It’s Hot Down Here

It’s time for this blog to back to it’s roots…commuting.

We all pray for sunshine – we are almost into June, but this year’s winter has lingered on. The warm sunny month of May hasn’t materialised – instead it has been replaced this year with a freezing, torrential winter extension….

…until today.

Finally the sun is up, the coats are off, and Londoners have pranced around all day, delighting in the start of summer. I’ve loved it, the sun has a unique ability to cheer even the toughest days.

But now I have been hit with the commute home and already I miss the wind, rain and cold.

In the 19th century The London Underground was a unique feat of engineering – groundbreaking – and testament to this country’s engineering brilliance. Victorian Britain was World beating – and leading the way and proving our greatness was London’s network of tunnels and trains, setting out the blueprint for an underground metro system that inspired and influenced similar projects across the globe.

But are we now victims of our ancestors success?

In 2012 the tube is awful. So far this evening I have stood for 15minutes waiting for a the straining District Line to catch up with the mass of bodies desperately trying to flee the city centre. When the train finally arrived it was heaving.

I forced my way on, but now I am faced with the harsh reality of the tube in Summer! It’s horrible down here. Unbearably hot – and the smell has already started to fester. Too many sweaty, suited men in one place dictates the ‘sweet smell’ of summer on the World famous London Underground. So now all those commuting Londoners, so happy to see the sun at Midday, are currently extremely hot, very angry and we all stink.

And there’s nothing we can do about it. Our antiquated tube system can never be replaced – it can only ever be slowly upgraded (much to the delay and annoyance of us long suffering 21st century Londoners). While cities like Singapore have new, high-tec, modern, air-conditioned, thoroughly pleasant metros – we are stuck with the pit that swelters beneath London’s dark Victorian streets!

No, don’t be fooled Londoners – we were too premature to celebrate the arrival of our English summer today. The London heat’s harsh reality has us all begging for winter to return again before the day’s end.

Not Enough Snow

This morning there is the wrong amount of snow…

There is enough to make my morning commute long, slow, frustrating and treacherous – but there is not enough to justify that always anticipated and wildly celebrated “snow day”.

Let’s be honest, however old we are, our inner schoolboy always desperately hopes for mountains of the white stuff. Every worker, from the shop floor operative to the CEO secretly dreams of being wedged in, unable to make that long commute, so instead being forced to hold an impromptu day of festivities in a winter wonderland.

I remember those heady days, quietly listening to Radio Leicester, waiting patiently for that brilliant announcement that my school just couldn’t open. But not today kids, the dusting we got last night promised much at about 10pm…but it hasn’t delivered. Now any snowmen will be malnourished weak attempts and snowball fights will be more of a slight scuffle than an all out war.

Although a ‘snow day’ today would probably have been a disappointment. As my little boy is ill with a nasty cold and fever – he would have been confined indoors; and the days of long warm mornings under the duvet are far behind me. I would have been up and active at 6.30am regardless of what weather awaited in the outside world… but I suppose a day full of Cbeebies and hot chocolate would still have been a fun novel event in my working week.

But it wasn’t to be – I am faced instead with a slippery skate to the station, a slow, plodding commute and a miserable sniffly office.

Although I guarantee a handful of young singletons in my office will still find it ‘completely impossible’ to get in, despite living far closer to Central London than us dull, middle-aged parents! Lucky gits – maybe next week we will get a proper dumping *fingers crossed*.

Get the Crystal

As I was leaving the office moments ago my colleague Mike announced an astonishing claim to fame – he used to live in the flat above the legendary Richard O’Brien.

For those unfamiliar with this cult icon, he wrote the camp musical, The Rocky Horror Show, and performed The Time Warp in the original film. But for my generation he will always be best remembered as the creator and eccentric host of that television masterpiece, The Crystal Maze.

This show was a unique weekly experience, full of mystery and adventure. In ranked alongside other early 90s gems such as Gamesmaster and Knightmare – and in my opinion outdid them both.

But can you name the zones? It’s a great pub-quiz question, and if I am being honest I’m not 100% sure of them. There was definitely an Aztec Zone, I’m pretty sure there was an Industrial Zone, maybe Ocean, Futuristic and Medieval?

It was quite a complex TV event, each week a team (of six?) would navigate their way through each themed zone, taking on an array of physical and mental challenges as they fought their way to The Crystal Dome. With each challenge the team had a chance to win a crystal, allowing them more time in the final dome – where they needed to collect as many Gold paper tickets as they could. These then translated into a cash prize. But beware, if you failed a challenge, and didn’t smash on the door quickly enough to get out you could be locked in and left behind.

But every week the team would always trade in crystals to buy back their loser team-mates…although I never really understood why. Each team was always littered with useless members who inevitably failed challenges and were abjectly useless in the Crystal Dome. I’m confident I could have been an effective team asset, but unfortunately I’ll never find out…

The Crystal Maze died out when Richard left and was replaced by the distinctly average Ed Tudor-Pole – even his name annoyed me.

But Richard must be minted, the royalties alone from the long-running Rocky Horror must keep the income rolling in, so what is he doing living in a small South London flat? When challenged Mike was quick to point out that Richard didn’t just own one flat below him, he had bought a few apartments and knocked them through to create something unique…

Is it possible that The Crystal Maze still exists, burrowing through an array of rooms in Kennington – filled with new exciting 21st century zones –  hidden from the outside world? I think I should purchase a fetching lime green boiler suit and head over to Mike’s old address, just in case.

Bald and Graceful

It’s bloody cold in London today. I am currently standing on the platform at North Sheen station, once again wishing I had worn some gloves. Gloves would seriously affect my ability to ‘iPad type’ but i think I should start making that small sacrifice.

But one important item of clothing I simply cannot live without is a hat. As a child I started collecting a bizarre array of headwear – and maybe I was somehow subconsciously stockpiling for an inevitable bare-headed future…

When I look back now the signs were there from an early age. My stylish undercut, centre-parting and curtains in the mid-nineties was always a little thin, but it was at university when the effects of my hereditary condition really started to take hold. My dad sports an impressive combover, and my maternal grandfather pulled off a classic ‘Bobby Charlton’ sweep – I had no chance. And I feel sorry for my little boy; no doubt he will share his family’s folic curse, in fact you can already see it in the hairline.

Aged 19 I was devastated – I was proud of my wolverine look, but it simply couldn’t last. I finally took the monumental decision to hack it all off, and have never looked back. Helped by a symmetrical head I have rocked the ‘Phil Mitchell’ look for ten years now – as a proud bald man.

So I was disheartened to see Wayne Rooney fight so hard against his retreating hairline – you will never catch me transplanting hair from my arse to my head. Although, if I did, I would bare a striking resemblance to Pat Sharpe from Funhouse…

All Hail the BBC

I’m proud to say I’m British. Throughout history this great nation has led the way with it’s artistic, cultural and political achievement.

I could list countless icons, all of whom hold a unique place in defining history. Our language, art, architecture, philosophy, poetry and literature has influenced and shaped the modern world, and we continue to lead the way with our brilliance.

One shining example of continued British excellence can be found in every home, easily accessed by simply grabbing the remote and switching on John Logi Baird’s revolutionary invention. The British Broadcating Corporation entertains and enligtens millions of Britains on a daily basis. In fact through all elements of broadcast the BBC excels – It occupies the number 1 position not only on our TV remotes, but also on our car stereos, laptop browsers and smartphone applications.

Last night I watched the concluding part of Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong on BBC1. If any were needed, it was a glowing reminder of everything great about the BBC; emotional, powerful and stunningly produced – I sat and watched from within the WWI trenches for 1.5hrs yesterday evening. It is a war I have never studied, but I now plan to learn about – this is the power that the BBC can both hold and wield.

And it’s not just their dramas, I am genuinely excited every time an advert emerges for a “major new documentary” – I instantly hit the series link button. I credit David Attenborough with most of my knowledge of the natural world, he has single-handedly helped me win a number of pub quizzes, in fact with Dave’s help I have easily generated considerably more income than the cost of the annual TV licence! I don’t care if some of it was filmed in Edinburgh Zoo…

But I keep hearing that dreadful unwelcome phrase – “BBC cutbacks”

I’m confident that a large proportion of the proud British public would happily accept a small increase in their licence fee if the BBC promised to maintain their current top standards. So come on Sir David, make a public plea and drive some more support for this Great British institution…and if you ever need any help from commuterblog feel free to ask (I live just round the corner form your brother).

Dirty Dawgs

It’s a lovely crisp clear day in London, and as the sun rose this morning on my short walk to North Sheen station the sky lit up with an array of soft colour. However I didn’t have the chance to wonder at nature’s natural beauty…no, I had to treacherously navigate my small suburban street with my eyes fixed firmly on the pavement.

For as usual throughout my morning stroll I had to weave my way through the minefield of daily dog turd.

I live within 10 minutes of the spacious Richmond Park and the wondrous Kew Gardens; my neighbourhood is a dog walkers paradise. But almost all of these mutts seem to disregard their animal’s deposits, leaving them for the dog-less masses to smear and stick to shoes, wheels and hallway rugs.

And more recently for me the issue has become all the more relevant and frustrating. Although my little boy can now toddle (just), in order to transport him any distance I must fish out my impressive off-road pushchair. It’s hydraulic suspension and chunky wheels can easily negotiate the tough Richmond Park terrain, but unfortunately it is also a magnet for the nasty brown stuff…

At least once a month I have to mix up a bucket of detergent and scrub down every floor in my house, to prevent my baby from crawling around in the gruesome poo trail that his pushchair has smeared from room to room.

I don’t blame the animals, they are unintelligent and much further down the evolutionary scale. Unfortunately it seems that in my area so are their owners…

Too Reserved?

I’m currently sitting on a poorly air-conditioned, very packed and therefore extremely hot train back from Leeds to London. And the temperature is not the only uncomfortable element, passions are running high on this train. Arguments seem to be erupting at every angle – I have witnessed four already since claiming my seat.

And there is a clear central issue driving this passanger rage…reservations.

Maybe it’s the 35degree heat, but even I am starting to get frustrated here. This train is completely full – all the seats have been pre-booked and protruding from every headrest is a big white label emblazened with one bold word, RESERVED.

My ticket clearly states both my carriage and seat number, and I arrived early enough take rightful ownership of seat 16A. But unfortunately others on my coach haven’t been quite as lucky…

Most people seem to understand the very basic ‘code of conduct’ – you sit in the seat that you have booked… but not everyone. For there are some people who seem to use the Ryanair approach to every asset of life – if they see an empty seat they have every right to sit in it. And this set not only have a complete disregard for the basic rules, most also seem to take an arrogant, confident and confrontational approach to defending their position.

I have already witnessed two happy pre-bookers skulk away, defeated by the evil, aggressive and immovable seat squatters. Only the very brave seem to have the resolve to stand their ground and go toe-to-toe to claim what is rightfully theirs. But when the righteous are victorious every ticket holder on the carriage can silently share in their success.

However while I have been typing the atmosphere has relaxed. A new player has made his mark – the advance purchasers now have a new hero…

As soon as the ticket inspector shuffled in, the two remaining spongers immediately hung their heads. One then quickly bolted for the far door – the other at least kept in place, but when challenged he too silently slumped off. And now even the original ticket owners have returned…Victory!

And I think the air conditioning has just started working, everything is finally cooling down.