Friday Fun that’s about 12 hours late…

Happy Friday! I do apologise – I began writing this first thing this morning, but ran out of time to finish it before heading to a meeting. Then I got caught up with cleaning/packing and now it’s Friday night. Sorry.

Lovers of hidden transport gems should be very happy indeed. Forget London’s lost tube stations – it turns out New York can beat us hollow. How’s this for a forgotten station?

Forgotten Station

Its story is similar to many in London – difficult location, too few passengers – but with the added complication of a platform/track that was too curved to make it safe for passengers to use it. The full story and lots more photos can be found here. Anyone up for a field trip over the pond?

Continuing the theme of classy, early twentieth century style, here’s a fabulous use of the last three seasons of Downton Abbey – a mash-up of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful. I love this for a number of reasons:
1. It replaces the word ‘overwhelmed’ with ‘flabbergasted’.
2. The ‘na-na-na’ section becomes ‘ma-ma’ and ‘pa-pa’. Genius.
3. This song is currently on my motivational playlist. Don’t laugh. Should you pass me on the street and find me looking incredibly happy and confident, the chances are that this is playing very loudly in my earphones.

While on the subject of drama, this weekend is Oscars weekend – are you excited? I expect not. I for one will have just arrived in Africa when the ceremony kicks off, and will only have marked the occasion by catching up on Oscar nominated movies courtesy of BA’s in-flight entertainment. (I’ve already checked online, and Argo’s on the list. This makes me very happy.) Anyway, here’s a trailer for ‘every Oscar winning movie ever’ – genius:

Have I mentioned I’m going to a hot country on Sunday?? Also in warm climes this week were the Swingle Singers – what are the chances that I’d be able to feature one of their flashmobs on two consecutive Fridays? Instead of a cold rugby stadium, this time we have them in what looks like gorgeously temperate Dubai. It should be noted that this video includes their interpretation of Single Ladies – as heard on Radio 3’s In Tune recently.

Finally, because I’ve been told that I’ll be somewhere simply beautiful next week, here’s something beautiful to end this week with:

Yes, that’s Namibia and I’ll be in Uganda, but it’s the same continent. In fact, next week will be a rare occasion when I’m on the same continent as my good friend Ian – he’s currently interning in Namibia. (The last time we were on the same continent was last summer while I was in Texas and he was home in Vermont. We rarely make it to the same city…) But still, it’s utterly beautiful.

Sailing home for Christmas

A surprising discovery during the Volcanic Ash Cloud drama, was that it’s remarkably cheap to travel from England to Ireland via train and boat. For little more than £30, my Dad was able to escape from Manchester and make it back to Belfast in the same day. Last Christmas it also saved my stranded Australian Godsister from a Christmas on the floor of Stansted airport. This Christmas, partly to avoid potential travel chaos and partly because it seemed like a more logical option, I bought a SailRail ticket to Ireland instead of budget flights.

On paper, it does look slightly ridiculous. I exchanged a 4 hour door-to-door journey for a 9 hour one. Flying would’ve involved a 40 minute train journey, an hour’s flight and a 20 minute car ride. SailRail comprised two 2 hour train journeys, a 2 hour ferry crossing and a two hour car ride – that’s considerably epic. (Though I’m grateful that getting to Euston only required a 15 minute walk.)

However, there are multiple benefits:
– The environmental damage is less.
– The only luggage restriction is what you can carry – no liquid restrictions or security checks.
– There’s a lot more potential for getting work done at tables.
– Chester to Holyhead is a very scenic route.
– You can watch a lot of DVDs (or iPlayer downloads) in 6 hours.
– It’s cheaper than flying.

Of course, being me, I had to find my own form of entertainment. I’d been amazingly organised and not only had created a picnic for both breakfast and lunch (when your train leaves at 7.10am, you need to take a breakfast picnic) but had also trawled iPlayer for fun things to watch. Sitting on the train, immersed in the Steve Jobs documentary, I realised that most of my fellow passengers were also en route to Dublin – after all, who else would be so keen to get to Chester at that hour of the morning?

Knowing from previous ferry experiences that electricity is hard to come by on the boat, I had a power-saving strategy too – keep Macbook plugged in on both trains, thus ensuring that I definitely had enough juice to keep me amused to Dublin. Arriva Trains Wales’ non-functioning sockets threatened to scupper this, but I managed to find my own amusement for the Chester-Holyhead leg.

An unpleasant encounter with an unreasonable woman with an overly-large bag introduced me to a beardy, bookish fellow. He pointed out to the woman that on a crowded train it was rather off to place a large bag under a table, thus meaning that no one else sat there would have room for their feet. The woman angrily refused offers to move the bag and didn’t seem to see what the problem was, so beardy man and I moved away and found alternative seats. Always a fan of beardy, bookish types, I chronicled my adventures on Twitter and in turn managed to amuse some friends too. When you’re going to be in a confined space with the same group of people for several hours, there’s always scope for making a new friend…

The ferry trip and time in Eire meant that I was out of Twitter contact for several hours. The last friends at home heard of the saga was that I’d spotted what he was reading while we were on board the bus from the station to the ferry. Details of the rest of the trip had to wait until after the Twitter blackout. I did make a friend, but not beardy man – an 18 month old child travelling with her mum who needed an extra hand/pair of eyes at changeovers. It’s probably a good thing that I became separated from beardy man onboard as within half an hour of cast-off, I was beginning to turn green at the gills. The fast crossings are a good thing (2 hours instead of 4), but on a moderately rough sea, it’s rather choppy. The sight of a small child throwing up into a Waitrose carrier bag almost finished me off, but a festive episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks took my mind off it till we reach land again.

I’m rather looking forward to my return trip on Thursday – I may even use the time for a Harry Potter marathon. The only niggling worry is that the Irish/British let me out/in. The ferry company said passports weren’t needed for crossings and that a driving licence or bankcard would be sufficient ID. However, when your driving licence says you were born in Tonga, it doesn’t make for great evidence of your nationality…

Friday Fun can be educational too

Three things for today…

1. Something to make you laugh (and hopefully teach you something):

I have it on good understanding that if you’re currently suffering from beginning of academic year sniffles (or freshers’ flu), watching this will make you feel heaps better. In the mean time, I’ll be on the look out for a vicar with a spinning head…

2. Something educational, crafty and really rather fabulous. Ever wanted to learn how to knit a pigeon?

(In my head there’s a brilliant link between those two videos, but no one else would understand it, so I’ll keep quiet.)

3. Something geeky, mathematical and utterly hilarious:

Ahhh, Mr Cosby – a wise, wise, man. [I will admit that my tired, not very mathematical brain took about 30 seconds to work out this joke when shown it last night.]

I know I said I had three things for you, but in the course of writing this post I’ve found a bonus item. Courtesy of a face to face connection and a Twitter introduction, I’ve discovered a rather lovely blog about New York’s public transport. Public Transit Adventures is a combination of photography and the all important random public transport encounters – an excellent place to while away a tedious Friday morning.

Friday Fun – a truly random assortment

This week’s Friday Fun is being composed in haste, so is simply a collection of the week’s highlights – you are therefore spared my try-hard tenuous links.

First up, something beautiful, musical and involving a public transportation map – it’s like a Christmas and birthday combined! Found via the ever amusing Dave Walker, this is an audio-visual representation of the New York subway system at work: http://www.mta.me

You might possibly be amused by a Twitter exchange that followed (or not…):
LC: “Would be interested to see a London one, though parts would go silent during the obligatory rush hour signal failure.”
DW: “Yes, London would have to include (for instance) Circle line train stopping for an irritatingly long time at Aldgate, etc”
AM: “You know that’s only so the driver can get out and pee? I think they should have spare drivers for such purposes”
DW: “Really? They must have very ineffectual hand dryers or some such.”
LC: “Don’t start suggesting there should be spare drivers or no loo breaks – they’ll call for more strike action!”
DW: “All I’m calling for is for the staff conveniences to be near platform 1 and with effective hand dryers.”
Disclaimer – I’m not sure that all the information contained within the above is factually correct.

At the end of the week, what else could be more amusing that funny animals? How about a funny Hollywood actor like Tom Hanks? Ok, so he’s not that funny (except maybe occasionally in Big) but when you combine him with animals – even unfunny animals – it becomes hilarious. And thus, the world has given us “Tom Hanks is a Lot of Animals”:

I particularly like the variety of Tom Hanks’ faces used in these photos.

Finally, something for all you Musical Theatre obsessed First Aiders (this could be a post in itself as it simultaneously fascinates and bizarres me) – the St John Ambulance have formed a partnership with popular West End show Wicked in an effort to educate primary school children on the importance of First Aid*. 
Yes, First Aid and the West End. But it gets better, I quote from the website:

“Asking ‘What would Elphaba do?’ is an effective way to encourage pupils to think about the values that underpin first aid.”

Quite frankly, ‘What would Elphaba do?’ has been my personal mantra for some time. I’d like to see the campaign launch a wristband (preferably violent green in hue) bearing the letters WWED so that I can have a physical reminder at all times. If you spot me looking green, wearing black, carrying a broomstick and jumping on furniture while singing too loudly, then I’ll have taken the mantra a little too far… 
*Incidentally, First Aid is extremely important – I do not intend to undermine this. My Grandad drove an ambulance you know! 

Keeping the Sabbath?

There’s a scene in 28 Days Later [the zombie film that’s not actually about zombies at all] where the main character walks across an eerily deserted Westminster Bridge. Any Londoner (or anyone who’s ever been to London) watches it wondering how on earth they managed to film it. There’s nothing – no traffic, no people – and that never happens.

I wondered about it, until this morning. Now I know exactly how they did it – a simple closure of the bridge very early on Sunday morning. Nothing exists in the capital before about 9am on the sabbath – I mean nothing.

Today I had the relatively simple task of getting from south-east London to Heathrow in time for the 8.55 flight to Edinburgh (I may explain the nature of the trip later, I may not…). The tube journey isn’t too arduous and I knew the relevant lines were working. On Friday evening I was therefore a little confused when the TfL journey planner suggested I use two buses and a train to get to the airport. On closer inspection, it was revealed that apparently, no one in London needs to use the tube before 7am on a Sunday!

I vaguely remember a survey a while back (when Ken was still Mayor) about whether the tube should run later on Friday & Saturday at the expense of opening later on Sundays. I’m pretty sure nothing ever came of it and I’m glad – for the tube to start even later on a Sunday would be a travesty.

London is not the 24 city it would like people to believe it is. A lot of pubs still shut at 11pm; you can’t get pizza delivered past midnight; the tube stops by 1am – some buses even sooner… But to not even get transport going until 7am? That’s plain weird.

Walking to the bus stop at 6am, I saw one person and their dog. The bus I caught was the first ‘day’ bus (as opposed to night bus) and was fairly busy with a bizarre mix of still-drunk clubbers and people heading to work, but the streets were still empty. When we crossed the river at Waterloo there was no one around and the river was as still as a millpond.

If anyone wants to see the capital at its uncluttered best, I highly recommend an early morning bus ride. No crowds in Trafalgar Square, a deserted Oxford Street, Hyde Park with a misty haze across it and no traffic. Beautiful.

Perhaps this absence of people logically accounts for the late-opening tube network, but it seems odd. By the time I got to Paddington (just before 7am) there was a queue of bemused people outside the tube station waiting for it to open – clearly most people expect there to be a functioning transport system during daylight hours!