The Joys of Modern Travel – Part 7 – Karma

Our Modern Day Trains!!
Our Modern Day Trains!!

Karma is a law in Hinduism which maintains that every act done, no matter how insignificant, will eventually return to the doer with equal impact

Ticket day today….so what would you like first, the good news, or the bad news!

There was no one at the station again, so I had my usual two options, jump off at a manned station, purchase ticket, jump back on and away we go or jump off at a manned station, take my time, have a cup of coffee, kick back and relax and wait for the next one. I opted for the former, after all I did have to get to work.

Ah FeckAfter my previous encounters with the guards at the station and on the train where they had apologised for not waiting, I felt assured that today there would be no repeat performance. I spoke to them on the way through and said I need to go and get my ticket and they nodded as there was a gentleman in front of me in a similar position. He went first and paid for his and as I stepped forward to the counter I heard the all to familiar noise of the doors closing and the train departing from the station. “Ah feck” says I, rolling my eyes and thinking not again.

So I was a little miffed to say the least but it’s not like I could run up the track screaming and waving my fists now is it, so best to concentrate on the task at hand.

“Is there any truth in the rumour we get an extra day on our tickets because of the strike last month?” I asked. Being miffed had made me a little braver than normal. “No, no truth in that rumour but if you give me a second or two I will tell you what you can get” was the reply and he proceeded to stab the shoite clean out of his wee calculator. “You get a £3.80 discount” he said looking a little ashamed. “Fair enough, I’m happy enough with that” I replied and watched the relief wash over his face. Anything is better than nothing.

So with my ticket bought, 30 minutes to kill and at a loss for something to do I did indeed purchase a cup of coffee and wandered out to the platform to kick back and relax.

WaitWhilst sipping my coffee and enjoying the sunshine I happened to notice that the train I had vacated not 15 minutes previously was sitting further up the line at the next station, which is not more than 3 minutes away from where I was. At this point I actually did consider running up the track, arms a flailing screaming WAIT!!!! at the top of my voice, but a sharp twinge from Alien Leg brought me sharply back to reality.

After another 5 minutes or so I began to realise something was wrong and that’s when the notion of karma hit me. The conductor didn’t wait so his train had broken down, was it really so bad that I had a little inward chuckle! After another 5 minutes it disappeared off into the distance, albeit at a very slow pace.

My next train pulled in and we started on our journey. Two stops along we picked up all the passengers from my original train.

It turns out there were 3 faults on the train when it left the first station. They called a mechanic to travel on board the train and proceeded with the journey, sadly not making it past the 7th station. Would it not just have been better to send out another train in the first place ffs.

No offence but your announcements of NIR apologises for the delay and inconvenience it may cause,  is, as my mate would say a bit like shouting toilet after you’ve shit yourself!

The Joys of Modern Travel – Part 6!

There are four seats just inside the door of the train labeled for pregnant ladies and possibly disabled persons. I’ve been looking at the little drawing for days and am having trouble figuring out exactly what it is, although there is no doubt about the pregnancy one, unless of course it’s for someone with a beer belly and I am totally mistaken.

Train SignsUsually I avail of one of these seats, they have a little more leg room for the days when Alien leg decides she does not want to bend!  I do of course move should someone more deserving come along!

This morning I was beaten to it by a couple who were obviously in the middle of a marital spat as they opted not to sit together, but take one set of two each. Fair enough thinks I, they are older and more deserving so I pottered on and managed to shoe horn myself into one of the smaller ones.

It took a minute or two coaching an appropriate bend out of Little Miss Awkward but eventually I got settled and pulled out the tablet to avail of the excellent free WIFI services!

Just as I was about to open up my WordPress Reader and get knuckled into the morning offerings the conductor says “Sorry folks, I have to ask you to move into the next carriage. We have school children coming aboard and we need to seat them all together”. I swore inwardly. Somehow I managed to heave myself back up, bones a creaking and moved down a little asking the conductor if I was allowed to sit in the chairs at the bottom of the carriage as there were still some seats available. Thankfully he said yes, although that may have had a lot to do with the stricken look on my face.

I like kids. They are cute, funny little individuals, who make you smile.

I don’t however  like 50 of the wee beggars all at once, screaming at the top of their voices because they are super excited about being on a train. At one point I was going to stand up and start singing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” in a bid to get them to join in and hopefully stop the wailing. Instead I stuck in headphones and jacked up the volume. They were only going two stops anyway.

The journey continued. Music blaring. Kids blaring. Headache starting.

Two stops later we’re approaching the station where the kids are due to depart and I see them lined up on the platform, the most feared group to travel on the railways, the ones who make even the conductors quake in their steel toe capped boots…..The Gangsta Granny Brigade!!

Armed with their free passes, red lipstick and deadly handbags they line the platform and flatten anyone within zimmer frame distance.

Get out of Grandma's way or pay the price!
Get out of Grandma’s way or pay the price!

If you’ve read my blog before you will remember in Part 4 , I had a mini rant about people barging on and off trains. The Gangsta Grannies are the worst offenders. They didn’t just get old, they got fiesty and they are prepared to fight for the right to enter trains before everyone else has had a chance to exit. I’ve seen a fair few young men and women too for that matter get a good skelp with a handbag.

So the teachers are trying to get everyone organised to get off. The kids are jumping up and down squealing with excitement. The grannies are flailing their handbags around like human windmills and knocking kids awry like pins in a bowling alley and the conductor is descending the stairs to the depths of despair. It was all pretty good fun actually, and evil me, it brought a smile to my face!

Eventually everything got sorted and I have to say my heart did melt a little at the sight of all the kids in a line with their colourful little waterproof coats and wellie boots, all smiles and waving at us as we left them behind.

I didn’t listen to anymore songs after that on the old Ipod. I was to busy silently chuckling, while listening to the conductor rant about the Gangsta Grannies and how they would mow down anyone in their path.

He did however make a valid point, if the younger generation were to barge on through like that the GG’s would be the first to complain!

Respect has to be earned!

Entertaining Journeys!

What a load of excrement!

The last couple of days travel has been interesting to say the least.

Friday night my Sis and I headed into the big smoke for a dander around and a cup of coffee. When it came to heading home time we walked up for the train, found ourselves a table and made ourselves comfortable.

There was a gentleman sitting in the table across the aisle from us, but neither of us really paid him any attention. That is until he picked up his phone and decided to make a call. Trains vary between different places, but the space inside a carriage would be relatively uniform across  the board. My point, well it’s far to easy to hear a conversation, I personally hate making calls on a train. It’s easier still when the caller is making no attempt to be private.

So there we were minding our own business, chatting away to each other when this guy says to the person he was calling, and not particularly quietly either, “How’s your shite”. My sis and I just looked at each other in a quizzical, did we just hear right kind of way. We had, so of course we started to laugh. Unabashed he carried on, a full conversation about bowel movements and how it was good when they returned to their normal colour and how you had to check the consistency and that was only the start. By this time my sister and I had both lost it, you know how it is, the harder you try not to laugh, the more you do. He had to know we were laughing at him, infact by this time he was laughing too, we’re just not sure if it was at us laughing at him or with the person on the phone.

By this point I had actually turned around in my seat to face the window in an attempt to calm myself down and stop laughing but nothing was working, my sides were starting to hurt and tears were streaming down my sisters face.

Thankfully my phone rang and it was Shady. I was never so glad to get a call in my whole life. I haven’t even had a chance to tell him about this yet, but because I was talking to him I was able to tune out the other guy and eventually calm down.

He wasn’t even embarrassed. I said to my Sister afterwards that I bet there wasn’t even anyone on the phone.

Today I get on the train to go home, (it must be something about that line), and there is a guy merrily chatting away. I figured he was with his kid, this being fathers day and all. I could hear him saying of course I’ll teach you to fly and to be fair I was a little bemused by this until I realised he was on his own and was actually talking to a little model Concord airplane that he kept repeatedly tapping against his forehead.

I think I’ll need a little bit of time to recover before I take that train line again!!

Planes, Trains and Bloomin Computers!!

In order to get to work I’ve decided I am going to make myself a pair of wings or a little plane and learn to fly! It should be easy enough if I can fashion the right equipment because I am pretty good at getting myself in a flap!
No guard at the station this morning again, and one monthly ticket required so I once again had to alight at a manned station to purchase same. Due to the price rise I knew it was going to be a little more expensive than last month, but I have to say I still buckled slightly at the knees when she said £150. To be fair even she looked sheepish, so much so that I felt the need to console her, “It’s all right, I checked this morning before I came out, so I knew how bad it would be” was what I said. “At least Dick Turpin wore a mask” was what I thought.
I went and bought myself a coffee and proceeded to play Candy Crush for the 30 minutes while I waited for the next train to arrive.
Where do computers come in I hear you ask. Well if you cannot already tell, I am a little on edge this morning. That would be due to lack of sleep, which in turn has to do with my computer.
Computers are a marvellous invention, of that there is no doubt. When they work they are nothing short of fantastic. When they don’t they make you want to bang your head repeatedly off a wall.
Yesterday I made the fantastically ill informed decision to format mine. For months it’s been skipping music and generally getting slower. After about an hour of use the mouse starts to act like it’s swallowed a 2 week supply of Diazepam all in one go. It’s there, but in body only. Apparently my hard drives are healthy and so is my ram but still it persists to get on like a goat!
At 1pm, after everything was backed up I proceeded to Alt and F10 while booting up the PC. Nothing. Three more attempts, still nothing. Ok plan B says the very knowledgeable Paul, your boot sector is obviously corrupted, F12 and use your back up discs.  Righty ho, F12, first disc in and away we go. This is not as bad as I thought, I’m thinking to myself and 45 minutes later it says it’s been successful. Yipee, get everything reinstalled and lets blog. Then it starts to update, update some more and sure enough there’s another couple of updates on the side for good measure.
Fast forward 1 hour and 30 minutes, time to reinstall my Anti Virus. I’d been on the net, checked it was networked etc and all was fine. After copious amounts of pressing next and agreeing to various terms and conditions Internet Security was finally installed, just the last little bit, fill out the online registration and we’re good to go.
NO INTERNET, LOCAL ACCESS ONLY!! WTF!! Eh, what’s going on here, I had internet 5 minutes ago. I then tried to open up the security program to tweak some settings in case it was the firewall that was being a funny bugger, but like my mouse it was there in body only. Each click brought me back to the registration screen, only I couldn’t register cos yep, you guessed it, I have no fecking internet. I then tried to uninstall the program and the whole thing locked up.
In a panic I rang Paul, giving off bucket loads and he says you’d be better to start again. I swore an awful lot, like an awful, awful lot but deferred to his superior knowledge and trotted off to reinstall. That was at approximately 5.15pm.
At 7.30pm it was busy installing update 17 of 120. At 10.30pm we had progressed to 50 of 120. Eventually at 12.30am it was done.
Retry internet security. Same thing. No Internet, local access only. I didn’t get angry, I didn’t get mildly annoyed. I didn’t even swear. I simply went to bed because I was thoroughly pissed off.
I’m going to tackle it again when I get home and if it doesn’t play ball I am going to kick it up and down the lane, well as much as my good leg will allow anyway.

The Joys of Modern Travel Part 5!

The powers that be in NIR have obviously stumbled upon and read my previous Joys of Modern Travel 1 & 2, because they mention the price of tickets.

I had a relatively lovely week of travel, all on time, a seat everyday, nothing to complain about…..yes I know, for you it’s boring…for me it was just all lovely, rainbows, singing bluebirds the whole heap until I heard on the news one day that the price of tickets is rising 5%!!! I’m telling you, it was all I could do not to cry! and I mean cry as in tears cry, not cry out in anger.

I’m not stupid, I know the cost of everything rises, and they are saying this rise is not even in line with inflation and I also appreciate this is the first rise on some ticket types for a long time, but when everyone is already finding it hard to make ends meet is it a good idea and just when you are starting to encourage people to use your service are you not kind of shooting yourself in the foot?

They say you are better using their cheaper options, weekly, monthly’s etc. Of course a season ticket is the best option, but who in this day and age has a spare £1500 lying around to shell out all at once. There is also still the option of a third off a day return on tickets after 9.30 in the morning, but that does not suit if you are going to work!

It’s now going to cost me £1800 a year to travel, and for that I cannot even catch a direct train, I have to change on every single one. I can’t remember the last time I had a pay rise.

Customer satisfaction remains high as customers appreciate the many improvements we have made to our fleet, technology, ticketing together with innovative promotions and we look forward to  seeing more people try the bus and train over the coming weeks and months

This is true, I’d be a liar if I said I did not love the new trains and the fact that they do not break down. I also love the free WIFI service, but I’m wondering now is it really free, or is that where the bulk of my 5% is going. I’ve not seen any innovative promotions that are aimed at regular working people. How about offering a 6 month season ticket, or buy 3 months get one half price, I’ve love you long time if you would do that!

Sometimes I also wish they would consider other ticketing options. My monthly on the train runs from one date to another, i.e. if I bought it today it would run out on the 28th May, problem is I only very rarely use trains on the weekend, and I don’t always travel everyday of the week either as sometimes I am lucky enough to get a lift, so I’d prefer a ticket like they have on the buses, a 40 journey one, which I could probably make last an extra week or so.

Sad thing is there is no choice, we just have to manage and pay it somehow if we want to travel to work!

The Joys of Modern Travel Part 4!!

There seems to be a bit of a theme developing here, however I am aware that at some stage I am going to have to change the record and move on! Not tonight though, there are a few words still to be spoken.

Mini Rant Number 1

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I have recently undergone knee surgery. Actually anyone who doesn’t know me would probably also be able to guess that there is something not quite right with me, but for the most part now I am back on my feet and walking, I look relatively normal. I no longer have to avail of the use of a crutch or walking aid. Good news you say, and yes considering the state I was in 7 months ago it certainly is.

However is it not so good when trying to travel by train.

The other morning, the the trauma of having to walk from the car park to the train platform had really taken it’s toll! Ok, slight exaggeration, my leg was a little sore so I needed to sit down..happy now! So I’m the first person on the platform, but pretty soon others start to filter out.

So over the speaker comes the announcement about the next train leaving Platform 1, blah, blah, blah. I gather myself together, make sure I have all my belongings and step forward on the platform. After almost 20 years travelling back and forth I am a pretty good judge of where the train usually stops, for the carriage I want anyway and sure enough it slows down. Now on these new fangled trains opening the door is almost a two person operation. The doors are so wide that the button to open them is a fair bit to the left of the door. A kind gentlemen who is a little closer to the left hand side than I, steps over to hit the button and my bad leg and I step forward to grab the rail and hoist ourselves onto the train. Then out of nowhere comes this…well I was going to call her a young lady…but…this young lass just barges in between us both and onto the train, actually pushing us out of the way slightly. I’m not a violent person in any shape form or fashion, but right at that moment I had a clear vision in my minds eye of me pulling her by the pony tail and hauling her ass back off the train.

It happens at other times too. The train pulls into the station and the people from the platform are trying to barge their way past the throng trying to come off. Now I’m no rocket scientist but would it not make sense to let it empty a little before you try to embark, increasing your chance of finding a seat ffs! In fact would it not be a common courtesy to just wait until the others disembark!

Mini Rant Number 2

Which leads me nicely into my second foray into rantdom! Seats.  Some days there are just not enough of them.

Now that is not exactly the rail company’s fault. I mean unless you have physic powers how would you ever be able to know how many people are going to travel. Ok sure, look at peak times and try and address those issues! But for the most part you can always get a seat somewhere.

Unless of course someone has placed their bag, coat, mobile phone, briefcase, hat, scarf and kitchen sink on the spare seat beside them. I mean, hellllooooooo did you pay for that extra seat?? Cos see if you didn’t, get yer shit picked up and make way for the irate woman with the bad leg who wants to sit down!! And you can stop giving me that pinched face look too, you only bought a ticket not the whole dam train!

Mini Rant Number 3

And last but not least, access onto the platform itself!

As a result of said knee surgery I am at present unable to descend stairs. I can climb up them, albeit with a lot of effing, blinding, grunts and groans but for some reason going down eludes me.

The station I depart from at home time is underneath a bridge…sort of. Being unable to do the stairs I have to walk about 50 yards further and head down a ramp which I am guessing they class as a wheelchair ramp. My advice,  if you’re in a wheelchair avoid it at all costs, that fecker is steep. You lose grip or your brakes fail and you’re on a one way ticket to tracksville! Anyone hanging onto the back of you is going to fly like a kite! Go another 50 yards further on and down through the car park, it will be a much more pleasant journey, I promise! That’s what I now do.

I never realised until I hit that hill how much of a toll surgery had taken on my muscles. I was kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, finding it really difficult to hold myself back and scared witless I was going to topple forward. I eventually made it down but I was practically doubled over hanging off the hand rail. People had joked with me when I went back to work about me carrying walking poles and I had laughed and said I’ve just got rid of crutches, but I could have done with them that day! Obviously as the days go by and the more I walk the strength returns and I shall soon use the hill as exercise, but I will proceed with caution and take a parachute!

I’ve lust let Paul proof read this post and his response was that I am going to get known as a train hater. To which I replied, I’m not a train hater though, I love the train, it’s just paying for it and some of the other passengers are the problem :)

The Joys of Modern Travel Part 3!

I’m blogging from the train. Not because I have anything to say, but because I can.

I’m availing of Translink’s free Wifi! As I said in a previous post it is a marvellous invention. In effect the train becomes a hotspot, affording you the opportunity to game, check emails or read the news, or in my case, write a load of oul crap!!

I was able to turn my Google Nexus into a poor mans version of a netbook thanks to the purchase of a 13 quid keyboard from Ebay! I would have written the pound sign but for the fact that the keyboard obviously originated from the States and it’s only currrency symbol is $, ffs minor blimp on the keyboard heaven horizon!

I shall apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes, the keyboard is clearly designed for people with slender fingers, not big fat sausage ones like mine! To help your imagination I resemble a Hippo hammering a handheld, but it works and with clever use of the back button, arrow keys and the delete button I have faith the post will at least be legible.

The table seat I am sitting at is also extremely useful. I quickly found out I am not a master of the balancing on the bag act. Everything goes a little lop sided until it eventually hits the floor!!

Note to self, always find table!!

Today I am indeed benefitting from the Joys of Modern Travel!!

Time to get off, must dash!

The Joys of Modern Travel Part 2!

……arrived at Station. No one there. Stepped on train. Conductor “Ticket Please?”. I need to get off at the manned station to get one. “Ok”. The train stopped at the manned station and I did just consider sitting where I was. I was having a lazy moment, which coupled with the, I can’t be doing with this bullshit mentality was making me into a rebel. Then I wimped out, cos that’s what I do, wimpier than a wimp schooled at the school of wimpness I am. Stepped off train. Guard at station “Ticket please?”. I’m going in to get one, I need a monthly and you’re the only manned station. “Well are you getting back on?”. I did ponder for a few seconds on the merits of his offer, looked at him, looked at my dodgy leg, looked at him and then looked at my dodgy leg some more. Nah you’re all right mate thanks, I’ll get the next one.

Paid £141. Felt a little sick. Bought a coffee for £1.10. Felt a little better.

Drank my coffee, waited for the train. Stepped on, travelled, stepped off and went about my business.

The Joys Of Modern Travel!

Ok prepare for a rant! It’s been one of those days….oh yeah and it’s only midday!
So NIR or Northern Ireland Railways for those who have not got a clue what I am referring to. I have always been a fan, even on the nights when trains broke down and I was left stranded at various train stations for various amounts of time. Usually there was good craic and banter among the stranded and time passed. I used to never let it annoy me, other people usually ranted and raved and I just said nothing and felt sorry for the conductor who was getting a finger wagged in his face, muttering these things happen.
So let’s be clear, I have no issues with the conductor’s. They are a great bunch of lads and lasses doing a job I would not do for all the money in the world!
So I know at this point you are rolling your eyes and urging me on. Settle petal, I’m getting there……..oh look a butterfly……oops hang on, back now.
Some stations on the NIR lines get forgotten about. They tend to focus on the better money making routes and not the ones they consider give them a little less revenue. Yes! I do know that makes good business sense, however they are not encouraging anyone from the sticks to travel if they are getting a second class service.  To be fair things have greatly improved since the introduction of the new trains….my are they fabulous, always warm, comfortable seating, little tables and free Wifi, granted coverage is a little sketchy in places but they get 10 out of 10 for even trying, some of those places a man with a satellite dish on his head couldn’t get a reading.
So we’ve now established that my rant is not about the trains either.
It’s funny, I’ve not reached my point yet and I am running out of steam already, it is true what they say, it’s good to talk!
Point of Annoyance Number 1
I’ve recently been off work after knee surgery, walking is a bit of a trauma but it’s getting better, it’s all about rebuilding the muscle. On the day I reported fit I decided to check the train timetables to see what was going to work best for my phased return. I was extremely dismayed to see that I no longer had any direct trains to work, someone in their wisdom had decided that once you reach a certain point the train should turn into an express (to benefit the more important people from the more important stations), meaning anyone in between has to get off and change. I have 5 minutes to change between platforms, which involves stairs and subways, neither of which I can manage to well at the moment. The homeward journey is the same, I can no longer travel to work without changing trains on any of the times required to get me to and from work! Not happy, I pay the same as everyone else but feel I am getting a lesser service.
Point of Annoyance Number 2
Pricing – Anyone who travels by car will probably argue that when all costs are added together the train is cheaper. I would have agreed and would also have said it was less hassle, that is until I had to change, get off, wait, get on…..chooo chooo! So because I have been easing myself back into work gradually, I was not travelling a full week and therefore paying daily for my ticket. £10 a day. Anyone who travels after 9.30am in the morning can avail of a 3rd off a day return. Not anyone wanting to go to work though, there are no benefits for consistent travellers, full fare thanks very much! I am however grateful to the girls in work who raided through their junk mail and found me 50% off tickets issued by Translink in a bid to encourage people to try the train. This did help for a few days. I could have availed of an Mlink Ticket – 3 days travel for £25 saving me a fiver, however you can only have Mlink if you have an Iphone, Blackberry or Android. I am victimised for having a Windows Phone. Hey I am a gamer I like my Xbox App!! So no ticket for me on ye olde Mlink!  Translink say, and I quote “We would encourage all of our customers to consider upgrading to an iPhone, Blackberry or Android Smartphone in order to continue using the mLink app in the future.” Eh here mate, that’s a genius idea only I can’t fecking afford it cos I am paying you £10 a day to feckin travel.
So today as it is the start of a new month I am armed with my card to buy my monthly ticket. I get to the station, no one there, position closed, please buy your ticket on the train. So I ask the guard can you take a card, no sorry, but I need to get a monthly. So at this point my options are, get off at a manned station, buy a ticket and then get back on the train or buy a day return. I had to buy the day return for £10 as I can’t afford to be late for work. Really not happy, but I am still in a dilemma because what do I do if there is no one at the station tomorrow.
I need to win the lottery tonight, I don’t care if the big hand pokes me in the eye as long as he says “It’s You!”