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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!!!!!

A week is a long time in politics

I’d put money on the fact that Alex Salmond is squirming today after another horrendous week in his dream for Scottish Independence – and since it’s only Thursday I’m sure he’s got time to drop a few more clangers!

It started with the resignation of two of his backbenchers over the NATO u-turn announced last Friday and then came the “little” matter of not seeking legal advice on whether an independent Scotland would automatically become a member of the European Union.

Highland MSPs Jean Urquhart and John Finnie stood down in protest at the decision to end the SNP’s long-standing opposition to NATO.

Former police officer Finnie, who joined the SNP as a 16-year-old, insisted: “I can’t continue to belong to a party that quite rightly doesn’t wish to hold nuclear weapons on its soil but wants to join a first-strike nuclear alliance.  Although I envisage I’ll continue to share common ground with the SNP on many issues, I can’t in good conscience continue to take the party whip.”

Urquhart, who has been a supporter of independence for 25 years, said: “Nuclear disarmament and removing Trident from Scotland’s waters is a red line issue for me.  I couldn’t remain committed to a party that has committed itself to retaining membership of NATO.”

This all seemed bad enough but to then find out that the SNP Government didn’t feel it necessary to obtain legal advice over such an important matter as to whether a separate Scotland could join the European Union was laughable to say the least!

The First Minister then decided it was ok to miss a House of Lords committee inquiry yesterday into the economic consequences of Scotland breaking away from the UK.  The meeting in Edinburgh City Chambers was the first time a Lords committee has sat outside Westminster and  was attended by a host of Scot politicians, including ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling and all opposition leaders.  Mr Salmond blanked the session to attend the book launch of a local businessman’s biography at the Britannia Spice restaurant in Leith.

And today Salmond left it to Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to admit that it was “unfortunate” that the SNP had given a wrong impression over whether they had taken legal advice on an independent Scotland’s place in Europe.  Reiterating her leader’s stance that they had never confirmed whether or not they did have legal advice because they were not allowed to do so under the ministerial code, she conceded the impression had been created that ministers had already taken legal advice on the matter.

Perhaps to emphasise the fact that politics is a very smelly business, it is perhaps no coincidence that both the First and Deputy First Ministers have the names of fishes in Salmon(d) and Sturgeon ….. I rest my case!

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!

The silence of the trams

Following on (again) from the previous post about the Edinburgh trams, I think this video sums up the whole fiasco really rather well:

3 letter acronym

Just re-read my last post and realised that the same 3 letter acronym applies for “cost/benefit analysis” and “can’t be arsed”.


Is this a coincidence or are more sinister forces at work?

The Trams Fiasco

After working in Edinburgh for several years, I don’t now have the need to go there very regularly.  On Friday night, however, I was meeting a friend for dinner and once again I was shocked at the devastation that has been caused by the ongoing saga of the Edinburgh Trams!

A potted history for those not in the know:

In 2007 when the SNP government took over from Labour/LibDems, there were a few outstanding matters which demanded attention.   One in particular was the demand from the Unionist parties for a tram system in Edinburgh.  Or perhaps that should read a tram rail because the proposal was for one tram line only serving a very small part of Edinburgh.  The vote regarding the Edinburgh trams was outdone by the Unionists and at that point John Swinney said the (SNP) Scottish government would give £550million to the project and not a penny more.

Having originally been scheduled to be up and running by February 2011 the projected completion date is now sometime in 2014.  The whole project has been a disaster for Edinburgh.  The streets are still in “dug up” progress and have been for several years.  Edinburgh looks like a war zone and it’s such a shame because it was once a very attractive city. 

For the record, most people are against the trams because the capital city had a bus service which surpassed any other city and did not deserve to be usurped by a tram system which would not provide a service to 90% of the Edinburgh population.

If the trams are ever up and running, it is proposed that the service will operate every 10 minutes with a journey time claimed of “approximately 20 minutes from Haymarket to the Airport”, with service from 06:00 to midnight Monday to Saturday (07:00 start on Sunday).

Currently the Airlink bus services the Princes St to Airport route.  Departures are every 10 minutes between 7am and 12:40 am.  A 24 hr service operates, departing at 15 and 30 minute intervals before and after this main period respectively.   Journey times are 30 minutes from Waverley railway station (about 10 minutes East of Haymarket) to the Airport.

Bearing in mind the aforementioned figure of £550million, it begs the question – who did the original cost/benefit analysis?

Scotrail Update

On a final note regarding my Scotrail “incident” a few weeks ago – here is the response I’ve received from Customer Relations today:

“Dear Ms Heywood

Thank you for your email dated 18 October 2011. I am sorry that you have had cause to complain.

On most routes we offer a combination of fares being an Anytime single, Anytime return and Off-Peak return. On the Edinburgh/Glasgow route the Off-peak return fare has been reduced to less than the Anytime single and as a result it has created an Off-Peak single fare which is only 10p less expensive than the return. The Off-Peak return fare was reduced to less than the Anytime single to try and encourage passengers to travel at Off-Peak times. The Off-Peak single is an anomaly in the system and cannot be removed.

I understand that on this occasion you purchased a single fare instead of a return, and although I appreciate that the similarity in fares may cause some confusion when ‘rushing’ to buy your ticket it is the customer responsibility to ensure that they have left enough time to purchase their tickets, and that the ticket they have bought is valid for the journey they wish to make.

I also note that you tried to upgrade your ticket at Haymarket station. Since you were no longer in possession of your outward ticket it was not possible to change or upgrade your ticket. I can only add that the member of staff who did eventually upgrade your ticket was actually acting out with ScotRail policies and should not have carried out your request. Any ticket for 10p issued without the outward single ticket would generally not be valid for travel.

On a separate matter, I notice that we have not responded to your comments within 7 working days. I apologise for this delay and am happy to inform you that you are entitled to a Rail Travel Voucher for £5.00, in accordance with the conditions set out in our Passengers’ Charter. The voucher can be redeemed for tickets with any UK domestic Train Operating Company within the next 12 months. In order for us to send this to you, we will require that you reply to this email with your postal address and quoting the reference number above.

Thank you for contacting ScotRail.”


Note to self – must read this Passengers’ Charter that they refer to – wasn’t expecting the £5 voucher – this might actually get me almost half way to Edinburgh next time I need to go!!!

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