Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stupid fucking stupid trains

So I get up early. I get out of the house early. I get to the station early.

But do I get to work early? No.

Instead I waste half an hour of my life waiting at the station as it gradually fills up with more and more people while the inane recording tells me that a train is due in one minute which never turns up.

I hate train delays. But even more than delays I hate it when they don't tell you what's going on. Some of the staff need a course in customer care, and for someone to tell them that even if all you can say is "I have no idea what's going on. I'm trying to find out for you. I'm really, really sorry", it's a million times better than hiding up your own arse and hoping it will all go away.

I'm not someone who complains for the sake of it. I appreciate that our train system is under-staffed, under-funded and built on a creaky old infrastructure back when the tube was seen as a revolution in technology. Personally, I don't know what they can do to improve the system (although surely someone's figured out that the public-private partnership hasn't exactly worked out as hoped).

I can't think of any quick-fix solutions, but I do know what isn't going to help us. One of the train companies is considering taking out seats to shovel more bodies onto the trains. As someone who faints on trains with an alarming frequency, this is NOT, repeat NOT, a solution. Often the only thing that gets me through long journeys is staring longingly at the seats trying to guess who's getting off at which stop.

It's also not fair to charge us yet more for travelling during the rush hour. It's not our fault that we work for a living. Fair enough, all tourists should be superglued to their hotel rooms until at least half nine (too slow and too stupid to travel in rush hour) but we stalwart commuters should be rewarded not punished for wanting to do a day's honest work.

I don't mind not having a car. I normally like using the bus or the tube. But today I was not in a good mood as I marched through Liverpool Street with my fists clenched itching for a fight. That's the problem with commuting - it turns you into a completely different person.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Blessed are the cheesemakers

I went to a Christening today. I've only been to church twice before in my life. Once was for a cousin's wedding and the other time was when, as a very conscientious Brownie, I insisted that Grandma take me so I could see what it was like. I only remember three things from that experience: not being able to find the hymns in the hymn book, a woman at the front dancing to the hymns while waving one of those streamers gymnasts use, and Grandma saying in a big loud voice "once these people start bloody praying, they don't know when to stop!"

The Christening today was all a bit daunting really. I kept expecting someone to say "the devil is amongst us!" and for everyone to stand up and point at me. I was very polite though. I mouthed the words to the hymns (none of which I knew, by the way. It wasn't The Lord is my Shepherd or Our Father by Whose Servants - they were those happy clappy ones you sometimes get on Songs of Praise. There was a woman with a guitar and a bloke on drums.) I bowed my head whenever he said "let us pray". And I tried to mirror the smug looks around me when he talked having Jesus in your life.

All in all, I have to say I find religion quite appealing. Obviously not anti-abortion, gay-hating, gun-wielding Bible Belters. Or anyone who thinks that Salman Rushdie deserves a fatwa against him for writing a book that makes me giggle on the tube. But your average, run of the mill, religious types really do seem quite pleasant.

I like the way that most major religions are based around caring for other people and not judging them (okay, Christianity and Islam, but I'm sure lots of the others probably agree!). I like the welcoming atmosphere, the family meals, and the markers throughout your life (Christening, Bat Mitzvah, going on Hajj, etc).

The trouble is that you can't just chose to be religious. I would love to wake up tomorrow believing that there's this big guy in the sky who's looking out for me and I'm going to get a really cool life when I die. I just can't make myself believe. Nothing's certain in this life so you have to go with your gut reactions on these things. And my gut is definitely telling me that God, Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny don't exist. Which is quite a shame really.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Go to your room!

Isn't it weird how, even when you're really not interested in a television programme, if they put it on often enough you always end up watching? The last few weeks I seem to keep catching The House of Tiny Tearaways with Dr Tanya Byron. In this programme Dr Tanya (I like saying that name, nearly as much as I like saying Judge Judy) teaches parents how to turn their children from screaming little monsters into well behaved little things that play the piano and help the aged.

As much as I fully enjoy taking the piss, I actually think her methods of bringing up children are really good. She doesn't let parents hit their kids and instead uses lots of praise (with the parents looking really stupid saying "oooh, look how WELL you've eaten that mashed potato!") and time out (one minute for every year of their life. Does that mean I can shut my boyfriend in the bathroom for 24 minutes if he's naughty?)

What I find unbelievable is the number of parents who hit their kids when they're naughty and then wonder how they could possibly have turned out violent. Now, I know I'm on seriously dodgy ground here, seeing as I don't have any kids of my own yet, but I really find it hard to understand why someone would want to hit their children. Obviously, under stress we all do things we regret, but some parents actually decide when their kids are born to use violence as an ongoing and consistent method of discipline. How can that possibly be right? Apart from being nonsensical (presumably you sometimes have to hit a kid to punish them for hitting another kid), it's just really cruel.

And while I'm on the subject, I hate the word 'smacking'. If you hit your kids, you hit your kids. If you think you've made the right decision about discipline, don't hide behind a cozy euphemism.

I've got myself all wound up now. I think I'm going to go and hit someone.