Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tuesday's Observations

1. Steven Milliband suggests that all Londoners will one day carry carbon credit cards, probably attached to their Oyster, all-seeing-eye ID cards (trying saying that in one go). I'm happy with the idea of an individual carbon allowance but more worried about the idea that there will be benefits to not using your carbon allowance, such as being able to sell points. I hate to sound reactionary, but wouldn't this become some sort of alternative benefits system. Either you charge people to use their points, which is a disincentive to work for those who often have the least choice in their working hours or locations*. Or people can sell their points, which is (sounding more like the Mail by the word) an incentive to do nothing. If you sit in your flat, lights off, TV off, heating off and don't travel anywhere, you get paid by some gas-guzzler from Hammersmith. Is that going to keep the economy moving? Or, you have no incentives or disincentives but simply an allowance which, if my generalised view of the British is correct, will be treated as a target. I'm not sure of the way round it but I have a feeling that anything styled like credit cards is bad news in the current English climate.

* That assumes you have to travel to find the best jobs, which is currently often the case. Maybe the carbon allowance should provide more inventives for businesses to provide for working from home?

2. In The Commitments, a film whose soundtrack often makes it onto my phone-MP3 player, the link is quickly made between soul and sex. Nowhere, in my slightly nervous state of mind, is this more apparent than in the song 'Take me to the River'. There's a certain frisson to the invitation to take me to the river and wash me down (wash me down).

There's also a certain religious feel to the song and there is, you might argue, a parallel between the song in this film and the scenes of Oh Brother Where Art Thou where the beautiful girls are in the water being baptised and, in another scene, seducing the heroic felons while in both cases singing. Singing-water-sex, and not forgetting of course Danger. Like a lot of soul classics, Take me to the River has its roots in gospel and, as in Southern America, there are strong links in Ireland between music, religion and secret sex, probably on riverbanks.

The church, let us not forget, is/was the path to the marriage bed, although in truth I suspect this was never the untrodden destination it was billed as. Singing is the union of voices. So, think on.

This isn't going anywhere, just some passing themes and intertextuality to spice White Llama up a bit and remind this blogger of those happy media studies A-level days.

Isn't it getting nippy now?

Friday, January 19, 2007

There may be ice in Texas, but here we got hurricanes

(warning: this is long, and probably fairly dull)

Here's a few tips if you ever find yourself arriving at Euston for your regular train home, only to find all the lights off.

Don't take the first answer you hear. That person will tell you to go and find a hotel. Obviously, that's madness. How are you going to get a hotel with 1500 others banging at the door? Keep asking the people in the red coats and clipboards, persuing various route options with them on their computers if you must, until someone tells you something you want to hear. Hang around the people with the radios. Nothing, but nothing is traveling north of Wolverhampton, they will insist, clipboard in hand as, eventually, a tannoy sends you all off in a better direction. They will run some trains if they possibly can, you see, because the staff want to get home. So follow the staff. My train, the one that should have been inpossible, ended up going all the way to Manchester.

Once on board, wait a little while then go and investigate what treats are on board for you to have. If you're really lucky, there will be some free coffee on the go, but since the staff have been negotiating the Isle since dawn, they will more likely have abandoned the shop with a box of cakes, sandwiches and water bottles. If you're really lucky and go hunting early on, you might get juice. Go easy on the supplies though, you don't know how long you're all going to be stuck together and you don't want it turning into some savage zombie movie.

Mull over the CBB racism row for a while, giggling at the picture of Gordon Brown with the Indian finance minister. Poor sod.

Think on: If you're going to be racist to anyone, make sure it's the biggest star of the biggest film industry in the world. This was obviously the thought flitting around Jade's head as she embarked on a bullying campaign with fellow white contestants of Big Brother. It has given us the best headline in the Sun this year: 'halfwit Jade starts race war with India'.

If it's any comfort, passing Indians, nobody likes Jade or Danielle (?) much in Britain either. With any luck, their self-elavation to the status of biggest pariahs in the world will ensure they need to be kept in a cave for the rest of their lives. What is less comforting is the idea of two nuclear powers letting this escalate to the point when somebody, a fan of Shilpa or Jade perhaps, 'accidentally' hits the red button. After all, people on army bases monitoring the dusty old nuclear deterrents probably have a lot of time to watch telly. That, friends of the House, is why we'd be better off spending our money on polar bears than the Trident replacement. Listen to the Faslane 365 (419 arrested so far, *4* charged if I remember rightly – which I probably don’t)

Anyway, what people don't like to admit is that they * love * massive weather catastrophes in Britain. OK, you don't love them if your lorry is blown over or your roof is torn off et cetera et cetera, but on the whole there's nothing that brings the British (at least the travelling ones I brush shoulders with) more pleasure than getting on their phones and secretly outdoing the people near them about *how* late they're going to be and *how* bloody awful the information was. Most of all, it's a chance to show off your intercity knowledge as you vie over possibilities for interconnection, preferably to your bored child who you've put on standby on the home computer in order to find routes for you so you can then get your wife to pick you up from the nearest possible county and spare her the *hassle* of going 75 miles when, if you plan it right you can probably get 45 miles away from home and she can pick you up in central Birmingham. And won't she love that. Secretly, she's wishing you had stayed out for a quiet night with the secretary so she could just watch Emmerdale in peace.

Hail the bright lights of the Midlands spy-centres. Suppose they were built to brighten up Arnold Bennett's boring journey north, but probably a bit late.

Hope, somewhat, that it won't be like this next Thursday, when your author is due to be introducing several young Londoners to the delights of Burslem. Come to Stoke! Commute to London! But maybe not in January (wind), February (snow) or July (heat). Or October (birthday).

Get as far as Stafford, where hordes of stranded Virgin staff have converged to form a trainful of red uniforms wneding its way, slowly, to the North. Bargain with the coachdrivers outside until you have formed a gang wishing to go to Stoke and democracy wins out over the person who wants to get to Congleton. Joined by someone who will be taken to Liverpool and wonder at how optimistic they must have been feeling when they jumped on a train to Stafford in the hope they would find their way another 80 miles.

Home for ten, well into the 8th hour of commuting, feeling quite lucky. Decide to work from home tomorrow.