Friday, March 31, 2006

Darwin's Light Railway

Every day, I travel on the DLR* into work.

I've taken it for almost a year now. When I started, my conception was of a smart clean little railway delivering well behaved yuppies to their corporate towers in Canary Wharf and beyond.

However a year is a long time in London's public transport system and the veneer of civilisation has worn thin. There is little civilisation on the DLR. It is a brutal world where Darwin's theories on the survival of the fittest seem to be played out in daily dramas.
This week I was horrified to watch a heavily pregnant woman forced to stand for 6 stops. The train was fullish and people were either too blind (physically or mentally) to notice her or genuinely couldn't care less.. I was standing in the middle of the carriage some way away. She seemed to be visibly feeling the strain and none of those seated wanted to budge. In 2006 we are not supposed to "judge" anyone. We are the "Vicky Pollard generation" shouting "don't judge me" when anyone criticises us. Only the media can judge and only after they have judged are the rest of us free to give an opinion. Judging is disliked because we know from experience (at least 2000 years' experience) that the judger is not perfect themselves. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" perfectly sums up the root of this view. Well I am as flawed as the next person, but to those who sit dumbly on the DLR while the vulnerable are forced to stand I say "shame on you, shame on you, shame on you, you dumb yuppie brutes".

While I am on the subject on the DLR my other gripes are:

1) Despite its reliability being rated in Mayor Ken's propaganda rags as remarkably high- well into the 90 %s, it is NOT reliable. Breakdowns of some description seem to occur weekly now.
2) It is horribly crowded. In terms of discomfort a morning DLR trip can give the Jubilee line a run for its money any day.
3) In late evening (Friday especially) people treat it as an extension of their front room. Revolting food smells waft along the carriage. Despite the fact a hundred hands have held the supporting bars during the day; people still hold the bar and then pick up a burger that they chew happily.
4) People don't open windows. The air is incredibly stale and its all to easy to pick up a bug on the train.
5) Being of near average height myself, I find tall people a problem in crowded situations. Squeezed together like sardines in a can a tall person cannot help but breathe down on those around. Feeling "nasal blasts" of air on the back of your neck for 15 minutes is not pleasant. Difficult to suggest any practical and humane solutions to this one……
6) General common garden public transport hazards occur on the DLR as elsewhere. These include loud mobile calls, people travelling when they are in the middle of a bad cold or flu (is your job really that important that they can't manage without you?) and breaking wind (you know who you are).

So to those who have not travelled on the DLR and see it as some modern skytrain taking civilised commuters to their high towers in a new city, I have one thing to say- you are not missing much. It is as wild, as unreliable and as unhealthy as the rest of London's public transport. The average wage of its commuters may be a little higher but their behaviour in such circumstances is no better.

This is Darwin's railway where the strong prevail and the weak are in danger. Of course many of those people who sit while the vulnerable stand have done good things in their life. They will continue to do so. Yet when grouped together in public transport, an element of their humanity dies. Darwin would be pleased- we are supposed to be descended from Apes and on the DLR you begin to see the family resemblance.
Lastly, to those of you sitting smugly on the DLR and tutting into your Metro newspapers at the misdeeds of Slobodan Milosevic or some other media monster, I ask you to do one thing- look up and see if any one else needs your seat more than you do. If you don't do this, never mind the "Butcher of Belgrade", you're turning into the "Beast of Beckton"

* For those of you "out of town" the DLR is the Docklands Light Railway that links Central London to the newly developing areas of Docklands and beyond.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Accounting for Life

Link to a moving tale of the life and death of Eugene O'Kelly, CEO of one of the "Big 4" accountancy firms.,,8123-2083997_1,00.html

Having trained as an accountant myself I have heard all the jokes, but this man achieved a rare combination- professional success followed by a real undestanding of life.

The irony is that understanding of life is only reached in the face of death. The unanswered question is did his devotion to career delay his understanding of life ? As someone given to cynism about "careers" as distinct from "lives", I actually don't believe he wasted his life. He achieved what he wanted to do and then at the end understood more than many others ever do.
If he had been a professor of philosophy, a cafe waiter or sold souvenirs on the beach he may or may not have gained this understanding earlier or not at all.

But business and life do differ in one way- there's no accounting for life.

RIP Eugene O'Kelly

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Canadian Cafe

To all those who have worked for a bad boss- here is some inspiration from Canada.
Made me smile anyway..................