Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Public Transport Grumbles

Another rant, I'm afraid. I think I've said here before that the Tyne and Wear Metro doesn't provide the service it should, or that it used to. I have quite a list of grumbles: fares going up well above the rate of inflation every year; distorted station announcements with the beginning cut off for months at a time; ticket machines that don't work and no published timetable for the supposed investment in new ones; dirty and overcrowded trains; services that finish just when you need them most; having to wait 20 minutes on more than one occasion with the board saying "Next train 2 minutes" for the whole time and no spoken announcement. From the dismissive replies I've had to a couple of letters about Metro's shortcomings, I get the impression that the Metro management is not really interested in customer service.

The thing that gets my goat the most - and this applies to the buses too - is that there are no trains on Christmas Day or New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, I've just discovered that, as on Christmas Eve, we get a reduced service, with only one train an hour from 6pm. Is this because of lack of demand? Hardly. New Year's Eve is potentially one of the busiest times of the year for public transport. People want to travel to enjoy themselves, are likely to be drinking alcohol, and walking is not an attractive option because of the weather. Where are the posters about the Christmas and New Year shutdown? I've been looking for the past couple of weeks and haven't seen any. I didn't know that "the usual" was happening until today, when the words "NEW YEARS EVE HOURLY SERVICE FROM 18:00" flashed up on the board at Gateshead.

If national and local government are remotely serious about reducing car usage and drink driving, then public transport has to be regarded as an essential service like hospitals and power stations - operating 365 days a year. I've no doubt passengers would be prepared to pay a little extra if necessary to give drivers a Christmas/New Year bonus, and I'm sure drivers could be found to work on these days. To go on year after year shutting down public transport at such important times shows an astounding degree of complacency. As some European cities (such as Berlin) manage to run public transport then, it'll be interesting to see if the proposed Metro takeover by Deutsche Bahn brings a change...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Moth Bollock Orus

There's a TV newsreader that arouses mirth or complete bafflement in me whenever I see them. The mirth is because this person's diction is so bad that the news reports often end up unintentionally hilarious. The bafflement is that anyone would employ a person who speaks so badly to read the news!

This person has a speech impediment like Jonathan Ross, but that's not all. It's coupled with a tendency to gabble incoherently for a few words at a time, so that the content is reduced to gibberish. Any news story is now impossible to follow because I'm listening for the next bit of 'Stanley Unwin'.

Anyway, this person usually pronounces "Yesterday" as "Yisterday", something I've never heard in any regional accent. I choked on my cereal a few months ago when a story about the Nissan Ka somehow came out as "the Nissan fuckaa". More recently, we had a sentence apparently about the "decisiona moth bollock orus-plant" - which turned out to be the tragic and depressing story of the Corus plant on Teesside shutting down. The person may be a perfectly good journalist but they are definitely not cut out for reading the news. If they were a member of the local amateur dramatic society I used to belong to (the Progressive Players in Gateshead) I would expect directors to say "X has got the looks, but isn't a good actor" . Unfortunately, we're talking here about a supposed professional. A newsreader with Tourettes? Quite a novelty...

I'm trying to be kind here by not identifying this person in any way. However, if anyone reading this knows who I mean, please message me privately and let me know if you agree!

Friday, 4 December 2009

The cause of "Scroogism"?

I often find that Christmas arouses "non-traditional" feelings in me, such as gloom and irritation. Since late adolescence I've found the whole thing a huge chore, and the traditional bonhomie of the time often strikes me as fake. Commercial interests have had their way in getting us all to believe that it starts earlier every year, to the extent that even local authorities now put up street lights in November - several weeks too early in my book. It seems so unfair on the many people for whom Christmas isn't all sweetness and light - I have an aunt and two work colleagues who've all been bereaved in the last few weeks: I'm sure all the exaggerated cheer is going to seem bitterly ironic to them.

Recently it struck me that one reason for my finding Christmas such a pain is probably SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder). I can't remember ever enjoying winter much, and the excitement of Christmas probably fades for everyone from the age of about ten, but the following certainly rang a bell with me when I read it.

The symptoms of SAD usually recur regularly each winter, starting between September and November and continuing until March or April.

A diagnosis can be made after three or more consecutive winters of symptoms, which may include a number of the following:

  • Low mood, worse than and different from normal sadness
  • Negative thoughts and feelings
  • Guilt and loss of self-esteem
  • Sometimes hopelessness and despair
  • Sometimes apathy and inability to feel
Sleep Problems
  • The need to sleep more
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day and/or disturbed sleep with
    very early morning wakening
  • Fatigue, often incapacitating, making it very difficult or impossible to carry out normal routines
Cognitive Function
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory
  • The brain does not work as well, or as quickly
Social Problems
  • Irritability
  • Finding it harder to be with people
  • Tension
  • Stress is harder to deal with
Loss of Libido
  • Less interest in sex and physical contact
I've believed for some time that I suffer from this, but my slow brain (on account of the effects of SAD?) never really made the connection between this and my vague dread of the Christmas season. Once all the other spending is out of the way, my New Year's Resolution is going to have to be to investigate light boxes. Has anyone reading this found the use of a light box useful against SAD?