Archive for November, 2010

Adverse mental conditions

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Every few minutes at Tottenham Court Road Tube station this evening came this announcement:

“Due to adverse weather conditions, customers are advised to take care on entering and leaving the station.”

I’ve had enough of this. It isn’t “adverse weather conditions”, it’s rain. Passengers have the wit to guess that they’re listening to advice without having to be told as much in the passive voice.  What is it about train staff that makes them want to talk like a PE teacher trying to read the instructions on a box of shuttlecocks? Does the RMT union hold courses in how to speak in stilted manner in the belief that using words like “beverage” lends authority, rather than the air of  an automated drinks machine at a swimming pool?

When train staff talk about a “range of teas and coffees” they must know that they merely mean tea or coffee, with or without milk and sugar. When they ask passengers to remember “personal belongings” do they think that there are impersonal ones? What would they be? Parking meters?

Do they think the public makes a distinction between a stop, a station and a station-stop? If so, are they surprised that we don’t try to get off when the train comes to a halt in the middle of the countryside or when it whizzes past minor stations?

There are two solutions to this. Either I lighten up, or Parliament passes legislation requiring announcers to obtain a licence, issued only after a course on how to avoid sounding like a policeman appealing for information at a press conference. I’m going with the second one.

The turd of the Nile

Monday, November 1, 2010

It can be difficult, sometimes, to spot the difference between:

a) an Islamic fundamentalist earnestly bent on mass murder, and

b) a character from a 1980s action-comedy starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.

Is Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaeda’s man in Yemen and suspected mastermind of the recent parcel bomb plots, related to the Jewel, the title character in The Jewel of the Nile portrayed by Avner Eisenberg?

Al-Awlaki and Eisenberg were both born in America and Eisenberg is a clown, which, as we all know, is an indicator of evil. On the other hand, Eisenberg is Jewish, which suggests that he and al-Awlaki would struggle to maintain a temperate conversation once talk drifted away from their mutual distaste for pork.

I’m not ruling out a Jekyll and Hyde scenario, but on balance it seems more likely that al-Awalki simply based his image on the Jewel after watching the film as a child. The Jewel is, after all, a religious leader, albeit a humble, peaceful one rather than a self-aggrandising wankpot.