BH112: The Incredibly Rubbish Journey
Pictured above: The first and hopefully last time I will ever arrive at Clapham Junction train station walking on the railway tracks rather than on an actual train
You are advised to skip this rail-related rambling if you just fancy the quiz questions. I do go off on one, and then another, then I take a tangent and so on. Rant and rave, rant and rave...
I've never had cause to complain about the state of the British railways and have never had one of those horror stories of being stuck in a train carriage for two or three hours more than I should have. Until now.
Earlier this evening some unfortunate lady decided to "trespass" on the line at Battersea Park. In other words, or more truthfully, taking away the BR euphemism, she decided to commit suicide by throwing herself on the lines at the vital London Victoria station juncture and apparently failed, but was still occupying said rail tracks and doing weird things of an unsubstantiated rumour variety (I heard some random snatch of mobile conversation concerning someone refusing to take their pills at 9pm. Probably has nothing at all to do with the said track-jumping incident, but hearsay and conjecture do spice up such narratives no end.
So for what seemed like an ice age, first we were stopped (the time was 22.31) mere yards from the finishing line, were regaled with silence and, then even worse, were regularly disappointed by the train conductor, who kept on saying: "We still have no information on the current situation" and was "severely" apologising every ten minutes, which only made everyone irate. This was enlivened by him saying "the hands is out of my matter". Because everyone thought, wow, he's an even bigger clown than we thought. He don't even speak proper.
The waiting around for an hour (we were only ONE minute from the station) I could stomach to a certain extent. It was when they cut the power to the entire train that got everyone worried. Every light went out. The whole train sounded as if it had wheezed its last breath. The disturbing thought that we would have to live the rest of our lives on this train flashed across each of our minds. What a bogus journey. Because pitch black train carriages are not pleasant places to be for nigh on 35 minutes. Especially when your phone has died and your laptop has joined it in dead battery heaven. No one could see anything and when one lucky woman revealed her ringtone to be the theme from The Exorcist, well, it was creepy weird (though how we laughed in the dark and dreamed of pea soup after the initial shock).
I mean, I've seen many a trashy disaster movie. One that sprang in my mind was Airport '77. Granted nobody was lapping up cocktails or happily dancing around in their swimsuits and our train had certainly not found itself trapped underwater (in the Bermuda Triangle no less!), but you noticed the familiar, very filmic sensation of mildly blissful ignorance that wraps around you before something really baaaad happens. And changes your lives forever. The calm and then the storm. Eeek.
You realise too that this is one of those 'public transport tipping the once serene, upstanding citizen into the realms of madness' scenarios. Remember that episode of The Day Today (which, when I think about it, was insanely JG Ballardian, just like the Noel Edmonds killing Clive Anderson scene in Brass Eye)? Well, at least those commuters had the benefit of sunlight. We had nothing. Demons always come in the dark (well, according to John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire).
However, there were a rare few comedic bright spots. The female half of the PDA-mad couple sitting near me and notching up a particularly schlucky kpm (kiss per minute) rate of ten, saying in all seriousness: "Imagine if we hadn't bought sandwiches, how would we have coped?" as if she had forgotten bringing impervious winter clothing to a night spent trekking across the Antarctic, and was thinking what would have happened if she was wearing a bikini. I loved the incredulous moans of the naive European students too: "It's amazing there's no emergency lighting". I did feel like saying this isn't the Starship Enterprise, love. It's a Southern train. You're lucky it doesn't still run on steam. And yet, a little sadness shuddered through me that foreigners, and in particular these fine Teutons, who had come to these shores with high hopes of Britannia were going to leave it with vitriolic opinions on our transport system (as they should in all honesty). Oh dear, Dr Beeching.
But the truly worrying coup de grace came when they announced: "We are doing an emergency evacuation from the front of the train. Everyone must leave". So we got up - the dread growing in our hearts - and slowly made our way to the front to jump from a five-foot drop. I saw one poor woman who had sprained her ankle and was babbling incoherently as a result. Nasty.
It's just that when they use words like EVACUATE you start thinking the kind of stuff that triggers paranoid terror fantasies in your head, and you really desperately want to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. And, of course, some distraught child had to start crying in that screaming, uncontrollable way kids do when they are terrified. I did wonder when this natural soundtrack to such events was going to start ringing through the train. It took about 20 minutes from lights out till the awful screeching began, which was a kind of blessed relief, and he soon piped down anyway. However, true British resolve ensured that everybody waited their turn and slowly made their way off. Our innate orderliness in times of distress can be a blessing.
Then, as we made our way at snail's pace, we were told by some cheeky policeman that the train was ready to go and get the power back on, and that we - the people who were emergency evacuated - were now holding everything up since a half mile long line of us were forced to walk by foot along the train tracks into Clapham Junction station (a kind of "first" you might tell someone about if you were bored out of your mind ... oh wait, that's what I'm doing right now ... well, ho hum). I can tell you it is a rocky path lined with concrete slabs with disturbing see-saw motions. No wonder only trains and gruff men wearing fluorescent vests are allowed to negotiate it. I felt especially sorry for the folk with hefty luggage. Some looked as if they needed a Sherpa or two to help them tackle the rocky terain. I can also tell you about walking beside a whole trainload of cheeky gits heading south shouting: "Helloooo!"
Any reflected cheeriness on our part and revelling in the hardy spirit of the oppressed, but still resilient train traveller was eradicated by the plain fact that they were in a hulking meanie of a train speeding past us and we were only inches away from being squished since one false step in a bumpy stone pile would have resulted in a catastrophic fall.
Naturally, after getting to the safe haven of the station, I missed all the tube rides back to KX and got two meandering buses and finally made it home at 1.30am, having left L'A at 19.30pm. I had so many plans for the evening. I was, er, going to do some freelance work and study in a very studious manner. Maybe. Or, perhaps, I was going to watch four episodes of Scrubs in a row, with a side order of House and another viewing of the Peep Show episode from last Friday. Make your mind up as to which course I would have taken. Please think the best of me.
So self-indulgent rant over (sorry). I have quiz questions!
Quizzy Quiz Quiz
1 Australia have not lost a World Cup cricket match since they were beaten by which team at Leeds in 1999?
2 Which Japanese motor manufacturer have produced a response to the BMW Mini in the form of the Swift Sport?
3 Which performing group included Louise Clark, Flick Colby, Babs Lord, Ruth Pearson, Andi Rutherford and Dee Dee Wilde?
4 Margaret Thatcher, feeling ashamed at the lack of grandeur compared to such residences as the Elysee Palace, employed which architect to refurbish No. 10 Downing Street in the 1980s?
5 The result of a collaboration between electronics company CAEN spa and the Switzerland's STABIO Textile SA,which Italian company is the first fashion brand to successfully integrate fibre optics into its fabric: "a fine mesh of transparencies and colours suggesting a star-filled sky"?
6 In Spain, El Celler de Can Roca, El Raco de Can Fabes, Mugaritz and Arzak are what kind of renowned establishments?
7 In Spain what are Victorio and Lucchino, Purification Garcia and Hoss Intropia?
8 Which Japanese company is associated with the Atrac music file format?
9 Which Englishman, who coined such phrases as "let there be light" and "the salt of the earth", was strangled and burned at the stake near Brussels on October 26, 1536?
10 Which US company, the second largest chemical firm in the world after BASF and headquartered in Midland in Michigan, is the company behind Styrofoam brand insulation (and is the world's largest producer of plastics) and the pesticide Lorsban and was founded in 1897 by an eponymous Canadian-born chemist?
11 The only hijacking of a British commercial aircraft occurred in 1970 when members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took control of a flight with 20 schoolchildren on board. What was the airline?
12 Which 4km long and 2km wide island is the smallest of the Ionians?
13 Shot in only six days, which cult B-feature film of 1945 was directed by the bizarre German intellectual Edgar G Ulmer and starred Tom Neal, who had been blacklisted by Hollywood due to being jailed for manslaughter, as a doomed accidental killer driving across the US?
14 Which Swiss city hosts the world's leading watch and jewellery fair (originating in 1917) that opened on April 12 of this year?
15 The official residence of the American Vice-President is "Number One ... ... " what?
16 Sepah is the state-owned bank of which country?
17 Which Dostoevsky work from 1846 is a bleak tale of poverty, love and the hope of redemption, written as a series of letters between the second cousins twice-removed, Makar Devushkin and Varvara Dobroselova?
18 Later presented in a different formulation by Einstein in 1905, who first proposed the theory of relativity in 1900?
19 Which pair wrote The Seven Deadly Sins as a "sung ballet" in 1933?
20 Meaning "the hammer without a master", the work Le Marteau sans maitre was first performed in 1955 and is said to have established which composer's reputation as a fiercely cerebral modernist?
21 Super giant slalom winner in 1992, which Italian skier later won the women's Olympic giant slalom in 1994 and 1998, and also won silver in the slalom at the latter games?
22 How many bets in total make up a Super Yankee (aka a Canadian)?
23 Who was Ralph Nader's Vice-Presidential candidate for the Reform Party in the 2004 US Presidential election?
24 In 1853, which Ethiopian chieftain reunified the country and proclaimed himself Emperor Tewodros II?
25 Which Italian nun and philosopher wrote Dialogo in 1378?
26 Which Greek astronomer from Cyrene calculated the tilt of the Earth's axis in c.240BC?
27 Living between the years 1170 and 1220, which German poet's only complete work is the Middle High German epic Parzival?
28 What is the largest of the six counties of Northern Ireland?
29 Emperor Charles V appointed which artist as his court painter in 1533, later resulting in one of the earliest equestrian portraits, Charles V at Muhlberg (1548)?
30 Which 1913 Alain-Fournier novel, whose English titles have included The Wanderer and The Lost Domain, tells the story of 15-year-old narrator Francois Seurel who falls in love at first sight with a beautiful girl, only to spend the rest of his life searching for her?
31 Set in the Alps, which downbeat Swiss feminist road movie of 1979 - sometimes nicknamed "The original Thelma and Louise" - from director Alain Tanner shares its title with an month of the French Revolutionary calendar?
32 Which major US city takes its name from the Ojibway for "wild onion place" or the Algonquian word for "onion field"?
33 Jean-Maurice Henri Scherer adopted which name when he became a prominent film director in the late 60s?
34 One of Africa's premier dance bands, the popular music group Bembeya Jazz known for such albums as Bembeya Jazz National come from which country?
35 In which country did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid supposedly meet their demise at San Vicente?
36 Which Siamese king (1804-68) had 39 wives and sired 82 children and inspired the musical The King and I?
37 The Kazakh smoked sausage qazy is made from the meat of which animal?
38 Also author of "The Banana Trilogy" (1950-1960), which 1967 Nobel prize-winning Guatemalan author and long-time exile has published such books as Hombres De Maiz/Men of Maize(1949), in which he combines Mayan mysticism and social awareness in order to indict dictatorial rule?*
39 In which Italian town will the Bra Cheese Festival be held from September 21-24?
40 Discovered by an eponymous scientist in 1933 when he observed that the earth's magnetic field was expelled from the interior of tin crystals below 3.72K thus indicating as superconductivity appeared the material became perfectly diamagnetic, what name is given to the falling off of the magnetic flux when it is cooled to a temperature below the critical temperature in a magnetic field?
41 What apparatus did US physicist Donald Arthur Glaser devise for detecting ionising radiation in 1952, for which he received the 1960 Nobel?
42 The Russian astronomer Alexander Friedmann proposed which cosmological theory in 1922?
43 Perfected by French scientist Georges Claude in 1902, the Claude process is used to do what on a commercial basis?
44 Hung Hsiu-ch'uan, a Hakka fanatic, led which 1851-64 revolt?
45 The German philosopher Christian Wolf (1679-1734) coined which term referring to a doctrine in metaphysics that contends reality consists of a single, unifying substance?
46 What word for a Muslim doctor of law comes from the Arabic for "judicial"?
47 Sir William Skeffington, Lord Deputy of Ireland and Lieutenant of the Tower of London under Henry VIII, is said to have "fathered" or invented which instrument of torture for compressing the body?
48 The umbelliferous plant Pastinaca sativa produces an edible root used as a vegetable known by what name?
49 Whose short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, has been adapted into a forthcoming film starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt?
50 The future Edward VII is said to have disliked which 1892 play because he thought that Lord Francourt Babberley, who disguises himself in widow's weeds to help his friends out of trouble, was modelled on his mother?
Answers to BH112
1 Pakistan 2 Suzuki 3 Pan's People on Top of the Pops 4 Quinlan Terry 5 Luminex 6 Restaurants 7 Upmarket clothes shops/fashion design 8 Sony 9 William Tyndale 10 Dow Chemical 11 BOAC 12 Antipaxos 13 Detour 14 Basle (named BASELWORLD) 15 Observatory Circle 16 Iran 17 Poor Folk (Bednye Lyudi) 18 Henri Poincare 19 Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht 20 Pierre Boulez 21 Deborah Compagnoni 22 Twenty six 23 Peter Miguel Camejo 24 Ras Kasa 25 Catherine of Siena 26 Eratosthenes of Cyrene 27 Wolfram von Eschenbach 28 Tyrone 29 Titian 30 Le Grand Meaulnes 31 Messidor 32 Chicago 33 Eric Rohmer 34 Guinea 35 Bolivia 36 Mongkut 37 Horse 38 Miguel Angel Asturias 39 Piemonte 40 (Walther) Meissner effect 41 Bubble chamber 42 Expanding universe theory 43 Liquefy air 44 Taiping Rebellion 45 Monism 46 Moolvi 47 Scavenger's daughter 48 Parsnip 49 F Scott Fitzgerald 50 Charley's Aunt (by Brandon Thomas)