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Monday, 19 September 2016

The Cornish Coast Murder

It's my  own fault : trying to save money. It almost always ends in disappointment: trainwise at least. Although I have to admit the trip to Edinburgh in June with Virgin Trains was pretty impressive ( see June post for details). Actually it's Great Western Railways (GWR) that's my bete noir. I've travelled on them three times this year and each time I went First Class. Honestly none of the trips could be called top notch. This journey to Cornwall, to our friends at Poundstock, was the worst.

As I said it was partly my fault, I booked early and chose the cheapest not realising that the return journey was not direct and I'd have to change at Plymouth and Newton Abbot before catching the fast train to Paddington.

The journey down to Cornwall wasn't without it's distractions. Because of torrential rain overnight much of GWR's line to the Cornish Riviera was underwater: especially at Newbury. The train left Paddington about three quarters of an hour late because they had brush the newts off the track there. We went along at a reasonable pace until we arrived at Castle Cary where we were stalled by trespassers on the line. We didn't find out what sort they were but my knowledgeable travelling companion - a railway worker - informed me they were usually drunks or out of their head on acid. Apparently that part of Somerset is notorious for old new agers: they'd headed for Glastonbury in the early '70's and got stuck.

My travelling companion - on his way to visit his aged parents somewhere in the South West - had this indispensable app. Unfortunately it wasn't available to the general public as it showed where all the trains were on our line - whether they were on time, if they were delayed why etc. He was able to tell me to the minute when we were to be overtaken by a faster train to Cornwell or why  we were further delayed by a crippled train ahead. While all this excitement was going on I was texting my hosts with regular situation reports. As the anticipated time of arrival at Bodmin Parkway slipped further and further into the weekend my friends said they cut the Gordian Knot and meet me at Exeter. That seemed someway short of my intended destination but they assured me that it would take only a little while longer than picking me up at Bodmin Parkway. My knowledgeable travel companion confirmed that.

The weekend was a delight. Lots of good food, quite a lot of wine and a trip to Boscastle and a country house somewhere in the county of Devon. To prepare me for the journey home, this morning saw us at a local eatery noshing on a full English, although I had a mini one having seen how huge was the full monty.

We said our farewells at Bodmin Parkway and I caught the stopping train to Plymouth, but not before I saw an old steam locomotive hauling 12 dilapidated carriages carrying rail enthusiasts up and down a branch line. At Plymouth we caught a one carriage service which was totally inadequate. One man with his wife and dog was totally freaked out by the situation and for the whole of the 40 minute journey berated the conductress and anyone else that would listen. In his view this was the worse train he'd ever been on - quite possibly true - the country had gone to the dogs, he'd served in the Army, it was all the Tories fault and  his cousin worked at the Daily Mirror in London and he'd sort out the railway company. On top of which it was all the townies buying up country cottages and all the bloody foreigners.  He'd be leaving the country for New Zealand and the whole carriage thought as one "Now please!" He was terribly upset and all because of a rather uncomfortable 40 minute journey. Heaven help him if the had to commute  to London from High Barnet on the Northern Line.

I am now in the First Class carriage arriving at Castle Cary and not a trespasser in sight. We also have wi-fi.


Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Return of the Pink Panther

I've been having a look at the statistics behind my blog. They make fascinating reading.

My readership seems to change over time. Overall, since I began this blog in 2010, most of the page views are from the USA. This is not really a surprise since it's a big place, they invented most things blog wise and they appreciate good writing (sic). Second in the all time totals is France, ahead of the UK.

France is way ahead in page views in August with more than the others in the  top ten taken together. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are 2nd and 3rd this month with the USA in 4th ahead of the UK in 5th place. This week France is well ahead of Russia in 2nd place and the USA and UK are low down on the list.

Why France? My half sister lives there but I can't imagine she'd show much interest in my ramblings.

I was wondering if I was seen as a bell weather of English public opinion by those in  the Elysée  Palace. Le President reads my posts and the French Government decides its foreign policy - well I did vote for Brexit when most of the experts and commentators here were saying we'd vote to remain in the EU. A friend of mine is on holiday in Provence with his wife and her family but even so I don't think they'd account for the volume of clicks from France.

Would the "snoopers" register in my statistics? Is the  Agence Nationale de la Sécurité des Systèmes d'Information reading my posts to find out when I'm next planning to disrupt the Parisian Metro or sabotaging the French wine industry by pointing out that French wine is still too expensive and a bottle of Lidl's Chilean Cab Sav  is worth two of Chateau Lafit? What would Inspector Clouseau make of my musings? Is Jason Bourne listening in somewhere in the 18th arondissement? If so, am I on his hit list?

Jason if you're reading this I'm one of your most loyal fans: I've all your films on DVD and I'm lobbying Netflix to add them to their streaming service.

I try not think about my Russian audience. I've double checked and as far as I can see I've not said anything too disparaging about President Putin or the Russian Mafia. I certainly don't support Chelsea or any other English football club owned by exiled Russian oligarchs- honest!

I can't image any imam in Saudi Arabia or the UAE knocking up a “fatwā”or two in response to any of my posts. But to be safe I writing this facing Mecca.

Even though it doesn't register on my list it wouldn't surprise me if one of my fans was the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Kim Jung-un is known to be a keen follower of degenerate Western fashion and I suppose you don't get any more degenerate than a blogger platform owned by Google. If the beloved Kim is an occasional reader of my humble blog  may I suggest he peruse my post of May this year?  "Farmer Giles of Ham" which describes in some detail the workings of a proletariat agricultural collective - an "allotment".

That leaves the good old US of A.

"Hi there. ol' buddy!"

 Let me point out straight away that I had nothing to do with the EU's ruling that Apple owes the Irish Government 10 billion Euros. I am a great admirer of Apple and all those super efficient and ubiquitous American IT and social media companies. I'm fairly laid back about you CIA guys inserting a back door in my iPhone, laptop, PC and networking software. You need to know what people are saying about you: I understand that.  Especially now that one of your Presidential candidates is attracting so much ridicule. Quite frankly if I had my way I'd leave world wide security to Captain America, supported by Thor and Iron Man and possibly the Hulk. After all America is threatened on all sides by nefarious wrongdoers and do-gooders.  You simply can't rely on the Second Amendment.

Anyway, I pleased whoever reads my posts. Who knows in 5 years time some security chief on  Proxima b might be tuning in to one of them....

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Jumping Jack Flash

God it's "A" level results day. How I hate it. At a time of year when there's bugger all in the news, just a few gold medals in the Olympics and the usual murderous conflict in the Middle East, we're treated to stories of mega brained 15 year olds gaining 6 A*s and a professorial post at some prestigious Oxbridge College.

That and interminable pics of nubile teens jumping in the air waving their result sheets. Not content with boring the arse of most of the less academically equipped citizens, we have to listen to smiley mummy's kids telling us how cool it is to be billions of pounds in debt, with a place at Bugdon in the Marshes University of Graphic Arts and Hand Waving.

You can guess from the above that I'm a member of the older generation. Which is ironic. I was in Grovenor Square in, whenever it was. I was in support of the LSE sit in, and I fought the law but the law won. I was revolting when it wasn't cool. Tripping out - I was your man. All along the Watchtower (not to confused with Jehovah Witnesses) man. Anyway all this emphasis on "A" level results freaks me out, because....

I feel incredibly guilty. My "A" level results were piss poor, yet I was able to study Maths & Physics at King's College, London. I didn't pay for my tuition and I received a living grant. I didn't have to work as well as study. My degree meant that I could walk into any job; even though work and me were totally alienated.

I ended up in the Civil Service after trying computing, insurance, copy writing and social work: all hugely unsuccessfully. Accommodation wasn't a problem: cheap rents, nice areas - Hampstead, Belsize Park and Gospel Oak and then a mortgage on a three bed house in Hackney.

It was all incredibly unplanned, unthinking and easy.

Poor "A" level results: poor degree: lots of opportunities to find the right job slot and a home owner. It sounds a bit unfair when you hear what today's kids face.

Except I never expected any of it; I didn't think any of it was what I deserved. I felt lucky and grateful. I didn't believe I was entitled to anything.

Which makes it all such a gas.