Last night I had dinner at the Curry House in Cambridge. Now I know a thing or two about getting a decent curry, having studied in Birmingham and gone to work in Manchester. There are lots and lots of places to get a bad curry but outside of those cities there aren’t so many places to get a good one. With a name like Curry House you would be forgiven for thinking that the restaurant in question would be just another mediocre Indian. In fact it’s an excellent little place and I always enjoy my visits there.
Another subject I know a thing or two about is customer service. It’s very easy to knock what passes for customer service in the UK, especially if you’ve lived overseas as I have. It’s true that we Brits don’t tend to go in for the whole "the customer is always right" thing, preferring instead to believe that the customer is always a dollop of maggot-infested faeces at the bottom of the shop’s litter bins, and must be shooed away lest his mere presence infect us with his filth and cause us to have to do some work.
Well, at the Curry House I was greeted – by the guy whom I always refer to as the Cool Old Guy, not knowing his actual name – with a shake of the hand and the observation that it had been a while, as indeed it had. And when it came time to order drinks he correctly announced what I would be drinking before I had the chance.
As usual the fare was excellent and the service polite and efficient. A pleasing, if by now unsurprising, change from the ordinary.
Driving to Maidenhead was a Good Idea (being code for A Really Bad Idea) and was reasonably Fun (being code for Nightmarish). Nevertheless I’m going back to the train for the rest of this week.
It sucks having to be at the station at a certain time only for the train to be late and throw you off your schedule by thirty minutes but at least you don’t get run off the road by people on your outside deciding they want to turn off the roundabout in front of you, and you don’t have to park your car on the M25 for an hour.
The numbers, though, are not so good. I drove to Maidenhead and back twice and filled up once. Assuming I did drive every day that would work out to about three fillups per week which would cost me about £90. A weekly season ticket on the train is £138.
I went to the ticket office tonight and was told that since I only want to travel tomorrow, Thursday and Friday (for reasons outside the scope of this document I will not be traveling next week) it would actually be cheaper to buy three full-price return tickets at £40 each.
Doing the Right Thing and using public transport is up to twice as expensive as driving. Now I’m a big fan of public transport (in other countries) and my car is unsuited to long journeys but let’s assume I owned a different vehicle. Why would I not drive when
- I’m not tied to someone else’s schedule
- I’m guaranteed a seat
- I don’t have to sit with Other People
- It’s an hour quicker
- And it’s half the price
Note that this is simply a gratuitous rant. Of course I don’t honestly believe that I’m the first person to notice that the UK’s transport infrastructure is rutterly ubbish. I did live in Lyon and Hong Kong, remember.
Footnote: The line above was supposed to read utterly rubbish but I liked my typo so much I’m keeping it in.
I realise now that I never really knew how useless the headlights on my Elise actually are.
I thought I knew. I knew that they were worthless. I knew that several times while driving at night I have had to physically check that the buttons were presesd and that the lights were, in fact, on. I strongly suspected that there’s some hidden circuitry which detects when the car is in front of a wall, another vehicle or something else that the lights should reflect off. In this case the circuitry activates the lights. On the open road, however, it switches them off.
The thing is you’d never know because they’re so worthless that you can’t see the beams on the road at all.
I thought, dear reader, that I was fully acquainted with the inadequacies of my headlights.
But I was wrong.
As I will be driving to work next week, and starting off early in the morning when it will be dark, I decided I should take some steps to improve the headlights. Thus I bought some "extra bright" Xenon bulbs from Halfords.
Fitting the bulbs is, as you would expect, a hassle. You have to get down in the wheelarch, unscrew a mudguard, pull out a grommet, unclip a retention mechanism and slide out the bulb. This I did. In the wet. Lying on a towel so I didn’t get my clothes ruined.
And when I’d done it I found that the bulb I’d just pulled out was the exact same model as the replacement I’d bought.
Only now do I appreciate the full worthlessness of the headlights. I already knew they were bad. Now I know they don’t get any better.
I’ll have to splash out on a HID kit (and installation). I can’t afford it but I’m going to have to.
My first week is over and I managed to deal with commuting all the way from Cambridge to Maidenhead without going insane or dropping dead.
I did, however, nearly lose my MacBook Pro.
Like an idiot I left the train at Maidenhead without the laptop bag. I realised my mistake immediately but the train had pulled away towards Reading.
Luckily for me the station supervisor called ahead to arrange for Reading staff to retrieve the bag, which they did. A short trip to Reading later and I was reunited with the Mac.
When I left the house at 0615 it was dry and, happily, a lot warmer than earlier in the week. Unfortunately the old cliché of it being "too cold to snow" was in play this morning. As in it no longer was too cold to snow. The flakes started drifting down soon after I set off and the snow was beginning to settle nicely by the time I arrived at the station. As the sun came up I looked out of the train window to see white in every direction.
Later reports said that it was the heaviest snowfall in the UK since 2000. Nonetheless the slow-running trains and delayed underground service did not stop me arriving at work at 0945. More than can be said for many people living a lot closer to Maidenhead than Cambridge.
I’m getting used to this. The first few days were always going to be the toughest but I’m in the swing of things now. As long as I don’t reflect on the fact that I spend over six hours travelling every day…
Left the house ten minutes earlier than yesterday … and arrived at the office thirty minutes later. Left the office fifteen minutes earlier … and arrived home at the exact same time.
If UK trains run on time or are late I will be late.
Awake and straight out of bed at 0600.
At Cambridge station at 0644.
On the train at 0645.
Into King’s Cross at 0740.
Into Paddington at 0802.
On the delayed 0800 train at 0805.
Into Maidenhead at 0845.
At Siemens at 0903.
Out of the office at 1745.
At Maidenhead station at 1810.
On the delayed 1818 train at 1827.
Into Paddington at 1910.
Into King’s Cross at 1930.
On the train at 1945.
Into Cambridge at 2030.
Back home at 2101.
If UK trains ran on time I would have been late.