Category Archives: Seasonally Adjusted

The Other Reason why I Hate Underground Stations with Lifts

Ah, spring has re-sprung it seems and even though I was going to the Elephant this morning, it was still a lovely day – bright, crisp, breezy and most importantly sunny. Not only that but as I went through the barrier at the station the lift arrived and I could hop straight on and head down to the platform to catch the next train.

Or so you would think.

But no, because this is an underground lift and the rule with underground lifts is that every time the door starts to close, someone else will come through the barrier and try and nip through the door, and the door will open again and the lift will say in its specially pre-programmed annoyed voice ‘Please do not obstruct the door*’, and then the door will try and close again and someone else will come through the barrier and there’s technically no reason why this should ever stop. The first time it happens, it’s understandable – it might even have been you nipping through the closing door. The second time it happens its irritating and the third time downright annoying and the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh times you start to wonder if you will ever get out of the lift or whether you are condemned to stand there forever, you, the annoyed lift voice and a growing number of more and more compressed commuters until you have formed a mass dense enough to create an artificial black hole and the world ends in a gravitational collapse. This morning we got up to nine before someone at the front shouted ‘oh just stop trying to get on the fucking lift’ and someone at the back rejoined, ‘well maybe you could all fucking move up so we can get on’ and the doors finally shut and we all descended into the darkness, the sunshine and spring forgotten.

At this point I should probably insert some sort of plea for more tolerance, understanding and courtesy from everyone, so that some of us can retain our fragile good moods on the rare mornings when we actually have them, but you know what? It’s never going to happen, so I’m going to save my breath.

And how was your day?

* They missed a trick not getting it to sound more and more annoyed, all the way from mildly irritated through to incandescent rage. I’m sure some jobbing actor would love to do that.


Pissing Competition

More signs of spring. Not the clocks changing – although it was nice to cycle home in daylight today, even if it did mean getting up at I-don’t-care-what-the-clock-says-it’s-still-five-fifteen in the morning. No, it’s the foxes. In the streets around us, there’s always a faint whiff of fox, but come the spring the smell gets worse, and they particularly seem to like our front garden. Apparently the only way to deter them is to have a bloke pee there, but despite London’s army of al fresco urinators, none of them has graced our front step yet and the other half for some reason is reluctant to oblige. So this morning, as I stumbled blearily out of the door, I was blasted with the rank stink of fox pee that was all over the railings, all over my bike, all over my bike lock and consequently, as I discovered when I got to Vauxhall, all over my hands. And it’s tricky stuff to get off. When a dog fox marks something, it stays marked, which meant even after repeated handwashings I could still detect a faint scent of animal urine with top notes of randy fox (I believe Jade’s latest fragrance was something similar).

Of course, when I got to the station this evening, I found that someone had liberally applied some fox deterrent to the Vauxhall underpass so my bike smelled even worse. Whether it will, as advertised, stop the foxes, I’ll have to wait and see. But I’ve a feeling it will only encourage them…

More Signs of Spring…

…the guys in the news-stand are getting positively frisky.

(Note to self. I really must stock up on my reserves of traditional British hauteur)

More Top Tips for Travellers

Say you’re at a busy station – King’s Cross, to pluck an example at random from the air – and you are having trouble with your wheely suitcase. All around you, people are trying to catch their trains at the start of the long weekend. It’s a good idea NOT to try and simultaneously sort out your luggage and walk backwards into the flow of traffic. Just one of those little tips you learn in the big city, I suppose.

Of course, if you are walking along a narrow corridor in – say – King’s Cross, and you see someone walking backwards towards you fiddling with his suitcase, then it is also not a great idea to keep walking straight at him in the hope that he will magically disappear. As the other half pointed out, it wasn’t that close to platform 9 3/4. Barging straight into him and making rude comments is no way to get Easter off to a good start.

And neither, frankly, is travelling to Scotland. Since arriving we have had rain, sleet, snow, hail and a flying birdbath going past the kitchen window. Every time I look up – alerted by a banshee howl from the north wind – the weather is worse.

Still, have a happy Easter, everyone. I just hope that yours is somewhere warmer. Like Iceland, maybe, or the North Pole.

Sap Rising

This, more than anything else, may be the real sign of spring. Forget that the news is full of gleeful predictions of a cold snap round Easter, forget that the wind whistling down the platform is bringing its icy blast straight from Siberia: on the trains, the canoodling has begun. This caught me unawares this evening when the couple I sat next to progressed from leg entwining to hand holding to neck sniffing to open snogging in the course of the journey from Kew Bridge to Putney. And then when they finally left the train and everyone else could stop furtively watching them from behind their papers, another couple took up the baton further up the carriage. I couldn’t see exactly what was going on, but flirtatious giggling was definitely heard, followed by the odd playful slap.

Now, I know, I know, young love and all that, but I’m sure the rush hour train is not the place for this sort of behaviour. I think we need a little more Brief Encounter, folks, and a little less Debbie Does Dallas… It’s that, or they’ll just have to bring back compartments, and give some people the privacy they need.


(…as in the thing you lose after you’ve been commuting for too long, and your soul has shrivelled up until it resembles a fossilised walnut)

Suppose you were on a Thameslink Train on the morning of the worst storm this winter / since 1987 / in the history of the entire planet since records began (depending on which of the more excitable news coverage you believed this this morning). And suppose your train failed to stop at West Hampstead, where you were planning to get off, because a woman had just been knocked unconscious by an advertising hoarding, closing the station. Suppose, indeed, that as your train passed you could still see the woman trapped under the billboard, being rescued.

Do you (as my colleague did) think, oh my God that poor woman, I hope she’s okay – that’s the platform I use, it could have been me, there but for the Grace of God etc?

Or do you (as the man sitting next to her did) say, ‘Well, I don’t see why they have to close the whole station’?

Here’s hoping all of you made it to work and back unscathed. And, indeed, without having to give any of your fellow passengers a slapping for being insensitive poltroons.

Closet Cyclist

I had a day off from commuting today so I thought I’d take the opportunity to get out and go a bit further than usual on the bike. Ever since I stopped cycling to Battersea I’ve known that I’d have to get out of my comfort zone of just cycling to and from the station every day and try and extend my range, or I’d end up too scared to cycle anywhere at all (I was definitely raised in the ‘get back on the horse after you’ve fallen off’ school as a child). Anyway, it being a sunny day, and with an hour to spare, I headed off and explored the back streets and even the bigger streets around the South Bank. And it was fine. I did a couple of multi-lane roundabouts, and a right turn across two lanes of traffic, and never once felt in danger of anything except getting out of breath.

But even so, I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. I had my scary yellow jacket on, my gloves, my trusty backpack, now complete with its own flashing hi-visibility vest; I was accompanied by the squeaks and rattles that always accompany me when I’m on my bike; my air horn was poised ready on one side of my handlebars, my bell on the other, and still something seemed to be missing, something not quite right. It was only as I got home that I realised what it was. For months now I’ve been going out in the dark and coming home in the dark whenever I’ve got on my bike. I’m simply not used to cycling in daylight any more.

Summer? It just can’t come soon enough.

The East Wind doth Blow

Egads it’s cold out there. Probably not as cold in terms of the temperature as last Thursday – although the geese this morning were standing on the pond outside my office, instead of bobbing about in it – but taking into account the wind chill plenty cold enough. Especially on a bike. In fact, you don’t really know the meaning of the word wind chill until you’ve felt it flowing over your gloved hands and up the sleeves of your jacket. I try and tell myself it would be colder if I wasn’t on my bike and walked instead, but I’m not so sure. When the wind rounds a corner and buffets you sideways with an icy blast, pretty much anything would feel like an improvement.

But it’s not the east wind that’s massacring the bird population round here. Heading up to¬† Lambeth North Tube the other day we noticed not one but three pigeons squashed on the junction with the Kennington Road. Three! How stupid do pigeons have to be that the second and third don’t get out of the way when they see the first one get it? Or do you think the later two were simply feasting on their fallen comrade when the second blow fell? In which case, why did it stop at three?

Jack Frost Nipping at my … well, never you mind where he’s nipping

Ahh, a hard frost in the night meant I came out this morning to a world all a-glitter. Ice crystals sparkled on the road, on the cars, on the bins and on my bike. Especially on my bike, where it was frozen hard enough that a quick wipe of the saddle with a gloved hand wasn’t going to clear it. Which left me with only one alternative.

I’m willing to bet real money that anyone caught wittering on this morning about the beauty of properly cold winter weather and the joys of a crisp clear sky didn’t start their day thawing the ice off the saddle of their bike with their arse.

Roll on the summer, that’s all I can say.

Drip, Drip, Drip

It’s dark and it’s raining, a soft steady soaking rain, spattering my glasses. My view of the world is a shimmer of shattered light, a kaleidoscope of coloured fragments, hard to judge distances, hard to see the gaps. My brakes are as effective as wet paper, so I have to go slow knowing that stopping will take time but knowing that the longer I ride for the wetter I’ll get. My jacket is wet, my gloves are wet, my saddle is wet, my bag is wet and my feet are wet and then in the evening everything is all still damp and clammy from being stuffed in my bag for the day. This is head down, elbows out, get-it-over-with cycling.

This is not just rain, this is December rain. And I wish it would bloody stop.

Still, at least I get the pick of the bike racks at the station. Where have all the other cyclists gone? Barbados?