Interfering with The Bitch!
edited: Saturday, February 11, 2006
By Michael Knell
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, February 11, 2006
Become a Fan
Recent news reviewed by The Bitch!
The day started strangely. It was the morning after the night before, as my head so kindly reminded me on trying to wake. There were words rattling around in my brain as it was attempting, with little success, to stack them somewhere for later reference. It was as if they were important, so I tried to manage a couple, all the time wondering from whence they came. Slowly, as I turned over to face the world, or more accurately reached out for the first cigarette of the day - the one that would enable me to make it all the way to the kitchen and the salvation of coffee, it dawned on me that the words had come from the still on television.
The 24 hour News channel, the electronic parrot that once having learnt something repeats it constantly for hours on end, was blaring at me. I can remember thinking the neighbours would be well informed on current affairs this morning as I fought with the remote to quieten the beast, my eyes still closed, when a few of those not very efficiently stacked up words fell into place. There was: "royal" and: "male" and a little gem that always demands attention: "interfered with".
Realising that that which wakes up first was feeling exceptionally youthful this morning, its own brain fully awake before mine and having heard the news was already pleasingly playing imaginations to my mind behind my closed eyes, the naked pictures of a giggling youth-some two-some suddenly exploded with the force of a thousand megatons into the unholy sight of the enormous backside of some woman bent over in a postal sorting office when I finally I forced my eyes to open.
At my age such a shock could be fatal, so I reached out and lit a cigarette - and then tried to ignore the already lit one in the ashtray as I dragged myself out to greet my distant cup. The kettle was annoying, it was as if it knew my state. Does it really take that much sound to heat water? I glared menacingly at it, but it chose to ignore me. It does that.
By the second cup I had reached the computer. Sitting in front of it, holding my head in my hands, I prayed for an easy day as the start-up screens flashed by and three of my protection software packages fought with each other to tell me they were updating. I knew better than to interfere with their progress and waited another full minute before asking ePrompter what mail had arrived overnight. Oh, God! Seventy-six on that one, thirty-seven on that one, a ten and a pleasing four. No, I wouldn't try to add them up I thought, as I plumped for the four first.
An hour later, and several more cups of coffee, I feverishly started looking through the news feeds, searching for something to write about. I knew it would be painful. Answering the e-mails had been hell. The "h" and the "a" on the keyboard had been playing up for sometime, requiring seven bells knocked out of their keys before they'd emerge onto the screen, but now the "Enter" key required more pressure too, more than I had at that time of the morning and I was forced to use the one on the numerical pad. As I struggled with the repetitive disasters of missing it and hitting "page down" or "delete" I swore that today I would go out and purchase a new keyboard, as I have been swearing it daily for the past month. I will still be swearing it tomorrow, as yet again I haven't bought one.
It's not the cost of a keyboard. They are cheap enough, even the good ones. No, it's the effort required to stick its end into the little hole around the back of the beast of many wires. I know if I pull this one out and then try to reach around to insert the new one the hole will have moved. I will be like some teenager on his first and longed for invitation, fumbling around aimlessly with no idea of what is where. I will be forced to dismantle everything. That's no mean task with the beast linked up to the computer next to it, the DVD player, the television, the VCR, and it seems everything else in the house bar that damn kettle. The effort involved will be immense, and you can't buy an effort anywhere, can you?
But I shall have to do it soon. I am loath to at the moment because everything else is working so well, and from past experiences I know it hates being interfered with. And now I have written "interfered with" too many times not to mention its true and original context today.
It has been announced the Royal Mail is to be fined £11.7 million over serious breaches of its licence because of the amount of post which is lost, stolen, damaged, or - here it comes again - interfered with. The number of items we are talking about here is 14.6 million in a year. That is some number, isn't it? An incredible number.
We're told the Royal Mail's procedures were not being applied across the business, with their most significant weakness being the "poor management" of the recruitment and training of their agency staff. Always a good one that: blame the temps! But if it's correct, and I have no reason to doubt their findings, I'm left to wonder what good the £11.7 million fine will do to improve matters? The fault is at such a low level of employee that fining the Royal Mail "company" an amount that is only 2% of its operating profit seems quite meaningless. I'm guessing it's only a token gesture to make us feel happy that something is being done about the faults. But are we happy? I'm not. Just like on the railways, where the companies are fined for late and cancelled trains, whatever a company is fined seems to be merely passed on to the consumer. What is the point?
If the fines were to be imposed on the company directors and the upper management you could bet your life things would improve - and almost overnight! But they are not, and some of those in the top positions continue to enjoy massive payments for their efforts - the efforts that you and I might interpret as almost socialising and leisure, for there is often little or no sweat involved for many of them unless you count the golf course on a hot day. And worse than that, it seems that no matter what a disaster they may be to a company they still get a golden handshake when they move on. In the end it is us who are left to pay for their failures - not them. To my mind that is wrong. As much as the lad on the shop floor needs an incentive to do the best he can for the company, so do the directors. They should be paid according to their results, and they should only receive a golden handshake if when they leave they are considered to have done a good job.
Moving on - but not far because this is about the railways I have just mentioned. Did you think their troubles were over? I mean we've suffered a couple of years or so of the tracks being updated, haven't we? Surely things are better now? Hmm...
Being at a loose end - No! Now, now, behave! Shut it! - I considered having a weekend back in Swindon. Searching through the online ticket and timetable services I was amazed to find that if I wanted to come back on the Sunday evening, as I did, I would be bussed from Swindon to Bristol Templemeads where I could pick up the train for Preston only to be bussed again as there were no trains into Blackpool. No trains to or from this major tourist resort is becoming the norm, isn't it? But worse than that, to travel at the time I required I would have needed to change at Wigan and be bussed yet again to somewhere else to pick up a Preston train. Would someone remind me what year we are living in? I chose not to go.
Having experienced that, I was not surprised to learn that Swindon passengers are angry that they suffer on average around 1.8 trains a day being cancelled. Last year First Great Western axed 643 of their trains. Trains that have an average age of 25 years. Now, that 1.8 average obviously means that mostly 2 trains a day were cancelled with a few good days when only 1 was cancelled, and I thought that wasn't good news for the poor Swindonians - until I saw the other figures. Central Trains cancelled on average 45 services a day in 2005, whilst Northern Trains, again on average, cancelled 35 a day. I'm left to wonder for how many people it has been a lottery as to whether or not they would get home on some days last year? And just how many didn't? I'll bet there were some!
If you work all this out, and somebody kindly has for me, on Britain's railways a train was cancelled every 5 minutes last year! The 104,342 services that were axed add up to the equivalent of scrapping the entire national timetable for more than 5 days. Not exactly a record to be proud of, is it? What were the slogans they used? "We're getting there"? And: "This is the age of the train"? Yeah, right! I've a better one: "Nothings sucks like an Electrolux - except our railways!"
What an age we live in. I'm quite depressed. We have a postal service that can't train people to keep track of the mail, and a railway network run by a male that can't keep a train on the track!
With just the missing "h"s and "a"s to seek out now before this goes to bed, I think it's time for a drink.
Toodle pip, darlings. See you next week - unless of course I wake up tomorrow to the news that a royal male...
"The Bitch!" 11/02/06.