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*.

Proving my Manhood…in the Snow

On Saturday I took a big step toward becoming the man I need to be.

When you become a father you are instantly tasked with an array of manly duties, the sort of complex tasks that previously you would rely on your own dad (or maybe father-in-law) to easily complete. This can range from bleeding radiators, to erecting complex flat pack furniture or even plumbing washing machines.

For so long I have been inept when it comes to engineering or DIY, but already I have mastered a number of those important dad duties. It was a steep learning curve, and there have been a number of slight mishaps and uttered profanities; but through a combination of sound advice and sheer determination I am yet to completely fail.

But on Saturday I was provided with my most challenging masculine task to date, as it concerned the most complex and difficult of essential life items…the family car.

We had just completed a comfortable two hour journey down the M4 to Wootton Bassett, just outside Swindon. I was driving my little boy to his first ever birthday party, organised by my wife’s cousin for her son. It promised to be quite an event, complete with ‘soft play’, fishfingers and pass the parcel. Unfortunately I was to miss it all…

On arrival the dashboard on my stylish new Ford S-Max started flashing and bleeping frantically – a bulb had blown in one of our headlamps. “Don’t worry darling, I shall fix this!” I announced…this was man’s work. I had noticed a petrol station a few miles back, and anticipated a simple purchase and even easier basic procedure. So I left them to enjoy the party and set off on my quest.

On purchasing the correct bulb, referenced from my owners manual, I returned to the pub car park and set to work. Surely I simply needed to remove the plastic headlamp cover and quickly exchange the bulb. As I just double checked the manual the first flake of snow landed on my windscreen – then the heavens opened.

And it got worse…page 65 made it clear that this was far from a simple procedure. I was going to have to disconnect and remove the entire front lighting unit, navigate a complex lamp system (full beam, dipped beam, fog lights etc.) and then change the correct bulb from the rear.

Four hours later, as the sun set, and the blizzard blanketed Wiltshire, this major feat of engineering was finally complete. It had taken another trip to the garage (the original bulb was wrong), a journey to my wife’s cousin’s house (to find the correct multi-head screwdriver), numerous cut hands and two more wannabe expert dads to complete this simple task. Finally the three of us stood and marvelled at our wondrous achievement – two working headlamps and plenty of light (for the three hour drive back through the heavy snow).

Just then my wife and son emerged from the warmth of the party. Apparently it was really good fun and they were now both ‘extremely tired’… the food was good too!

Despite having toiled all afteenoon in the arctic conditions, I was warmed by that true sense of achievement that only a real man can feel…I had mastered the car headlamp, and can now add this to my growing list of expertise. Who says fatherhood isn’t easy?

Umbrella Etiquette

It’s time to have my first blog rant…

London this morning is miserable – it’s January, it’s particularly cold and it’s very wet. So as I stepped out earlier I was filled with dread, not because I mind the typical English weather, but because the rain brings out the worst in a specific group of London commuters – the vicious umbrella wielders.

As I edged down the narrow passage towards North Sheen station, I was faced with a mass of bodies walking towards me – a Westbound train must have just arrived. As predicted this hoard contained a number of aggressive, self-absorbed commuters proudly flaunting their oversized brollies. As I squeezed past one his weapon clipped a covering tree and drenched me with mega-droplets. I am now both soggy and angry.

And things will only get worse. Whenever it rains the pedestrian system outside Victoria station becomes almost impassable. They simply don’t seem to realise that their umbrellas double their width, giving them an unfriendly, imposing and dangerous wingspan. Heads, hats and specifically eyes are immediately at risk, and if you are skewered don’t expect an apology.

And the worst culprits…golfers. Their gigantic brollies may be a necessity for tramping down the fairway, or even ambling down a country lane, but they do not fit within a city centre.

No-one is safe, although at 5′ 7″ I can usually duck under the majority. For once my below average height is a distinct advantage.

But if it rains tomorrow I will fight back. I will fish out my own brolly and launch a strategic counter attack. And be warned, at my height I can strike a telling blow to the armpit, chest or neck!