Tuesday 28 August 2007

Feels like Monday

Even though I was at work yesterday and therefore am not starting the week on Tuesday, it STILL feels like Monday today! Go figure.

Another journey blighted this morning by the bad manners of fellow travellers. First there was the man who didn't have any money on his Oyster, but ignored the bus driver calling him back to pay cash. Why should he get a free ride? Sadly the driver was not one of the sterner ones... I've come across some who would turn off their engine and refuse to move until the miscreant either paid a fare or left the bus! Then there were all the people at Green Park who decided to shove onto the train as soon as the doors opened instead of waiting for passengers to disembark. Sadly it is too early in the day for the platform staff to ask people to "let passengers off the train first". I don't understand why people can't have a few manners... it costs nothing!

I was getting my juice for breakfast this morning when I heard a hullabaloo from the other side of the back door. It was the feline equivalent of shouting. Molly telling me that she was hungry and would like breakfast now please. Why she couldn't have come in through the cat flap and told me this instead of insisting I open the back door I really don't know!

Total chaos in Charlton this morning as the Monday refuse collections (and the recycling collections) took place a day late. There was gridlock on Littleheath as there was the refuse lorry, the recycling lorry, the 486, the 53 and the 422 going one way and the 53 going the other... all trying to navigate the parked cars. They managed in the end... just in time for me to get on a bus and catch up with the two refuse lorries!

We cleaned out the Frog Pond at the weekend (again). The frogs certainly seem to approve! King Frog is back with a whole heap of family. There seem to be at least half a dozen in various shapes, sizes and colours who inhabit the pond. I went into the kitchen last night to find one of their number sitting in the middle of the floor contemplating me. So, I scooped him up and took him back to the pond... I then halted one of his brethren who was making his way to the kitchen and returned him also to the pond. I don't know why frogs like our kitchen so much, but we get a good few every summer who take a wrong turn at the back door and end up sitting on the carpet looking perplexed!

Monday 27 August 2007

Journey home

It might be the most environmentally friendly way to travel, by bus, but I could do without all the other passengers!

Tonight there have been screaming children (old enough to have learnt better) and their screaming parents (definitely old enough to know better), people yet to discover anti-perspirant deoderant, and some of the worst dressed articles of humanity ever.

What is it about the British and summer clothes? Not a clue! Woman in boob-tube three sizes too small... Not a good look! Teens in skimpy vest tops which need on bra or at least a backless bra, certainly they do not need nearly the entire under garment on display! If you must show your bra girls, make sure it is pretty and lacy, not old grey and tired!

Friday 24 August 2007

Busy night at the O2 again!

I am beginning to hate the O2!

I have been taking the same journey home from work pretty much continuously for the last six or seven years (with a few exceptions when I've been seconded to other sites etc.). I know where to stand on the platform at Green Park to make sure I get on the right doors, to make sure I am in the right bit of the carriage, to make sure I get off at the right spot when I get to North Greenwich... exactly opposite the up escalator. This even works when the train terminates at North Greenwich now, ever since they changed the polarity of the escalators on platforms 1 & 2!

However, recently I have discovered that there is an optimum time NOT to arrive at North Greenwich. This used to be at the peak rush hour which lasts until about 6:30. No longer. Not since the Dome. 7pm used to be pretty safe... quite quiet even. Not anymore. Now on platform three at the bottom of the escalator there are two platform staff and a length of tensa barrier... you now have to walk all the way to the end of the platform and round the tensa barrier to get to the escalator. I see what they are trying to do. I applaud their logic. What happens is that there is always a scrum at the bottom of the escalator as people try and filter into two lines. Well, one and a half really as most people prefer not to walk up. This leads to massive congestion. When it is busy, directing people along and back gives enough space for them to naturally filter into single file. However... not always are there TWO platform guards, sometimes only one. He then has to try and prevent people from ducking under the barrier and saving the walk... which he can't do as there is probably a good 20ft of barrier! This makes even worse chaos than the congestion which would have ensued at the bottom of the escalator!

In the long term I think it would be more cost effective to save the wages of the platform staff (and the cost of the barriers, which must need replacing quite often given the treatment they get) to put a more permanent solid solution in place. If a balustrade were erected with solid panels there would be no more ducking under, and everyone would soon get used to it and the exit from the platform would be as slick as ever!

I still hate the O2 though. All these concert goers are as bad as tourists on Piccadilly. My problem with both? They dawdle. They stop suddenly (so you walk into them). They hover in inappropriate places so that you can't get past them... and increasingly at North Greenwich they are loud and chaotic and everywhere! At that time of night all I want to do is get home after a long day... and I can't be doing with anything that makes that harder!

Talking of anti-social behaviour. The neighbours with the drums are still drumming. Pretty lucky that the weather has been so miserable so that neither our house or theirs needs the windows open. I can still hear them though sitting in my living room or bedroom with the windows shut! I feel that very soon I am going to have to write to them and ask them to soundproof their practice room or similar. When I get home after a 14 hour day the last thing that I want to hear is thud thud thud thud.

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Trains, Busses and Taxis at the 02

Last night my journey home took me to North Greenwich later than usual. Considerably later than usual. Heading towards the end of the evening later than usual. I think it was probably sometime after 11pm, heading towards the last tubes etc. And, boy, was North Greenwich busy!

I quite often get a taxi back from North Greenwich if it is after 10pm. It gets a bit lonely and empty, and a girl on her own doesn't want to be standing around too much. Not so anymore. Chucking out time at the Dome (sorry, 02) leads to another wave of rush hour. Dissapointingly the licensed cab rank had a queue back to the station - probably around 30 people waiting. Fortunately I found a bus (even if it was the 422 rather than the 486) pretty quickly. So I saved myself a tenner and took the bus. For speed and comfort I'd rather have had the cab though!

Rainy days and tube journeys

I had a very peculiar experience on the London Underground last week. I was travelling home after a long day travelling and quietly reading my book. The tube wasn't too busy as it was around 7pm. Now... if you have never travelled on the London Underground you probably don't know the rules. Oh yes, there are rules! The most important rule (probably the only rule really) is that you NEVER look at your fellow passengers, and you most certainly never talk to them... unless of course you are travelling with them... but if they are strangers, certainly no communication! That is the way it has always been. Pretty much this is what happens. Occasionally a few angry words will be exchanged on a very crowded tube, or somebody might request a discarded newspaper.

This makes what happened on Thursday night even more strange. So, there I was... quietly reading my book (chick lit I'm afraid) when the guy sitting next to me suddenly spoke to me.
"Excuse me," he said "could you tell me what this word means?" and he pointed to a word on the page of the book he was reading ameliorate it said.
"Improve," I said "make better" and I assumed that would be the end of the conversation, but no!
"Can you tell me the root of the word?" he asked. I apologised that I could not... and shortly after he got up and left the train at the next station. Very strange.
The only other spontaneous conversation that I have ever had on the Underground was late at night when a rather drunk man was moving around the carriage attempting to engage everyone reading books in conversation about the books they were reading!

My bus went on walkabout this morning. I'm not quite sure why. I'd got on the 422 as most of the roadworks which were causing chaos around the old hospital seem to be finished now. Also, the bus information system at the bus stop wasn't working... it was raining... who knows how long away the 486 might have been! So, we got to East Greenwich and the bus driver suddenly left his seat and went around the bus telling everyone that he was going 'the back way' and wouldn't be going via Tunnel Avenue, so get off here if that is where you wanted to go. And lo, the bus turned around the block behind East Greenwich Library and zoomed off past Sainsbury's and through the Peninsula. No idea why as I had my iPod on, so didn't here any radio chatter from bus driver control! It might have been bad traffic, when we crossed the Tunnel Approach at the Standard there was a queue that was dissapearing back to (and maybe beyond) Sun-in-Sands which is quite bad, even for that time of day!

I noticed as we were going past Sainsbury's that they are changing their opening times. I assume that there is some kind of refurbishment going on as the sign said something about "making your store better". No more 24 hour opening, I think it is 7am to 10pm or similar. Good thing, I say. I think that 24 hour supermarket opening is the most pointless thing ever. Number 1, they have licencing laws (none I have visited have taken advantage of the much touted 24 hour licencing). Number 2, there is never anything you want to buy on the shelves 'out of hours'. Number 3, there are hardly any tills open; indeed once at 4am in Asda (I was driving to work) I had to wait for someone to come and operate a single check-out!

A cheerful moment (in this endless rain that has constituted pretty much the whole of the last two months) came the other morning when I was opening my post. A very dull printed envelope, which had type that is similar to a new cheque book cover arrived for me. I opened it without much excitement only to find that one of my Premium Bonds had finally come up! Only the second time ever I've won a prize. Ever, I've had them since I was born! What are Premium Bonds? They are a very quaint way of 'saving' money. You buy bonds (currently between £100 and £30,000 I think) and these bonds are entered into a prize draw every month. That is that, in lieu of receiving interest. I think I have about £50 worth or something... and over the last 30-odd years they have won me £150. Pretty rubbish return really! You need to own a lot more to win prizes... my parents and grandmother quite often win.

I had a superb evening out last night. I met up with a bunch of friends from school, pretty much thanks to the wonder of FaceBook that we all go in touch after so many years (well for some of us)! We went to a pub 'near London Bridge'. Turned out in the even that it was nearer to Tower Bridge than to London Bridge, but there you go! Cracking evening out... makes me determinded to try and keep in better touch with all my friends. Should be easy really, what with the wonders of modern technology and all!

Wednesday 15 August 2007

Seems that Summer is over

I'm sitting looking out of the window at people sucrrying around Mayfair under umbrellas. It is raining again. It rained yesterday too. In fact it rained althrough July and most of August so far (except for last week). Good old British Summer.

My office has been mad busy recently... so I've not had much time to think and to write. Not much of note has been happening.

Had a good movie night on Saturday. We started with "Perfect Stranger" starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis. It was pretty good, especially as it had a very clever ending. I can't say more as it would spoil the movie if you haven't seen it... but totally worth watching.

We also watched "Number 23" with Jim Carrey. I've been waiting for ages to see it - and to be honest, I was a bit dissapointed. It wasn't a bad movie... but it wasn't anything special either... I was expecting more actual info on the conspiracy of "23" - but there you go.

We flooded out the Frog Pond at the weekend to try and improve the quality of water... it had got a bit green and toxic looking... by the time we were done you could see the ornament that had fallen in and settled on the bottom! The frogs seem to approve, as there are about 4 a night on average floating about. The toads still seem to prefer the ground level bird bath or the shrubbery though!

The latest exciting thing out of our office window is the Household Cavalry (or whoever they are in fancy uniforms) exercising their horses round Mayfair. They come up the road with police motorbikes in front and behind, and vanish off in the direction of Berkley Square. Somebody was rude enough to sound their horn at them the other day!

Delight of delights - the bus stops at North Greenwich have finally been re-organised. As of this week the 486 now leaves from the same stop as the 422 and 108. This leaves the scrum of the Thamesmead busses (472 and 161) to themselves, and means that I no longer have to hover between stops. Excellent!

Saturday 11 August 2007

Flying and other annoying things

So. My trip to Edinburgh this week. Everytime I haven't been on a plane for a while (which is pretty much every time I do fly, as I don't fly places much) I think that I must be mis-remembering how much I hate to fly. I think that it can't be as bad as I remember. But it always is. I hate flying. I am an extremely bad flier. Every pocket of turbulence... every change in tone of the engine has me convinced we are about to drop out of the sky. That is why I like a window seat... at least I can still see the ground is plenty distance away!

I flew BA from City Airport. Why schlep out to Gatwick or Heathrow when City is on your doorstep?! City Airport is great... nice and small and efficient. The plane going up took off on time and managed to arrive in Edinburgh early! Even though I've done the flight before it still freaks me out when, as you approach Edinburgh the plane flies out over the North Sea (presumably to get the angle right for landing at Edinburgh). I want to ask the pilot why we are going to Belgium?!

I had a worthwhile day in Edinburgh... and then it was time to come home. I got to the airport well over an hour before my flight... so I made a few phonecalls and decided to have a glass of wine (well, why not). This turned out to be not such a good idea. I went off through Security when the sign direct "go to gate"... and sat and waited, and waited and waited. Turned out that the plane we were supposed to have had broken down (or whatever) so obviously they had unloaded all the luggage etc. and moved it to a new plane. Finally took off... only to discover about 10 minutes in that the ovens had broken down on the new plane and there was no food! Too awful. I was starving! To make up for this (and probably to make sure that nobody was with it enough to be annoyed) the cabin crew served up double portions from the bar (well the tin trolley that goes up and down the aisle). So... that was two mini-bottles of wine to add to the glass I'd already had. Made for a very pleasant flight, I must say. As we arrived in London we went round to the south and came in over central London. Normally I'd have been worrying that we were very low, why was it taking so long, why was it bumpy, why were the engines changing sound... but on this occasion my thoughts were limited to... oh look, there's the Gherkin, there's Tower 42... can I see my office, no too slow... oh, there's Piccadilly Circus.

My journey onward was sadly blighted by the Jubilee Line (suspended due to a fire alert at Bermondsey). If I had not been slightly drunk I would probably have thought to have gotten a cab instead of waiting for an indeterminate time at Canning Town!

The Jubilee Line struck again on Friday morning when, for several hours, it was suspended from Finchley Road to Waterloo due to a signal failure at North Greenwich. Fortunately I was at a site visit so nowhere near the tube until much later by which time the delays were only 'minor'. My journey was blighted by the M25... which was amazing as I wasn't even on the M25!!! Going down I had the usual chaos at Darenth Interchange (or whatever it calls itself) where you leave the A2 for the M25 or the Dartford Crossing (at that time of day, big queue for the crossing). I got to site and amusingly had to park 'on site'. This wouldn't be amazing unless you know that the site has no external area... which means that parking on site involves driving through the empty shopfronts (awaiting fitting) and parking in the ground floor of the building! Coming back I got stuck in traffic. I'd heard on the way down about an accident on the M25... two lorries - one had overturned and the other had shed it's load. Plasterboard all over the carriageway! This was still shutting the motorway at nearly lunchtime... and the queue at the Darenth Interchange was quite unreasonable and at least doubled the length of my journey.

I knew the morning must have been bad when I saw a sign at Green Park in the evening apologising for your Jubilee Line Service this morning. London Underground... can't live with it, can't go anywhere without it (or sometimes with it!).

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Away Day

So tomorrow I'm off to Scotland. A 'wee visit' to Head Office (Edinburgh). Basically have to get up at the normal time to go and get a plane (happily from City Airport) which means I should get to the office in Scotland around 3 hours before my 2pm meeting. Then have a plane back around 7-something in the evening... back home in time for bed!!! Exhausting. Nice change of pace none-the-less (not withstanding horrid flights).

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss sustainability issues - which is quite ironic that I am, thefore, massively increasing my normal carbon footprint... what with the flying to Scotland and all!

Have had very little chance to do much but study sustainability this week. The office internet security system still has taken against Social Networking sites... which leaves me with pretty much blogging and email in my lunch break/evening tea break!

Good news for my evening journey home. The 486 is moving from bus stop A at North Greenwich Station to bus stop B. This means that instead of having to stand between the stops and decide which way to jump when the 422 or 486 turns up I can get either bus from the same place! It also means that all the ignorant travellers who wait for the 472 and 161 and then refuse to move out of the way of the queue when the 486 arrives instead can now just impede each other instead of users of the Bexleyheath bus! All good.

The tube hasn't been too terrible since I arrived back from holiday. I was surprised to find that the escalator refurbishment at Green Park up from the Jubilee Line to the middle concourse was complete. They'll probably start on another one soon though!

Monday 6 August 2007

Argh! The spam!

Like a lot of people, I have several email accounts. Set up at different times for different purposes, and maintained because, well, sometimes it is useful to have different addresses for different things!

The email account that came attached to my domain name for a long time I used only for communication on my website and other website related matters. I never had a single spam email in all that time. Bear in mind that the domain name hasn't any catch-all forwarding, so in order to receive an email it MUST be addressed to that exact mail address.

For some reason, when I signed up to a certain social networking site I used that address. Since that time I appear to be receiving 3-5 spam emails a day!

Here's my proposal for a brave spam free world. When I press the "mark as spam" button, or the "block sender" button, or whichever a 'ping' should be sent to the ISP of the spammer. If enough complaints are received the ISP should then dump the spammer and refuse to supply them with a service.

I am heartily sick of unsoliticed email. My email addresses can't be picked up from my websites as they are written in via Javascipt which means that 'bots' don't pick them up. Therefore, anyone who has my email address for nefarious purposes has somehow obtained it from a supposedly reputable source. Hmm. Give it another 10 years and we'll have abandoned email for a system that works better!