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

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ROAD CLOSED – SO THERE

October 29, 2012

I used to think that only police officers had the authority to shut roads. But now it seems that any monkey in a hard hat, hi-viz jacket and a pair of workman’s breeks that displays his bottom-cleavage has the right to close the Queen’s Highway.

There was a time that roadworks had a man stationed at either end with a big lollipop that said STOP on one side and GO on the other. Okay, so one side of the road was closed from time to time, but the traffic still moved, the work was done, and there was no round-the-country detour for motorists.

Today, all you get is a crowd control barrier and a big sign that says “Road Closed”.

Having a couple of guys with stop and go signs is too much trouble. It’s easier just to shut the road. But easier for who?

Trying to get from A to B? Tough. Find another way that involves going through C, H and T to get there.

Once again, for example, the A70 in West Lothian was closed – as happens on an annual basis. It’s an arterial route used by busy people who are trying to run their businesses and get to work. And where are the diverted to? Along the narrow West Calder main street. Genius.

Just so show you how daft it all is, a few weeks ago a tiny stretch of a road in Somerset was closed, which resulted in a – get this – 47 mile detour for drivers.

I saw something similar in Fife recently, but angry drivers had simply torn down the road closed signs and tossed them into a field. (Amazingly, the workers were working on the pavement, not the road!)

What’s the betting that the roads are shut as a way of meeting Health and Safety guidelines, because cars travelling along a road pose a risk to the workers sleeping in their van. Or, sure, the guy down the hole will be safe, but the 12 blokes watching him at work might be mown down by a passing vehicle.

And, anyway, lunch breaks mean they don’t have two guys spare to work the stop and go lollipop signs.

Everywhere you go in West Lothian you’re faced with barriers and the familiar Road Closed signs – find alternate route.

It didn’t happen before. There’s no reason for it to happen now.

Drew McAdam


WEATHER FRONT FANTASY

January 29, 2012

 

Here we go again. Another headline warning of “Siberian Conditions” hitting us in the next few weeks.

Let’s just remember back to the beginning of November. The headlines ran along the lines of “BIG SIBERIAN FREEZE TO HIT BRITAIN”. The so-called “experts” confidently predicted a bitterly cold December with thermometers falling at least as low as -15C. They warned that snow could “…hit the country even earlier than last year.” And others added that “…temperatures could plunge as low or even lower this winter.”

The prognostication for December and January were even worse…. Basically, we would all be frozen to death by now. Of course, it didn’t happen. In fact, it’s shaping up to be the mildest winter since records began over a century ago.

Having made a “prediction” like that, and got it so badly wrong, you would think that these forecasters would hang their heads in shame, padlock the door to their weather stations, and never return. But, no, last week, they were once again grabbing the headlines with their predictions of icebergs floating along the Union Canal, warning: “BRITAIN SET FOR MONTH-LONG SIBERIAN FREEZE”.

Time to put a stop to it all, I think.

And that was why I was delighted to learn that in South Africa weather forecasters have been warned they could face fines and even jail for issuing incorrect weather predictions. The new law has been implemented to prevent panic and economic damage as a result of false predictions. First time offenders could face a four or five-year sentence and a £400,000 fine, while repeat offenders face a maximum of 10 years or an £800,000 fine.

You see, the Merchants of Doom who have had us all out stocking up on tinned foods, rocksalt, and snow shovels are not employed by the Met Office. They are characters who work from their garden sheds and base their predictions on tides and solar flares. I suspect they also use the entrails of chickens and tea-leaves.

So, causing widespread panic, and having our councils spend a fortune preparing for horrendous weather conditions that just aren’t going to happen should cost them dear.

A huge fine or imprisonment? Sounds reasonable.


IT’S ALL A LOAD OF RUBBISH

September 19, 2011

 

TWO things: car insurance and bulky rubbish uplifts by the council. You would think them unconnected, but bear with me.

There was a pile of rubbish at the side of my house and I arranged for a bulk uplift. Now, don’t get me wrong. This was hardly a mountain of junk. It wasn’t as though I expected the rubbish collectors to clear a scrapyard or anything. There was just an old bike, some ancient and rusting gardening tools, and that was about it.

But by the end of the allotted day the rubbish was still there. A call to Oor Cooncil drew a sigh from the person on the other end, and the comment “What have they come up with this time?” suggesting that this was a common occurrence.

The report uncovered the “fact” that they had come for the uplift but there were more items than I had indicated on the list (not true), and that my garden was full of dog doo-doo. (Not true – the only dog in my garden has been cremated and is resting beneath a rose bush.)

So, what about the car insurance? Well, council workers are being informed by the Big Cheeses that they are expected to obtain business insurance for their private, family vehicles because they use their cars to travel to Council meetings!

Now, I feel sure that those responsible will no doubt realise that if their workers are to purchase business insurance for their cars then they should be recompensed for their mileage, fuel and vehicle depreciation. That’s the way the real business world works, rather than Cooncil Fantasy Land. Just a thought.

And here’s another thought. Wouldn’t it be grand if Oor Cooncil concentrated their attention on doing the job for which they are paid – by us – and provided a service that works, rather than thinking up little oddities to make people’s lives more complicated?

Yes, I think so too.


ANSWER ME THIS…

June 6, 2011

Oh, goody. I just received a Notification of Works from West Lothian Council informing me that there is to be a Topographic Study in my area. Sounds painful.

Every house in the area has received the same letter. And it’s the talk of the steamie.  What, exactly, is a “Topographic Study”? According to the letter, “The purpose of a topographic study is to gather survey data about the natural and man-made features of the land, as well as its elevations”. Which, coincidentally, is word-for-word-how it’s described in Engineering Magazine.

The magazine definition goes on to explain that from this data they can prepare a three-dimensional map.

More to the point, the letter informs us that work will take four weeks, and that “It is inevitable that the above works will cause some disruption to those living in the area”. Just what we need right now – more disruption in our lives. And all so that somebody can have a map.

Now, I can only assume that this four week long surveying malarkey is going to involve a lot of workmen and specialist equipment – to prepare a map. Doesn’t sound cheap.

Is it just me who wonders if, in these times where cutbacks are being made at every level of public life and affecting everybody from the very young to the very old, careful consideration should be given to where each and every pound is spent? I have to ask myself if a survey is something I would be spending my money on if I was all but bankrupt. I don’t think so.

And is it just me who thinks that collecting data over a four week period so that a map can be produced should be pretty low on the list of priorities?

Maybe I should organise a costly survey to find out.

Drew McAdam


POSTIE, POSTIE…

April 25, 2011

 

Do you remember when postmen were part of the community? Every householder knew them by name. They always had time for a quick chat and would check up on the old ‘uns. Ah, those were the days.

Well, thank goodness we’ve still got at least one left. Okay, he was only “filling in” for a couple of weeks. But what a difference.

At The Workspace in West Calder the new postie happened to get chatting to one of the business people; he had worked out that it’s important for businesses to get their post as early as possible, and wondered if it would be helpful if he rearranged things to ensure a more prompt delivery.

Well, yes. Until then, post was arriving well after the sun was high in the sky – sometimes about to set.

All of a sudden, there was an early delivery each morning. In fact, he even pops his head in the door to let people know there is no post for them that day. It’s like a return to the good old days.

But, hang on… A little bit of research and I discovered that he used to deliver to the houses in another village. The cheerful postie; he always had time for a chat, and would call in to make sure the senior citizens in the street weren’t in need of anything.

So, when the Mighty Royal Mail in their infinite wisdom decided to move him to another area there was uproar. Such was the impression he made on the community that the locals even presented his bosses with a petition pleading with them to change their minds. All to no avail.

And yet here he is, years later, still giving sterling service. But you have to ask yourself why.

Here’s somebody who does more for Royal Mail customer relations, and promoting the friendly face of the Royal Mail, than their whole PR department. Any company worth its salt recognises the strengths of its employees… he should be running the training department; at the very least.

Come on, Royal Mail, you know who I’m talking about. Time to recognise the talent in your ranks.

Drew McAdam


HOW TO DRIVE AWAY YOUR CUSTOMERS…

April 16, 2011

 

So, Land Securities who own The Centre in Livingston is going to start charging for parking. Well, that’s good news. It really is.

Well, it’s good news if you happen to be a shopowner in any of the county’s towns other than Livingston. If you run a little hardware store, grocery shop, hairdressers, Post Office or stationery shop then your business is about to rocket.

For years now we’ve grown accustomed to “nipping down to the centre” for odds and ends.  You need a pair of shoelaces? Or a lightbulb? No problem. Zip into the centre carpark, run into the shop, grab what you need and get out again quick.

Livingston residents didn’t really think about it. A pen, or a newspaper – some small item that you urgently needed – you would jump in the car, zoom down to The Centre, pull into a parking space, get what you needed and be gone again within minutes.

Easy and free car parking was always one of the major attractions of using The Centre.

But that’s no longer the case. Now, a pair of shoelaces will cost you 50p, plus whatever they decide to charge for the pleasure of shopping there. That’ll be right.

Want to post a letter? Or check your bank statement? Then add the parking charges. And if you think you’ll be able to park in the streets around the centre, we have been warned of “resultant traffic management issues”. You can bet you life the area will be crawling with Parking Wombles.

And if you think you can go by bus, think again. Have you ever tried getting a flat-pack wardrobe onto a bus? Or what if you get your purchase home and find it doesn’t work? That’s right; back you go and pay the parking charges again!

I predict that sales over the Internet will rocket throughout the county.

You know, I have shopped at – and supported – the centre since 1976, when Woolco was the only shop that was there. Remember that?

Well, no more.

There are plenty of little towns around the county that offer quick and simple shopping – with no parking fees. If you’re a butcher, a baker or candlestick maker in Broxburn, Bathgate, West Calder and so on… you have a new customer the minute they turn the ticket machines on.

And I suspect I’ll not be the only one. Good news for you, eh?

Drew McAdam