Give Them An Inch



A contribution from fellow long suffering communter Dirk is long overdue; heres the first of a number that are backed up: 

There are an infinite number of ways to get my goat these days, and two of my most excitable ones were so peeved by what I witnessed today that they broke free of the leash and leapt the fence separating the two station car-parks.  

To the bald man with the Musto back-pack who parked his white Volvo behind me this morning at the station…shame on you.  It was the flash of gobby whiteness in my peripheral vision that first caught my attention and I was quietly fuming at this in my wing-mirror when I witnessed him hold open the door, have a quick check around to see if anybody was looking and then reach inside and pull out an empty can of coke, some crisp packets and random packaging.  All this he chucked out onto the tarmac before kicking the whole lot under his car.  I have no doubt that this is a regular occurrence, this is how people like him clean their cars and since I already had reason to hate him I decided to prove that I’d clocked his behaviour by giving a hoot on my horn.  

His furtiveness betrayed the fact that he did at least realise that what he was doing was antisocial so It was hardly a confrontation and several leagues short of making a citizen’s arrest but I did at least provoke a staring contest which I subsequently won,  for as he rounded the back of the car still scowling at me he clipped his knee quite sharply on the bumper.  As Louis L’Amour was wont to say, “Victory is won not in miles but in inches”.   

He gave me that inch and I took a mile.      

Post Office Queues


Given his recent uptick in output our old chum Dirk must be living a life of increased frustration as he battles against everyday life, to just get through his day. Here he is on Post Office queues,

"It's ironic that the only time I'm struck by a fit of meanness so bad that I have to buy second-class stamps is when it's to send Christmas cards. 

Normally I'd default to the corner shop but with time to kill between trains I found myself lured by the bright lights into the Post Office in William IV St. It's strangely exotic in there, a bit like the old Teminal 3 at Heathrow (before 4 or 5 were needed), heaving with customers clutching parcels and a little boarding-pass ticket, waiting patiently for their 'flight' to the window to be called over the tannoy. Alternatively there is the rank of automatic machines for frequent flyers and I took my place in this queue convinced that this would be quicker. 

How hard could it be? What was so tricky that the idiots up ahead were holding everybody up so badly? When it came to my turn I set to with breezy confidence but was thwarted by the fact that it would only do 1st class stamps. Rage, instant rage but from nowhere a member of PO staff appeared and sensing a potentially tricky customer took over. The machine, (Wincor Nixdorf note), was not yet equipped to do 2nd class stamps but alternatively I could get the equivalent postage label, "would that be fine Sir?" Yes it would I'd like 25 please. Maximum number was 19 (19??), so Sir had better do it in two separate transactions. Guess whether or not it would accept my £10 note? Guess how many times it rejected the ten £1 coins I substituted? I am going to tell you that it took about 15 seconds to print each one so it was ME who was the new idiot hogging the machine for twenty minutes. And all this time the PO employee was so infuriatingly polite and helpful that there was no reasonable way I could get angry despite my best efforts and in ideal circumstances too. He even assisted in applying the labels so by the time the ordeal was over we were firm friends. 

To the recipients, I can only apologise for the industrial-look Christmas cards. If it's any consolation I can tell you that I missed my train."

Cyclists on Bloody Trains


One of the less attractive and welcome experiences of the commuters life is the plague of septic maggots who run or cycle to the station in the morning and then force their half naked, sweaty, smelly bodies on the rest of us who incidentally, have had the common decency to bathe before dressing. I would no more step onto public transport dripping with sweat than I would walk into a cocktail party red faced and panting. Weren't these people taught to shower after sports? It's an utter disgrace and affront to good manners not to say a threat to health and hygiene. Anyway, before I get into my stride our old friend Dirk has beaten me to it and once more holds the flag high for the ordinary decent commuter....

"I had to endure Dirty Stinky cyclist-man today who sat steaming in the seat beside me in his yellow and black uniform while tucking into his energy gel. 

I know about these awful things from running, which by the time you get round to plucking up the courage to get one down have warmed to,(your), body temperature and are horribly cloying. They come in various flavours and the vanilla waft added to road-grime and his rancid aroma was almost too much to bear. Despite the chilly morning I was in no mood for his radiated musk and so my private fantasy which involved bundling him out into the dark next time the doors opened was effectively derailed when a propos of nothing at all he suddenly turned to me and asked very politely if he could read a bit of my paper. 

With this mild interaction my murderous thoughts seemed churlishly over-the-top and to absolve a sense of guilt I thought I'd show an interest in how far he'd ridden that morning.Ten miles apparently, part of a fitness campaign he'd started in the summer and would continue day in and day out until the Spring. Definitely a driving ban then. It was all I could do not to enquire if it was all in the same kit."

Start the Week With Dirk


After a pause of some weeks, Dirk is back with a double helping from his "diary of an ordinary commuter." There's nothing ordinary about our hero I can tell you, he carries the standard for us all and dares to articulate all those dark thoughts that even the most Christian minded of us occasionally harbour against our fellow man.... or women.



"I think we're all a bit stressed at the moment and it wouldn't take much to nudge us over the edge.

Back in the calm of an office I can see why physical assault induced by the loud eating of crisps may not have stood up in court. I have nothing against crisps but would refrain from eating them on a train after dark, partly in consideration to other passengers and partly because I find myself very conscientious re the noise. I'd like to think the girl behind me was trying to be polite too but in carefully taking out each one in turn she merely prolonged the torture. 

 Giving each one a preliminary suck reduced the crunch, (I applaud that), and then it was back in for another rummaging cranckle. Polishing off the final one with a quick slick to each finger I thought that was the end of that but after a brief intermission she delved into her cavernous bag and started on a second packet. Why this should have such an effect on my blood pressure is a worry. This was not the Royal Opera House, this was not even the Remembrance Day 2 minutes silence and nor were we the Famous 5 crouched in hiding from the smugglers on Billycock Hill so why should it matter?  This was merely a train with several dozing passengers, but when the only other sound is snoring there's nothing so irritatingly intrusive as a writhing crisp packet.  

It could be that I am in need of therapy but my suggestion is to sell them in plastic bags, preferably soggy, or better still get it over with quickly and simply enjoy a potato


With several weeks of remission I was just wondering what had happened to Tourette's woman and then there it was in the background, that unmistakeable glottal stop feature which to the uninitiated is merely part and parcel of winter commuting with a carriage-full of assorted colds.

To the more experienced there's a world of difference, and just as a dedicated bird enthusiast can distinguish between the call of a swift and a swallow,(almost an accidental pun there),so I can tell the difference between a tickly cough and a permanent affliction designed to drive us all mad. This would be the inoffensive-looking lady with the velvet Alice-band, the sort you'd find yourself luring in towards the vacant seat if only as a trade-off versus a potentially-worse travel-mate.

It's not until she's fully settled that the vocal tic makes itself known and she doesn't know it but she gets my pulse racing for all the wrong reasons. If she takes to eating crisps I shall be driven over the edge into enacting my own version of Tourettes in its most coprolalic form.

It takes one to know one, and perhaps she'd understand if I blurted out a stream of invective. To avoid a scene maybe I'll just add headphones to my Christmas list."


Know Your Place


Time for another report from our old chum Randolph as he describes another chapter in the daily commuting grind,

"There's a new man on the platform for whom I've developed an unreasonable degree of resentment. 

I long ago decided that commuting on a daily basis was perfectly bearable once a certain rhythm was established, but to covet any particular type of seat was a slippery slope into nerdism.  Besides, a slouch to the same side on a regular basis can't be good for the spine.  It's better to mix it up a bit, convince yourself that sitting backwards is perfectly fine, steer clear of the loos and it matters little where you end up and pity those who don't actually have a choice of seats at all. 

With all this karma in mind why is it then that I object so much to this young blade who insists on being the one to hit the yellow button?. There you'll be, 15 yrs of experience to tell you where the doors will come to a halt and he springs in from stage left like Billy Goat Gruff (he lurks in the lee of the pedestrian bridge).  He's been known to stand aside to let a woman board but he's already ahead of her when it comes to the seats.  There's an almost audible sigh as he stakes his claim, movements now in slow motion since the battle's won for another day.  Did I imagine it or was he looking round for approbation? 

Anyway, no room for smugness later for it was only as he made to get up at London Bridge that he discovered he'd made the schoolboy error of failing to spot the chewing gum.  Rather fresh too, made malleable from 45 minutes of pressurised warmth and creating significant drag on his coat which he then had to remove while he made good.  A small moment to treasure and a rare high-five to the schoolboy."

A Rare Butterfly


Time once again for some input from our old friend and long suffering commuter Dirk over in Kent,

"Like a rare butterfly the blonde alighted on the seat next to me launching a heady waft of scent.  There are precious few of these on my line and I didn't dare move a muscle for they're easily startled.  An exploratory swivel to the right would have allowed me full appraisal but in circumstances such as this it's important not to register any acknowledgement at all.  Like the person standing behind in the queue for the ATM I was aware of her presence but she was invisible to me, and I'd not have picked her out in an ID parade had she sported three heads.

I sat there ostensibly concentrating on my newspaper, getting giddy from the strain of trying to clock what she looked like out of the corner of my eye.  A yellow curtain of hair concealed the facial details (just the one head), gloves were no giveaway (gloves?), leg was robustly-trousered, shoe was not exactly petite...but never mind, this was a welcome improvement on the usual travelling ghoul. 

Much later, awaking from the customary doze and hoping that I hadn't been snoring in an unattractive slack-jawed fashion I was delighted to find she was still there.  The time was fast-approaching when it was time to leave the train and all would be revealed.  Like that interesting parcel under the Christmas tree that turns out to be a box of Hoover-bags I was to be equally disappointed.  This was no young thing, not even a Paris Hilton or a Susan Hampshire.  I'd have settled for Vanessa Feltz but instead this was Iggy Pop, or perhaps Rick Wakeman. 

Let's hope we didn't sleep together."



Go, Having Gone


Time for a quick update from our chum Dirk in Kent,

"Just a few more days of the summer holidays and then the trains will be back to normal.  The first few carriages from the buffers should be studiously avoided for this is where families head, looking ideally for a table, where an early incumbent with any sense will quickly make himself scarce....chivalry has nothing to do with it. 

They will need a surface on which to eat their food, a last-gasp treat of Burger King the bribe for foregoing yet another ice-cream earlier in the afternoon.  If really lucky this sticky pod will also be close to one of the train loos, for apart from the obvious reasons they can play with the automatic buttons on the doors.  It hasn't happened in a while, but until we got the hang of how to lock from inside it used to be common for people on the loo to suffer the indignity for the doors to mysteriously gape open of their own accord.

A particularly restless little tyke couldn't resist the inviting yellow button, pressed it, and was so startled by the ensuing command to "get out" hissed from the wretched woman within that instead of hurriedly closing the door she ran away.  It must be said that these loos are generously proportioned to cater for disabled passengers so it's more than just a stretch to reach the 'close/lock' button.  Men can at least be facing the far wall, but women have no choice but to hide their faces and pretend it's not happening. 

Be warned that in this open-plan situation there's not a lot you can do until you're ready to get up and go, having gone."


SWT; Stand & Deliver


I hate South West Trains. If they walked around in striped jerseys, masks and carried large bags marked "swag," it couldn't be more obvious that they have been given free license it relieve passengers of hard earned money at every available opportunity and with precious little oversight.

Yesterday, in the modern equivalent of highway robbery, the scheming swine relieved me of £930 for an annual car park space at the station. It wasn't the fact that the car park was unusable for 3 weeks earlier this year because unlike all the other local businesses they couldn't be bothered to clear the snow that irritated me with the intensity of a hemorrhoid flare up. No, it was the fact that £930 represents a more than 10% increase on last year's cost. £930 for a bit of tarmac 50 miles from London....... sods.

Moving on, we have an update from our friend Dirk in Kent  for whom the lights of the commuting experience seemingly grow ever dimmer; enjoy,

"Overflowing man was jutting out into the aisle, probably deliberately so as not to miss the refreshment trolley as it lumbered past.  With his foot acting as a stabilizing chock he was able to place a substantial order to help fill that needy little hour between tea and high tea, certainly he’d left plenty of room inside for it all to be packed.

It was with some reluctance that he eventually drew himself in to allow the trolley past and we could see what he’d ordered: 3 packets of crisps, 3 packets of fruit cake, 2 kitkats, a packet of miscellaneous biscuits and two cups of tea.  The Snickers bar (one of a double-pack) that he’d been nuzzling as he’d boarded was left half demolished while he tucked in to the main course…or that was the plan for he’d just torn open the first packet of crisps when his phone rang.  “About 7.30” was his response to whatever was asked, and after the next question which we could only guess at there was a considered pause until he answered “boiled would be nice”."



Tickets Please!

After our recent adventures with South West Trains it's over to our old friend Dirk in Kent for another of his "Episodes of the Kent Commuter......"

A lovely scene witnessed on yesterday's train when the ticket-inspector lurched into view.  
The man wedged in by the window pleaded to be excused proof of his validity, his ticket being stowed on the overhead rack in his jacket pocket.  Our inspector obviously got a ratty whiff in his nostrils and calling his bluff asked which jacket that would be and would he like him to get it down for him.
Unfortunately, on retrieving it from its folded position the SE Trains man let loose a shower of coins and a mobile handset which clunked down onto the head/lap of a dozing commuter who nonetheless remained oblivious.  We then had the surreal situation whereupon the ticket's verification became a sideshow while the by-now ruffled ticket collector rummaged around in a stranger's groin trying to make good, and no doubt contemplating being charged with assault of one man and robbery of another in the course of trying to do his job properly. These weren't just pennies, they were £1 coins and their loss therefore not to be sniffed at, especially given where they'd vanished. Their combined worth might even have been enough to pay for the wretched ticket had it been required but our man proved to be an innocent season-ticket holder after all, though possibly a couple of quid poorer for his efforts to stay cool.
That'll teach him to travel in shirt-sleeve order.      

Not a commuter story, but life as we know it...........................

Whilst I may have been somewhat remiss in keeping up to date with blog entries of late, our man in Kent is positively buzzing. Here's the latest from Dirk...............

We've all been there, that moment of panic when you realise you're in the wrong and damage limitation is going to have to involve some truly weasel-like behaviour.  
With friends to lunch bringing their very small children we had to set about making the house safe, and as I rather grumpily busied myself concealing all weaponry, removing things that set light to stuff and moving sharp-pointed furniture to the no-go areas, that sinking feeling became entrenched.  As Wilbur Smith would have put it, 'the serpent of dread had uncoiled in my underbelly'.
Sure enough there then came the joyful request to retrieve the high-chair from wherever it had been stowed. Here's the drill:  Begin with a puzzled look, follow that up with a shrug which implies that by no means is this just my fault, and if this doesn't work you're going to have to embark on a big fat lie. Protest that 'of course I didn't take it to the dump, I do have SOME sensitive bone in my body, as if I would be cavalier with the throne in which all three of our children, and no doubt generations of our ancestors, have guzzled their way to near-adulthood.
In reality I have quite a vivid picture of it burning furiously on the bonfire, the years of dribbled cod-liver oil, SMA, yoghurt, treacle and Calpol leeching their way out of the woodwork to spark a magnificent inferno. I am obviously damned to hell, but best not to admit it.   

Dirk Does The Garden


Dirk's Beautiful Kentish Garden, the day after he got his new chainsaw.Dirk Randolph is back with another domestic update from the Garden of England, although our man does appear to be having one or two issues in his little bit of Kent.

"Anybody else end up in a garden centre over the weekend?

As sure as eggs are eggs there will be another £8.99 to replace yet another pistol-grip hose attachment, the ones which are designed to crack if left out in overnight winter frosts.  Women are responsible for this, for when they remove them so as to get the gentle gush (boooring) which is apparently the best flow for watering something they then leave them hidden in the leaves.  And then, why is it only a man who gets satisfaction from winding the hose back onto the reel?.  We tend to zip up suitcases too..what’s so strange about that? 

Anyway, on the subject of manly pursuits, having spent a fortune on logs this winter I’ve been stalking a few trees which might like to come down in time to keep us warm during the next one.  Pollarding is quite an energetic sport if done properly and after some aggressive sweeps with the chain-saw I’ve gone right back to the trunk with a couple of willows.  Standing there menacingly with the engine idling there’s that “now what?” moment as I contemplate the fact that though I may have cleared a view of the pond behind, until the foliage grows back all I have now is a vertical log.  Like a man in the barbers who looks up too late from his Heat magazine what we have here is a problem that only time will heal. Either that or the whole lot’s got to go.

Perhaps I’ll compromise with a new willow from the garden centre." 

Bloody Trains

SWT 06:15 from Haslemere to Waterloo

Anyone with the misfortune to be a customer of South West Trains will be painfully aware of their corporate drive to charge more for less and of their skill in getting away with it year after year, unimpeded by regulators. Anyone with the brazen affront to remove lavatories to squeeze more seats in and deploy urban metro trains on inter city routes clearly operates on a "do as we damn well want basis."

43cm (16.9ins) is all you get in standard class, usually three in a row; bastards.

Obviously, the weary South West Trains commuter believes himself to be a model of uncomplaining fortitude. We're not though, alone. Our old friend Dirk Randolph with his latest dispatch from Kent,

"I pressed the button for the doors to open, and with a gallant flourish allowed the high-tog lady to climb aboard.  I know this one, she tends to waddle off to wedge herself securely into one of the table seats facing backwards, a comfortable crash-pad which I have in mind to aim for in the event I get catapulted there in an accident.  I was relaxed in the knowledge that she wasn’t going to go where I like to go, up against a window buttress in the spoon-seats, but to my rage she made straight for it.

With chivalry back in its box I was forced to settle across the aisle where I glared from behind my newspaper, too late realising I’d put myself right in the zone for the Two Morons who got on 10 minutes later.   This pair are well-known to us as top-tier irritants, guarranteed to jabber away for the entire trip to Waterloo East. 

One of them, I would charitably suggest, has a speech defect but it’s probably just lazy diction, and his side-kick doesn’t know any words but hangs in there in case he’s supposed to react in any way.  With one of those smirky faces much like that of York’s victorious team captain on University Challenge I’d like to think you’re with me on this.  Today I was too close to kip but perhaps I might learn something of interest.  Perhaps he really was as brilliant as York’s team captain.  As it turned out, I am able to confirm what I’d already assumed for the chat was incessant but utterly useless.  They are both morons and deserving of my continued disdain, and for that I feel strangely relieved."