Looking up at King’s Cross.

So we now know the new station concourse opens on March 19. We also know that they plan to knock the existing one down and create more space out front (didn’t you know – keep up!).

Truth be told, there’s been work going on all over King’s Cross – laying new floors, revamping the building alongside platform 9, 10 and 11 as well as work on the roof covering platform 0 to 8 (yes – King’s Cross has the distinction of having a Platform Zero).

They have now unwrapped much of the covering they had up while they renovated the roof and the massive glass frontage at the, er… front of the station.

Here are a couple of views of the new look ‘upper area’:

Glass roof by day.

Glass roof by night.

Platform 3 in all its panoramic glory.

It was a nice day. I had a panoramic app on my phone. Put the two together and hey presto…

Click it to get the full effect.

Fatality Friday.

I’ll have the militant passenger groups up in arms when I say this, but by and large, the trains  are pretty reliable.

Last week was a bad one, but even though it impacts on my life and affects whether I get to see my kids before bedtime, I can still sympathise.

Monday was a little tenuous. It was too hot – the wrong kind of heat, or perhaps a ‘temperature-related incident’ to use the public announcement vernacular.

Tuesday was unfortunate. Lighting struck overhead lines and caused havoc on trains in and out of King’s Cross.

I witnessed an interesting exchange between 2 commuters. One had obviously had a shit day, the other, not quite so bad. The former insisted that this sort of delay occurred every day, quoting his annual rail card cost for us all to compare with our own.

The other guy insisted that this was the first delay he’d encountered this year. Both were astounded by their counterpart’s argument – though it didn’t escalate from incredulity to abuse or fisticuffs.

The truth lay somewhere in between but neither was in the mood to concede any ground.

Wednesday and Thursday: no problems to report.

So, Friday. When you arrive at King’s Cross you expect to see a scrum on the concourse, but you have a benchmark size in your head and the size of Friday’s scrum was a sure sign that something was awry.

So I sat on a train for nearly an hour without going anywhere. Only after 45 minutes was there any information as to why we weren’t moving – a person struck by a train.

In that moment we’re all wrapped up in our own issues: I’m going to be late. And if you give it any thought at all, the optimist in us all hopes for the best. They didn’t say ‘fatality’ but if you think about it for any length of time, not many people get hit by a train and live to tell the tale.

Alexandra Palace.

So with a combination of crawling and stopping completely, we made it as far as Alexandra Palace. And there it was next to the 20 or so police in hi-vis vests on the platform, the body bag. Occupied.

I looked around the carriage to see if anyone else had noticed. Some were reading the paper, others were following Andy Murray’s semi-final defeat to Nadal. Nobody, it seemed, had the look of someone who’d just seen a corpse in a zip-loc bag.

I saw a dead cat by the side of the road this morning. I hope these things don’t come in threes.

A paucity of posts.

It’s been pointed out to me and I’ve noticed it too: I can leave it a little long between posts. I don’t have an excuse but I do have 2 reasons:

– Angry Birds
– A shiny new netbook

I thought it was me and solitaire (Klondike™) on my iPod forever. When that game counter ticked passed 1000 (and it did) who’d have thought something new would come along to take its place?

Well, hats off to the Angry Birds crew. If ever there was a game that made you think ‘just one more go’ EVERY time you play it, this is it. And there’s just no escape. They keep updating it with seasonal specials and extra levels. And it’s all FREE! What’s not to love?

Angry Birds yesterday.

The new netbook? That’s for me to write my Oscar-winning screenplay on the train to and from work every day. Isn’t it? It turns out it’s very god at playing other people’s movies, so I end up watching those in 20-minute bursts between Stevenage and King’s Cross and Stevenage again.

The netbook. For films. And occasionally other stuff.

One day, eh – if I’m not updating this old thing with the latest happenings in my playground of car parks…

London. Hanging by a thread.

Most of the time things just work. We don’t question them. We take them for granted. We don’t see them. It’s the way things are.

It’s only when things go wrong that we question them. They become noticeable by their absence.

Overhead lines. You never hear announcements about them working perfectly, but to be fair, the majority of the time they’re quietly getting on with the job in the background. Overhead.

But the other evening, they jumped from obscurity to centre-stage when they stopped working. It meant that trains couldn’t safely reach King’s Cross. For a long, long time that evening it was a station with thousands of stranded commuters and no trains. Not one.

Departures board at King's Cross

Ignore the 'on time' trains. They weren't.

It’s at times like this that you come to realise that it really doesn’t take much to bring these systems to standstill. One simple random glitch can affect thousands of families, ruin plans, cause chaos, cost time and money. More to the point, this father won’t get to say ‘night night’ to his little girl this evening.

With no trains out of town, your options are severely limited. A guy next to me got his mate’s taxi firm on the phone. No joy. Coaches? Where do they go from? Wouldn’t they be rammed too? A city perhaps running beyond full capacity, London really is hanging by a thread, a fragile set of connections at the mercy of anyone with serious intentions of creating havoc.


Do not feed the platform.


Is this the start of an asphalt zoo? Possibly not. These are sitting at the north end of Platform 1 (I’m sounding like a station announcer now).

Presumably someone in a hi-vis vest will come along and free these slabs and make them part of the existing platform.

It’s not like there are slabs that are crumbling. There are a few older ones dotted about but that helps me position myself corredtly so I’m right in front of the doors when the train stops. Two steps to the left of the two brown slabs to be precise.

Come Monday I won’t know where I am…

Nuthin’ but Swingate.

I dunno. Life used to be a little more exciting than this. I started this whole blog because I was living on a knife-edge (you’re never far from one in Stevenage).

Please disperse. There is nothing to see.

Please disperse. There is nothing to see.

I have 5 car parks to park in – FIVE, I tell you! It used to be like Russian Roulette with a Ford Focus and an electronic pass card, but now it’s just Swingate, Swingate, Swingate. Betfair have stopped offering odds.

Parking anywhere else has become too much of a long shot. Sayonara Southgate. Arrivederci Danesgate. Adios Daneshill. Seeya St George’s Way Multi-storey. Etc…

I was thinking about this today as I swung into Swingate. And do you know what? I got the last space. Skin of my teeth. And do you know something else? Someone drove in after me. As I walked to the station, I watched to see what would happen and then quickly lost interest and went about my business. Much like you in fact.

The natives are getting restless.

Yes, I’ll admit it’s been a little while you were last party to my innermost parking-related thoughts. In my defence, I have been away. But now I’m back and boy am I parking in Stevenage. (Yes I am.)

I came, I parked, I took a panoramic photograph.

I came, I parked, I took a panoramic photograph.

No much to report other than, thanks to a continuing tilt in the Earth’s axis, the evenings in Stevenage and surrounding villages (SASV) are getting lighter. I come home and I see daylight. My tulips are a delight, I can tell you. The crocuses were early but badly battered by the rain. The daffodils promised much, kept us waiting and ultimately disappointed. However, my tulips are a sight to behold. So I shall share them like a proud, green-fingered father.

There is bad news however. The 8.08 has lost 4 carriages. Used to have 8 but due to ‘a shortage of rolling stock’ (one announcement dubbed them ‘units’ – what’s wrong with ‘carriages’?) there are half that number. There are still the same number of passengers though… Whether this is temporary or not is unclear. We’re at the 3-week mark and with every day the suspicion grows that this may be ‘how it’s going to be’. Taking matters into my own hands, I aim to get one of 2 earlier trains, but deep down I am aggrieved.

The bane of my life.

Exhibit A, m'lud.

Exhibit A, m'lud.

Not parking. The bit after. Commuting. And not that in itself. People. And their wheelie suitcases. Admittedly they can be a necessary evil, but evil they are!

1. Fully extended at a 40-degree angle, they take up the room of 4 people – and in a rush-hour situation that’s just bloody greedy.

2. People don’t see ’em. I am blessed with fantastical peripheral vision and all-round awareness. However, the mere mortals around me don’t seem able to spot a ‘wheelie’ and plough on into what they think is dead space because there’s nothing in their way at head height. WRONG! Cue the pile-up with everyone blaming each other. And to think I used to hate rucksacks (though students with poor peripheral vision still wipe out children and smaller adults with an ill-timed turn from time to time).

3. The abrupt halt their owners come to in order to pick the case up to carry up or down steps. They do this as though there isn’t an unstoppable mass of humanity right behind them, which of course there always is. No backwards glance for them. They just slam on the anchors and do a bit of handle husbandry, blissfully unaware of the carnage of twisted limbs and robust language trailing in their wake.

You can bet there's a wheelie case under that lot.

You can bet there's a wheelie case under that lot.

Busy in the morning. But not in the evening.

Here’s a question: why are the car parks rammed in the morning but half empty when I get back to my car at 10 to 7 at night? I can part-answer this. People have clearly returned earlier and driven home (gold star for me). Assuming most people that park here commute into London, they must leave work at 5 or 5.30. On a good day, I leave at 6 and get back to Stevenage around 50 minutes later, by which time the cars have been replaced by tumbleweed. There’s a recession on you know – you’d expect a greater display of presenteeism during these hard times. Certainly some of my colleagues seem to give the idea of ‘home’ short thrift – to them it’s just the start page on their internets.

Before (lots of cars).

Before (lots of cars).

After (not quite so many).

After (not quite so many).

I can accept that it is possible they leave work earlier but for all those cars to be there in the morning, these commuters must aim to get into work for 8.30 at the latest. It all boils down to this: I work from 9 to 6. I always thought this was normal for London. Is it not?

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