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Wednesday, January 30, 2013


why oh why

do people who like the shittest music in the world always insist on playing it the loudest?
whether it be the spod on public transport who is blasting their ears with loud crappy music.
the boy racer in their souped up car with the stereo so loud it propels the car along.
or the neighbour who seems to have three records and plays them on repeat for an hour or so in a variation of the chinese water torture.

i am not saying that noise pollution is fine if i like the sound of it - just that it makes it a little more bearable.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


snow, let it snow, let it snow.

i like the snow. it makes me smile. it makes me act like a big old kid. i get giggly excited at the prospect of snow.
we have had snow today. yay.

i was quite impressed by the fact that tower hamlets had council workers out gritting and salting some of the streets. it might have been better if they had done more of them - but some is better than none.

from a period where snow was an occasional thing we are now getting snow every year. we don't get it in huge frequent quantities, but now we are getting it annually. so you would have thought that by now people would have gotten it into their heads to be prepared for it.
oh hush my mouth, where did i get that thought from?

given we have known about this most recent downpour for most of the week - the press were agog at it: snow! snow! snonaggedon! there should be no excuse for being caught out.
as i said i was impressed that the council has managed to get out and grit some of the roads. they can't do all the roads because of the economics of it. not just because of con/dems enforced austerity drive but also because most people would argue that having large quantities of equipment and supplies that may not all be used.

of course people complain. 'why aren't the roads gritted?' 'why aren't the pavements cleared?'
the funny thing is these drivers and pedestrians won't have bothered to get snow tyres/chains or footwear designed for snowy weather - because they have made an economic choice that such expense is not worth it.

more annoyingly is that the snow seems cause all kinds of problems for travel infrastructure.
trains having to deal with the wrong snow. just what the fuck is that? (yes i know that there is wet snow and dry snow - but even so).

the worst offender is heathrow airport. i have no worries about the fact that they have to delay flights, after all safety is paramount. what gets me is that they seem to not have any sort of contingency plan to deal with the situation or the issues it causes the disappointed passengers.
the radio was carrying several pieces from heathrow tonight that allowed passengers to give vent to their issues with the airport. among the problems mentioned was that the contact number they had given passengers was closed for the night; that there were no announcements made giving up to the minute information; that there were not staff providing information to passengers; that their offers of 'free' accommodation and re-booking of flights are full of caveats that would allow the airport and carriers to squirm out of their responsibilities.
what makes it inexcusable is that they knew it was going to be happening and they should have planned for it, especially as heathrow is always working very very close to capacity on a good day.
all they needed to do was to make sure that they had enough staff there to provide sensible and consistent information, that they had the staff to keep open their emergency phone lines throughout the night (surely this is one of those things that they can outsource to india - or are the outsourced companies not all that good?), that information about what to do in the circumstances of no flights would have been thought through and information sheets available to all passengers. they could have arranged to make sure that a number of the food/drink concessions stayed open to provide subsidised grub.

there are specialists for this, they call it crisis management.
instead there are thousands who are stranded at the airport who are all thinking what a bunch of twats (and by this i don't mean members of the defunct twa company) are in charge.

the key to any business that deals with people is customer service - you want to make a good impression, not because people will praise you to the high heavens more often than not they won't, but what you want to do is avoid them taking to social media to tell the world and their cousin that you would have trouble organising a piss up in a very full and open brewery.

and they tell us that private industry is the answer to all our troubles.

Monday, January 14, 2013


if music be the food of life

i had one of those ‘oh wow’ thoughts while i was sitting listening to a recital of schubert’s ‘death and the maiden’, in the glorious surrounds of hawksmoor’s wonderful christ church when i realised i don’t listen to music as much as i used to.

i came to music late on. sure i listen to pop on the radio; enjoying the sounds of bands like the osmonds, jackson 5, mud, the sweet, slade, 10cc and others. yet music wasn’t really into it – no buying the melody maker or nme for me, bit even a smash hits.

around about the 5th form when a large number of my contemporaries stated getting excited about the new music genre of punk i finally woke up to the world of music.
i did this by ignoring punk.
it wasn’t that i was trying to find something new and different to listen to – it was just that i wasn’t sure what i wanted to listen to.  the first few albums (12 inches of wonderful vinyl) i bought included manhattan transfer’s ‘coming out’, meatloaf’s ‘bat out of hell’ and moody blues ‘live + five’. these were quickly followed by albums featuring bruce springsteen, king crimson, frank zappa.
with the help of radio shows such as tommy vance and nicky horne i found more music. with the help of school mates even more music was found and shared.
my love of music had started.

now i don’t claim to have any special knowledge of music - i couldn’t tell a triplet from a 4/4 beat and i get lost among the various sub-genres that dot the music landscape: emo? shoegaze? speed, death or black metal? who knows? who cares?
so while i was listening to ‘death and the maiden’ i was happy to admit that i know nothing about classical music beyond there is a lot of it that i like.
it is the same with other music. i may not know much about the theory of music, i don’t really know much about the history of music i couldn’t do a rock tree family history ala pete frame, and i know even less about trends in music.
to be honest it doesn’t bother me that i don’t. why? because i want to like the music for what it is and for what it does for me and to me.

i don’t care if the music i like is considered to be old hat, passé, rubbish or boring. i listen to it to make me feel something. i want to be entertained. i want to think ‘hey that was pretty good’. like art i can be moved by some work because at an emotional level it has moved me, and there are times when i can appreciate something on an intellectual level because of the work that has gone into.

i have a lot of music. most of it would fall into the broad category of heavy metal/hard rock.
there used to be a time when a day wouldn’t go by without me listening to a few albums; now not so much. nowadays i am more likely to be watching a dvd or listening to chat or sport on 5live. as the strings played schubert i decided that it is time to get back to listening to music.

time to dust off the stereo, open some cd cases and play some tunes.

Friday, January 11, 2013


negative equity

let’s all raise a glass and toast the passing of jessop’s, the photography retailer.
there yesterday.
gone today.

another specialist lost, another repository of information gone.

some of the reasons for its demise are down to the fact it didn’t respond quick enough to the changes in the way that people take and view photographs. cameras are being replaced by mobile devices such as phones and tablets, while photos are now being viewed on those self same devices and stored online.

another reason was the use of jessop’s as a showroom so that people could go and buy from amazon at a much cheaper price.

add in the factor that all too often the landlords are interested in upping their rents and filling the vacant space with yet another starbucks, even though it must be very obvious that there is fast coming a point where there are more places to drink coffee than there are people to fill them up.

(mmm amazon and starbucks: two success stories that don’t pay tax double win.)

we run the risk of turning our high streets into areas of coffee shops, fast food joints and various sized versions of everyone’s favourite supermarkets.

the real irony of this is that it doesn’t help the suppliers either – as more and more power is concentrated into the hands of one or two retailers the greater their influence over the suppliers becomes. it has the potential to become a retailing clusterfuck.

won’t be long before another chain bites the dust.

take this opportunity to go support your local shops. want a coffee – go to a local independent. want a book? spend some money with your local seller.
trust me you’ll miss them when they are gone.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


legacy schmegacy

a recent report said that since the olympics only 1 in 5 of the population had taken up sports. it was reported in that classic way of ‘oh hasn’t the much talked about legacy failed. to me it appears more a glass half full than half empty. a 20% increase is nothing to sneer at – especially when you consider that lots of people are broke and most sports cost money.

legacy is such a woolly concept and, for me, it has been targeted in a very narrow way. for the most part the olympic legacy is to be that of the achievements of future sports stars and the fact that we have several new centres in which to nurture those stars. a knock on effect of this is that more of us will (it is hoped and argued) get off our arses and become more active: taking up one of the sports that may have thrilled us at the olympics.

as far as i am concerned the olympics legacy should have been and could still be more than giving a few privileged sports stars the chance to become ‘elite’ performers and to chase their dreams paid for by the state.
oddly enough the olympics was probably the moment i finally fell out of love with sports stars – the level of entitlement that some olympians, past and present, displayed was pretty jaw dropping. not that it is something that is unique to the world of the olympics; just look around the sporting world and you will quickly find a sports performer who seems to think that just because they can perform at a high level they are different from the rest of us and deserve better treatment – as if the rewards they are getting are not enough

think of some of those cyclists and rowers who performed wonderfully in the olympics. many of them are getting state funding. they are being funded to pursue their dream. they will not have to pay that funding back – even if they fail to achieve the dream. now think of the nursing or teaching student who has a dream, dare i say vocation, to serve others who has to borrow their tuition fees and will have to pay it back. yes the sport star may be the idol of many but the nurse and teacher will have a more profound effect on the lives of people.
so yes i am disenchanted with sports performers. 

it is not their fault that legacy has come to mean just sports.
one of the most amazing things about the olympics was the games makers – everyone took to them, everyone cheered and applauded them. the tens of thousands who volunteered did so at their own cost and provided the games with a sparkle of enthusiasm. it is something that the commonwealth games in glasgow is going to try to emulate.
funny thing about the games makers is that they were david cameron’s big society in action. yet nothing has really been done to utilise this after the games. what a legacy that would have been if they had morphed into a national volunteer force?  what a legacy it could have been if some of the sponsors of the games had been persuaded to help fund such a volunteer force?

the olympics isn’t just about sport. so much went on in the background to ensure that the sport could take place. yet none of this background work gets celebrated, and this is where the idea of legacy could have been used to make a real difference.
in order to put on a global event such as the olympics a whole range of skills are needed and a whole range of careers are involved. these may be the less glamorous backroom jobs they were also the essential ones that allowed the games to run smoothly. while all the attention is turned on creating the next generation of rowers, cyclists, runners and such like; and while some sports cry over the fact they are not getting money to increase participation in their particular sport, a whole slew of kids are being left out.
people who were wowed zaha hadid’s aquatic centre or anish kapoor’s ‘the orbit’ could be shown what they would need to study in order to become an architect. those who were impressed with the graphics and branding of the games could be pointed in the direction of art and design or marketing.  the importance of translation services could encourage the take up of more language studies. so many of the lessons taught at school could have been linked to some aspect of the olympics; these skills all could be linked to further study or interesting important careers.

i have a couple of friends who work with children. one of them told me that there is a lack of aspiration among large chunks of the school population. the other has been involved with a project to cut down on knife crime – and one aspect of that project was to get kids doing other things. those other things were: making music or playing sports.
in a culture that has embraced celebrity these seem to be the only acceptable options.
prince charles was criticised when he claimed that programmes like the x-factor were just creating a belief that success could come over night and hard work wasn’t necessary.

the discussion over the olympic legacy should be much wider than it is currently.

still an increase in 20% of the people playing sport is a start.


happy 150th

so the tube system hits 150 years old. pretty amazing really.
i love the tube, i don't use it as much as i used to (finances and a little bit of walking never hurt anyone), so i get a little excited whenever i do get to ride the rails.

1863 and the first steam driven train runs from paddington to farringdon street.

since then many more stations have opened (and closed) and new lines have been added - the latest being the last part of the london overground in 2012.

2013 and it is 150 years and counting.
one of the numbers to be counted is the £12 billion wanted to upgrade a few of the lines (piccadilly and bakerloo). for the moment we are all looking forward to crossrail being finished and the introduction of some new rolling stock.

other things to look forward to in 2012: bob crow calling his members out on strike; borish johnson wiff waffing on about driverless trains and boris telling us how we are getting a fantastic service while putting the price up again.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


love is in the air

i do enjoy a cup of coffee. part of it is to do with buzz i get from the drink and part of it is the coffee shop experience.
i also like people watching, and coffee shops are great places for such activity.

there i was yesterday supping on an extra strong latte (and very tasty it was too) and reading the paper. sitting opposite me on the settee was a couple, or at least i thought that they were.  he was a long tall gangly chap who reminded me of a younger version of rob brydon. designer stubble, sprawled out but looking at the girl.
she was a small petite somali girl, short hair, happy face. very cute.
he was dressed as if he had just come from a trendy office, smart but very casual. she looked like a student: jeans and stripy top.

she was doing most of the talking (well she’s a woman) and mostly she was talking about relationships. mmm maybe this isn’t what i thought it was. quickly worked out that she has just started seeing someone and that someone isn’t the bloke sitting next to her. oh dear.

now dear reader i have been in this position. i have been that gentle and concerned ear listening and advising someone about their relationship issue. all the while wanting to say ‘look at me – i am right here and i quite fancy you’ but because you are a sensible and sensitive person you don’t.
i can see on the bloke’s face that’s exactly how he feels. his voice straining to be nice and reasonable as he contributed to the conversation. her all bubbly; him sort of restrained wondering how to answer. she’s all smiles; he’s all forced bonhomie.
you could tell it was one of those friendships that had sprung up from the realisation that he was never going to get the nod for her: never going to be a lover, so best he could be was as a friend.
today he was having a tough time being a friend.

still she was really very cute.


the wrong target (fare’s fare)

the price of public transport has gone up (again) over and above the rate of inflation (again).  although the train companies are making profits for their shareholders they claim the rise is necessary. even though their service has not improved they claim that the price rise is good for passengers.
quite what world they are living in is anyone’s guess.

two sunday papers carried attacks on different transport ministers. the mail on sunday and the sunday mirror. what is surprising is that the mail on sunday attacked the right target while the sunday mirror picks on the wrong person.

the mail onsunday ran with a story about simon burns, the rail fares minister, who uses a chauffeured driven government car to travel to work each day. the cost of the car is £80,000 a year (though not all of that can be laid at the feet of mr. burns as the car maybe used by other ministers during the day). his excuse for not catching the train into work is that he can’t work on his ministerial papers in public places; this restriction has been denied by the cabinet office. he further justifies his use of the car because he has given up his second home in london and commutes to and from work. well bully for him.
a spokesman for the passenger campaign group railfuture said ‘it would be nice if the person who is setting these fare rises was also experiencing some of the congestion and overcrowding endured by ordinary hard-pressed travellers.’ of course as a minister he could claim back his transport fees (£5.400 a year for a first class ticket. the mail have even worked out how much it would cost for him to get a daily taxi - £36,000 – but are very large savings on the £80k the departmental car costs) it is the fact that, as railfuture point out, he is avoiding the hassle that he is in part responsible for. it is yet another example of the con/dems being out of touch with ordinary people.

meanwhile the sunday mirror chose to attack norman baker, a liberal democrat transport minister, they say he has claimed £7000 in transport expenses, compared with this is a pittance. the mirrors case is made even weaker when you realise that the total is from when mr. baker took office in may 2010. to put it another way he is claiming approximately £230 a month in travel allowance to travel between his constituency and london.
mr. baker doesn’t appear to have his snout in the trough.

while politicians didn’t cover themselves in glory when it came to the expenses scandal and they now have only themselves to blame when it comes to the press jumping on them. they are also in the press firing line simply because of leveson report. there is a large chunk of the population who are furious about the above inflation price rise for their transport prices. all of this adds up to a bit of a perfect storm when it comes to transport ministers. it is just a shame that the mail on sunday got it right and the sunday mirror got it wrong.