Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Another "Eh? What?" Moment

@SW_Trains map fail
After a long day's work on Friday I was heading back up to London in the evening to see a friend's band playing and was idling away a few minutes at Worcester Park station when while waiting for the train I noticed the sign shown left on the London-bound platform. Rather than being in "full commuter mode", namely keenly focused on reaching my designated spot on the platform with the sole aim of claiming the best available seat, I ambled casually around the station like a relaxed tourist and my eyes alighted on the local area map.

It is, as you can clearly see, a map and it is, as is also obvious, a local map.... just not of Worcester Park. For some reason South West Trains have decided to give us a map of New Malden to look at while we're waiting for our trains so if you had arrived at the station from afar and were wanting to find the tourist mecca that is Brinkley Road on it you would probably be both confused and sorely disappointed. I could speculate wildly as to why they've done that but I'll let you do that instead.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Win a free meal at Pizza Express in Worcester Park

I have to confess I'd never heard of the "Wiltshire Gazette and Herald" before but due to the group of newspapers that they belong to they're currently offering a competition to win one of five free meals, to the value of £40, at the new look Pizza Express in Worcester Park. If it was only the people of Wiltshire you were up against then I'd suggest you would have a good chance but I somehow suspect that won't be the case.

There's not much I can think of to add to this news so I'll shamelessly parrot what they've put on their competition page.

PizzaExpress is celebrating the launch of its exciting new-look restaurant at Worcester Park on 14 January by offering five fabulous prizes of a meal for two to the value of £40. 

This contemporary, open plan, naturally lit restaurant is situated in the centre of Worcester Park’s main High Street. 

Manager, Eddie Hotie, said, “We have a friendly and enthusiastic team who are looking forward to welcoming everyone to our beautifully refurbished restaurant over a delicious pizza.” 

I think that an Italian themed restaurant with a manager named Eddie could sound more intimidating if you made it something like "Fast Eddie" or "Slick Eddie" but in the world of Worcester Park it seems that plain old Eddie will have to do.

If you want to enter the go to the competition page here but if you're anything like Mrs Brinkster and myself you'll keep walking down the hill to The Brook and have something to eat there, which is exactly what we did last night for the first time since it was rebranded. I won't give a full review here but suffice to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

On the long list of things I don't understand

I took the photo shown here this morning and if it's not showing up for some reason then here's what it says  plus a synopsis of my reactions:

"From Monday 13 January the entrance to the booking hall from the station forecourt will be closed for up to four weeks"

Wait? What's the date today? Didn't I just come through that door?

"This closure is to allow for the construction of a new level access ramp into the booking hall"

Good! All in favour say "Aye!"

"Entry to the ticket office and booking hall will be via the side entrance and Platform 1. During this time the self-service ticket machine in the forecourt will not be available"

But wait again? Surely I just came in though the door that's supposedly closed!?!?

I know I can be tired at that time of the morning but by my calculation today is definitely the 16th of January and the door they've said is closed definitely isn't, two days after they said it would be. To compound my confusion the sign is actually facing the door they've just told me is closed! Now unless I've accidentally discovered time travel, in which case I'm off to buy some lottery tickets, then I'll put this down to some corporate planning cock-up and move on with my life.

Are you liking the new station works? 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

River Wandle and Carshalton Park

I was planning to write something insightful and erudite this morning but as SW Trains decided to only send four carriages for the 6.27 and I find it difficult to write on the ipad while standing up and hanging on when limited to only two arms rather than the optimal three.

So instead I'll give you a couple of pics from the weekend of the source of the Wandle in Carshalton Park which is flowing for the first time in 15 years due to the recent heavy rains. I bumped into another photographer while I was there who said that he was there when it last flowed and he taken photos of it then on his film camera back before digital cameras came out and he could see pretty much all the way down to the high street but that the trees had grown over since then and obscured the view.. 

Hope you like the pics and normal service will resume imminently

Friday, 10 January 2014

I like taking pictures - part 1

I've always believed that people should have a hobby and one of mine is taking pictures. To wander out with a camera strap round my neck and capture what I find before me is one of my greatest, and most relaxing, pleasures. To call it photography might make it sound slightly pretentious and could give the impression that I do something more than paddle in the shallow waters of the art but for a paddler I think I do okay. I've had a few photos reused by different web sites and one even made it on to the BBC News site some time ago although that was because of the relevant content rather than style and composition. There is a certain thrill in having a photo picked up and reused by people but seeing as thrills don't pay bills, generally speaking, I'll stick with the day job, at least for now

My earliest memory of taking photos is one sunny 1970s summer day in the garden of our south coast house when I claimed the family camera and went around the garden taking photos of whatever I found interesting. At one point a jet flew high overhead and I took a photo of it and my young imagination thought that that the camera would magically transform it into one of those crystal clear pictures of planes that I would see in magazines showing the detail of every curve and rivet. When the pictures returned from the printers several weeks later there was a picture of a lovely blue summer sky with a barely imperceptible white dot in the middle. I found this disappointing.

I still have my budget, second hand Minolta SLR from the days of film and some of the photos from those days have a place in the various photo frames around the house. Given how much thought and effort I sometimes have to put into taking photos now I'm amazed that any of them came out so well but then those were simpler days in many ways although the wait to get photos developed was a nervous one and a feeling that I'm utterly and completely unable to communicate to my children. 

I think part of my desire to take photos of things is that my memory can be so appallingly bad. It's the same reason I hoard things like gig t-shirts and other stuff as without them I'm hard pressed to remember events with real clarity but when I pick them up and turn them over in my hands they open a door in my mind which memories come tumbling out of. Photos are the same for me in that they remind me of people, places and feelings and in some cases they help me rewrite my recollections and make them better than they originally were. I don't know if you've had that happen where you look at a photo of some bygone event with fondness and warmth only to remember much later that the captured smiles came amidst family arguments, miserable weather, interminable weddings or perhaps all three. I've tried reading books on how to get better at remembering and recalling things but it seems to me they share the same association to every day life as would taking household budgeting advice from Victoria Beckham or going out for a jog with Mo Farah. 

Anyway. My writing time draws to a close as Waterloo draws nearer so to the photos. The one at the top is one I'm pleased with which is a recent winter sunset from the hill in Worcester Park's Hamptons. The middle one is the photo that BBC used and the third is apparently my most reused photo on the internet which I took some years ago when doing some occasional writing for another web site. I when I checked this morning the most prominent link to it was from a Russian website so who knows how it got there.

There's so much I could write about this so I've tagged it as "part 1"...

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Q&A - Why did I stop and why did I start again

After my flurry of posts over the last few days I've had some much appreciated comments and also a nice direct message on twitter which posed two straightforward questions with which I am only able to reply with in long rambling answers. In short the questions were "Why did I stop and why did I start again?"

To try and say why I stopped is tricky as I don't think I did so deliberately or with any forethought but had found it progressively harder to find things that I enjoyed writing about particularly when the Worcester Park blog had the local news side so well covered, which had been quite a large part of what I'd been doing. I was occasionally writing the odd post for another site too and I was finding that rather than enjoying the experience and watching my fingers skate across the keyboard with unrestrained joy I came to a place where just the thought of feeling obliged to write something by either a deadline or my own internal urgings filled me with grim horror. If you were looking for a simple label for it you could call it "Writer's Block" and seeing as I don't have to do this for money that feeling has "quit" written all over it.

The second reason, perhaps oddly, is that my own blog put me off. I'd occasionally go back and read some of my old posts and think "God! I was funny back then! What happened?". I think the American expression is that I'd lost my mojo, whatever that may translate to in suburban English.

In truth I was still writing technical posts for an internal blog where I worked at least three times a week for a while but by the middle of last year I was squeezed for time and even that had taken a back seat so while my business cards from the other web site said "writer" on them I'd hurriedly explain that I wasn't really. 

But I still liked the idea of writing. 

I have some very creative friends who are writers, artists, musicians, photographers and the like so any creative urges don't stay dormant for long and at one point one of them had "liked" a Facebook post about a writing book and when I took a look it seemed like it would be good so I bought it. I didn't realise quite how good it would be. 

The book is called "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott and rather than being one of those "how to get published and make a fortune which will cause your (former) friends to vomit" books it's very much about how to write in a personally honest and creative way rather than how to get published. Firstly I find it hysterically funny and secondly it's VERY honest. She expresses her thoughts and fears very clearly and I wish she'd been around this time last year when I was having my slump. In short her basic premise is that rather than reading about writing or thinking about writing its best to get on and write, no matter how bad it may seem to you while you're doing it. While typing this I can mentally here my fellow grammar pedants sucking their teeth at some of the things I've written but I'm learning to quieten those thoughts.

So rather than sitting on my morning commute reading the Metro I'm sitting here writing, which I find a much more constructive way to start the morning. 

"Bird by Bird" - Anne Lamott

Image via

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Worcester Park Businesses For Sale

Photo from Rightmove website
Amongst the flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shores of the internet yesterday I noticed that two Worcester Park high street businesses are up for sale. First up is the hardware shop next to Sean Hanna which can be bought for a mere £30K as a going concern and the web site says:
"Weekly turn over in the region of £2000 per a week. New lease to be agreed in the region of £21,000 a year."

I remember buying a fabulous oven cleaning chemical concoction in there which did a superb job of cleaning our old and immensely unloved oven and also enabled us to discover that one of the congealed masses at the bottom wasn't carbonised food as suspected but was in fact a long lost knife with a plastic handle that had somehow ended up at the bottom and melted its way into a puddle of darkly coloured goo which was hiding the blade. Nice.

Photo from Rightmove website
Second on the list is Camera Continental which is selling up lock, stock and barrel to the tune of £169,950. I've only been in there a few times but it never seems to have pushed the boundaries of technical innovation, creative expression or any of those other things I associate with modern photography. It probably doesn't help that the recollections of my visits there mostly revolve around having to cough artificially to gain the proprietor's attention on one occasion and having to wait several minutes for him to finish a conversation with a friend on another. I can't blame him though. On the many times I've looked in the window he was starved for human company so I guess that he was making the most of opportunity and bemoaning that his other career choices were limited now that all the lighthouses are all automated.

I find people confusing

Recently I was trying to explain a concept to a friend which was that I find people desperately confusing and in return they were trying to convince me that really wasn't the case and that people were generally quite straightforward if you knew how to handle them. Now I have to say that he is one of the loveliest people that you could meet and if you were to give him a tight squeeze I'd suspect that liquid hospitality would ooze from his pores, or chocolate... one of the two. His points were utterly compelling at the time though the fact that I'm struggling to remember any of them now suggests I wasn't entirely won over or perhaps didn't have a frame of reference to put them into. For a small example of what I mean by that as a child back in the days of only three TV channels I remember being deathly afraid of the phone ringing when I was the only person around in case I:
a) Had to talk to a stranger,
b) Entirely failed to answer whatever query they might have and
c) Disappoint them in the process by failing somehow to meet their expectations.

As a 6-year old I obviously didn't have these things written down on a piece of paper nor could I have articulated them in any meaningful way but that was my perception of my personal limitations at the time and that's stayed with me for many years. Even at work now I'm loathe to answer phone calls that don't present with caller ID, a trait which quite probably sets pound signs whirring in the eyes of psychologists everywhere.

So it was in someway deeply ironic that I managed to significantly piss off that same friend yesterday.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

So I've managed to live a whole year without posting on this blog! I'm not sure whether that counts as an achievement or failure but I'm going to take it as the former for now in celebration of the fact that real life has intervened and that I've got more going on than daily Worcester Park life to think about. Either that or I've spent the last twelve months surfing the internet for pictures of cats. You decide.

Anyway the latest iteration of the Worcester Park Blog has got everything covered from the Worcester Park point of view and he certainly has more time on his hands to do it so rather than spend the last twelve months posting "what he said" I thought I'd just leave the internet to look after itself apart from the occasional tweet about gritting in Sutton but given the weather of late there's been no need for that.

So internet. How have you been?

I've been fine thanks and I'm feeling suitably challenged by a book that someone recommended to me on writing so I thought I'd get back in the swing of it again, writing for fun I mean rather than because I have to. It also led me to the curious image top left, which I like quite a lot and I'd like to think applies to me in some sense..

Delusions of grandeur aside the bills need paying though and while I might rather have been at home over New Year it was nice to be able to commute into London without any fuss or furore other than SW Trains cancelling my beloved 6.27 so I had to get the 6.12 for a couple of days but the palpable sense elation at getting a choice of seats on the early train was its own reward and was nearly as intoxicating as some of the Christmas brews I was offered. Not that I drink any more but that's a story for another day...