Public transport, Satire and National anthems

For a long time I’ve been a rather non-vocal and non-active environmentally minded person.  I believe we do have a responsibility to take good care of our planet – I try to recycle, I rely heavily on walking or public transport to get around, I re-use carrier bags …

However, my sympathy for those who drive everywhere is beginning to increase (a little), even those who do so with only one person in a car.  As someone who doesn’t drive (though I am learning), I’m almost entirely dependant on public transport – especially in making long journeys.  Given some of my recent experiences on the trains, I’m beginning to despair!

Incident #1 was on the way back from London.  It had been a busy weekend and a week that had already involved a lot of travelling.  I was trying to get from London to Manchester.  On arriving at the local tube station in Shepherds Bush, I discovered that there were engineering works on the Circle, Hammersmith & City and District Lines, all knocking out access to Euston and Kings Cross/St Pancras, the principle stations with services running to Manchester.  Not knowing the complicated mess that is the London Underground very well, I hatched what I thought would be a cunning plan.  This involved getting to Paddington (which I could reach) getting a train out to Reading, from where there is a very good service to Manchester.   Except that there were engineering works between Oxford and Birmingham and a Bus replacement service was running instead.  The staff at Reading decided to throw in some extra excitement last minute by making a platform alteration to the other side of the station, as the train was pulling in!  When we arrived at Oxford, no one seemed to know which bus was going where and when they were leaving.  After a 2 hour wait, we set off … we arrived late in Birmingham so I missed the train I was supposed to get and had to wait another hour for the next one.  Finally I was on a train back to Manchester but not without a lot of stress, a lot of waiting and a total travelling time of 8 hours.  Not a fun experience!

Incident #2 was this last weekend as I travelled to and from Oxford for the Training weekend for our Christian Summer Youth Camp.  I’d realised that travelling back was going to be interesting cos the engineering works were still going on, but this time just between Oxford and Leamington Spa.  The journey down on Friday was meant to be straight forward – just a direct service between Manchester and Oxford … except that we managed to keep getting stuck behind local stopping services which added an extra hour to the journey.  It also meant I missed the bus and ended up waiting ages for the next one.  So when someone offered me a lift as far as Crewe on the way back, I jumped at the chance to bypass the trains, and just hop on one to take me back to Manchester.  Oh, if only it had been that simple!  We arrived at Crewe at 5:45 and I went to get a ticket and inquire when was the next train to Manchester.  I was told there was the 6:20 Wigan train which stopped at Manchester in just over an hour.  It was a bit of a longer journey than I expected, but 7:30 was a good time to get back.  I went to the platform to wait.  The train never arrived, never materialised, no announcements and no information on the screens.  When at 6:45 I went to inquire about the missing train, no-one seemed to know what had happened to it – or even whether it was meant to have come at all.

I was then told my best option to get to Manchester was to get the 7pm Edinburgh-bound train to Warrington Bank Quay, walk round the corner to Warrington Central and hop on a train for Manchester Oxford Road.  This begged the slight question – why can I get a direct train to Warrington Bank Quay but not to Manchester … I mean, it’s not like Manchester is a small obscure place where no-one lives … Anyway, I did as I was told and got on the train to Warrington Bank Quay.  When I got there I discovered another flaw in the information I was being given by the Train companies.  Warrington Central station IS NOT round the corner from Warrington Bank Quay … Neither do the council in Warrington (or whoever is in charge) see it as a good idea to feature their station on any road signs.  I spent 3/4 hour trying to find something that was well over a mile away (not my definition of round the corner).  All this messing around meant I missed another train and had another long wait … I finally arrived home after 9pm, well over an hour after the original nightmare train journey would have got me back. Again, I was shattered after a long weekend and desperate to get home only to be effectively held hostage by a useless transport system …

I’m just worried all this will drive me to be an over-dependant motorist (assuming I ever pass the small matter of a driving test!)

I’ve recently heard a lot of Bible teaching on Romans 13 (the whole submission to the ruling authorities thing!) … In the past this passage has challenged me to change my thinking and actions on the whole area of Copyright laws and the whole downloading music/films/TV shows thing.  But this time round it really got under my skin on another issue – my love of satire.  I adore topical news shows like Dead Ringers, Bremner Bird & Fortune, Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week and more recently the Daily Show with Jon Stewart on More4.  However, the command in Romans 13 seems to cover not only obeying/submitting to ruling authorities but respecting and honouring them too.  This has challenged me to think whether watching such shows actually helps or hinders my respect and honour for our leaders.  It’s an issue I’m still thinking through, and obviously politicians/royals are not the only targets of satirical shows – but it’s been such a challenge to one of my great TV loves!

As you may have noticed, there’s a World Cup on at the moment and it’s been interesting watching the different National anthems, not having a clue what the words are and wondering if they’re as ridiculously pretentious patriotic nonsense as the English one!  (Why the English think God should particularly favour us or our Queen, I’m not sure!)  Anyway I wonder if the BBC or ITV would provide us with a translation, or even just the words and a little red bouncy ball so we can all join in the fun … All together now – “German, German overalls!”

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