Saturday, December 04, 2010

No Icebergs but Plenty of Ice.

Caroline, who has a fascination with the Titanic, booked us up to go to the O2 yesterday (O2 is of course a better name that ‘Millennium Dome’ and its associations with the laughable ‘millennium experience’ and about a billion in wasted money, for a fucking tent) but, with the weather we’ve been having, we were starting to have second thoughts. However, in the end I said let’s just go for it, so we did.

There was ice and snow everywhere and the road leading down to Althorne station was a sheet of ice (apparently roads to railway stations are not main routes that need gritting?), but if you don’t drive like a dick that wasn’t a problem. We parked at the station where only three cars occupied a car park that was normally full, and waited for out train, which was only a few minutes late. This would take us to Shenfield where we would then change for a train to Stratford, then hop on the Jubilee line heading for the O2.

However, the train stopped at Wickford and we then had to wait for three-quarters of an hour for another train to take us to Stratford. Luckily the pies and coffee there were cheap and good and, during the ensuing journey, some lunatics dressing up as super heroes (on their way to a party) were aboard to cheer us up.

At Stratford, because we hadn’t actually checked which stop we had to get off at to get to the O2 we did that old-time British thing and asked direction from a couple of policemen. They hadn’t got a clue and were in danger of putting us on the wrong course until another traveller put them right. We had to go to North Greenwich. From there to the O2 is just a short walk, and soon we reached the ‘Bubble’ where the Titanic artefacts display was located. Unfortunately I can’t put up any photographs because we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside. It was all pretty interesting and the American staff there were very informative and helpful. We spent an hour and three-quarters checking out the exhibits.

What they do, when you go in, is issue you with copy of a ticket for one of the Titanic passengers so, on the way out, you can see whether or not you survived. Both Caroline and I did survive, though she wasn’t in first class like me. They also take a photo against a green screen so on the way out you can buy a picture of yourself standing before the staircase Leonardo Dicaprio swanned down in the last scene of the film. Within the exhibition there is also a block of ice maintained at the temperature of the sea most of the passengers went into. Really, all they needed to do was turn off the heating.

After this we enjoyed a meal before heading home. On the way out I got a proper look at what I have to put forward as a contender for any ‘ugly building’ awards there might be.

Stratford was a nightmare. It took us half an hour to find a platform at which a train was due to head in the direction we wanted to go. Whilst waiting there we watched the train before ours arrive, full of people and with loads of people on the platform wanting to get on. It was like a scene out of some disaster movie with the crowds trying to escape the tsunami or the Martian war machines. When the doors finally closed, leaving a lot of passengers behind, I half expected to see severed limbs on the platform. When our train arrived the scenario was little different and, of course, you find that once aboard the train the problem stems from selfish dicks clustering about the door and not moving on down the carriage.

This train took us to Shenfield where similar scenes were being enacted. I was waiting for station staff to come out with machine-guns and leashed alsations, but station staff were notable by their absence. Here, and at Wickford station was where I started to feel the urge to lob a brick at any visible loudspeaker. The phrase, ‘we apologise for any inconvenience caused’ tends to cause one to doubt if there’s any contrition involved when it’s a recording being played ad nauseum. It then occurred to me then that a better name than the one painted on the sides of the trains might be ‘National Excuse’. I also noted how the phrase, ‘for your safety and comfort smoking is prohibited’ was always immediately followed by ‘for your safety and comfort this station has CCTV’ (note: I might have the precise wording wrong here, but you get the gist of it). Another one was something along the lines of, ‘due to the adverse weather conditions the platform is extremely slippery’. Well, no shit Sherlock.

When we finally got home I had to drive back from the station in second gear, never going above about 20 miles an hour. The car is in the garage now and I’m sitting next to the radiator, never to venture out again unless for essential supplies. You guys who have to go through that shit every day have my deepest sympathy.


Antony said...

I wonder how long it will be until you come home to England in the summer and winter in Crete?

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

"The phrase, ‘we apologise for any inconvenience caused’ tends to cause one to doubt if there’s any contrition involved when it’s a recording being played ad nauseum."

an apocalyptic version of the 'Bed Sitting Room' movie, but with more actors sounds like.

Crete in the winter must be hell with all the gorgans, titans and dryads overrunning the land kicking dogs and chasing eggs.

Fader209 said...

Shouldn't you drive in a higher gear in icy weather?

I'm starting to question myself over my driving now lol
Obviously 2nd gear for pulling away as it reduces wheelspin but I thought climbing up to say 4th when you're moving along would be better than 2nd?


Andrew said...

I have came to the conclusion that Southeastern, my train provider, are such a crock of shit it was not worth it.

I only have to go from Sidcup (about 13 miles Southeast of London) to London Bridge but found it practically impossible.

I also saw more than one punch up caused by people attempting to get on trains that really could not hold any more people.

In the end I had to get the bus to the 02 and get on the jubilee line.

And yes that building is truly awful. The Architect and developer should be shot.

Xanares said...

Welcome to London!

Neal Asher said...

Anthony, I wonder how long it'll be before I don't bother coming back here.

Not a one in sight, Vaude. Plenty of dogs being kicked, though.

Fader209, yes you should keep the revs down, unless of course your primary aim is to get the heater putting out some warm air.

Andrew, we wouldn't have gone, but checking the website we found that they were having no problems at all. I certainly don't want to try their trains when they are having problems.

Bob Lock said...

All that trouble and all you had to do was use your Runcible...

Graeme said...


Paul said...

I hate London. Lots of interesting things to see but too many bloody people and they're all running, all the time.

And feckin snow don;t get me started. Just cleared the drive for the fifth time and dug out the wifes car from the 2' of snow it was under.

Saw -3C on the thermometer and for a second actually though "oh it's warming up".

Arse! Where that bloody global warming I was promised. I thought I was supposed to be growing grapes not freezing nuts!

Jebel Krong said...

about a billion for a fucking tent is about right, and probably the kind of metaphor labour will be best remembered for. it is a nice tent though.

freezing today and even with no snow, the trains on the fenchurch line are still borked - someone pinched the cables again (that makes 3 times in about a month). they're supposed to have a helicopter dedicated to prevent such things, but i doubt it can fly during cold weather, or maybe even at night. and southend central decided to have power problems (though only affecting the railway).

so once again i froze for 45 minutes before at last a train turned up.

i hate winter.

thatsskarwithak said...

Roads are gritted based on their category/importance. So motorways, A roads/hospitals and then down the scale from there. So unless you're at a main line station, they'll get there.

Though the vehicles which grit are also snow ploughs, so it really does depend on the weather.

Neal Asher said...

If I had a runcible I wouldn't be sitting here looking out the window at the frightened brass monkeys, Bob.

My every sympathy, Graeme.

Paul, London is okay just so long as you choose your time right and don't let that hurry-up shit affect you. 'growing grapes not freezing nuts' - love it.

Last I heard it was the compressors for the brakes freezing up, Jebel. I'd like to say I don't know why we're so bad at this stuff, but I do. Y'know, we went to Sri Lanka years ago and whilst chatting to a taxi driver he told us about their railway: built by the British and the best bit of infrastructure they have, he said. They'd get the Chinese to build one now.

David Britten said...

Bah, In Scotland it took me two days to get home from Work. Driving home was like re-enacting ice road truckers. Temperatures down at -13 in the day it was more than a little adventure.

Neal Asher said...

Ah, but according to Alex Salmond our winters are supposed to be milder now. How can you possibly be driving in conditions like that? Holy writ says otherwise.