Category Archives: Travel

Time for bed Zebedee?

Magic RoundaboutSwindon is a town with a reputation for stupidity when it comes to town planning and their roads in general.  You need look no further than the unimaginatively named “Magic Roundabout” which was  constructed in 1972 and consists of five mini-roundabouts arranged around a sixth central, anti-clockwise roundabout.   In one opinion poll in 2005 it was voted the worst roundabout in Britain and then in 2009 in another poll it was voted the fourth scariest junction in Britain.  However the up-side is that the roundabout provides a better throughput of traffic than other designs and has an excellent safety record, since traffic moves too slowly to do serious damage in the event of a collision.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the local council are now under fire because of their latest initiative – a campaign to stop people illegally parking in alleyways.  Bungling contractors have painted yellow lines down a narrow alleyway, leaving a gap of just 33cm in between them.  The tiny alleyway itself is just 4 feet wide – too narrow for a car!

And the council’s excuse?  A spokesperson apparently said: ‘It seems that our contractors forgot just how big cars actually are when they painted this one.”

Oh well, that’s alright then?  No doubt the Council Tax payers of Swindon are delighted that their money is so well spent … BOING!!!!!

Newhall Street Swindon

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Make no bones about it

Car Parks are very much in the news at the moment.

Waverley carparkLast Thursday workers at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station blocked off an area of the parking compound ready for resurfacing work.   When they turned up for work the following morning however, a Mercedes had parked in the middle of the cordoned-off area.   Undeterred, the crew dug up the surface all around the dark blue car.   Workers did build a tiny ramp in front of the car to allow its owner to drive away on his or her return, but at the time of writing there is no news that the obviously embarrassed driver had reclaimed their vehicle.

Richard III skeletonAnd today it has been confirmed that a skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park is that of English King Richard III.  The skeleton has revealed that he suffered from severe scoliosis and although around 5ft 8in tall (1.7m), the condition meant he would have stood significantly shorter and his right shoulder may have been higher than the left.  Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.   Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”

Which brings me to one of my favourite car parking jokes:

Q: What do men and parking spaces have in common?

A: The good ones are always taken and the free ones are either very small or handicapped.   BOOM!!!!!

Going Underground

Collages

Happy 150th Birthday to the London Underground!  The first journey taken on the Tube was on the 9th January 1963 on the Metropolitan Line, a distance of 3.5 miles between Paddington and Farringdon stations on a steam train!

To mark this event, the Royal Mail has released a London Underground stamp set featuring lithographs, illustrations and photographs of the development of the transport network from 1863 to the present day and the Royal Mint have issued a commemorative £2 coin bearing the “roundel” logo which first appeared on Underground station platforms in 1908 and featuring an edge inscription heralding the famous advice: MIND THE GAP.

Three little factoids (my new favourite word) for you are:

  • The nickname “the Tube” comes from the circular tube-like tunnels through which the trains travel.
  • The busiest station is Waterloo with 82 million passengers a year, and
  • It is the 3rd largest metro system in the world after  the Beijing Subway and the Shanghai Metro.

MoleThat said, whilst I appreciate that the Underground is a very good way to get around, avoiding traffic jams, road closures etc., it is actually my least favourite mode of transport – if God had wanted us to travel underground, he would have made us all moles!

Cheap Flights?

So now that the Christmas period is over and we’re all gradually returning to work, the thing we normally look forward to is the next holiday.   If you’re thinking of looking for a good online deal, remember – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!   Take a look at this video and you’ll know exactly what I mean if you’ve ever booked to fly with one of the budget airlines!

A word of warning though, some readers may find some of the language offensive!

The walls come tumbling down

There’s an update today on my previous post “Life in the fast lane“.

The elderly Chinese couple who were refusing to relocate while authorities built a giant road around their home have finally admitted defeat.  In front of a crowd of onlookers, bulldozers and diggers moved in to tear the isolated house to the ground.

Luo Baogen and his wife had previously insisted  on staying in the half-demolished building in the city of Wenling, Zhejiang  province, because they believed that the relocation compensation  offered by  the government was not enough – they have now apparently accepted an increased amount from the Chinese Government.

That might well be the case but I think they probably just decided that a good night’s sleep would be found in a quieter neighbourhood!

Update

Often there is a simpler solution

pencilWhen NASA started sending astronauts into space, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work at zero gravity.   To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion developing a pen that wrote at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300C.

The Russians used a pencil.   BOOM!!!

Life in the fast lane!

In the People’s Republic of China, during most of the Communist era, private ownership of property was abolished, making it easy for residents to be moved on – but now the laws have been tightened up and it is illegal to demolish property by force without an agreement.

This has led to an elderly couple refusing to move as a road is built round their apartment.  Luo Baogen and his wife insist on living in the half-demolished building in the city of Wenling, in Zhejiang province, China because they believe that the relocation compensation offered by the government is not enough.  Now the only building left standing, the five storey block is a strange sight as cars drive around it while the couple remain living inside.  To ensure the couple’s safety, adjacent rooms in the building have been left intact but all their neighbours have moved out, according to local media.

The road paved through the Xiazhangyang village leads to the Wenling railway station and is yet to be officially opened.  What’s the betting that there will soon be a service station and McDonald’s occupying the ground floor?

Stairway to ….. nowhere!

This is hilarious! A fellow commuter captured this footage of a businessman, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, trying to ride down to the tube on a escalator moving upwards at Tottenham Court Road. Despite getting absolutely nowhere, the unnamed man continues to take on the escalator with dogged determination. And he keeps going even when several other passengers point out he is walking the wrong way. Looks like he’d stopped in the pub for quite a few before embarking on his journey – let this be a lesson to him as this video goes viral and all his workmates, friends and family witness his walk of shame!

Going down?

I’ve been reading an article today about the reasons why we behave so oddly in lifts.

Many of us use them several times a day without really noticing.   And yet the way we behave in lifts, or elevators as they are known in the US, reveals a hidden anxiety.   Most of us sort of shut down.   We walk in. We press the button. We stand perfectly still.

So why are we so awkward in lifts?

It is probably because you don’t have enough space.  Usually when we meet other people we have about an arm’s length of distance between us but that’s not possible in most lifts so it’s a very unusual setting.  It’s unnatural.   In such a small, enclosed space it becomes vital to act in a way that cannot be construed as threatening, odd or in any way ambiguous.  The easiest way to do this is to avoid eye-contact completely.

But perhaps there is more to it than just social awkwardness.  Perhaps it is more about being trapped inside this small enclosed space if the lift breaks down.  Regular Twitter followers will remember Stephen Fry’s amusing tweet when he got stuck in a lift at Centre Point in London in 2009 – it made the national news!  The reality of course is far from amusing as you have no idea how long it will be before you are set free from your incarceration and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably be desperate to go to the toilet as well!

One thing I always do now when entering a lift is to read the name of the manufacturer which is usually displayed on the plaque where you find the buttons to operate the darn thing.  This goes back to when I worked on the 4th floor of a building in Edinburgh and each time I got in, I smiled inwardly, saying to myself “Schindler’s Lift”!  Not very mature I know, but it always made me smile [and colleagues groan!].

For what it’s worth, if the thought of travelling in a machine that’s moving and over which you have no control, you can’t see its engine and you don’t know how it’s working fills you with dread – err on the side of caution and take the stairs!

A sticky situation

I have great admiration for you if you are one of the millions of Londoners who stoically battles through the Tube’s rush hour commute.  I lasted precisely 12 months before I decided that life was too short and got a job closer to home.  Anyone who does use this mode of transport regularly will probably agree that it is uncomfortable, tedious and unreliable.

On your journeys you will no doubt have passed dozens of Transport for London signs and notices.   But how much attention do you actually pay to them?  Has their familiarity as part of everyday visual clutter led to them becoming almost invisible, losing all meaning beyond shape and colour?

Take the following examples:

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It would seem that there is a growing trend where people strategically place stickers over London Transport’s own messages.  They use the same fonts and designs as London Underground’s famous branding, but they subvert the intended message making often amusing but sometimes serious points about anything from overcrowding to Tube etiquette.

London Transport are not amused at this latest craze and liken it to graffiti which they say is “unwanted vandalism that causes criminal damage” and “will not be tolerated”.

I disagree.  Graffiti is much harder to remove, whereas these stickers can probably be taken off with just a bowl of hot soapy water?  Besides, where is their sense of humour?  Surely anything that can bring a smile to the face of a commuter can only be a good thing?

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