Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Sudden Railways

We live in unpredictable days.
Once upon a time, if the railway industry killed one of us, we got good information if not good service for a few days after.
In those days, the senior management of the companies were wetting their underwear thinking that they might be called upon to account for their failures and to take the same kind of responsibility as a motorist must take, say.
Well, lots of people have died and nothing has happened; and in the last few days it has been announced that the railway companies are to be allowed to charge an outrageously large fares increase.
It has finally penetrated the brains up the fat bottoms of railway executives that no one in authority cares that a woman and child died at Bestwood recently.
I do not say that anyone wanted them to be killed. It's just that no one cares.
At least, Sudden Railways does not seem to care.
It was business as usual yesterday.
That business operates a very simple model: we pay high fares and they treat us like dirt, threatening us via posters and announcements about the consequences of evading their cattle gates.
Last night, I tried to get home from inner London.
There were two southbound platforms open at the station but there was no indication of what if anything was arriving where. It was impossible, except for a well-trained athlete, to get to the platform when a train arrived.
In any case one would have to reach the front of the train to know where it was going.
You might expect that a good company would use its backup system and / or make verbal announcements. But this is not a good company. It is financially efficient company. That is, it doesn't waste resources on helping its customers. It doesn't have a back up system. OK? And they don't make verbal announcements except as threats or to confuse the issue. Making announcements would help the visually-impaired and Sudden Railways doesn't like to help the disabled.
I made a guess at the most likely platform. I intended, without hope, to ask the Help point. Another passenger got there first. I listened.
She asked when a train would be arriving, what platform it would arrive at and where it was going.
The operative said: he did not know.
Don't criticise him. This is the correct answer. He is doing his job. He is telling the truth. None of them know anything. What a ridiculous level of information you expect. You'll be asking to go to the station of your choice. Of course he could find out; but you didn't ask that, did you?
Remember the Sudden Railways motto: trains suddenly appear; trains suddenly disappear.
The passenger pressured him; and, resentfully, he looked something up.
He said: There is a train just outside the station.
She asked: Which platform?
He said he did not know.
She said that she only asked because she could not see any train anywhere.
He said: there is a train just outside the station.
She asked where it was going.
He said he did not know.
That was quite a lot of useless information; and she gave up and I didn't bother. The operative went back to studying the centrefold of the latest issue of Signalpersons' Spouses. Usually, you cannot even get useless information out of them. Their heads are lard; but it's ok because they have on the job training.
Their training may be summarised: you don't have to tell passengers anything and if they get angry then they are bad people.
Of course, there was no train; and the liar or perhaps fool who said there was will soon be promoted.
Eventually, after the only visual sign for half an hour being "Welcome" and no verbal announcement, a train arrived. No in-train announcement was made until the doors closed. I went where it was going though it was hardly nearer to where I wanted to be.
And so on...
It went on like that.
And this morning Sudden Railways exercised the discipline of the private sector and made no apology and maintained its policy of not even acknowledging that they were departing from the time table as usual.
Truly, they deserve their fare increase.

Sudden Railways
taking the piss at a profit for the foreseeable future

Tuesday, 11 November 2008


At least from our perspective, the First World War has to be the most pointless war as well as being one of the most badly run. It was, however, billed as the war to end war.

It might be argued by some that the Second World War was justifiable; but that is to overlook the cock up that was made of ending the first.

Other wars appear to me t be the outcome of war-mongering.

This morning, Hutton, the UK Minister for War, said that current wars - Iraq and Afghanistan - were fought for the same reasons as WWI which he outlined as something like defence of our way of life etc - the usual bollocks. He was, therefore, rewriting what we know of WWI.

Or perhaps he is admitting that these wars are a colossal waste of life - not just the 100+ UK soldiers dead but far more dead on the part of the countries' civilians - is being repeated - a waste of energy and life in order to make the bomb makers and the fools in power feel good

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Feeding the machine

[Sainsburys, 5 items or less]
[A customer proffers her goods and prepares to pay.
The Sainsbury's operative feeds a national lottery form into the national lottery terminal. The national lottery terminal spits it out.
The operative feeds the form back in. The terminal spits it out.
The operative turns it upside down and feeds it in. The terminal spits it out.
The operative turns it upside down again - so that it is now the right way up again - and feeds it in. The terminal spits it out.
The operative sighs and turns it upside down again and feeds it in. The terminal spits it out.
The operative sighs and glares at the world in general. She looks at the form.
Operative [angry tone]: This form's blank.
Customer [bored, resigned]: Yeh?
Operative [emphatic]: This form's blank.
Customer [bored, resigned]: Yes, you said
Operative: This form's blank. Why did you give it to me?
Customer: I didn't give it to you.
Operative: You must have done
Customer: If you say so. Can you take the money for my shopping?
Customer2: Hear, hear. I'd like you to take my money
Operative: I'm busy with this customer. If you didn't give it to me, why have I got it?
Customer: I don't know. Perhaps you made a mistake
Customer2: I made a mistake standing here. Here's the money
Operative: You can't take anything till I've scanned it
Customer2: Can't wait. It's Christmas in two months [He goes. The operative glares at his back]
Customer: He's right. Time is passing. Please take my money.
Operative: So you don't want a lottery ticket?
Customer: No!
Operative: I'm only trying to do my job, madam

Monday, 20 October 2008

greedy idiotic investors

It is only a few days since it was being suggested that everything we hold dear financially - and what else is there? - was about to collapse; but already the moaning is starting. At the end of last week, the Today programme gave air time to a man who demanded "fair" treatment for "ordinary investors" who had lost out - as they see it - in the government subsidy to banks.

By and large these are people who voted for demutualisation of their building societies. Some of them actually joined the building society(ies) in order to benefit. That is, they joined without any prior participation solely to vote to change the nature of the society for their own benefit.

Was that fair?

They hoped to gain (a) free shares from the vote (b) profit from the anticipated rise in share price as the demutualised society behaved in a predatory manner.

The idiot of whom I speak claimed that they - the shareholders - were "creating wealth"...

Now this is a statement of belief, not reason.

You can't argue with such an idiotic statement; but it is a widely made statement. It deserves as much respect as any other statement of belief which attributes a priori rights to the believers. It deserves no respect.

It should be obvious to anyone more intelligent than a long deceased rat that profit is made by taking from others more than one has expended.

You paint my house or cook my food or whatever it is, while I do something else, then I recompense you. That's fine.

You buy something and then charge me over the odds for it. That's theft. That's wealth creation.

The building societies were set up as an alternative to the banks. They were a way of freeing ourselves from their exploitation. Those who destroyed almost all the building societies were capable of knowing what they were doing. They were seeking to grab other people's money and other people's way of housing themselves; they were probably justifying it to themselves by telling themselves and each other that those of us who voted against demutualisation were losers.

For me, one of the few enjoyable things about what has happened, whatever happens in the long run, is that these childish, grasping, destructive people have lost some or all of their investment, an investment they made just to benefit themselves unfairly. I might think otherwise if they showed remorse. Instead they behave like noisy children having a tantrum in the supermarket.

Let them eat angel delight.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Idiot listening

New Cross Road, late afternoon. At any time of day this is a dangerous road. The traffic lights are timed short so that there is barely time for a young and fit pedestrian to cross before the traffic starts again; cyclists jump the lights and abuse those who get in their way; the police drive at alarming speed with deafening alarms; et cetera. And at this time of day people want to get home.

A young man wearing what turn out to be noise-excluding headphones wanders across the road. People shout at him because he isn't walking in a straight line; but he can't hear them.

When he gets to the midpoint of the crossing, he has a thought, for want of a better term, and pauses. The lights change. The traffic begins to move. He walks at an unexpected angle. He gets in people's way. They panic. He stops. People push him. He swears at them. He walks back the way he has come. More people push him. He becomes self-righteously angry. He can't hear anything except the private world of his music.

A woman rides her bike along the crowded pavement and tries to jump it into the station, over the step. When walkers complain, she doesn't hear them because she has headphones on; but she does get angry when they get in her way.

Friday, 25 July 2008


Welcome or otherwise to my new blog.

The name of my blog will be explained once I can find the quotation. It's from Robert Harris's novel The Ghost. One of the characters asks something like "When did it become fashionable to be an idiot?"

This is a question which interests be greatly because, where once the idiots were with us but without power, now they have gained power, are self-righteous and are stopping useful things happening. They are also encouraging destructive things to happen. When they are called to account, their defence is that they didn't mean to do harm.

Previously, I have documented instances of fashionable idiocy on myspace; but it made that blog cluttered and uneven. So from now on I shall exhibit it here.

I may sometimes try to amuse