General Observations

The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track

I’m commuting most days for at least 1.5 hours each way.

Ridiculous, I know.

But that’s the situation.

Actually, it’s been working out rather nicely because it has given me an enforced opportunity to get work done ahead of time (on the way into the office) or afterwards. Often, though, I don’t feel like working. And now and again I flick up BBC iPlayer to check out what’s available.

I’m pretty traditional with my iPlayer use: Top Gear…. and that’s usually it. Unless something really catches my eye.

Recently I thought I’d check out: “The Railway: Keeping Britain on Track”

It’s a typical BBC production. The team spent a year traversing the UK to create a series of 60 minute documentary style episodes focusing on different sections and regions of Britain’s railways. I’ve actually found it very interesting to watch, particularly as I’ve usually been on a train at the time. It has given me good insight into the logistics required to deliver the train service I take every day.

I found myself pretty embarrassed watching the outraged reactions from commuters at being told their train is 12 minutes late (or something like that) when we — the audience — have just been hearing that the reason for the delay is that someone’s just lost their life in a tragic accident. I’m never one for screaming “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???” at train guards and customer service team members — but I do often get rather frustrated internally when I arrive at Waterloo and find the trains delayed for hours.

I think it’s “not knowing” that causes the real frustration. Standing there on the platform I don’t mind if the train is going to be delayed by 20 minutes. Or even 60 minutes or more. Tell me, so I can plan accordingly. The documentary has reset my expectations — principally because I’ve been able to see that, a lot of the time, the railway teams don’t actually know what’s going on. This is simply because they need to wait for an engineer to travel to some distant location, find that some thief has ripped all the cables out of some newly installed switching cabinet and then assess the damage. Fair enough.

You can still catch the episodes on iPlayer right now. Worth a look, especially if you’ve a bit of time to use up when you need to decompress after work. On the train.


The BBC’s coverage of the Jubilee Pageant

I wasn’t in London on Sunday for the Thames Pageant to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Instead I was at home with the family. We were having a challenging day — both children (we’ve got 2 under 2) were a bit under the weather. Not exactly ill, but not in full spirits.

And that’s a difficult situation. You can’t easily take them out to entertain them, you can’t do the normal things you might do.

Which meant I got the opportunity to glance, now and again, at the Jubilee Pageant coverage on both the BBC and Sky News — when our eldest wasn’t insisting on watching the extensive archive of Postman Pat episodes we’ve ‘Skyplussed’. To be fair, when there were soldiers on screen marching about, Archie was pretty impressed. But he didn’t have much time for boats.

If I have to watch live TV, I tend to focus around Sky News or BBC World. I always tend to enjoy Sky News often because they do editorialise a little which I often find mildly entertaining.

I did switch over to the BBC during the day on Sunday to see what they were making of the Thames Pageant. But goodness me, they were having a wretched time. The weather can’t have helped and in fairness, the rain was pouring down in buckets for most of the afternoon. However whenever I arrived at BBC1, I couldn’t help but wonder whose “Hi8” Sony video camera from 1996 they were using to film the whole thing.

The picture quality was abysmal.

I didn’t watch long enough to be wound up by the rest the BBC’s coverage. According to The Telegraph, quite a few folk were not impressed by the actual programming of the coverage. I didn’t watch long enough to give it much consideration.

Sky News on the other hand did a super job. They have a fantastic fellow they use for commentating on Royal occasions — I’m afraid I can’t remember his name — however he was on hand for most of their live coverage to offer up continual Royal and military-related nuggets of information. That comes in very useful when everyone is waiting for something to happen. The rest of the Sky News team were all present, getting soaked along with the crowds.

Poor show BBC. I’m sure they’ll sort it out for the Olympics. Nice work Sky News!