UK OR US

November 5, 2012

 

Having been booked for a performance in Englandshire recently, I had to catch a train to Birmingham, then change for Northampton. Easy enough.

Except that at Birmingham the connecting train didn’t move. The minutes passed and then it was announced that the train was cancelled, as were all other trains travelling that line, due to a problem on the track. Everybody off. Tough cheese, travellers.

Okay, they didn’t actually say that last bit, but that’s what they meant.

It’s at times like that you realise that the railway system is run by individuals who couldn’t find their own backsides with a torch and a hand mirror.

But you can’t let these people get in your way. Which meant I had the added burden of a very expensive taxi fare from Birmingham to Northampton. The show must go on, and all that.

Not including the taxi fare, the round trip cost in excess of £400. I’m not making this up – it really did cost that much.

So, if you live in West Lothian, and you want to do business down south, you had better be prepared to clamber over all sorts of obstacles and spend a week’s wage on travel.

Which is odd, because my journey of 323 miles (plus return) works out at £1.23 a mile. However, you can fly the 3,200 miles from Edinburgh to New York for £394 (yes, return) which is actually LESS than it cost me NOT to get to Northampton.

The New York flight works out at 12p a mile in a comfortable plane, in case you’re wondering, as opposed to the £1.23 for each mile travelled by train. Yes, mile-for-mile it’s 10 times more expensive to travel by train in the UK than to fly to America.

If you’re a West Lothian businessman, I suggest you consider doing business in New York, rather than anywhere in the Midlands. Not only is it less expensive to travel there, but you have a better chance of actually arriving at your selected destination.

Now, is it just me, or is there something seriously crazy about that?

Drew McAdam

Advertisements

PAID FOR A TICKET? TOUGH!

October 23, 2011

For once in my life, I read the small print on a flight ticket. And I have to say, I was amazed at what was lurking in there.

Tucked away at the bottom was this phrase: “In order to minimise the effect of ‘no-shows’… British Airways and most major airlines may overbook services.”

What? In other words, the World’s favourite airline regularly sells seat places that they have already sold! This, of course, means that if everybody DOES show up, several poor saps are going to be told they can’t travel. Either that or they will have to sit on the laps of other passengers.

But why? After all, the seats have been paid for in full. What difference does it make whether there’s somebody sitting there, or not? Oh, wait. It must be a way of making more money while inconveniencing people who have paid, booked, received a confirmation and turned up on time.

The airline company take the chance on a “no-show” in the hope of making a bit more dosh. Nice.

Digging into this a bit more, I discovered that, according to the Air Transport Users’ Group, “Some airlines’ flights have been 50 per cent overbooked… We hear stories of 50 and 60 people being bumped at one time.” In fact, British Airways admitted it overbooked almost half a million seats this year.

Oh, and the airlines don’t call it being “bumped”, they call it “denied boarding”. I suppose that way it sounds as though YOU have done something wrong.

In other words, despite you checking in on time, with a valid ticket and a confirmed reservation, you can find yourself “denied boarding” just so the airline can make a bigger profit.

Can you just imagine how one of those airline company directors would react if he journeyed to the theatre to see his favourite band, with a valid ticket he’d been given by a family member as a birthday present, to discover that – ooops – we’ve double-booked your seat.

Never mind, here’s a ticket for another gig, with a different band, on another evening at a different theatre. Ample compensation. Imagine if the theatre had double booked – and double-charged – his seat on the grounds that he MIGHT not turn up.

I’m sure he would argue the toss about that. And rightly so.

Drew McAdam


SPECIAL SERVICE? NOT THIS TIME.

December 19, 2010

 

It’s been a strange lead-up to the Festive Period. The country ground to a halt due to weather conditions more normally experienced in Siberia, and the result was the collapse of every delivery service known to man.

I heard a perfect example of just how crazy things have become when a friend of mine went to post a parcel at the Post Office. We’ll call him Dave, because that’s his name.

 Dave: “I have a Parcel for posting.”

PO: “That’ll be £3.00.”

Dave: “Will that be delivered tomorrow?”

PO: “No. You’ll need to send it by Special Delivery if you want that.”

Dave: “How much is that, then?”

PO: “£7.00”

Dave: “OK, I’ll go for that then.”

PO: “Certainly… except, Royal Mail have retracted the next day guarantee because of the weather.”

Dave: “When will it get there then?”

PO (shrug) “A few days.”

Dave: “So, how much for that then?”

PO: “Still £7.00.”

Dave: “Eh?”

PO: “Oh, but it will still be treated as Special Delivery!”

Honestly, how nuts is that? Premium price: inferior service. What does “Special Delivery” mean in this case? Does the little parcel get to snuggle up to a radiator in the packed warehouse or something? Or when it eventually DOES get out on the road, does it get to ride up front with the driver?

However, despite the delivery fiasco, ice, snow and tumbling temperatures, I have it on very good authority that it will be yet another bumper year for the retailers. And I can assure everybody that none of this will stop Santa from making his regular rounds.

There will be smiling faces and friendships rekindled across the county – nothing can keep us down!

So, have a great Christmas as we look forward to the coming year… and a thaw.

Drew McAdam


THE FACE NOT THE PLACE

August 8, 2010

 

Hooray – it’s holiday time again.

It’s a time when people from all over West Lothian travel to exotic locations ranging from the other side of the globe to the other side of Glasgow.

In my time I have been fortunate – thanks to my job – to visit tourist sites, cities and islands that I never thought I would ever see outside of a picture book.

In fact, later this month I’m off to Saint Petersburg in Russia to perform four gigs in the palace where Rasputin was murdered.

And yet, despite having been to the Caribbean twice, and despite visiting countries like America, Spain, and Zambia, I have trouble actually remembering the places: which islands and what towns. Mainland Europe is a blur. Iceland hardly exists in my memory.

Rather, what I remember with crystal clarity is the people. I can recall the individuals I met as though it happened only yesterday.

In New York I chatted with a fireman who had been at the Twin Towers. On Barbados I met Heather, a taxi driver who took me to the beach and returned at exactly 5 o’clock to pick me up even though she had been paid in advance. Malachi was the old Rastafarian who took me in his boat and revealed the best places to snorkel. Do-a-deal-Dave sold me cheap beads.

Then there was Sean in Zambia who sung to me. Fanwell, the bushcamp guide. The grizzly old farmer I chatted with when I was cycling to Paris.

Dozens of locations, and hundreds of people. But what I have come to realise is that the places and the sights fade with time. They quickly become a faint mind-picture, while the people you meet there remain with you forever. You forget the place: you remember the person.

You might have to rack up a fortune on a credit card to travel and see the sights, but people are all around.

And that’s why I’ve promised myself that I’m going to make a conscious effort to meet more people. To get to know them. To form bonds and friendships.

It’s the memory of the people that will still be with me a decade from now… And that’s what really matters.

Drew McAdam


SEEN SPEEDING FROM SPACE

July 26, 2010

 

News just out: the Government says it wants to “end the war with motorists”, and so is going to end its central funding for fixed speed cameras.

Now, there are around 6,000 speed cameras scattered around the UK, and they generate £100m in fines each year, so it seems odd that they would want to wave goodbye to that – but they do. Hmmm.

More news just out: hi-tech, infra-red, number plate recognition camera devices that are linked into a single server network and draw on global positioning satellites have been undergoing secret trials in the UK. We only know this because it was revealed in a parliamentary report.

And now it makes sense. Forget the old flash-flash boxes at the side of the road. This system, known as SpeedSpike, can monitor thousands of vehicles at the same time, even on little-used back roads.

The manufacturer claims the cameras used to collect the information are small and cheap – so cheap that they could even be used to reduce the need for speed bumps on smaller roads.

The cameras then communicate with each other. The average speed over your journey is calculated, and if your vehicle has travelled too far in a set time then you’ve broken the speed limit somewhere along the route. Bang. You get a ticket.

Spies in the skies. Satellites to watch your speed and fine you if you step over the mark. Who would have thought? It certainly doesn’t sound like the Government is ending the war with motorists; it sounds more like an escalation!

So, what does the Government have to say about THAT? Well, the Home Office said it was unable to comment on the trials because of “commercial confidentiality”. Honestly, I’m not making this up.

Well, I have some news for the “unable to comment”, sneaky, deceptive bureaucrats behind this one… There are an incalculable number of roads where – thanks to the potholes that would make a Third World jungle track look inviting – it’s impossible to even reach the speed limit without your car tearing itself to pieces leaving little more than shredded tyres and a scattering of bolts in its wake.

If you want to end the war with motorists, try spending money on sorting that, rather than hi-tech outer space gadgetry to spy on your citizens.

Drew McAdam


LATE AGAIN

July 18, 2010

 

The job I have requires me to travel around the UK a fair bit. Sometimes by car, usually by plane. But there I was at Gatwick this week, and as usual the departures board read that there was a delay – again.

It had been the same going down, and in that moment I realised I genuinely could not remember the last time I was on a flight within the UK that actually arrived at its destination on time. I’m not just saying that; I genuinely cannot recall the last time that happened.

In the past I’ve had to get off one plane and re-book myself onto a later one in the hope that the other operator might get me to the gig in time. I’ve given up waiting and booked a hire car because it was the only way I was ever going to make it. I’ve even slept all night on the floor of Stansted airport.

Now, I fully accept that things go wrong from time to time. But it’s a bit grim when a flight that takes off and lands as scheduled is an event so rare that it should be marked in your diary as a cause for celebration.

What makes it worse is that the flight operators treat these late flights in such a blasé, off-hand manner. One operator, for example, has vouchers for light refreshments that are simply handed out like confetti when a flight is badly delayed. Sounds great, except the sum total of the voucher is £3, and most of the shops in the terminal don’t accept them!

And, most annoying of all, is the Tannoy “apology” which is obviously simply read off a card by some dimwit in a backroom. The most oft-used phrase in aviation today: “We’d like to apologise for the late departure of this flight” which is followed by “…due to the late arrival of the inboard aircraft.” In other words, the “knock-on” effect of one flight that makes every other flight late.

Let’s remember, that passing on the blame to the flight before yours – as though it’s nothing to do with them – doesn’t actually explain anything: it’s their plane that started it all!

What’s more, the check-in staff must have known there is going to be a massive delay. But do they inform you of the delay as you hand over your suitcases? Do they wheech! Instead, they let you through the rigmarole of security before you enter the departure hall to discover that you’re going nowhere for the next five hours.

Well, I’ve about had it. Stuff the lot of ‘em, I say. From now on I’ll be travelling to the gigs Doon Sooth by train. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Drew McAdam