Sunday, 5 January 2020

Disconnected Railways

There's a lot wrong with the railways in Britain. I hear about it everyday from passengers. The prices are too high. The service too unreliable. The solution, I'm told, is to re-nationalise the whole system. As with politics, there's a disconnect in the publics mind as to what the cause of their complaints are. And thus the solutions they find will not likely work out for them.

Most of the reliability problems sit at the door of Network Rail, who are responsible for the infrastructure. Network Rail is already a state owned enterprise. And the high prices? Tickets are already subsidised by the taxpayer. Passengers don't pay for what they get as it is. But prices can be raised or lowered as a matter of government policy through the subsidies they pay into the system. Re-nationalisation is not a necessity.

Every now and then I'll engage with a passenger and offer my thoughts, if they seem genuinely interested and civil. But I know a confused look when I see one. My comments go in one ear, echo for a moment, then seep out of the other ear. It is just like politics, in more ways than one.

So most of the time, I just nod and smile. I do a lot of that these days. Nodding and smiling. In fact it's become my number one response when dealing with people. Sometimes I find myself nodding and smiling at people just a fraction too early, before they've even begun to speak. Without fail, they will justify my nodding and smiling. So I will nod and smile with more vigour and enthusiasm.

But the working day will come to an end. It always does. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact to help get through it. I will be paid handsomely for selling tickets, providing information. And for nodding and smiling. Then I will go for a walk. My favourite walk takes me past Bournemouth Pier. Perhaps I'll sit for a while and gaze out to sea. And nod and smile. Just for a moment.
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Saturday, 4 January 2020

Good Intentions

I'm not overly fixated on resolutions. Experience has taught me that they simply set you up for a fall. But still, I do start each year with good intentions and grand plans. Giving up smoking is normally one begun at midnight and bust before the first day is done. Not this year. My app tells me that it's been 1 month 18 days and 9 hours since I last had so much as a single puff. If it hadn't been for a slight hiccup, my app would boast longer still. There will be no more hiccups. I promise. And I shall report back in a years time with a screenshot from my app that I can be proud of.

There are travel plans. There are always travel plans. This year I have, in alphabetical order, China, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan in mind. You might assume that my list of visited countries is missing ones beginning with C and U, and that I've decided 2020 is the year to knock them off. But it's just coincidence. Generally, though, my goals as I've grown older have become more mundane. If I can get through the year happy, healthy and financially solvent, then all is good with the world. 

And then there are those little things that you keep meaning to do but have just never gotten round to. Like having a ride on the ferris wheel on Bournemouth's sea front. It's been there for years. I've walked past it dozens, maybe hundreds of time. Always thinking, I must stop and ride it one day. I can confirm that that day came on January 1st. There's no better day to start getting things ticked off lists.
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Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A New Decade

I was born not long after the 70s started. So I have only vague memories of that decade. I went to school through the 80s. I could refer to it as the decade of learning, but that’s a process that’s never stopped. The 90s were a decade of partying. And, if I’m to be honest, excess. I was tee-total in the 00s, spending my money on travel. And, of course, I spent half the decade living in Mexico. The photo above is from early 2010, just about ten years ago. I look a little weary, but I had just run 6kms.

How have the 10s treated me. It’s been a good decade really. But I have aged. I feel it. I see it when I look in the mirror. It’s the first decade where I’ve ended it feeling a bit slower and a bit weaker that when the decade started. It struck home in September when I became stricken with glandular fever. It’s a nasty illness regardless of age. But I’m quite certain I’d have coped better a decade earlier. It’s all downhill from here I guess. Still, one hopes it will be a slow decline, dragged out over several more decades. 

I’ve given up smoking. That should help hugely. I should probably try quitting political discussion. I can’t imagine being angry is a healthy state of affairs, and politics is full of anger these days. I should try and get back to running too. Or cycling. Or at least walking. I have an Apple Watch with an activity tracker. I’ll try and close my rings each day. But whatever I do, it’s likely that I’ve now passed the half way point in life. Extremely likely. There’s less to come than has already been and gone. That focuses the mind.

Happy New Year to you. I wish you good health and happiness for the year, and the decade, to come.

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