Friday, 1 August 2008

One way ticket to engineering hell

I had planned to follow up my initial post before this, but work got in the way.

By overhearing a Native discussing the impending doom, I learnt on Wednesday that the Norwich-Cambridge line is undergoing engineering works for the next fortnight. I say 'overhearing' when actually what I mean to say is, tried to block her and her whinge out for the full 75 minute journey. As if she was the only one affected. Don't worry about her though - the other Natives have banded together to form the Driving Alliance, which basically means the replacement bus service will be empty.

Next week, there will be a train to Brandon and then a bus from there. I will get in half an hour later than usual on the way in. On the way back, by some curious time drain in the early evening, I'll take the same journey (in reverse, obv) and get home an HOUR later. I'll never understand how that happens. An extra ten billion stops adds twenty minutes to the 'fast train' but the same journey is a whole sixty minutes when you're just going the other way. Oh well.

Then, the week after that, I'll have the joy of getting the train to Stowmarket, then to Ely and then to Cambridge, before again rocking up half an hour late. The train back (from Thetford) will merely take forty minutes extra. Perfectly acceptable.

I actually wrote an e-mail to good ol' NXEA yesterday requesting more information on the engineering works. They haven't replied. It'd be pretty cool if they advised me that the train journey would take forty five minutes as a result from then on, or that the train would hover three mm above the lines. But I doubt that's what they're doing.

So, what else has gone on lately?
I had the pleasure of sitting next to what can only be described as half man half hobbit, but what I think was actually female. It was a classic Space Invader whose powers were strengthened by the fact that I didn't actually want to touch anything belonging to it. And (I'm going to call her she just for grammatical ease, but please bear in mind this might not be the case) she was one of those passengers who feel the need to reply to any announcements from the conductor. The most charming one followed the announcement about no smoking on UK trains or station platforms. It ended with a stern "Passengers found smoking will be removed from the train". To which HMHH replies "When it's movin' I 'ope!" and cackles madly. I love sitting next to anti-smokers on a train - they're the most interested when I pull out my rolling machine and assorted paraphernalia.

On a different journey (a return one again) a group of semi schoolies/semi tourists piled on at Thetford. I was sitting with my back to them, which made it more interesting when their peppered with bullet slang speech was revealed to be from three of the whitest spotty yoofs I’ve ever seen. They were obnoxiously loud and amusingly immature. Their discussions on footballers and their origins made me giggle, as well as their protestations at being classes as children (perhaps mentally, but definitely not physically) which the conductor actually fell for. Or maybe he couldn’t be bothered to argue. However, I ended up moving seats anyway because their conversation turned to world politics. This is the extract I can remember: “Well, it’s obviously workin cos petrol’s gone dahn ten pee, innit? Fuckin brownies don’t know wot’s goin’ on”
I should have given them all a clip round the earhole and a boot up the bum, but I was too tired and fuss’d, so I moved down the carriage instead. I could go into a diatribe here about the youth of today and how they have no respect for the troops that have died out there, or even the simple fact that petrol seems to have doubled in the five years since the start of Iraq War Mk II, but I won’t.

Another nightmare bunkmate came in the form of a rather large woman who occupied my airspace without so much as an ‘excuse me’. To add insult to injury, there were no less than three empty two seaters a mere two rows away. Either she fancied me or that was the first seat she saw. I always seem to get the weirdos. Hmm.

As it’s the end of the week I’m going to stop moaning and move on to something altogether lighter – my book reviews. The daily three hour journey time affords me reading space I wouldn’t have normally got, so now I read two – three books a week.

The best book I’ve read in a while is “The Post Birthday World” by Lionel Shriver (she who gave us Kevin, the high school serial killer, in “We need to talk about Kevin”). The story follows Irina, a forty something Russian children’s books illustrator who’s happily settled with staid boyfriend Lawrence, until an eventful moment with their mutual friend while Lawrence is away. Ramsey Acton is a Lahndahn snooker player renowned for placing as runner-up in a large amount of Championship finals. This moment occurs at the snooker table in Ramsey’s house, following a cosy dinner. It follows the “Sliding Doors” idea of alternate universes, based on one moment. This differs in one crucial way though – she is the cheater who makes the choice, not the cheated.
Anyway, you get the idea – it’s thought provoking and strangely compelling. I found it to be harder going than Kevin but just as rewarding.

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