Monthly Archives: January 2003

January Snow? A Surprise to Transport Chiefs

Here we go again. Following on from the 23-mile traffic problems on the M4 and the Chancery Lane tube crash, the South East of England was hit by a snow storm. Not an unexpected event in January and one that the weather forecasters got right two days ago. Nevertheless, snow on the ground brings the South East to a halt. Even the Underground was hit (strange, but true).

I was in a taxi on my way home last night from central London and many of the main routes seemed to have been missed by the gritting teams. Still, my taxi driver was able to get me home safely which is more than the poor souls on the M11 who spent upwards of twenty hours trapped on a snow-swept, frozen motorway going nowhere [BBC].

Why is it that weather treats commuters so badly? Wrong leaves, wrong snow, frozen points, iced snow-blocked roads? Not one of these weather conditions should be a shock to the transport planners. Sadly, I don’t understand. I suspect bad planning (incompetence, even) and I doubt things will change. Has the past week been exceptional or is this really how it is and I have just got to the point where I feel I should write about it? Let’s hope next week brings relief from public transport woes.

On this day…

2004: Maybe Somebody Was Listening
2004: Forgotten Credits
2004: Supporting Greg
2004: Where In The World
2004: Desert Drag

In Need of Exposure? Visit A Salon!

The Salon, Channel Four’s current reality TV show set in a beauty salon is an interesting concept. Book an appointment for a cut and blow-dry and then see yourself on television. To be honest I was quite keen on this one (I’m not sure why it appealed more than some of the other formats, but it did). Sadly, silly scheduling means I saw the two opening shows and have not watched another one. As it turns out, I am quite glad as it seems it could turn into a celebrity rehabilitation centre. Missing out television exposure? Turn up and get your hair cut and your celebrity past will, most likely, mean you’ll make it to air. Has anybody really sunk this low to grab some TV time? Yes, Michael Barrymore. [Source: Ananova | Channel 4]

On this day…

2008: When Will I See The Ghosts Again

Pop

I am currently listening to pop. This is a difficult thing to write. Pop is not considered to be a credible music genre by people who listen to lots of music. Pop is considered the home of the boy band. Pop is the cheap and nasty side of music. People, especially people of my age, should have grown out of pop, but I have not. I enjoy the throw-away nature of it. The three-minute perfect pop song can take you away from your day and, if this week’s other entries are to be believed, away from your fellow commuters.

Actually, I hope, the current music I am listening to is considered the good side of pop (see, I am joining in the criticism of the genre). Not for me the sounds of the Cheeky Girls or S Club Juniors. No, I hope my current selection is a little more discerning.

I own a reasonable amount of music but I don’t purchase CDs weekly like some people. But I am listening to three recent albums which must be the first time that has happened to me in a long while. My current favourite is Justin Timerlake’s Justified. That is followed closely by Erasure’s new release (just last Monday), Other People’s Songs. Finally, I been unable to resist Will Young’s From Now On. Yes, unable to resist!

On this day…

2006: Logo For Our Times
2004: Company Update

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Selfish Commuters

I’ve been thinking some more about my current blog theme – transportation. What is it that makes people so selfish when it comes to transport? How many times have you been pushed out of the way on the trains or tubes by other commuters who feel that they have some kind of right to be on a train before you? How many times have you been stuck in a traffic queue because some selfish driver is blocking a side road, box junction or hogging the middle lane of the motorway – all to get them a precious few seconds nearer their destination? How many times have you wanted to pull the headphones off a fellow commuter because they refuse to turn down the volume? How many times have you seen an idiot holding their mobile in one hand and trying to turn the wheel, single-handed, round a corner missing you by inches because they are not in control? New research says that even hands-free kits are no good: Drivers who use a mobile telephone, even with a “hands-free” device, suffer from a kind of tunnel vision that endangers themselves and others [Source: Reuters]. What is it that makes people behave this way and, more importantly, why do I find it so frustrating to witness?

On this day…

2006: Happy Birthday

Tube Train Crashes

It looks like public transport around London will be my theme of the week. On Friday, we had motorway pile-ups and traffic queues for more than twenty miles. Yesterday, a tube train crashed on the Central line [BBC News] which, I suspect, means one of the main routes into London will be closed for weeks. Reuters is reporting that London Underground bosses have also suspended services on the Waterloo and City line which, apparently, uses the same trains.

I haven’t spoken to anybody else about this, but I wonder what Londoners think of tube safety? Despite the King’s Cross fire (which was at the station and not on the trains) and an incident at Moorgate many years ago, there haven’t been that many major incidents on the Underground. I think, subconsciously, I understood this for I have never once (in ten years of using the system) felt unsafe as a result of the riding the trains. I’ve felt uncomfortable with the heat and the lack of fresh air. I’ve felt ill in the commuter crush when it’s almost impossible to move on a train. Even the claims of under-investment haven’t made me stop to think about the safety of the system. Now, especially having read accounts posted online by those on the train that crashed, I will think again.

On this day…

2006: It's Nearly Australia Day In W1
2006: It’s Nearly Australia Day In W1
2005: Google Usenet Timelime

23 Mile Traffic Snake

It’s hard to write about the state of transportation in the UK. I live in London and, like many people in large cities across the world, suffer horrendous congestion which, perhaps, distorts my view of the daily travel.

Like many, however, there comes a point when you believe that somebody has to do something – there were 23 mile tailbacks on the M4 earlier today (for all I know, people are still stuck in an endless snake of traffic) [source - BBC News].

When are we going to accept that there are parts of this country which are too over-crowded and congested and we need to look for radical ways to ease this commuter hell for people?

February 17th sees the introduction of congestion charging in central London. There is much discussion across London media about the relative merits of the charge and, of course, calls from almost every sector of the motoring community that they should be exempt.

I am not sure if I am a believer in the congestion charge. For starters, I think it targets the wrong area. There’s much more congestion outside the zone than there is inside. However, I do applaud Ken Livingstone for trying something, anything. Yes, I wish public transport could be better first. But, at the current rate, London will be at a 24-hour standstill in a few years and that isn’t any good for any of us. I do hope this doesn’t become Ken’s Poll Tax and that people look for transport alternatives to their car (Related: BBC London’s Congestion Charging Guide)

On this day…

2005: Back London's Bid For 2012
2005: Back London’s Bid For 2012
2004: Transport Museum
2003: Starbucks

Starbucks

I went to dinner last night to celebrate a friend’s birthday (happy birthday Lili). On the way there, as I was a little early, I thought that I would take a few moments to myself (and also to write her birthday card). I looked around for some convenient location that would allow me to sit and write the card. After dismissing sitting on a bench on Clapham Common in the dark, I was drawn to the bright lights of the nearest Starbucks.

I only usually frequent Starbucks, and their like, when I am with other people. As a rule, I do not find the idea of expensive coffee remotely pleasurable (also, I am not coffee connoisseur and it all tastes remarkably similar to me). However, last night the bright lights were the most welcoming place in the area.

There were three staff and three other customers sitting inside drinking their favourite Starbucks coffee. A couple sat at the table behind me and a girl sat to my right talking on her mobile ‘phone for most of the twenty minutes I was there. And there were no other customers.

While I sat there, three somewhat-unconnected things struck me for which I have no real answers:

  1. What would these people have done before the advent of the coffee shop? I can’t think where they would go. There were no independent cafes that I can recall. These places have become a refuge for the privileged – those who think nothing of spending £2 on a cup of coffee (or a double tall skinny whatever).
  2. Why do coffee shops never smell of freshly ground coffee? Maybe they do, but I don’t smell it. It’s almost as if the smell would deter people and they go out of their way to reduce the impact. Surely, that much coffee in one place must stink!
  3. There was a sign behind the counter: “Spring is in the air – Enjoy the romance of Coffee. What is the romance of coffee? A date with some Arabica beans, perhaps? What a bizarre marketing effort for Valentines Day. Get romantic over a Starbucks steaming mug.

On this day…

2005: Back London's Bid For 2012
2005: Back London’s Bid For 2012
2004: Transport Museum
2003: 23 Mile Traffic Snake

Lost In La Macha

Lost in La Mancha is superb. If you are, at all, interested in the process of making a film then you should go and see the unravelling of Terry Gilliam‘s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

From the start, the production is plagued by floods. Gilliam, being independent of spirt and – therefore – independent of Hollywood studio money battles on with Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort in starring roles. Rochefort’s illness, however, brings a grinding halt to the proceedings.

Narrated by Jeff Bridges, Lost in La Mancha, had access to the whole production and, as such, we get a fascinating tale of movie making.

On this day…

2005: Hitch Hikers Guide Is Coming
2004: Naked Across Britain
2004: Shop 'Til You Drop
2004: Shop ‘Til You Drop
2003: The Digital Music Debate

The Digital Music Debate

Originally this post started with the line, “I wonder why the music industry does not embrace online music”. Of course, I stopped because the answer’s kind of clear. But is it just greed? Is it just fear? Is it just protectionism?

Well, who knows. They are certainly worried:

In its harshest indictment yet of Internet piracy, a top official of the music industry said Sunday Europe’s 600,000 music professionals risk losing their jobs unless the industry fights back [source].

Of course the sounds from the music industry are often contradictory. Robbie Williams’ comments at the weekend (“music piracy is great“) may have been a publicity stunt but they seem to reflect a certain truth: there is not a great deal the music industry can do about music sharing and there seems little will to try to bring online music into the mainstream.

But why, I wonder, don’t they look to a way to embrace online/digital music? I listen to most of my CDs via my computer or my mp3 player. Randomised, sorted and with the dross removed I get to enjoy the music as I want to. I buy music but the CD is just the transport/delivery mechanism and its use as the medium of choice for people to listen to the material is long gone. I could list my recent purchases that have been bought thanks to the ability to preview the music online. But I won’t.

Our beloved government, with its finger on the pulse of electronic media, seems confused. Kim Howells (Minister for this sort of thing) “has since condemned Williams’ remarks, accusing him of supporting drug and prostitution rackets” [source]. This is, quite clearly, missing the point when reality is that nobody is making a penny from music sharing and it’s this lack of revenue that the music industry is upset about. Quite how Kim Howells can so obviously have missed this suggests he ought to look around for some new advisors. I would have thought digital copyright issues would have been on his agenda (somewhere).

In the light of all this, I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to read about digital download day (BBC News). It seems there is an element of the music industry that is trying to address the issues sensibly and that’s why I’ll be supporting it on 21 March.

On this day…

2005: Hitch Hikers Guide Is Coming
2004: Naked Across Britain
2004: Shop 'Til You Drop
2004: Shop ‘Til You Drop
2003: Lost In La Macha

New Year New Mirror

I have been looking through some photographs that I took on New Year’s Day. We were staying in a hotel in central London to celebrate the coming of the new year and I started trying to get an interesting shot from the arrangement of mirrors in the bathroom. Of course the resulting shot is an ideal image for The Mirror Project but, like everything I am doing at the moment, I didn’t get round to doing anything about it. So yesterday I off it went and the result is available here.

On this day…

2004: Not American