The Tube/Confessions from the Underground

The TubeA few weeks ago Channel 4 screened a documentary about the London Underground. It used a (slightly weird) device of getting actors to play real LU staff and tell their experiences of working on the Underground. It was strong stuff. Station staff were stressed and everyone feared for the safety of passengers. It all pointed to cut backs making the people’s jobs horrible now and leading to a terrible incident in the future.

It succeeded in making me sympathise for staff but didn’t succeed in much else. It was simply too one sided. There was little joy and lots of complaining. Given that LU has 19,000 employees, and the hatred that has been whipped up by the unions, I’m sure it would have been easy to find people who would tell horror stories and criticise.

BBC Two has just started showing a new series, The Tube, which also looks at LU through the eyes of staff. It couldn’t be more different from Channel 4’s programme. All the interviewees are upbeat and full of life. They are shown in tough situations – like dealing with the aftermath of a woman being thrown on to the tracks — but are shown taking it largely in their stride.

The BBC Two programme was made with the support of TFL. Channel 4’s programme without. Being the BBC they are keen to point out TFL did not have editorial control. Channel 4 made a point of it being ‘unauthorised’.

So, who to believe? Well, like all frontline customer service jobs, it takes a certain type of person to work at an Underground station. I also trust that TFL trains its staff to handle all sorts of difficult people and situations. I also like to believe that most people simply wouldn’t do those jobs if they couldn’t cope with the stresses.

But, in a climate of cost saving versus increasing passenger numbers I’m sure TFL managers are making decisions that will one day be criticised by an accident investigation. (Incidentally, we have to accept that accidents due to cutbacks have happened many times in the past and always will happen.) The truth is somewhere between BBC Two and Channel 4’s programme. I’d like to believe it is much closer to BBC Two’s though.

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Blur and Pulp live

Pulp at Brixton AcademyTwo years ago I got a last-minute ticket to see Blur at Hyde Park. It was an amazing gig that was helped by a lot of gin. I liked Blur back in the day but Pulp were my band. I was holding out for them to reform and play live.

Last year my wait ended and I saw them at Hyde Park. It was an amazing gig which was helped by a lot of wine but mainly my emotions at seeing them again. I then saw them at Brixton Academy and realised that this was the Pulp gig I wanted. It was longer with more ‘older’ tracks.

(At this point I should also say I’m no fan of gigs at Hyde Park. The sound, the crowd and the distance from stage are issues for me.)

Last Friday two gigs went on sale. Pulp at The Royal Albert Hall and Blur at Hyde Park. Something unexpected happened: I only wanted to buy tickets to Blur.

The reason was that after Brixton I’m too worried about diminishing returns for Pulp. I cannot see how the RAH could be better than Brixton and I don’t want to spoil them. I don’t care as much about Blur. I know it will be a good gig and two years will have passed since I’ve seen them. There just had better not be any twats near me in the audience.

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Wired Magazine

Wired MagazineI’ve already noticed my lack of interest in Wired UK’s iPad edition. Now my subscription to the print magazine is up and I’m really questioning renewing it.

Wired should speak to me in the way Smash Hits spoke to teenage girls way back when. But I find I’m just flicking through it and not caring.

If I’m honest I’ve also developed a problem reading about cool successful people who are younger than me. This isn’t really Wired’s fault.

Truth is I’ll probably renew given that is only £24 for the year.

Anecdotally I’ve heard I’m not the only who feels like this.