September 5, 2014

I took the 9.30 train from Aberystwyth en route for Sheffield. Having found a table and seat next to a mains socket that worked (there are number on Arriva Trains Wales that don’t; they are placebos), I prepared myself to transform my rather thin and staccato notes for the next Art/Sound lecture into coherent and cohesive thought:


I’ve never understood why one feels inordinately hungry so soon after breakfast and so soon before lunch when travelling. Does moving at speed accelerate the body clock or metabolism? Fellow travellers are apt to breakout their sandwiches and flasks anytime after 11.30 am or at Shrewsbury station … whichever comes first. A woman who was on her way to London sat down next to me. ‘I have a reservation. Is this coach B?’ she asked. ‘The one I just came through was coach A’. Stirred from my work, I informed her: ‘No. This is coach C’. Then the guard walked past. ‘Is that coach’ (she pointed) – the one before A, I mean — coach B?’ ‘That’s coach D, madam’, he replied. The challenge of finding one’s seat on an Arriva train is only marginally less demanding than cracking the Enigma code.



I enjoy the automated announcements on trains and at stations: the way in which the speaker’s inflexions and stresses land in all the wrong places. On the Shrewsbury to Manchester leg of my journey the list of principal stations includes ‘Crewe’, which is spoken in a tone of bemused surprise suggestive of the sentiment: ‘Who’d want to go there?’ (But this example is preferable to the rather testy, harrying, and barely audible voice that summons (orders) patients to their GPs’ rooms at my local surgery.) At Birmingham New Street station, the announcements used to comprise place names and advice collaged from up to three distinct voices. They sounded like messages that the Beat poet Williams S Burroughs could have put together.

Stockport, and lunch (at the proper time):


A Premier Inn in Sheffield:


Premier Inn makes a virtue of predictability (Diary, August 14, 2014). Although I was taken aback by the ubiquitous canvas print that hung over the bed. I’d not seen the like of it at any other branch. It was brown rather than the usual shades of purple, pink, and tangerine. And, strangely, I didn’t see it for the first four hours of my stay, even though it was reflected in the mirror over the desk where I worked for that duration. The art of concealment. Premier Inn seems to be a decent company to work for; the staff appear content and committed — as though they’re valued by the management. And, they behave impeccably. It’s a lesson that Universities UK could learn: If they want to adopt the commercial-business paradigm (shame on them), then the needs and aspirations of not only the ‘clients’ but also the employees must be catered for. Happy workers are hard workers.

I met my younger son off the early evening train from Manchester and escorted him to dinner.

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