Category Archives: trains

Catch Up Roadtrip 2 [2017] : Canada & USA – Toronto To Buffalo

Thameslink broken ticket machinesMore Thameslink out fo service ticket machines

In 2017 – about nine months in advance of the infamous new timetable unravelling of 2018 the life challenged people of Govia Thameslink picked up and walked off with their ticket machines in one swift and orchestrated manoeuvre.  In their place they deposited a range of newer far more shinny machines whose function was to provide a small square illumination from their display screens.  Sometime partly dimmed by the words out of service but equally frequently completely unhindered by any such purposeful demands being placed upon them.  They were poor torches, the illuminated screens were too high to shed light upon the floor and had no where near the power necessary for the light to beam out through the darkness.   Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions the revealed their true purpose, offering the names of station and purporting to sell tickets – such outlandish claims could be swiftly dealt with simply by selecting one of these stations.. At which point the ineffective torch would quickly revert back to its true form, the not entirely glorious beam of the blank screen.

Travel then was ticket free into London – which isnt the bonus it might seem to be, given a ticket would still be needed for the London to Gatwick bit.. In London there would be barriers to contend with.  The ticket machines at St.Pancras had not gone with the blank screen, they were among those upgraded few that actually mustered an out of service message.

London St Pancras Thameslink Platform

In one little corner of St Pancras a surviving cluster of the big old square ticket machines of before had survived.  They were in many ways less fetching than their replacement, big, imposing, brightest blue with an air of the rescued east German functional but with the layers of domestically formed grime that came with their years of service.  They did however have one thing over their replacements and it was a fairly key thing … So with tickets now in hand baggage could flow with us through the barriers and onto the platform.

Book Gatwick Airport Shop Five Escape Brexit Island

Air Transat In flight Gatwick Toronto

With the excess time available at Gatwick i happened to do some research on our airline – Air Transat – which turned out to be fortunate.  What i learned was that their flights from London to Toronto dont come with entertainment systems on each seat. Instead they have an on board entertainment system which can be accessed via apps on the passengers own devices.  A prerequisites for this being that you have an appropriate device to hand and have taken it upon yourself to take the somewhat unusual step of downloading this app.  Hasty efforts to get this in place were worth while, the connection on the flight didnt allow for adding the app, only for using it.. So i was fortunate and pleased to have taken these steps.  It wasn’t a vast array of movie options but it was something, there were municipal screens on board but sight of them was something that was limited to around 2 seats in every 9..  I was not to find myself the occupant of one of those 2.

Route Map Toronto to Buffalo

The route to the hire car was a more complicated one than envisaged.  There was the terminal train, the car hire telephone to arrange collection and then the waiting for the collection in a the thin but marijuana soaked air.

This though was not to be the challenge, that came at the point of collection.  It was our second road trip of the year having migrated our way along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts in the early spring.  It was now November but the knowledge of that past trip was not entirely lost.  The car had been hired with unlimited mileage and with no warning about limitations on crossing boarders.

An array of additional charges that resided in the small print but that had no part of the booking process.  It was looking like it was going to be a battle over charges until we clarified the nature of the mileage of the trip (some rough estimates using google maps). The “unlimited mileage” couldn’t even be extended to cover those kilometres, were we so willing,  by the purchasing of those add-ons.. This while generating some immediate stresses in the form of  last minute re-planning, did mean that the debating and haggling aspect was not going to be a thing.

A bus was leaving for Buffalo from Toronto later that evening, once in Buffalo a car could be collected.. that was an option.. what would we have done were there no internet? ..  The guy behind the counter advised us that he thought AVIS would provide cars with cross border coverage along with unlimited mileage.. For budgetary reasons it would mean downsizing the vehicle, no plush north american comfort and still spending more.. but compared to being stranded at point 1 of our trip, this seemed like the best option.

A compact vehicle of some description would be waiting for us – back into the transfer mini-bus, through the scented marijuana cloud onto the terminal train … hunt down AVIS counter.. it was there somewhere, there were signs.  Signs that were there until they weren’t.. we walked back, yep the signs were there and … no .. then no .. the signs were gone and no sign of a counter.  Starbucks people, would have to be approached for some local knowledge..

Boston Pizza Sports Bar Restaurant

It was a VW Golf estate – AVIS and the other car hire companies were not in the terminal, which explained our not having found them in there.   It was all secreted on the ground floor of the multistory that stood opposite the terminal.

After some mis-steps leaving the airport, some stopping, a discussion with pointing, some more stopping and a then rotating of the navigational duties, directionally we’d found our way onto the route.  With things now going reasonably smoothly, hunger and lethargy sneaking in, we stopped off at some bright lights.  An assortment of signs that spelt out a small range of unfamiliar establishments.  Boston Pizza has the brightest lights what more it had bright TV lights shining out on the inside, it won this display of the Bowerbirds.

A rational of selection that won out through knowing nothing about any of the options that were around us.  The weakness of this selection criteria revealed itself in that which emerged from the kitchen.  The Pizza that i had wasn’t too bad, it was the sort of standard that you could expect from a superior standard home bake oven pizza, the pasta ought to see the Italians take action for abuse against of their nations proudest offerings.  If we can protect our cheeses and pies and the french can protect the name of their particular form of fizzy white wine then the Italians ought to be able to do something to prevent that which was getting banded about here inheriting the good name of pasta dishes.  There was an oddly fatty white sauce involved, something akin to mayonnaise or salad cream, only not … so heavy .. and not warm, even a standard house bulb can summon up more heat than had been absorbed by this offering, a cold, stodgy, bland gluepe of a thing .. so if your going to Boston pizza, be sure to order no pasta there, yes if your going to Boston pizza – dont be Italian, it will hurt you in your heart places (beyond the fatty deposits those odd choices of sauce will be offering up)

Having been up for quite some time fatigue had me, i was glad to not be driving and without such duties i was free to have a pint, a nice cold pint as the shroud of post tired tiredness sunk over me,

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Cold morning traction free lane


Slip and slide

Not quite free, car didn’t float free upon the Tarmac but it did wonder and seek to strike out on little adventures on unusually numerous occasions. A nuance that seemed to do the title few favours.

That was though yesterday – today is only moderately warmer but having gotten a lift personally at least I encounters no such issues.

The sun is sort of up, daylight now seems to be back to greet the morning departures, no more midnight darkness to begin the day. Feelings that this really isn’t any time at all to be consciously operating myself & work bound can at least be said to be a less & less legitimate where they persist.

Yesterday I had a meeting .. Well I interjected a meeting only to find myself defending an 11% downturn in performance target that wasn’t. At the time I didn’t realise it wasn’t, having only the day before submitted the numbers I quite errantly assumed that this must have been a thing.. A real thing, a thing in the numbers – I dos remember a downturn at the beginning of the year. It was on the graph, I remembered my graph but it hadn’t looked like 11%, it had barely been visible to passing glance … Still I stuck to the line that if this was the trend then it would not immediately be u-turned about and held fast, a generic line that has a sort of generic truth about it.

When this flurry of activity was over, I went away and looked at the numbers, what if any ways were there to improve the clearly Ill received 11%? –
– There was no 11%
I looked at it some more – nope no sign of it.. So having circulated the numbers yesterday, what then became clear is that someone had seen their way clear to reconstituted the numbers into another form and in so doing applied a change which had come up, inadvertently and incorrectly with quite different numbers .. Handy – This then was not the trend, I could instead hold fast to quite a different trend and perhaps with a visit to the pub come to consider that this discussion on non-existing matters never was either.

On the plus side the solution to the problem being discussed was happily available without really changing anything .. I could head home safe in the knowledge that the ravid assumption underpinned targets were fine as they were and would of course all but certainly predict… Ney determine with exacting certainty .. how the world would play out in 2015 – the power that is excel.

The taxi rank at king cross station since its recent refurbish and rebuild has the form of a mini platform, taxis pull in and in chain form roll through picking up their fate and rolling out the other end. It’s not a revolutionary concepts and one available to interested parties at any number of bus stations throughout the land. Most mornings it operates unmanned, not though today – today a purple vested network rail man is busy at work, Walkie talkie in hand be flailed meaningfully at the cabs in much the way porters do outside the receptions of their hotels as the summon cabs for departing guests.. A movement somewhere between pointing out the taxi to the punter and pointing out the need to stop for the fare to the taxi ..
If the taxis were all here lined up in slow shuffle formation unaware of why, ignoring the fares who we’re trying desperately to wrench their way in, feat planted against the cabs sides, tearing upon fastly locked doors of unaware cabs – then the purple vested man was performing a fine service. If the cabs on the other hand were passing past queues of 5 all dumbfounded and perplexed by what action came next, an undiminished queue, while enraged cabbie after enraged cabbie tore with empty load away from the scene, then again the purple vested man was saving many from an unnecessarily poor start to the day.
But why today – had this been the scene on recent mornings? Is that why he was now here? Would he now be here to guard against such events going forward?

If so what did that say about the world and was he really the solution that the participants in this particular dance needed or was their plight not a call for something more?

Perhaps tomorrow the purple vest Man will be recalled – dispatched to take alternative remedial action in some other sphere of network rails world – either that or he’s just some helpful random who pilfered a vest and has been down toys r us to pick up one of their fine lines in none military grade communication devices – it’s good to have a hobby.

London at pancras peaks over roof tops
St Pancras peaks over roof tops

London - St Pauls Night Millennium Bridge

London Thames Night Shard

Snow & returning – UK bound (2b) ..

I may have mentioned this – After some days spent enjoying the lengthier than normal commute and the colder than previously stations .. all courtesy of over head lines, they break the trains… the trains get replaced by coaches – but then they don’t because the trains are back … celebration…only they’re not …short lived celebration …

Least they’re back just long enough for us to all about turn and trudge back and do some serious thinking about what we did here today, and what we did here today was some low level comfort, polyester blue, cushion bench sitting, for another 20 minutes … then back to the coaches, for apparently some other train (further up the tracks) having also been caught up all this good stuff, had gone and adopted that tried and tested defence mechanism of all the local trains in times such as this, of peril and surprise – the application of the brakes.. then the wind changed and it went and got stuck that way.

So back to the coaches and with that the days go by ….

Sunday the before all this time, in conclusion then, where’d I get to before I accidentally went and posted this in the wrong place (genius.. If only I could remember my password I could download the app – that might make this easier, o well)

…”So if the threat of gasoline dependants being cut off was enough to put pay to any flawed notion of British lips (they are as stiff as fresh Brie) then what on earth will this do to the Swiss .. People my people stand steadfast, be strong..” ..

I for one will not be buying a new ticket – I resolved while wondering unpurposefully about as at oerlikon station – for they may choose go and time limit their tickets but I had had to run .. Run … I’d bought a ticket to the airport and by Jove this ticket would see me there, yes sir I’m getting on this train (when it comes) with this (by such a time expired) ticket and nothing more – Twas most rousing monologue, that went little like that.. It was cold .. What is more faithfully accurate, was the plan, I was prepared to go with either my finest Hugh grant confounded, bemused, befuddled and generally well meaning abroad fopishness (once having been quite the default) or .. The as yet untested & more outlandish Reese Witherspoon inspired German effort, more in the vein of – what the fuck and do you know who I am ?!!? .. No well quite right, there’re are people who I work with who may well be equally unprivy to such knowledge..

I was prepared – if undecided.. Free from concerns of arrival times, there was little fat left in the schedule but that was ok …

while purposelessly wondering the station a girl in poorly chosen (one can only presume) boots descended a couple of steps on her rear end .. They were wooden due to the reconstruction work and it made quite the noise … Huh, a helpful thought to have at such moments.. I looked down for experience suggests that this is where those taking this approach to stairs decent tend to be .. Plus it’s where the accompanying noises that were thudish in nature had come from

In finest ‘not to be taken to mean anything tangible you understand’ English I asked something – basically along the lines of whether they were ok? – I didn’t catch the response as she scrambled double time to her feat .. Not a proudest of moments, just unexpected, not quite sure when someone descents so dramatically what one does… look and wonder should I do something here ? Yes that’s it …

She took a step and slid bum to floor down a couple more .. The steps were few and by now ideally or not she’d pretty much completed that leg of her journey .. The wooden steps really did something for the acoustics and the fellow travellers in this underpass must now if not the first time, felt themselves duly apprised of her struggles with the surfaces.

On the train – No ticket man came, they seldom do and over here they don’t do barriers . .. Perhaps it’s the greater surplus but there remains a higher level to which you are on your honour, not so in the UK ..( I’m not old enough to remember these other times that may justify such stereotypes of the English Gents – I don’t know whether they once were or weather the time to which such things belong has more in common with the dragons which presumably  kept those fine folks occupied)  .. Perhaps it’s simply that the shit service, high prices – years and years of being shafted in our ever less equal society – perhaps that is one moderately stretched rational for the barrier requirement… Who in their right mind would pay to go on a commuter train in the uk?

Paying at all for the privilege of standing, wedged in place only by your neighbours opportunity located armpit is reasonably enough to convince even the most fair minded that there should be a free’r way, that or a more pleasant one .. Either might work.

Still there’s always the tube when the train journeys over – the hundreds of thousands and their collective morning happiness, it’s a beautiful day don’t let it get way … And the debates about who pushed whom – I’m lucky I get to walk it, but that’s a tomorrow away.. For now I’m still on a Swiss plane .. Window seat & for some bizarre reason Tom & Jerry on the overhead mini screens – their with dinosaurs .. On the way out it was bean – that’s to be expected from the outside at least it seems no one quite loves me bean quite like the Swiss. Broadly I think the Brits rather wonder how they ever came to be part of a collective that gave rise to this … But we can forgive – anything for the man who brought blackadder unto us…

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xz8pyd_blackadder-how-did-the-war-start_shortfilms

It seems I’m speaking for a country – a country I’m only a half genetic part of and an harder to define cultural product of .. Overreaching perhaps..

Zurich airport departures
Zurich Swiss flight departing

Deiceing Plane
De-Iceing – Preflight … Light Big Fish Queuing At A Bluestreak cleaner wrasse station

As the plane made its way to takeoff, looked out the window, happy to have a window seat (the best for propping the head up when grabbing those often quick to arrive flight winks), letting the work iPhone do its optimal things as pocket DJ .. unfamiliar tune shuffled up and out, quite liked it, not so uplifting, surprised id entirely forgotten this one, i must have loaded it at some point..

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf1wwq_kt-tunstall-lost_music