Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Goodbye to the Silverlink  


The Overground Link is here and the Silverlink is no more. Very few would shed a tear at the demise of a much maligned train company with its reputation for dirtiness, inability to control antisocial behaviour and endless delays (not to mention the now infamous Friday strikes). Indeed the train company seemed to instil in its customers at best antipathy, and at worst all-out loathing.

The Overground has promised solutions to many of the Silverlinks failings and there is a real possibility that we may at last have an overground rail system which is as reliable, and as inexpensive as the Underground. The ability to use a pay and go Oyster card on the overground system will allow many, myself included, to use the full rail system for central London. Equally, the promises of more staff, better security and cleaner stations are extremely exciting for anyone who has braved the Silverlink over the past few years. However, I would like to offer some words in defence of the Silverlink.

Firstly, the Silverlink was so wonderfully quaint. We still have the little yellow and blue trains now and, given Tfl's far from glowing reputation, we will probably still have them for some time to come. Even after they have been replaced with shining orange carriages, the memory of the little blue and yellow Silverlink trains rattling along will be an enduring image. We should not forget that one of Britain's biggest exports is our quaintness and the products we sell on the back of it. Our main movie exports are schmaltzy romances in pretty, old fashioned locations involving clumsy people, often seduced by young, funky Americans; our main TV exports are infantile reinterpretations of 19th Century melodrama and our literature consists of Ian McEwan (enough said). We can either cringe in embarrassment at our quaintness or embrace it and, whereas I lean to the former, the country generally tends to embrace it. So let's embrace the quaint, including the poor old Silverlink. I once overheard an American woman guffawing about how the Silverlink trains were so cute and how she could seemingly get on the Silverlink without paying as there were never any guards. I, of course, longed desperately for a guard to come along and prove her wrong, particularly as I was in that most common of positions on the Silverlink - crammed into a crowd of other swaying passengers and unable to escape her rampant gob. Of course it never happened. And that links well into my second argument; the wonderful role the Silverlink played in the community.

Public Service
The American girl who I unfairly targeted because of the volume of her voice, was quite right - the Silverlink was often entirely free. I, of course, never took a freebie but many of our poorest citizens could regularly be seen avoiding stations with guards and hopping on for a free ride. The Silverlink provided the cheap (free) transport system that London cries out for and also meant that the poorest amongst us, who also have the highest rates of obesity, could find the added incentive to walk that little bit further to another unmanned station. I was on the Overground today and saw not only one guard but five or six! This added efficiency directly contrasts with memories of the Silverlink (see previous paragraph, 'Quaint').

I couldn't think of a third reason to play devil's advocate. To hell with it; thank God the Silverlink has gone and long live the Overground!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Bring Back Kermit!  


Nick Griffin Link and David Irving Link have arrived at Oxford University to discuss free speech and how it is such a wonderful part of being a member of the superior race.

Oxford University's Student Union Link
has shown itself to be more than happy to invite speakers it feels will bring it the maximum press coverage. It does not matter if it is Kermit the Frog or the two less-than-esteemed gentlemen who have spoken today. In defence of Kermit the Frog, however, he does present us with the more attractive aspects of humanity. His love for Miss Piggy, his friendship with others (nearly all of whom are from different species) and his friendship with children are all admirable traits. I have not had a chance to tune into today's debate, but I'm sure they are not nearly as endearing as a green puppet's schmaltz. And that is why my biggest complaint is with the protesters rather than the racists.

Do the students really think a sit-down protest at the debating table will make any difference to David Irving, a man who can convince himself that 6 million people were not murdered in the most inhumane of ways? Can they really believe that by shouting, "Shame on you!" they will appeal to the conscience of the leader of the BNP?

As well-intentioned as these students were, they reacted to provocation that did not exist and ended up giving the voice of reason to two wholly unreasonable men.

To prevent ignorance we should all embrace the chance to talk and to listen to the views of such people, however unpalatable those views may be. These people prey on ignorance and we should deny them all opportunity to encourage it, particularly in our best universities.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

A Nation in Mourning  


I have a rather different take on the whole football debacle that, amongst other things, has seen a wild bout of collective anger and depression. I am half Croatian on my mother's side and I cannot help feeling a certain pride in my one half's success.

It is true that I can only speak a few words of Serbo-Croat ('goodnight', 'thank you' and, for some reason, 'chicken'), but I am determined to pump up a bit of nationalistic pride. I have bought a checkered Croatian flag and display it with pride from my bedroom in North West London. I have also photoshopped a huge picture of a snarling, entirely umbrella-free, red-blooded Slaven Bilic, his fist pumping in delight at his defeat of England. There will be inevitable drawbacks (not to mention the danger of violent reprisals - remember Euro '96 and the mass vandalism of BMWs and Mercedes) to living in a country full of Mac-losers and have decided I must assert my Croatianness.

Firstly, as Croatia are now most certainly going to win the European Championships, the World Championships and, quite possibly, some kind of Universe Championship involving cartoon characters, I cannot let the collective shame rub off on me. I have been distancing myself from my English brethren, not least because they all keep pining for 1966, and a World Cup most of them missed because of the unfortunate fact that they had not been born yet.

Secondly, I have decided to release a special European Championship song, dedicated to my heroes. I have only got as far as the first verse, but it goes a little like this:

England, Oh England you are now so sour,
Sour, sour like a grapefruit.
Croatia, Oh Croatia this is our hour,
Go on Kranjcar - shoot, shoot, shoot!

It's obviously a work in progress but, if I could get Kate Nash to sing the England stuff (her ersatz East End accent and love of singing about fruit will suit the piece perfectly) and Tony Henry to belt out something a little racy, I think I'm on for a winner.

Lastly, I have started eating a lot more Croatian food. Unfortunately they mostly seem to eat vast quantities of red meat which, given the War on Carcinogenic Food, has left me in a bit of a quandary. I'm not sure how much more salami I can take and may have to hang my head, open my umbrella and join the rest of the English under the rain

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