Well, I’m back in London already, and so I’m not spending New Year in Edinburgh, because I’m supposed to be studying for my exams. And so, in my inimitable style (or if not strictly inimitable, imitation is discouraged), I’m in my department writing my weblog, ordering food, sorting out my passport, and generally procrasinating. Which is generally what I do in the lead up to exams, and nothing, not even a blanket ban on access to the Union building (bastards), is going to stop me.
Virgin Trains should have pointed out at the time of booking that their trains seem to be allergic to Glasgow Central. Well, that’s one way of putting it. On the 18th, following a points failure that led to a diversion, and a series of emergency repair works, we were already an hour late when we got to Preston. But on the approach to Carlisle, it was announced that the train would terminate there, instead of carrying on to Glasgow. A truck had just hit a bridge just south of Beattock summit, so no trains were going north up the West Coast Mainline. Fairly impressively though, 15 minutes later four coaches arrived at the station, and after a quick dash up the motorway, we crawled through the rush hour traffic to arrive a mere 2hr 15mins late.
Coming back down yesterday, and once again the gods were conspiring to ensure that there was no train waiting in Glasgow Central for my journey. A train arrived from the depot outside the station 20 minutes after the scheduled departure time – boarding took another 15 minutes so we were 35 minutes late leaving Glasgow. At Carlisle we had to wait for the Penzance train to leave the station, adding another 10 minutes, and the joys of trying to get into stations when it’s not your timetabled slot meant we were an hour late by Warrington. After a detour through the centre of Birmingham (including that corner in the north of the city that’s taken at walking pace because it’s so sharp – can’t wait for the tilting trains to have a go at it), we had racked up 1hr 20mins delay by the time we got to Euston.
The thing is, the delays don’t bother me that much – I expect them to happen. The timetable is only there for a ‘if everything goes well’ scenario, which doesn’t happen very often. Last year’s eight-and-a-half hour odessy (it’s normally timetabled for five-and-a-half hours) may be extreme, but my trick is to not plan on doing anything else for the rest of the day, and that way being late doesn’t really matter too much. Sitting on the coach to Glasgow, spitting and swearing (and constantly rubbing your legs) doesn’t get you there quicker, and will make the guy sitting next to you think that you’re a twat – he won’t read this, but I didn’t think calling him a twat during the trip would be a good idea. So expect delays, sit back, and chill out.
All three of which are much more pleasant if you happen to be in First Class. Not something I’ve ever done before, but back when I was booking my tickets, I was surprised to find that it was £50 cheaper, and indeed only £30 to go by First Class for the return journey. I guess it was because there weren’t many businessmen travelling the day after boxing day, but all the cheap standard class tickets were in demand. Few people had noticed this strange pricing occurance, so I had over six hours of luxury with a table to myself, listening to announcements about standing in the carriages in Standard Class, eating smoked trout sandwiches and sipping orange juice, and generally feeling rather pleasant. I had initially turned down the refreshments (brie and grape or smoked trout were the two choices of sandwich – I wanted a BLT), but then I remembered that they were "complimentary", and it’s illegal for students to turn down offers of free food. The big problem with First Class is that it doesn’t get you there any quicker or any more on time. I wasn’t complaining though.
In an attempt to find the "Brainiest kid in Britain", ITV are asking groups of twelve-year-olds lists of multiple choice questions, about such things as the first woman in space, locations of bones in the body, and maths stuff like the cube root of 64. In my view, the show should be renamed "The kid in Britain who is best at multiple choice general knowledge who also has the parents and ego required to end up on TV". Not quite so catchy, even if it is more accurate.
Just because you’re good at general knowledge, doesn’t mean that you’re clever. Lots of people know when the Second World War started, but the why is more important. Degrees as well; although a first class degree suggests that you’re smart, it actually means only that you’re good at your subject. Sometimes it’s easy to distinguish – if you’re rich, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you can handle money, or are good at making it. But some people aren’t able to look at things objectively; some people indeed can’t see the consequencies of their actions.
Just because you have authority, doesn’t mean you know best. Just because you have experience, doesn’t mean you can ignore other people’s advice. Just because you hold a position with power, doesn’t mean you know how to wield power properly.
Congratulations to all who were involved in Friday night’s carnival at the Union – I thought it was really well done. Once again, DramSoc took over in the concert hall, and special kudos to the lighting crew and operators. And a note as to the enthusiasm of whoever had their finger on the smoke machine button all night – I got lost down at one end of the hall, and from talking to others over the weekend, I wasn’t the only one! I thought the setup with the DJs (i.e. keeping them permanently out of the spotlight) was quite amusing – as was commented by someone at the time, "it’s an ego thing." Next time we need to have some DramSoc DJs, leaving only the stewards outwith our control… Mwahahaha…
I’ve never quite made my mind up about zoos, and watching Animal Park on BBC2 just now still makes me feel uneasy. I went to Chester zoo many years back, and it typified the problems I have with the idea – concrete pens, small cages, no fields – I can still remember one of the big cats, perhaps a jaguar or similar, that had worn a groove in the floor of its cage, as it pounded around the perimeter incessantly. The floor was made of concrete.
Animal Park is about a safari park, which to me is just a zoo with big cages. Definitly a step in the right direction, but still there’s something I find wrong about it. I’m not doubting that the animals are well looked after from a physical point of view, the keepers and vets treat them well. But I can’t help thinking that in our society, imprisonment is a punishment, and house arrest is just a nicer version of the same thing.
One thing that I found especially concerning was the trick-performing parrots. From going ‘quack’ when they see a picture of a duck, to raising flags and jumping onto mini roller skates, I wonder what they might think of it – it’s just association learning; they are only looking for some food at the end of it. The keeper said that the parrots have the mental age of a three year old, and so need keeping occupied, and that the educational messages that the parrots can teach youngsters and adults alike are worth it. He has a point, but could Attenboroughs documentaries be a better idea?
It would be nice (but naive) to think that we don’t need to keep wild animals in captivity, and use their freak-show-like money pulling powers to draw cash into breeding and conservation work. But there is more to life than growing old, however healthy and well fed you may be – and I think of that when I look at the pack of lions in an Englishman’s Country Estate.
Like the smell in my toilet the morning after a heavy night of drinking, the Chemicals Saga just doesn’t seem to want to go away. Friday night saw me rehashing the affair to (yet) another group of people, which is absolutely the very last time I’m going through it from scratch. So why am I mentioning it again?
This morning, I finally received the reasoning of the panel as to my guilt. Remember, I was charged with a "Breach of Health and Safety procedures" (although this was actually, perhaps farcically, denied by the Union President in a letter published in Felix – I kid you not), but the real issue was whether or not I knew of a decision by Exec removing my authority from the issue. I was found "guilty of the charges brought", but with no suggestion as to how I was supposed to have found out about the decision. So what was the reasoning?
"It was the decision of the panel that Andrew Allen (sic) was guilty due to wrongful disposal of the chemicals, together with a lack of notification to the union both before & after the chemicals were disposed of. A lack of communication between himself, his club and the union was felt to be apparent, as well as lack of attendance at meetings where decisions were being made."
So basically, I was at fault because I didn’t know about the decision. Perversly, that was also my defence. And I wasn’t supposed to be at any "meetings where decisions were being made", there’s a little issue called representation, and I voted in an election which chose (and the Government of this country pays for) certain people to attend, make decisions, and be responsible for letting relevant people know what’s going on. Which they didn’t, neither verbally, nor by publishing minutes of the meeting (Sen, you know it’s in the rules, and you’ve been mandated repeatedly to do so). But hey, that’s my fault, isn’t it?
Which brings me on to the final part, the recommendations that the panel came up with. After you read them, think of this: If these are the recommendations, how can you possibly state that I was at fault?
- The ICU Health and Safety policy should be reviewed, with particular emphasis on the interaction between sabbs, ICU staff and student officers.
- There whenever a club or society is discussed at a union committee, that club or society should be present; or in their absence, the DPCS should be mandated to directly inform the president/captain/chair of the affected club or society of the results of the procedures. If the committee deems it not to be an urgent policy, then in the absence of that club or society the policy should not be discussed.
- That ICU Council should create a working group to consider communication policy throughout the union.
I have the following words to say on this issue:
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.
Virgin Trains have redone their website, as I found during my hour and a half ticket booking saga yesterday. It’s nothing special, but the messages it gives you while you wait made me cringe. After selecting travel dates and time, you are shown a spinning clock with the following message:
"We’re off looking for your trains at the moment, but give
us a few moments and we’ll be back with the results soon.
Thank you for being so patient."
Riiiigghhht. Don’t try patronising me by pretending that you’re doing anything other than using an (admittedly quite impressive) algorithm to trawl through an enormous database of timetables. The image of a sentient website that’s now down at the station checking for trains is a bit of a farce. And I’m not being so patient; if I was, I wouldn’t have gone and bought my tickets from a different website while I waited.
The other message, for when all the trains are fully booked, starts with "We couldn’t find any trains which leave when you wanted them to…". I know that sentiment, but it’s usually when I’m already aboard at Euston.
Perhaps last night’s posting got a bit too melodramatic, but I just felt a bit bad after talking through the whole chemicals saga with yet another bunch of people. I should declare the end of me giving my point of view on the issue, as I think I’ve ran through it often enough.
I’m concerned that there’s about to be (yet) another episode of bitterness and recriminations in my life shortly, since I can smell trouble brewing from 30 miles. Or to be more exact, I’ve heard (at length) every side (repeatedly) of every topic of the discussions coming up, and I know that nobody will go into this meeting with an open mind. I’m not sure how it’s going to resolve itself, but I really don’t think that we’ll all benefit, and I fear things will be said or done that leave lasting effects. Guys, it’s just a hobby; you’re supposed to be enjoying yourselves.
Standing at the bus stop this evening, I was trying to remember what it was like to be truely cold. Harking back to sitting on windswept ground, hiding behind my rucksack, watching the scudding clouds go by, yet still enjoying myself. When the cold was in my limbs, the bitterness in the wind, and the deep pains came from outwith.
I was being very drunk last week, and tried quoting some song lyrics that I thought were relevant to a conversation I was having. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember what the lyrics were, and they weren’t as deep an meaningful as I thought anyway, but that wasn’t the point really.
What I was doing though, was trying to put into practise one of my theories of life. I can almost make it through each day quoting only Southpark (for it is great), especially a certain Mr Cartman (and his special song – "I hate you guys / you guys are assholes / especially (insert name of my current target) / I hate him the most / Come on you guys, you know the words"). For anything slightly more meaningful, however, I turn to other sources. With over 3600 songs in my playlist at the moment, I’m pretty sure that I can find lyrics to cover every emotion that I want to express. What I wasn’t so sure of is if the one song can consistently say what I feel; they usually miss the mark after a few verses. Yesterday I found it though – number 2814 says everything I want to say, and nothing else. But to tell you what the song is would ruin all the fun…