Friday, March 30, 2012

Wrong Train

I may have gone off the train journey to Glasgow. This morning's train really put the lean into Pendolino, and just when I was thinking "oh dear", the woman next to me threw up. It wasn't exorcist style, but she did put the toilet out of order, and wheelie luggage was spreading sick thinly through the carriage like cheap margarine at a vicarage tea.

It was after Wigan that things got bad. A woman got on with her toddler, who were a handful. The first I really knew about it was the regular kicks in my back. Then she reached over from the seat behind and handed me a plug. "Can you plug this in?" the mother asked. "It's for his DVD. The battery is getting low."

He son flicked it open, and a very loud counting song started up.

"Oh," I said, unplugging my laptop, "Only it's a bit inconvenient."

The mother stared at me. "It keeps him quiet," she said.

"Do you have headphones for that DVD?" I asked as the counting song continued. "It is rather loud."

The mother shook her head. "No," she said.

"Oh," I said, "How delightful."

I'm not that kind of gay. But I sat for the next two hours with the power cord draped across my shoulder while her child sang, screamed, and continued to kick the back of my chair.

If my cat behaved like that on a train, the RSPCA would take it away from me, or I just wouldn't travel with it. But I hate the horrors that are inflicted on us in the interests of keeping children quiet. Especially when they're loud and don't work.

On the plus side, my basic arithmetic is loads better.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cat in a tube

I'm quite lucky with my cat. It's a remarkably placid creature - this means "you can take it on public transport without it turning into a screaming vortex of claws and diarrhea". The cat's just been to Cardiff for a week. She thoroughly enjoyed being doted on in a strange house full of stairs and spent the journey back asleep under the passenger seat of my boss's car.

She's even just about fine on the Tube. The best thing about her is that I've actually had natural, unforced conversations with strangers on the tube because of her.

Let me make this clear. I hate it when backpackers and travelling magicians suddenly announce "Good morning Central Line, why so glum? I'm gonna put a smile on some strangers' faces cos back home where I come from [Brisbane/Bournemouth], well, gee, folks just talks to each other all the time."

This is the London. We are not "folks". We have our ipods, the Metro and staring. We need little else. We certainly do not need someone in shorts full of the wonders of life to do card tricks before realising that all they have to look forward to is a shift at the Walkabout and sharing a room with 14 other travellers-not-tourists and a vegan coeliac a long way off the Goldhawk Road.

That said, the brilliant recent series about The Tube has shown that London does have a heart after all. And that we should, perhaps, show it more. Watching The Tube has made me realise I should be a nicer person on The Tube as it's not TFL's fault. Most of the time.

Watching The Tube also makes you realise that passengers are pretty much the problem. Although I do think that, if they brought back booing as a polite way of expressing disapproval, we'd all be a lot better off. It's certainly more socially acceptable than tutting or punching a hapless TFL worker. And yes, I'm looking at you, vile cow from episode three who rolled her eyes and said "well, really" when told that the Victoria Line was closed because someone had fallen onto it.

Anyway, taking a cat on the underground is a great way of redressing the balance. Yesterday a lovely woman started talking to me (through the cat, admittedly), saying how much she wished she had a cat of her own. We ended by wishing each other a good day, just like we were...

... Victorians. That's it. Bring back Victorian politeness. After all, it's only a matter of time before the government brings back the Workhouse. Why not bring back quaintness too?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Twitter and Women

I'm still not quite understanding Twitter. I view it as a way of finding out mostly what Grace Dent and Susan Calman are doing with their hangovers... but, occasionally, I'll try and actually engage with it.

This isn't a "I did a thing on the internet and it went wrong and oh me" whine. But it is a puzzler.

I said something like "If we could cure some things, let gays marry, and put women in charge of some countries then we could switch Twitter off and go out." Not, I rush to point out a world-ending statement - I was in a Chinese Buffet at the time and waiting between dessert mountains. It got retweeted a bit (if that was you, thanks)... but here's the thing...

I mentioned how I'd put women in charge of more countries as a nice way of uniting (quagmire alert) Aung San Suu Kyi, protests at female circumcision and the fact that Angela Merkel appears to be the only person in Europe going "George, don't do that."

Thanks to the retweets I got a couple of comments. Only a couple... but both said, in effect "Women in power? No thanks. We tried that with Margaret Thatcher and look where that got us."

What annoyed me then... and still does... is that both of the people who said this... people who declared that 50% of the population, an entire gender, should NEVER be eligible to run a country based purely on ONE SINGLE example... both of the people who suggested this... were...

... women.

No, no I'm baffled.