Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why FGW could learn a lot from 'Spoons

Part Three of JP's Great Journey Home also comes to you from the comfort of the Wetherspoon's in Swindon, whilst I digest my rather good Gourmet Burger (with Side Salad) and generally Reflect on Things.

The food, it has to be said, was excellent. My expectations were admittedly quite low, but that just makes it even more impressive and I am certainly feeling suitably replete.

The background music is also helping with those Feel Good Vibes, and my frustration with the complete jester of a Revenue Inspector is slowly melting away.

What has really impressed me with this particular joint though is the attitude of the staff. Both the barmaid and the guy serving the food have been extremely friendly and extremely helpful. I get the impression that if they'd had to inconvenience my afternoon they'd have done so in the nicest possible way, with a sympathetic smile. They would probably even have apologised.

Take note, First Great Western.

Greetings from Swindon

If you've read my last post, and the title for this one you will hopefully have put two and two together and not made five. Jobsworth Revenue Inspector got his way, and the Train Manager was unable to allow me to stay on the train with my current ticket. I think I'm as annoyed by his unnecessarily aggressive manner as I am by his decision, and wonder how people like that sleep at night.

Anyway, it's not so bad. Swindon has a Wetherspoons and I'm sat with a beer whilst I wait for my Gourmet Burger. Bonus. One might say that I am using the time more productively than I would be if I was sat in the Sensory Garden in the rain. Unless of course you happen to possess binoculars and a Train Spotter's Notebook.

Despite my surprisingly bouyant mood* if you do know any First Great Western Revenue Inspectors and have an opportunity to ruin their day please seize it gladly with wide open arms. It will make the rest of my pint taste even sweeter.


*If you are thinking that the bouyancy might be beer related your two and two would make five here because I've barely had a sip of lager at this point in time.

When I'm annoyed, I blog

In case you were hoping that this post title referred to an exciting new single or album I might be planning to release I'm afraid that I'm going to have to disappoint you. The subject is nothing clever and there is no double meaning. Basically, I'm annoyed and I'm going to blog about it.

Cheer up, though, I've not had a good train related rant in a while.

Had you asked me an hour ago what I thought of First Great Western I could not have been more positive. I have travelled with them a reasonable amount recently and my experiences bear no resemblence to the poor reputation they seem to have gained. I have found the trains to be consistently clean and comfortable, and the staff to be consistently friendly and helpful. That's certainly more than could be said for a lot of train operators.

But it's so often true that one bad experience can destroy a whole raft of positive ones and that's how I'm feeling now.

The journey I booked online has two tickets - one valid on any train as far as Swindon, and one valid on a specific train from Swindon to London. My appointment finished much earlier than expected and I was able to board a much earlier through train (via Swindon) to London. Now, I know the rules regarding Advance Fares but I asked the conductor anyway whether or not he would permit me to remain on this train rather than alighting and waiting for my booked service. As the train is very lightly loaded, an
d there are unused through reservations on the seats around me I didn't think that this was an unreasonable request.

Unfortunately the conductor is not only a complete jobsworth but he is also a contender for the title of Rudest Man in the World. Insolence and an unwillingness to listen feature highly on his list of 'qualities'. It's now looking as though I've been condemned to a pointless wait of an hour and a half in Swindon, and to add insult to inury if I'd known that my appointment would finish early it would actually have been cheaper to book a through ticket on the train I am on.

I might try some further negotiation, but if not at least I can soothe my sorrows in the Sensory Garden at Swindon station. It'll probably be raining though.

Just talk to her, Dave!

Regular readers (if I still have any) might not be surprised to learn that I've come to the conclusion that it is probably impossible to pull on public transport just by smiling at someone.

I could, if I wanted tell plenty of non-stories at this point. Last Thursday, for example, I was on a train when I exchanged smiles with an attracive young lady. Then I alighted*. The End.

Yesterday, therefore, I seized an opportunity to take the plunge and ascend to the next level by attempting to initiate a conversation. I was waiting at a bus stop in West Wales when I was joined by an attractive blonde, who could possibly be described as sort of Joanna Page - esque.

"Morning," I said.

"Hello," she said in response.

So far, so good, you might think. But now we descend back down to the depths of the 'non-story' for the conversation didn't exactly flow beyond that. We both suddenly developed the need to send a text message or otherwise seek solace in a mobile telephone and aside from a riveting moment when I asked if she was waiting for the 412, she said yes and I said "oh, and here it comes" that, as some might say, was that.

Oh well. You've got to start somewhere...


*This sentence could have just as easily read "we got off" but that might conceivably have changed the whole tone of this post for some of you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

finding the answer to one of life's important questions

Quite some time back now, I wrote about the time I had my hair cut by someone who'd covered their own hair with a hat.

Fast forward to last Friday, and I found myself in another branch of the same establishment desiring to have my luscious but manly curls chopped off. Inadvertently, I was now in a position to answer a question which might have been bugging some of you for a while.

Is it better to have your hair cut by someone who has covered their own hair up, or by someone who has no hair at all?

I'll save you the suspense and tell you that on this occasion I'm quite happy. My hair is neat, well cut and not really wonky in any way. More importantly, I don't look like a thug, although that was down to my choice of style and not the competence of the person wielding the clippers and the scissors. I don't think I was particularly unhappy last time, but the fact that I've not been back to the establishment since might speak for itself.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

FIA Bias

After watching the nail-biting finsih to today's Belgian Grand Prix I was very disappointed to learn that Lewis Hamilton was stripped of his win after a Stewards Enquiry, especially in light of the fact that the Stewards decided against penalising Ferrari for the incident in the last race. This isn't the first time that the cynic in me has come to the conclusion that the FIA is biased in favour of Ferrari, and I'm inclined to agree with Jeremy Clarkson's comment in this month's issue of Top Gear when he noted [about the German Grand Prix] that as per usual the car prepared by the team with the most money won.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Kake, and the existence of Flo

Given that many people still seem to come to this Korner of the Blogosphere in search of cake, I thought that it was about time that I had a cake themed-post.

In light of the ongoing debate about the existence of God (see the previous two posts), I want you to imagine that you've popped round to visit me for tea and that I've served a cake. Let us also suppose that I say that I have a friend called Flo, whom you've never met, and that she made said cake.

The cake happens to be very nice and you ask me for the recipe, which I don't have. As would be perfectly reasonable, you might start to speculate about the cake's ingredients or how it was made. It would be a little bizarre, however, if you suddenly questioned whether or not I really did have a friend called Flo based on the discovery that apricot jam had been used to stick the icing on. Even the existence of self-raising flour doesn't invalidate the possibility of the cake being made by a friend called Flo.

You might question it if I said that "Flo tells me that it was a quick and easy cake which could be made in the microwave in seven minutes" but it would be an illogical step to jump straight to the conclusion that I don't really have a friend called Flo after all.

Perhaps more importantly, if you asked me why I was serving such a nice cake, you probably wouldn't expect me to respond simply by giving you the recipe. If you asked "why did Flo make the cake for you?" it would be something of a non-sequiter if I said "she used self-raising flour".

Food for thought, if you'll excuse the terrible pun.

Monday, September 01, 2008

atheism is a matter of faith, not science: the debate continues

Following the letters page in last Wednesday's Metro and the follow-up comment on this post I’m pleased to see that the beginnings of a debate are brewing, and I intend to use this post to pick up the baton again.

Unsurprisingly, I’m going to start by responding to the aforementioned comment. I apologise if my tone was deemed to be a bit sharp, but I have no hesitation in defending the point I was trying to make.

According to dictionary.com, faith can be defined as “belief that is not based on proof.” As there is no proof that God does not exist, belief that God does not exist (i.e. atheism) must be faith.

Now, I take your point that “as human beings we are always revising and fine tuning what we hold to be true based on the evidence to hand, what we discover and our ability to determine what is probable or improbable.” To digress slightly, that is why switching on the Large Hadron Collider is going to be something of a milestone, as it could either serve to prove a theory or force a bit of a re-think.

However, the attitude of some atheists implies that as the human race has grappled with the existence (or not) of God in this way we’ve got to the stage where no-one with intelligence would ever question the “fact” that there is no God. This is what my letter to the Metro aimed to refute.

Glossing over the fact that to adopt this attitude is insulting and belittling to the many eminent and intelligent scientists who do believe in God, the bottom line is that it’s just not that clear-cut.

If it were, then surely one would expect the majority of the world’s population to adhere to the view that there is no God. Although we are a very advanced race, only a very small proportion of the population are confirmed atheists. The rest of us can’t all be that stupid, can we? At the very least I’d have expected those agnostics who sit on the fence to have no trouble nailing their colours to the mast and agreeing that there is no God.

There are no “different rules” here for belief in God; it’s just that the evidence against it is not as strong as some would claim.

Certainly if the evidence was that convincing I wouldn’t worry too much about the effect of parental or other conditioning, because as children are properly educated they will see the error of their ways. Forgive the slight sarcasm, but although I can see the point about belief in God being furthered in that manner I’ve been interested to note that it is often under regimes in which religious faith is actively stifled that believing communities grow the most.

Finally, I’d like to pick up on your comment that “proof that God existed would be self-evident”. To an extent I disagree, although as I can’t offer proof that God exists either it’s a fairly mundane point. I do however think that there is a lot which could (and I believe does) point to the existence of God. Furthermore, I’d advise caution when it comes to making such general comments about religious texts. The Bible is full of accounts of people who struggled with the existence of God, and the idea of putting their trust in Him. To pose just one example, I’m not sure that if “proof was always so abundant” the Israelites would have wasted their time worshipping home made ‘gods’ constructed from wood and metal.