Tripping down memory lane as we scatter ashes on Exmoor

April 8, 2012

My late father had spent 18 months or so in a plastic box on the mantelpiece, and it seemed about time that he was liberated.  Exmoor was the obvious place, and that is where we went last week to find a suitable spot to scatter his ashes.

He was at school at West Buckland during the war, and our childhood holidays with him were spent down there, usually at Barnstaple. From there we could easily get to the wide sandy beach at Saunton Sands;  we would take the dogs to the dunes at Braunton Burrows where the sandy track, still called the American Road, showed traces of the metal strips laid by the US military when they trained there for D-Day, not so many years earlier; and we went up on to Exmoor. Thinking back, the Exmoor trips were for rainy days, because if the sun shone we went to the sea, and my recollection that it always rains on Exmoor was probably based on distorted premises.

Jaguar 3.8The early 1960s were  a good time for driving – petrol was cheap, roads were well maintained, cars had reached a stage of technical excellence and comfort, and relatively few people had them. My father had a dark grey Jaguar 3.8 with red leather seats, one of the finest cars of its time and much loved by bank robbers and others with an urgent need to be somewhere else. Read the rest of this entry »

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Two FGW trains on time in one day proves a one-off

June 29, 2008

It was (lack of) service as usual on First Great Western on the day after an unprecedented piece of good time-keeping. If FGW paid as much attention to providing a service as they do protecting their revenue, we might be happier to contribute to their profits.

Something quite outside my experience occurred last week. My First Great Western train into London and the one which brought me out both ran to time.

This is like those fabled happenings which one hears of but never quite believes – Gordon Brown is not always unpleasant to everyone he meets; Ed Balls can let a day go by without either launching an “initiative” or filing an expenses claim; there is a highways officer at Oxfordshire County Council with an IQ in double figures; a Phoenix has been seen in Oxford. None of these seems in the least plausible, but if FGW can run two trains on time in one day then anything is possible. Read the rest of this entry »


All announcements and no information at FGW

June 9, 2008

It would be useful (for the passengers at least) if the people who run First Great Western stations were to spend some time standing around on platforms, like the rest of us have to, totting up the ratio between the endless announcements thrown at us and the information actually conveyed by them.

They would find that, like the notices erected by the dumb animals who work in local authorities, and the stream of nannying advice poured over us by government and its many agencies, the value of the messages is in inverse proportion to their quantity. Read the rest of this entry »


Alienation in my own land

March 4, 2008

The state of the nation was neatly summed up between trains at Reading station one day last week.

For the second time that week I had bounded out of a west-bound train and dashed across to Platform 8 in time to see the doors lock on a train heading north to Oxford and beyond. Both trains were running to time so it is deliberate time-tabling which ensures that one cannot do a seamless change. Well, it may be deliberate – some venomous little bureaucrat spotting an opportunity to inflict a little more misery on those who are compelled to suffer the “service” which First Great Western offer to those who pay the wages; it may just be stupidity. Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the Managers at First Great Western

January 24, 2008

My fury at First Great Western’s inability even to be honest (one does not expect competence) as I eventually pulled out of Oxford Station on Tuesday (see Incompetence or Dishonesty at FGW) made me determined to take up their invitation to Meet the Managers on the way back.

Unlike at the ticket office, there was no great queue to meet the drone who had been delegated to field the complaints, and I stood behind a couple who were complaining about the removal of the Travel Centre which, they said, they had often used and much missed (see FGW closes Oxford Travel Centre) . Read the rest of this entry »


Incompetence or dishonesty at FGW – both probably

January 24, 2008

The fare for my occasional journeys to London has risen by nearly 10% since 1 January. The quality of the service seems to have decreased by about the same. Just like last year then.

The ticket windows at Oxford station look just the same as they did before the recent and extremely inconvenient works there. I had hoped that the plan was to add another one to cope with the queues, but why should they bother with that? Once the cash-cow – the passengers, or “customers” as we are mockingly called – are into the station, they are probably committed to travelling by train, so what does it matter if we have to queue? Read the rest of this entry »


A journey by train from Oxford to London

December 9, 2007

An evening trip to London by train illustrates how the “customers” are let down by those who provide their “services”. It affects life more than New Labour corruption.

The extent to which we are serfs to the so-called service providers was illustrated four times before the train pulled out of Oxford station.

First you have to get to the station. Every time I queue down Hythe Bridge Street, I curse the valuable time taken from me by the thickest of all thick public servants, the highways officers of Oxfordshire County Council. What inversion of society’s priorities means that flotsam like that can waste hours out of the lives of so many real people, people with jobs and lives that matter? Read the rest of this entry »