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Archive for June, 2008

Public Transport

I sat and watched “Politics today” at lunchtime and listened to the most appalling drivel about public transport as some gentleman living in cloud cuckoo land told us how the motorist should be paying to improve public transport.

HERE’S A THOUGHT, BUDDY – how about the people who USE public transport paying for it!! We’re too busy paying for FUEL!!!

We hear this nonsense all the time – get the trains on time and motorists will move out of their cars.

Here’s why I dislike public transport:

1. The plane
Since 9-11 the situation with planes has gotten worse and worse. The authorities insist on the ridiculous assumption that everyone, including middle-aged indigenous Brits are potential terrorists.

I ask you – when was the last time a middle aged indigenous Brit blew up or hijacked a plane? Even more so… when was the last time an indigenous British female hijacked a plane?Every insurance company on the planet works on statistics – which is why young males now get hammered for insurance – they’re the ones who have the most accidents – common sense as we all had less experience when we were younger! So why do we all get treated like criminals, resulting in boarding times of up to 2 hours or more, when only a tiny minority of people fit the profile of those who are likely to cause problems? I used to be able to rush to the airport half an hour before takeoff and sail through.

Flying used to be a joy – now it’s a chore. I fly only when necessary.

2. The train
I don’t think charging 180 quid for a one-way ticket to London is even remotely realistic – yet that or WORSE is the cost of a first class ticket to London from Newcastle. And what do you get for that? More room, free coffee and some nuts! I take the train to London – I drive everywhere else. I take the train because parking in London is a nightmare and I don’t like driving for 5 or 6 hours. There is no WAY ON EARTH driving would cost anywhere near that.

Why do I take first class? Because I don’t agree that in the main, second class is anywhere near acceptable. Those who DO take second class are either unfortunate enough not to be able to afford fist class – OR they seem to think it’s ok to sit in a closed room with no ability to open windows and enjoy the stink of alcohol as our friends from up North start drinking in London and keep doing so all the way up – if you you think that’s stereotyping – you don’t travel on that line. As for comfort I’m not partial to crowding so tightly you hardly have room to read a book never mind get some work done. There are times at peak hours when you have to spend the journey or part of it standing up as there are no seats – this is in a vehicle travelling at 130mph – imagine how much jelly you would become in an accident. No, not what I call acceptable travel.

If I want to spend my sober hours smelling alcohol I can easily do that by pouring some beer on the carpet in the car. I prefer to travel with the smell of fresh air and if I want to live dangerously I can just leave my seat belt unfastened and drive at 90mph on the hard shoulder.

Public transport should be safe, comfortable, cheap and free of the smell of alcohol, smoke and airborne germs. Today’s trains cannot manage this combination at all.

Regardless of which class you take, trains are invariably late. Of my last 3 trips, one was on time, one was 20 minutes late, one was 45 minutes late. Only the last one qualified for any kind of compensation and even then, not realistic compensation considering the potential hassle of ongoing connections etc.

3. Buses
I have not had the common cold or flu for years. There’s a reason for that! I drive from home to Newcastle all the time – it takes around 40 minutes – the bus would take half the day.

The Summer Exodus – Update

Our local rental property is sold, so now we start looking at the larger items we need to populate our cave in Spain.

It appears that electrical items are pretty expensive over there, so we’re shipping stuff, like a new hot tub and we’re taking a decent bed over that was at the rental property. We have a shipping company that does quite a reasonable job of getting stuff over there cheaply so that’ll include all sorts of furniture, tools etc. Maureen is doing Spanish lessons on Wednesday nights. I’m using recordings. We’re both still very much at the holiday phrases level – I guess it’s old age but they go in one ear and out of the other for me. I guess I’ll feel differently when I’m stuck in a lawyer’s office over there sorting papers in Spanish.

Meanwhile I’m concentrating on the technology. Because the place is so new there are no phone lines and unlikely to be any for some time so I looked at 3G, satellite etc but firstly I figured I’d do some tests here. I took my Vodafone 3G dongle out into the countryside in Northumberland, along with a router, laptop and Voip phone – it was a nice weekend so it was partly an excuse to get some sunshine. The verdict.. not a chance – 3G is sketchy here as it will be in Spain and without a 100% signal there is no way to make reliable phone calls. Next off was satellite – well, that’s out – a year’s contract whether you use it or not (we’re only going there for breaks) and the monthly rates are exorbitant – not to mention setup costs.

I then revisited a suggestion about “rural broadband” initially presented to me by the guy we met in Spain – turns out this is NOT satellite but a series of transmitters scattered about all over Spain. You have a small unit that sits on your wall – that talks to the transmitters. No setup charges, fair monthly rent, 500k in both directions. Not ideal but it’ll do! 39 euros a month. Not cheap but not a bank-breaker either.

Finally there was the issue of a phone – well, keeping a laptop on all the time is not really the answer… and I also was hankering for something for the plane – as my laptop is simply too large to open up in pheasant class – the way we usually travel… and then there are the Spanish lessons – I bought a little MP3 player but it’s too small to operate in the car so that’s off to Ebay.

Anyway, I didn’t want to spend a lot and I wanted something that’s easy to update. I stumbled across this little fellow – the Nokia 800. Wifi, Bluetooth, hi-res touch screen, large pocket size – Linux based and it has SKYPE and a camera (though SKYPE doesn’t yet support the camera – that will come) – what more could you want. There is already freely available 2008 software for it, I’ve installed it and it works a treat. The only thing it doesn’t have that it’s successor does is a Satnav and I already have a pocket one of those… so it’ll do my Spanish lessons, it’ll act as a phone and photo-viewer over there – and handy for flights as it’s small but not tiny like a phone. Oh, and it does streaming media so that’s “Riviera Radio” taken care of.

With the ability to handle up to 16gig of memory cards, I should just about be able to manage my music, lessons, some podcasts (I like to listen to the SETI podcasts when travelling) and still find room for a movie or two!! 4GB in use now, 16GB on the way tomorrow.