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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Poo and pants 

I bet I know what you’re thinking. With a title like that, you think this blog is about me messing myself. Well, you’re wrong…

We’re currently having our annual retreat to Beddgelert in Snowdonia. We’re eating in for 5 nights of the 7 and eating out for the other two. Tonight is one of our eating out nights. We decided on fish and chips from Porthmadog and stopped at a lay-by on the way back to eat them by a stream. Parts one and two of this plan executed without mishap, or so I thought.

We finished our fish and chips and put the rubbish in the carrier bag and took it all back to the car. Then I sat down behind the steering wheel but as soon as I did so I noticed that my bottom instantly cold, wet and very definitely squidgy.

Without noticing, I’d sat in something on the rock by the stream, something that, if it wasn’t poo, was very strongly related.

Luckily, the weather has been a bit changeable this week so although I was wearing shorts I had a pair of jeans in the boot so, leaving David to clear up the seat as best he could, I grabbed the jeans and nipped across the road to hide behind a big rock and get changed. The whatever-it-was had soaked right through my shorts so I had to climb out of my pants as well.

I’m not normally prone to standing half naked by Welsh streams so I was very happy that there were no people about until I had my jeans on again.

I didn’t escape embarrassment, however. Back at the hotel, we chatted briefly to an elderly couple about what we had all done today (leaving out the poo incident, of course) before making our way back to the room. It was then I discovered that the pants that were in my hand when I’d left the car were somewhere else. I had dropped them on the way.

Yes, my pants were sitting on the floor of the conservatory where we had been standing and the elderly couple were still sitting there drinking their coffee. I grabbed the pants and made a quick get-away.

I hope they didn’t notice.

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Flash! 

No, this is not a continuation of my story of standing half naked by the side of the road in Snowdonia but a gripe about photographers.

I have no objections to photographers as a rule. As most people know, I will photograph anything if it stands still long enough or looks good in an artistic way.

What I don’t like is people who buy cameras but don’t have the wits to know how to use them properly. You know – the ones who can’t manage to turn the beeps off or don’t know how to turn the flash off or, worse than that, don’t realise that using the flash in broad daylight when the subject is 20m away is a waste of time.

There is this thing call the Inverse Square Law which governs how well flashes work. Basically, it says that if you stand x metres away from an object then the light then the light that reaches you is 1/x^2 as bright. So, if you are 2m away from something then there will be a quarter as much light reaching the thing from your flash as it would if you were 1m away. If you are 3m away then there will be a ninth as much light, 4m and its a sixteenth.

For the 20m example I mentioned earlier there would be a 400th as much light reaching the subject.

You get the idea, I’m sure, but even if you don’t know the details, it is pretty much common sense that your flash would be less effective the further away you get.

At least, I would hope it is common sense and that people do this purely because they don’t know how to turn their flashes off. Or perhaps they are just stupid.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

“Thenk you, Drivah!” 

On my bus from the station, I’ve noticed that older passengers tend to call out their thanks to the bus driver. This is all well and good; I do the same when I leave by the front door. It would seem rude to pass the guy and say nothing. A simple “cheers” costs nothing.

The only time I don’t do that is if the driver has driven around like a complete maniac and I feel like I am a limp sock that’s just been through the spin cycle.

Older passengers are a different breed and will call out from the back door. Again, this is fine but I wouldn’t do it and I doubt that the driver expects it. Most of the time he isn’t looking and is only just watching the door to make sure we all get off.

There is a schoolgirl on the morning bus who shouts out “Thank you!” as she gets off. Her sister (possibly her [evil] twin) says nothing - just like the rest of us.

What rubs me up the wrong way, however, with shouting thanks to the driver, is that the older passengers seem to have to do it in some sort of awful distracted pseudo-posh accent, as if the bus-driver were their personal chauffeur. “Thenk you, Drivah,” they will call out.

Why?

Why put on airs and graces? He isn’t their chauffeur. They don’t employ him. They don’t own him. They most certainly don’t know him in any way at all or they would use his name. Anyone else would be addressed by the same people as “mate” or “luv” but the bus driver is “Drivah”.

I’m not saying that the bus driver shouldn’t be acknowledged. It is all the more important to do that now that we have Oyster cards to slap on the yellow circle and not make eye-contact with the driver at all. There is no need, however, to be patronising or condescending or make ourselves out to be better than someone just because he or she happens to be driving a bus. Not only are they stuck with the vagaries of traffic all day long but they have to cope with kids, chavs, the elderly, the rude, the mentally unhinged and all the other assorted bits and pieces of humanity that choose to get that particular bus.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Turn it down! 

On the train last night (not one of my usuals as I’d stayed in town to have dinner with an old Uni friend) a man was a bit bothered by the sound of someone’s iPod.

He was so bothered he got up and asked someone to turn it down.

The problem was that there were two men in the same part of the carriage who were listening to music. One was a rough-looking guy in his early twenties and the other was a business-type chappy in a suit and tie.

The complainer asked the younger man to turn his stereo down but on the way back to his seat realised he’d made the mistake of judging someone by their appearance as it was the suited bloke who was listening to loud music (on the awful rubbish headphones provided by Apple).

He motioned an apology at the younger guy who seemed very puzzled by the whole incident and then asked the other man to turn his music down. If he did it wasn’t by very much but by that time it would have been impossible for the complainer to ask again.

By the way, the older bloke in the suit was listening to complete garbage.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

358 

More often than not, I catch the bus to the station in the morning. I can walk but will only do so if no bus is due or I’m feeling really energetic. There are four buses that I can catch: R5, R8, R11 or the 358. The R5 seems to only run when there is a Z in the month, the R8 a little more often and the R11 has a detour past the hospital and doesn’t go all the way to the station in any case. So usually I catch the 358, operated by Metrobus.

There are two things that are guaranteed to happen on the 358: the first is that someone (usually a different person but it has happened with the same one) will forget that the 358 doesn’t go up the High Street at that time of the morning and, instead, goes past the end of the High Street and heads straight up to the station. The passenger will ring the bell or go crying to the driver who may or may not let them off even though they shouldn’t.

The second predictable event is the rather unpredictable effect of the traffic.

When there’s a school holiday we can drift up to the station from Orpington High Street in a couple of minutes. When school’s in, the traffic can be backed up from the station all the way down to the High Street and take anything from 5 minutes to 10 or 15 for us to get up the hill. Or not. Sometimes the traffic can be backed up but we make it to the station with very little delay. Other times we miss both the 7:56 and the 8:00.

The trouble is that you don’t know how much of a delay there will be until the bus turns the corner into Station Road at which point there are no more official stops.

Why does the traffic happen, I wonder?

I know there are lots of extra cars when there are no school holidays but there is more to it than that.

The only other causes of delay are the pedestrian lights just before the station, people joining the traffic from side roads and buses turning right from Station Road into Station Approach. Of these, the lights and the right-turn are the biggest contributors.

What can be done about it?

Very little, I think.

One idea is to swap the car park on the other side of the station with the bus terminus so that the buses turn right on a wider part of the road. That might help. Traffic would not be held up by buses turning right and the buses wouldn’t have to negotiate the very narrow Station Approach. The number of car park spaces would be reduced, of course, which would reduce the revenue clawed in from passengers who want to park at the station.

I don’t know if anyone who has any say in this sort of thing will read this blog. Probably not. And I don’t know who I could approach with the idea.

Until something is done (if anything can be done), I guess I’ll just have to put up with it or walk to the station.

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