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Monthly Archives: September 2010
September brings the first touch of autumn but it doesn’t do it on the first day, it waits until the 22nd and then all of a sudden it’s there.
In the burnt sugar of a crème brûlée and the cinnamon on every vanilla latte; in the orange lights of Queen Square, the walks by twilight up Park St, the steps leading up to St George’s, the candles on the tables at the Rummer Hotel, the cocktails at Browns. Mojitos at Hotel du Vin, the steep decline from the top seats at the Hippodrome. Sitting alone at the Old Vic past an early bedtime and walking in the rain away from a folk acoustic gig at the Croft. An espresso at Pain Quotidien, an almond croissant while listening to I’d Rather Dance With You at an outdoor market in Brussels.
Every kiss in front of Thekla even if there was only one. The misshapen cupcakes for my birthday, the dirty martinis and single malt whiskeys at Woods, every bottle of wine and sad love story at Zen, the opening of Colston Hall and Westons Organic Cider at the Mother’s Ruin. Warm pecan pie at the Big Chill although they don’t serve it any more. It’s mulled port with orange and cloves in preparation for Christmas. Every forehead against a bus window with rain falling outside and overcrowded carriages and porridge on the way to work.
It’s a late dinner at Bordeaux Quay and not slipping and sliding on Pero’s Bridge. Red wine and olives at the Arnolfini and subtitled cinema in the cavernous hall underneath the stairs. It’s the lights on the harbour from the windows at the Watershed and joining other writers to discuss a month of novel writing. Potato wedges and hot chocolate and not enough space to plug the laptop in to the socket. Sushi overlooking the Bristol Bridge, fuzzy dinner following a wine tasting, swans floating by the Glassboat. Cobbled streets on the Welsh Back and jazz at the Old Duke. Every new beginning, every new book in the library, the book groups that meet for the first time and course materials that are still untouched.
Unanswered text messages and meetings in the yellow lights of All Saints Lane. Dim sum at St Thomas Lane, reading a newspaper at a pub on St Michael’s Hill and deciding never again to chase Guinness with red wine. Racing up Whiteladies to catch the last of the fireworks and stopping off at most pubs on the way back. Heading home via Cotham Hill to see all of southern Bristol lit up. Crackling bonfires, slower sunsets, scarves, mittens and walking in the rain to Miles Davies.
Today is the last day of September but only the beginning of the cinnamon season. Dusty, golden and muted colours everywhere as a reminder of all the falling leaves and every haiku and poem about to be written and re-read.
The Monday that just passed, brought back memories of previous long queues, and the usual feeling of relief, as I tended to pass by with my monthly ticket. This time there was less satisfaction as I had to wait along with more than 80 other people, some outside the side door of the station. With 10 minutes before my train left, I knew I’d missed it but I did gain some time to think about why the queues were so long and clustered around certain days.
While there need not be a significant relationship between the clusters of people and the time or day, randomness does love clusters after all, there appeared to be an association, so what to make of it? If data were available on ticket purchases by date and time I could analyse it in a way that identifies significant relationships. I could then survey passengers and with a sample large, and random, enough I could infer the results onto the general population of train travellers. This would be the way I would plan it if I was looking for a definitive answer but I was pondering more than seeking certainty.
There were four windows open with cashiers ready to serve, and four automatic machines but they don’t provide all of the services you get at the windows. The staff are usually good, so any potential slowness is not the problem. The reason that had me personally queuing was the inability to purchase advance season tickets. There are various times when I have wanted to be organised and tried to buy my monthly or weekly ticket in advance but was told I could not do so.
When contacted, the Stage Coach Group said that the rules governing the advance issue of season tickets are common to National Rail and are as follows:
- Starting on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday (or Tuesdays following a Bank Holiday Monday): Tickets may be purchased from 12 noon on the Friday before.
- Starting any other day: Tickets may be purchased from 12 noon on the day before.
- Starting any day: Tickets may be purchased up to 7 days in advance.
* You are required to surrender the expiring ticket at the time of purchase and there must be no break in validity.
The rules in place are designed to strike a balance between the requirements of season ticket customers to renew tickets at less busy times and also to minimise the potential for misuse of season tickets in advance of the validity start date. All existing ticket issuing systems throughout the National Rail network work to the same specification, in that they encode only the expiry date of the ticket – this is primarily a limitation imposed by magnetic ticketing design.
These rules and limitations are in place to prevent me buying a monthly ticket for the end of the year and being able to use it at any point until it expires and before it is valid. I can see the reasoning behind this and while it doesn’t solve the problem it does suggest an area to look for a solution. Is it a problem limited by technology because there are no better ticketing systems available?
The South Coach Group said they are trialling a Smartcard ticketing scheme for South West Trains. Initially, this is only going to be available for a limited range of but within a couple of years, they are hopeful that this could be extended and make ticket renewals more flexible.
Bristol transport are getting a ‘smart card’ system soon and this could be the same thing. Jon Rogers, Bristol’s councillor in charge of transport told the Bristol Evening Post in May 2010, that the card will initially work on buses but will also be extended to be used on trains, ferries and the proposed bus rapid transit network. If it has the same functionality as the London Oyster card then it may save some time but we will have to see.
I walk into the Tobacco Factory and my companion reminds me why I prefer to go for coffee alone. Are you sure you want to go here, he asks. Well obviously I’m sure otherwise I wouldn’t have come in, but my grass-is-greener friend sounds doubtful and out we go again. This time we head to the Lounge, part of the Lounges chains round Bristol.
My friend spots an old colleague by the door so we spend some time chatting before we head to the bar to order. I order a second shot with my decaf, soy latte and there’s no green tea so my friend orders a redbush or rooibos tea. The difference in the names is attributed to your accent according to the woman serving us. Not quite a believable statement. She is also apparently the sole one in charge of coffees because when I asked whether they did decaf she replied ‘I do’ so let’s hope she doesn’t drop dead.
We hadn’t found a table yet so I went to get one and tell her the number. By the time I got back she’d moved out to collect glasses so I stood around waiting and then half told someone else but by then she was back and with an oh yeah helped out.
The coffee and tea were brought out to us quite quickly. All three rooms of the lounge were quite busy and full of young professionals brunching which probably explains why the place smelled of eggs. There was constant movement and talking which social people probably find quite friendly. There were newspapers available although only the sports and travel sections were left or there were the news of the world or the Mirror.
The well worn but polished floor boards lent a warmth to the room which suited the autumnal russet colours of the walls. Sturdy wooden tables were well placed with the comfortable armchairs, most fitted with leather cushions.
All should have made for a lovely break but somehow it didn’t quite work. The constant smell of everyone’s breakfast pointed to the fact that there too many tables all together. The coffee was bland and even with the additional shot was way too milky. The rooibos tea was the finest a tea bag could provide and didn’t quite live up to the standards of the freshly made Lahloo tea we’d encountered around the city centre and Clifton. Most of the service wasn’t great and I was glad to leave most of my beverage to go elsewhere.
I can imagine that it would be a great place to run into friends or acquaintances if you lived in the area. There’s a communal feel to it and greeting friends with quick chats seemed normal but I’d rather go somewhere where I know no one rather than suffer through bad coffee
227 North St, Bedminster, Bristol, Avon BS3 1JJ, 0117 963 7340