if Gough will be watching…

Meanwhile, I’m in Devon – but it’s been a day to forget….
Contine reading

Amo, amas, a rant

I know I’m ranting a lot lately – normal cricketing service shall resume shortly. But I must just get this off my (spluttering) chest. I’m watching Tim Henman, which often induces sporadic fits of frustration in me. Onwards…

I have a tendency to look a bit rough-and-ready at the best of times. Therefore, when I’m ill I closely resemble a homeless person. Incidentally, that’s probably politically incorrect. “A less homely person”? On a similar point, did you know “disabled” has all but been banned? Those lacking ability, or movement, are “less abled” which, from my time at the NHS, was met with guffaws by the dozen of so wheelchair-bound patients who I worked with on a daily basis).

Anyway, with a four-day beard and genuinely feeling like a dog, I marched into my local surgery. “Hello, would it be possible to see a Doctor? I think I’m about to die” weren’t my exact words, but it was plain as day that I was clearly not there to make up the numbers, or offer her a discount on a handmade cuckoo clock from Milton Keynes. Nor do I have a taste for ketamine or other bizarre drugs: I just need some antibiotics. Here’s what she said.

“We don’t have any doctors here today.”

WHAT? You’re a fucking surgery. Your signpost outside clearly states you are not only open now, at midday, but that you will be open until six. Open but Doctorless – welcome to (Old) Labour’s vision of how to reduce an ageing population: kill us all before we reach 65. How, then, can she help me?

“You can come back tomorrow. We should have a doctor then.”

Terrific. That’s just brilliant – just brilliant. My problem with this is twofold: there are many, many other people who are far, far worse off than me. What would they do? Not a bloody lot I imagine. Secondly, could she have been any less helpful? It’s all about numbers, figures, databases, and targets these days. When I was at the NHS, we were similarly crippled in booking patients on for operations or clinics, but every day we made exceptions where possible.

Anyway, I’m now eating chicken soup which, apparently, is also known as Jewish penicillin.

Don’t you hate it when…

…the referee at Wimbledon says “For respect to the players, please ensure mobile phones are switched off” and everyone claps, cheers and whistles? They’re all guilty, you see.

I have a cold, and am going to start ranting like a bastard.

The monthly rant: London buses

A crowded busIt’s been a while since I chastised a public service, or an entire continent – so I just thought I’d get this off my chest. Buses.

What’s worse; a bus driver who never lets anyone on, or one who lets everyone on? THE LATTER and here’s why. When I’m on the bus, I don’t really care about anyone else getting on. Selfish, perhaps, but commuting in London requires a degree of focus and single-minded bastardness (“get out of my way you suit/beggar/pushchair/”). Bah. Pushchairs – that’s for next month, definately. Their owners think they have licence to rip your ankles to shreds, repeatedly, so long as little Johnny doesn’t have to walk a few metres, I mean honestly – get out of my bloody way.

On my very lengthy journey home of at least two miles, the 72 was driven by the world’s chattiest driver. Normally I’d welcome such a cheery and charitable fellow – but I was in a rush to get back home, get the kettle on and have my seventh cup of tea. (as it was, I ended up in the pub, but that’s by the by). Everyone was allowed on the bus. Everyone. It was heaving and groaning under the sweaty mass of countless exhausted workers and grotty teenagers.

Noah's fucking Ark

Just when one of Transport for London’s Arks was about to buckle, the driver would notice a couple more people furiously waving their Oyster cards and unread-but-nevertheless-crumpled newspapers, demanding that the Ark stopped to allow them aboard. And it worked! On they came, usually in twos (just to really piss me off). The doors shut, handbrake lifted and off we went. NO! More. Brakes slammed on, door opened – and best of all, the apparently chipper driver hurried them on, “Quickly, quick quick, come on”. Needless to say, my silent prayers that he would ignore the fledgling, desperate commuters fell on deaf ears.

I have never seen a bus so full. Thankfully, I’m tall enough to rise above the smell of London’s armpits. Unfortunately for everyone else, I had a very late and drunken evening last night and didn’t have a shower this morning, so unleashed my whiff on the greedy buggers delaying my journey.

God this is fun, ranting without cause or reason. I’ll promise to limit it to once a month. Meanwhile – aren’t England rubbish at the moment?

Disclaimer: despite today’s trouble, I actually have very very few problems with London’s transport system. The Tube is still better suited for Noah’s flock than us lot – ha! well no! Because actually, cattle can’t be transported over 30c or something, and the Tube in the summer rises to an Egyptian 39c – but it does work, for me. And the buses, while crammed, hardly ever let me down.