Month: November 2011

Meet the Southern Rail Managers

Big Cat Diaries goes to London Bridge

I was in the first class cabin of yer Southern Rail for the daily commute idly glancing through an article ref David Attenbore and his long career of wildlife programming when over the Tannoy our Guard pipes up – “Ladies and Gentlemen I thought I would let you know that today is ‘meet the managers day’ hoorah! and starting at 0730 at London Bridge Southern Rail have arranged some victims to talk to you about your experiences with the service”. “If you have any difficulty with finding them just ask one of the station staff (AKA Bob Crows Army) and we will point them out for you – however they should be easy to spot as they will be the guys quaking in their boots somewhere close to the front of the station – enjoy!!”.

It was with a feral glint in the eye that we got off the train and as a mass trooped off to see who these half wits were. It was then we spotted the herd of Southern Managers the young and inexperienced in the centre safely surrounded by wizened old gits veterans of countless fob offs and excuses hiding just behind the ticket barrier close to the relative safety of the coffee shop. Prowling closely by the predatory commuters look for their chance to cut out one of the youngsters and give him a right rollicking. One of the younger sub-managers paws nervously at the ground looking down and glances around for the escape route wondering why he’s here and thinking that if he had revised more studiously for the McDonald’s degree in Burgerology (BBu(Hons)) he would be safely inside worrying about colony forming units of bacteria and not here facing this angry mob. Ah look a diversionary move by one of the older females ‘can you tell me which platform is for Victoria’ – oh over there platform 13 Luv responds the Alpha Manager. Too late he spots his error and two predators move quickly in and split up the herd isolating one of the newer managers who immediately cut off from the safety of the herd is pounced upon by a gaggle of ferocious wildcats. One cannot but admire the team working of this experienced pack – from an early time in the management training school of yer Southern Rail junior managers are able to divert complaints and back peddle at a rate of knots, but under the relentless pursuit of this angry crowd he is quickly worn down and soon becomes an exhausted sniveling wreck. One particularly stern lady caught my eye, and caught the guy she was laying into by the ***** as she gave him a right dressing down about over-crowding especially when he asked her to ‘calm down madam’ – which I always think is a marvelous way to up the temperature (needs to revise his ‘Handbook for Conflict Management on Southern Rail’ (10th Edition) notes) and drew the response ‘what do you mean calm down you little oik’ – ‘ I’ll have your b***s on a stick’ you talk to me like that!

She walked off obviously set-up for the day and cheerily responded to a request to take a sample of a chunky chocolate bar as a free gift on the station concourse – ‘No thank you’, she said, ‘I’ve had my quota of protein for today!’

World Toilet Day Celebrations in Chipping Norton

World Toilet Day Celebrations in Chipping Norton

As we all know the 19th November is the celebration of world toilet day – I know ‘what another crap day’ – well yes actually. As we know a visit to the bathroom is a regular ritual for all of us and a person will go to the toilet about 6 to 7 times a day and with all that flushing that takes place will use around 30% of the 60 gallons of water used by an average person in the UK daily. It is something we all take for granted and is a luxury quite unique to the western world – well over half of the world population especially in the developing nations use private dry facilitates i.e. they crap outside into a pit latrine or on the floor. Even in the UK flush toilets are quite recent (end 19C) remember Lord Black Adder (TV series in the UK) when he was trying to sell his house in Elizabethan times boasted that his house had all the latest in ‘open air facilities’ to which the prospective buyer said ‘ah good you crap out of the window then much more hygienic’. This latter technique being similar to the method known as the ‘Narobian Flying Toilet’ (Trade Mark applied for). Where if caught short in Nairobi you crap into a sandwich bag (available from the local Tesco’s) and throw it out of the window.

Now I am drawn to these things by a recent foray into the world of commodes and toilets as we decided to give a rather special birthday present for my Mother in Law (who sadly is now deceased since this article was original published) who now well into her dotage is having difficulty in managing the ten or so steps to the lavatory just down the corridor. So my wife had this hare brained idea to buy her a commode – a crap present in every meaning of the word. Anyhoo we ordered said commode and were assured that it would be delivered well in time for the birthday celebrations due in just over a week after the order. Suitable arrangements were made for the launch party and first use – We had in mind a ‘strapping in party’ where we would tie the old bird into the chair while we all went off down the pub – so having done the order we settled down and waited for said commode to turn up on the wicket. Needless to say nothing happened and the birthday arrived with no commode in sight to the disappointment of all – we still went ahead with the party you’ll be glad to hear but had to make do with strapping Ma-in-Law in the normal loo before going down the pub.

Another two weeks pass and sister in law had been waiting in, as one does, for the toilet men to appear. During this time whilst faffing around upstairs a far away whisper is heard from below … ‘oh there is a big white van outside do you think he is coming here’ … ‘have you answered the bloody door?!!’ … ‘what?’ … ‘crap Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! – as sister in law turned around at the top of the stairs stumbled and fell ‘A over T’ from top to bottom of the stairs landing in a crumpled heap on the hallway floor. After confirming she was still alive although with a near broken ankle she crawled and dragged herself to the front door and managed to open it to just in time to catch a glimpse of a white van disappearing into the blue yonder. She shut the door and crawled in a way my old army chums would admire to the phone, pulled it to the floor, and rang up the toilet company – ‘your bloody men just cleared off without dropping off the commode!!’ … ‘oh it wasn’t one of our delivery men your order won’t be ready for another two weeks from next Tuesday’. What do you mean I have been waiting in for the last two weeks ‘ … ‘oh you needn’t do that our delivery men will call back if you are not in’. Well we all know what a great sport it is for white van men to park up just down the road and with a pair of high powered binoculars spy out the land and wait for the five minutes that one pops out to the shops for a loo roll or to pick up the kids from school – then they pounce and drop that annoying little card through the letter box that says something like ‘missed you unable to delivery a parcel’.

Anyhoo the conversation went down hill from there on in and the order for the commode ended up being cancelled (crap service etc etc.). My sister in law then collapses to the floor rubbing her ankle whilst muttering profane curses and running through the synonym list for faeces. Just then Ma-in-Law pops her head round the door ‘oh you don’t have time to do your exercises now I need to go to the toilet?’
‘Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!… Due to profane nature of the rest of the dialogue and reporting restrictions under the mental health act the rest of this blog entry has been deleted. However I am sure RoyMogg Blog readers will be glad to know that the ambulance team did manage to remove an antique porcelain potty (Alfred Meakin c 1900) from Mrs H senior’s head and I have also been successful in ordering a replacement commode as shown in the picture below.


The Loo

Cloning and Stem cell research on the edge of morality

I still see we are being prepared and softened up to allow scientists to come what may, carry out whatever experiments they see fit, probably up to and including cloning (eventually). We have over the last few weeks seen a procession of worthies come out of the woodwork to challenge the ‘naysayers’ and ‘latter day Luddites’ who are daring to raise a yellow card by suggesting we should place some limits on what science is allowed to do. Now it surprises me that this is not raising more fuss from the likes of Greenpeace and other environmental groups who are quite willing to raise the roof over a few GM carrots but seem disinterested in this far wider issue.

I waxed lyrically in a post in the ethics section on this Forum about the discursive practices being deployed as a resource to get this one past Joe public – this is the claptrap about a cure being around the corner for whatever gruesome disease is top of mind at the moment – what is at issue now is this question of ‘conscience’ and voting according to ‘it’ as Brother Brown would have it. Conscience is the cognitative and affective (emotional) processes which constitute an internalised moral governor over an individual’s moral conduct – its helps us distinguish right from wrong in action. Thus the action at stake here is whether or not to vote on this issue (the bill) in the commons (and how ones conscience informs that choice) and not over the content being proposed – at least strictly. What is needed in fact is a debate over the bounds and what constitutes the limits so we can avoid this constant leverage of the boundaries for the short-term expediencies of the moment – someone’s need to have a research proposal rubber stamped. We need to debate the systemic issue not this specific instance.

I expect if we did this exercise, we could identify the no go areas like a full cloning and go some way to saying that ‘it’ is OK to clone and keep ‘alive’ up to a few weeks until we can harvest some cells (to cure some genetic disease etc etc) – doing this at least we would have the debate up front and ‘understand’ the parameters and risk areas. I might say as a scientist and engineer that I am comfortable with some aspects of the biological research being proposed, where I part company with this particular process is when discursive tricks are used, and eminent worthies wheeled out, to overcome and avoid any real discussion and stifle opposition and reasoned debate with an recourse to emotional self-interested nonsense – with an implied suggestion that those opposing the issue should get back in their box as it is of no concern to them.

I personally welcome the intervention of some church and religious leaders, it is overdue and a refreshing counterweight to the over-weaning acceptance in some sectors of our society of the heroic nature of science, and its ability to solve all ills no matter the price in the end.


See this post in ethics section and join in the debate one way or the other!!