Saturday, June 18, 2011

The spitefulness of TFL

My girlfriend sometimes calls me a grumpy young man when I begin ranting and raving about my dislike of various things, and perhaps in some ways she's right, but my contempt for TFL often feels entirely vindicated.

Two examples from this week:

At Piccadilly Circus the electronic board proclaimed a train was one minute away. We stood there for at least five minutes before it arrived, and then it was utterly packed and getting on was basically impossible. It took two more trains before I was able to board. Why claim a train is one minute away when it isn't?

This morning, at Leicester Square there was a large poster board at the top of the escalators that said "On June 3 TFL and the British Transport Police conducted ticket inspections of travellers at Leicester Square at found X number of passengers fraudulent tickets and X passengers without tickets. £75 was gathered in fines".

This whole thing is idiotic.

So TFL are proudly warning all travellers through the station that all their checks – which included manpower from the BTP for goodness sake – raised a total of £75! Should they be pleased by this? They're boasting about £75? It's pathetic.

What a shocking waste of time, energy and resources that surely could be applied to more useful, meaningful tasks. The BTP in particular should not be deployed in this way, what a hateful thing to do – is that why people become police officers, to facilitate the fining of travellers on the underground to return £75 in revenue?

Also, what' the point in the board? As a warning to travellers, a deterrent? What for? If people try to skim the system then they will regardless and no fines (a total of £75! ha!) will stop it.

The only people that actually suffer are legitimate travellers impeded on their journey because of stupid ticket checks or who, probably due to genuine reasons of forgetfulness or mistakes, forgot to top up or have the wrong Oyster Card on their person, but are ruthlessly fined merely because TfL can – despite running a service at a level that passes as nothing more than competent.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Treasure Island, the Jungle Book and muppet voices in my head

I read Treasure Island recently, as part of a mini-drive to read some old classics (facilitated by my Kindle which makes such books free!) and have to say it was very enjoyable – you can certainly see why it’s such a classic.

What was amusing for me was that as I read the book, with character Hawkins, Blind Pew, Billy Bones and of course Long John Silver turning up and performing their dastardly piratical deeds, was that every character took on the look and sound of their Muppet Treasure Island equivalents, having seen the film on numerous occasions when I was a child.

Of course, Long-John and his famous “smart as paint you are lad” line was Tim Curry, but for the rest, such as Smollet, we have Kermit the Frog, and Squire Trelawney as Fozzie Bear and so on, which made for some odd voices in my head during the commute to work in this truly dreadful summer we’re having, as ever.

After that it was The Jungle Book, which interestingly is actually five stories, with Mowgli, Shere Khan, Baloo and Bagheera merely the first of these five stories at the start of the book and it differs in many ways to the film – Baloo is far more serious, and Mowgli causes the death of the evil tiger by leading a wilderbeast stampede upon the tiger in a ravine, from which there is no escape.

Of course, again, the movie from my childhood had conditioned me to hear the voices of the characters in a certain way, so despite Baloo trying to be serious, I just heard the scat-loving comedy character of the film.

The other stories concern a seal leading his kind away from evil men, a mongoose killing snakes to protect a family, a young boy witnessing a midnight elephant rave and then a bunch of military animals discussing their role on the battlefield, and why each is braver than the other (with strong pro-empire overtones about doing your duty and the importance of a system and the rule of order).

It was a very enjoyable read, though, and nice to have finally read some Kipling, having eaten so many of his cakes too.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Lost in translation

It's been a month since I returned from China and Hong Kong and I can't believe I forgot to write a blog about the wonderful Lost in Tranlsation moment that occurred when I checked in to my hotel in Shenzhen, China.

I was hugely jet lagged (leaving at 6pm means you arrive at about 2pm, but to your body it's about 4am) and was also in a slight state of "Crikey, I'm in China, the red state", and so already susceptible to confusion and bewilderment.

Our bags were taken by the bellboys, and we ascend the lift to our rooms, I went inside and checked out the view, and waited for my bag to turn up before I could grab some much demanded sleep.

Sure he enough he turned up and left my bag in the room before heading back to the door, so far, so good. Then, as he got there, there was another man behind him, in workmans clothes, holding a large round bottle connected to a long piece of tube with a nozzle on the end that looked a little like a blow torch.

They both looked at me, I at them, bleary-eyed and the bell-boy pointed at the bottle before pointing at the bathroom. I nodded, "Ok?" I offered, but they didn't understand and so we all just stood there.

I rocked on my heels, the two Chinese men looked at each other, and I felt we might be there forever, until the bell-boy, smart as paint, remembered his mobile phone.

He whipped it out, and showed me a list of tasks he had to do of which number one was "1. insect". I immediately let out an "Ohhhh" noise, as in "Oh, I see", when of course I of course didn't.

I gave him an eager thumbs up and watched as the blow-torch man went in to the bathroom. There was a short swooooshing sounds and then they both left, smiling and happy.

I peered in to the bathroom, wondering if he'd just pumped a lot of insects in to my barthoom as part of some local custom of welcome, but not, don't be stupid ridiculous tired and confused Dan, I thought, they've just removed on from somewhere.

With that I went to bed.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Castaway with Robinson Crusoe

I read Robinson Crusoe recently, thanks to my shiny Kindle, and a very enjoyable story it was too, even if it is written in ye olde English language.

He sets off, is shipwrecked near Hull, then goes to sea again and is captured by a Moor king in Africa where he is a slave for two years. Then he escapes, goes to Brazil, makes a fortune, is shipwrecked on a slave gathering mission (that'll learn him), lives for some 20 plus years on an island, rescues Friday from cannibals, rescues a Spanish man and Friday's father (first ever novel and it's got a mental plot twist, cha!) helps overturn a mutinous English ships and then uses the ship to return to England. Then he escapes wolves in the Pyrenees.

Book two, the sequel, (it's very Lost-esque) sees him return, meet the Spanish men who've inhabited the island, battle with more cannibals then go on to the Far East and then in to China and Russia to escape Dutchmen who believe he has stolen a ship and is a pirate – he's not, he was tricked in to buying it.

Thus you have the plot of Robinson Crusoe and I would say you don't really need to read it yourself now.