Tuesday, December 19, 2006

TfL, get off your knees!

Am I alone in thinking that Transport for London can sometimes be a bit too generous with its information updates? Consider the two very different approaches adopted by the London Undergound and the Montreal Metro.

This morning, while walking through King's Cross station, I heard the following message boomed out over the crackly intercom: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Metropolitan Line is currently experiencing severe delays between Baker Street and Moorgate due to a shortage of staff." A shortage of staff?! Maybe it's just me, but if I were in charge of running the Underground, I'd be pretty embarrassed to 'fess up to such a lame excuse.

In Montreal, if there's a shortage of staff, broken-down train, or some hapless bastard splattered all over the tracks, the train simply doesn't show up. There are no nice LCD display panels to indicate when the next train might arrive, no intercom messages telling you what the problem is, and no staff on the platform for you to ask. If you're naïve enough to go upstairs and ask the chain-smoking woman behind the ticket counter what's going on, she'll shrug at you hostilely from behind the plexiglass and say "Aucune idée." And that, my friends, will be that.

Now, I used to find this attitude incredibly offputting when I lived in Montreal, as it's important to be well-briefed about the public transport situation when you spent two hours a day commuting between the 'burbs and the city. But fuck me. "Shortage of staff"? "Passenger taken ill"? "Late-finishing engineering works"? "(Yet another) signal failure"? There's just something so brow-beaten and defeatist, so openly inept about the whole thing. How are these people going to cope with the crush of extra passengers when the Olympics get going in 2012?

Montreal Metro workers may be arrogant and unfeeling, but at least there's a certain pride in saying, "You know what? I don't have to tell you anything." Or, in true Montreal style, communicating that thought with a gallic shrug of insouciance.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dancing in the disco...

...go, go ,go!

I have been horrifically, spectacularly busy over these past few weeks, but now, with a massive report handed in and no more overtime required until well after Christmas, it's time to PAR-TAY.

The office Christmas knees-up is in approximately an hour and a quarter, followed this evening by the Sultans of Ping at the Mean Fiddler... Is there any better way to end the week, nay, the year?

Possibly... if you add this into the bag as well (see Fixtures List, 21 December).

Play safe, kids!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The usual suspects

So said one Paul Anderson while gazing serenely at the gathered masses at last night's Tribune Christmas party, and it was a fair description. Peter Tatchell, Ed Balls, Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, John Bird, Maryam Namazie, plus several members of the blogosphere were there, including Paul Evans, the brains behind Never Trust a Hippy. And doubtless many more who I'm too private-sector/foreign/young to know. I liked the packed feel of the downstairs bar, which was much more atmospheric than the bland upstairs space where the do was held a couple of years ago. Speaking of atmosphere, I'm a non-smoker and have every intention of remaining so, but I couldn't help feeling that the plumes of cigarette smoke rising to the rafters gave the whole thing an authenticity and, well, homeliness, that will be missing once the smoking ban comes in next July.

Anyway, here's one thing I learned last night: Having an MBE doesn't stop you from bullying people a quarter of your age into buying you pints despite the fact that it's their birthday (and then downing three quarters of someone else's pint not long afterwards).

And when someone's excuse for leaving early is "I'm needed on an asylum case", it makes you wonder, "What am I doing with my life?"