Nothing to see here. Carry on.

It’s been, somehow, 8 months since my last post on these pages.

8 months.

I’ve been thinking about the reasons for such an extended absence. The obvious suspects are ‘the twins’: namely endemic laziness and a permanent sense that everything you write is shite of the highest order and your entire readership is just your mum visiting from an exotic range of browsers. These, however, are neither new nor unique, so let’s discount them.

After deep thought and intensive study of current affairs, I have concluded that, startlingly, absolutely nothing of note has occurred in the world since last September. Nothing at all. No material to work with.

I know, I was shocked too. However, I feel as though it is my duty to offer a quick recap on some events that have happened – simply so as to bring the reader up to speed on global affairs. Be warned – I expect this to be a particularly dry and uninteresting list, which should be considered educational in nature. If you are a teacher or other authority figure to the youth, these facts could make a reasonable pop quiz for toddlers, or potentially form part of a three hour exam for the under-5s.

In the UK

Overall, a few trifling issues to report.

On Europe – There has been a small kerfuffle in the Conservative party. As far as I can tell, the Tories have had enough of their current leader and would like another small-minded, braying wanker to replace him. Instead of doing this through the normal channels, they’re embracing democracy and asking the whole country to vote on their favourite. Oh and also whether or not we should be leave the EU.

But mainly the ‘who leads the Tories’ thing. On one side are Cameron and Osborne and a cadre of assorted cronies. Opposing them are Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith, who coincidentally also make up the answers to the popular game ‘Name the absolute worst three people you can think of’.

As mentioned, this seems to be about leadership of a political party as opposed to the EU. Of the 137 Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem MPs supporting Vote Leave, 130 of them are Conservative. Overall, however, there is very little information on the actual EU referendum to be had aside from lies, lies and more lies.

Thankfully there is only one sensible option to vote for so this almost definitely won’t have major, life-altering implications for any of us. And as if to help us pick the right option, Johnson and friends have surrounded themselves with a motley collection of odious bastards, and Nigel Farage. They’re even considering flying in nasty horrible racists like Marine Le Pen from around Europe to really hammer home their ‘you really shouldn’t support us’ credentials, as well as demonstrate a pleasingly poor grasp of irony.

In Health, doctors have had a bit of a disagreement with Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary. Quite why they, the experts, think they know better than Hunt, a man with exactly, exactly the same facial expressions as Dougal from Father Ted, is beyond me. Noted simpleton Hunt has concluded, after perhaps seconds of deep thought, that doctors don’t seem to work very hard and maybe they should work more, maybe also for less cash and maybe also at earlier, later and more weekend-y times than they currently do.

When doctors pointed out that they work at these times, get paid fuck all and literally cannot do any more hours without physically killing people, Hunt decided to put his fingers in his ears and sing loudly to drown out the sound, then carry on with his plan to impose an unworkable contract on an exhausted and underfunded workforce. Should the doctors’ unprecedented industrial action fail, they will just have to hope that a contract written in crayon is not legally binding.

Jeremy Hunt in his thinking jumper

Jeremy Hunt in his thinking jumper

In Education, see above, except Jeremy Hunt has longer hair and is called Nicky Morgan, and doctors are called teachers, but pretty much the same dynamic is playing out.

In world news

Some French and Belgian guys have attacked bits of their own countries. Therefore, immigrants and refugees should be banned. Look, it doesn’t have to make sense ok?

In the US, there’s a presidential nomination campaign going on and for the Republicans the frontrunner is a man who looks like every picture I ever drew at nursery and speaks like a Microsoft chatbot. His policies comprise: shouting, shouting words, shouting other words. He is the least extreme Republican candidate, and whilst scary, is scary in the same way as a monkey wielding a potato masher.

Potential for some damage, but the poor thing doesn’t actually know what it’s doing. Professionals will handle it.

In Environment news, the world is heating at an unprecedented rate, but look on this as an opportunity to get a crazy good tan on your next trip to Glamorgan.

Finally, in Celebrity, everyone your parents adored is dead. This is also hard for you, as you’ve had to quickly brush up on Bowie songs and learn that Prince was from Minnesota so as not to miss out on the mandatory outpouring of grief. Who cares if you only know them principally from cameos in Zoolander, the world has lost a genius and Twitter needs to hear your pain.

So, as you can see, not much to report. All pretty normal, cheerful stuff. Definitely no impending apocalypse. I’ll keep tabs on anything else that crops up so you don’t have to, and we’ll aim for an update in another 8 months or so.

In the meantime, if you need me I’ll be stocking up on provisions, building a needlessly cramped concrete bunker, weeping inconsolably and learning to scavenge for local London sustenance like wild herbs and fried chicken.

Those survivalists might look mental, but perhaps, grudgingly, they had a point.

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Labour confusing words again

The Labour Party – Britain’s premier right of centre left wing political party – has started mixing up its words and phrases again.

As the Labour leadership election contest heats up, many prominent bigwigs have become somewhat lost in the moment and completely lost track of their vocabulary.

The most obvious and oft-repeated mistake of recent days has been the use of the word ‘credible’, where in fact the phrase ‘an utter bastard’ ought to have been deployed.

Key examples include:

labour

 

As well as a fairly widespread attempt to label frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn as “not credible”. In a lightly more complex misunderstanding, many big beasts within the party have apparently, somehow, been using the word ‘electable’ in place of the common phrase, “exactly like the Tories, except wearing a red tie”. Journalists recently recorded a conversation between Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson which shows how commonplace this mis-speech has become:

Blair: This Corbyn fellow – do we think he’d make a good leader?

Mandelson: Well, let’s see. He’s had about 60% of the vote in his constituency for the last 32 years so he must be doing something right.

Blair: That’s good – is he credible though?

Mandelson: No. He’s not a fan of having a large and costly arsenal of those vital nuclear weapons we so desperately need, he’s against selling off literally everything we have, and for some reason he doesn’t think migrants are the cause of all of our problems.

Blair: This sounds bad. I dread to ask, but which countries does he want to bomb?

Mandelson: None of them Tony. None at all. Not even the really oily ones.

Blair: Sweet lord. Please tell me he’s at least electable Peter?

Mandelson: That’s just the thing Tony – I’ve never even seen him in a tie.

Blair: Well this could be a total disaster, we’ll never attract the UKIP vote with that kind of attitude. Tell you what, let’s use our overwhelming publicly popularity to speak out and bury this rabble rouser.

Mandelson: Great idea. And if for some unthinkable reason that doesn’t work, let’s suggest we cancel the election altogether until Corbyn dies and we get a leader who is credible. That would send a great message and not make us look even remotely stupid.

Blair: You’ve still got it Peter. Now, which one of these orphans should we kick next?

Labour does have form in this area – most notably during the reign of Blair when they started using the term ‘has millions of massive nuclear weapons pointed at us RIGHT NOW’ in place of ‘is totally unarmed’ – so this latest episode is not altogether surprising.

Perhaps Corbyn’s radical ideas are just too scary for many to contemplate – a more equal society, a move away from the pursuit of naked profit at all costs, pointing out that perhaps all the money doesn’t need to be shared between about 4 people, spending more cash on schools than on massive tanks – these are all things that surely no ordinary voter could ever align to.

We don’t need a genuine alternative to right wing politics in the UK. What this country surely needs is a Labour party headed by an identikit politician that works hard for the rich and the middle classes, shows a bit of flirtatious ankle to our hard-working billionaires, and installs a death ray that sweeps over Calais roughly every fifteen minutes.

If they don’t fight for these necessities, who will?

Glastonbury ‘just a muddy version of your office’

Revellers arriving at Glastonbury for days of inebriated mayhem have been shocked to discover that all of their colleagues are there too.

An air of tension hangs over Worthy Farm as festival goers try to reconcile the urge to consume as many narcotics as will fit in them with the need to not expose any genitalia to their line manager, who is camped seven yards away.

Entire reporting lines have sprung up accidentally all over the site, with attendance particularly high among those who claim to work in new media, management consultancy or any form of tech startup. Farringdon is reportedly empty at present.

The situation is especially awkward for the 78% of people who are have told their peers that they are working from home or attending a conference, with many trying to cover their backs by wandering the site and repeating the phrase “this immersive residential course is really going to help me pitch my brand to millenials” to every passer by they encounter.

Networking

“This immersive residential course is really going to help me pitch my brand to millenials”

Festival organisers have expressed fears that the inherently twattish culture of the modern British workplace is having a negative effect on the festival.

“We are worried, yes”, admitted organiser Stephanie Sinclair. “Last night there were only 9 people watching Florence + The Machine on the main stage, while we had almost a quarter of a million attempting to watch one woman talk about why Powerpoint is dead and all your deliverables should be presented in the form of contemporary dance. It might be innovative but it’s not exactly Glasto is it?

“What even is a deliverable anyway? I swear these people just make up words.”

Sinclair did concede that there was some common ground between the spirit of the festival and the corporate hordes who attend it.

“There are literally boatloads of drugs, which is obviously a big part of this whole thing. We’re also pretty sure that Kanye West will be a sellout – when he plays music they all start turning to their friends and screaming “THIS IS MY JAM”, thousands of them at a time. I find this confusing, as they’re rarely actually holding jam at the time.”

It is unclear whether behaviours observed at the festival will impact on workers’ day jobs, although there would surely be mass support for any quarterly review that reads: ‘Overall, Gary’s work has been exemplary, but I did see him chewing a tent pole at Glastonbury. I, however, thought I was a dragon and was wearing only ski goggles at the time, so I’m willing to overlook it on this occasion.’

Meanwhile, Sinclair and her team will have to work out how to attract a more diverse crowd to next year’s event.

“We charge hundreds of pounds for ticket, we open the phone lines at 10am – yet we keep ending up with crowds of people who loads of cash and jobs that don’t sound real.”

“I just don’t get it.”

Cycling the Alps: Tour du Mont Blanc

Remember last year, when I signed up for that stupidly long, stupidly mountainous cycle tour, and complained about it endlessly? Remember that?

Yeah, so it sort of happened again…

If no, incidentally, you can read about it here – although be warned, this is going to be quite similar.

If you’re terribly busy and important and want the short version, here is the entire article in a comma separated list:

Training regime and lack thereof, subsequent struggles through lack of preparation, lots of mountains, small amount of passing out, heat, fun, amusing anecdotes and similes, mention of good cause, link to charity page. Bye.

For the rest of you, allow me to paint a picture made of words…

Part 1: The training phase

I should put it out there straight away – I’m a terrible cyclist. Not in a ‘self-deprecating, I’m actually shit hot’ sort of way, but in a ‘I do not mix well with bicycles’ kind of way. I lack power, strength, application and stamina – my knees are made of dynamite and explode at the first sign of a derailleur – I’m semi allergic to hills. All poor traits to be taking into a 3 day, 330km ride with 10km of elevation gain.

So you can imagine my training was quite intense. Well keep imagining, because it wasn’t. My sportsman’s regimen consisted of 5 gentle rides to work, three weekend trips to Surrey involving a lot of whimpering, an ominous quantity of moussaka and a startling amount of weight gain.

If you would like a PDF of my ‘from fit to fat in 6 cheese-filled weeks’ training plan, please contact me directly.

So that’s the training part covered.

Part 2: The first day

Having dragged my bike, my pitiful legs and my freshly portly arse to Geneva, we set up camp in La Giettaz. There were around 30 of us for this trip, which is run by Traverse Aravis – if you’re looking for a spot of alpine cycling you won’t do better. Quite a few of us had done the High Alps Challenge the previous year as well as a lot of friendly new faces, so we spent some time catching up, swapping stories, and lying about how little training had been done.

As we prepared to set off from our luxurious chalet accommodation, I was cheered by the fact that it was sunny. At least I won’t be cold, I thought.

I certainly wasn’t wrong, as the temperature swiftly proceeded past 30 degrees and never looked back. I thought about this moment the next day whilst lying in an Italian layby, in 38 degree heat, with the world spinning, trying not to be sick. I concluded that the world is a cruel and wicked place that turns cheerful thoughts to dust for its own childish amusement – and if you take one thing from this blog, it should be that.

We set off as a group, whizzing down to Flumet to start the first climb, the gentle 14km of Les Saisies. As opening climbs go, it’s quite a nice one – not too taxing, a few flat sections to catch your breath, and relatively short. An amuse bouche of a mountain.

Needless to say I was broken by the top.

After a quick break for bananas and weeping, we zipped down towards Beaufort to tackle the main course for the day – the Cormet de Roselend. At 21km, this one is a bit more of a beast. It’s steep, long, and you’re stuck in a forest for ages so you can’t even mumble gently to yourself about the pretty views and freak out passers by. The real kicker is a lake at about 15km, which looks an awful lot like the summit but is in fact a large, cruel joke leading up to another 7km of steepness. It was also blisteringly hot. You don’t really notice it at first, but all of a sudden you find yourself cycling at 6km/h and realise that despite 7 bottles of water, you’re currently on 0 wees for the day. It’s not a pleasant experience.

You’ll notice there are no photos thus far. In my defence, I was sulking so I didn’t take any.

All in all, not a fun day – although the evening was somewhat better. Not only were we served industrial quantities of chicken ft. pasta cooked in chicken fat – a surefire classic – but we were also treated to several hundred cows strolling down the high street, which was entertaining until they started charging at us. Fortunately there was a Frenchman on hand with a large stick to save us via the medium of flagrant animal cruelty, which was welcome if morally difficult.

Part 3: A day of two hills

After the warm up day, we got stuck int the main event. Day two ran from Seez in France, up the ironically named Col du Petit St. Bernard, down to Aosta in Italy, and up the accurately named Col du Grand St Bernard, finishing just past the Swiss border. Everyone was in good spirits, if a little daunted by a 116km day involving two 30km+ climbs.

It’s rare that I have cause to celebrate my cycling achievements, but I have to declare that I absolutely blasted* up the first climb. There is nothing ‘petit’ about the Petit St. Bernard – It’s 30km long with over 1,300m of elevation gain – but for some reason (possibly a deep physical trauma) I felt in good shape. I gave that hill every shred of energy I had. I pushed deep into my energy reserves, imagining myself as some kind of lightning bolt on wheels. Bradley Wiggins would have struggled to beat me, I was certain of it. And so it proved, as I made it up the climb an outstanding 25th out of 30 participants, many of whom were taking it easy anyway, one of whom was on a mountain bike with panniers and another of whom was on a tri bike with approximately 0 gears. It was without doubt the pinnacle of my cycling career.

*sort of

I felt like a pro, as evidenced by this photo, which I thought at the time caught me in a dashing pose, but actually makes me look as though I’m on day release. Why am I holding a small bag? Who knows.

Fit.

Fit.

Sadly, it sort of unraveled a bit from here.

After lunch, I got a bit over confident and tried to stay with the lead group on the run down into Italy. This was fine until my chain fell off – twice – and despite one of the group superstars dropping back to pull me back onto the pack, I am not cut out for 40km/h on the flat and was knackered by the bottom of the climb.

By the time we started, it was 38 degrees. One of the features of the Grand St Bernard is its consistent approach to shade. There is consistently no shade. It’s also 32km long and steeper than the petit version. After pushing on the first hill, then breaking myself and my bike on the flat, I promptly overheated.

I first noticed something was wrong when I started shivering – one of the less common reactions to warmth. I first noticed it was time to stop when my vision started blurring and the overwhelming urge to re-examine my lunch kicked in.

I eventually found a shaded layby to pull into and found another victim huddled there looking equally shell shocked. We decided that enough was enough and called for the support car. They gave us ice cream and put the air con on, so any regrets we had about stopping vanished quite quickly.

Everyone else somehow slogged it to the top – and that’s no mean feat. Even on its own it would be a tough day’s cycling, but on the back of a previous monster climb and in unbearable heat, it was a superhuman effort. Massive credit to everyone who made it.

We got the ice cream though.

We stayed overnight at the monastery on top of the mountain. It’s quite a picturesque little spot if you’re ever in the area!

Considerably easier in a car

Considerably easier in a car

Part 4: Lies, damned lies and average gradients

Having had considerably more rest than most others, I was well up for the final 140km day. We started with a leisurely 40km descent down into Switzerland, towards Martigny. There’s a very long section of open-sided tunnels on the way, and whilst I wouldn’t recommend trying to see how fast you can go whilst you’re in them, I did and it was brilliant. I felt a bit like Lewis Hamilton at Monaco – except a lot slower, wearing lycra and having to make F1 engine noises with my mouth.

The fun ended when we took a sharp left to Chamonix, up the Col de la Forclaz. This averages 8% incline, which in layman’s terms is a bastard, with the occasional 12% bit thrown in for fun. I made it up by muttering obscenities under my breath and, oddly, singing Jack Johnson songs. I don’t even like Jack Johnson, nor do I know many of the words to his songs.

Something something banana pancakes

Something something banana pancakes

To be honest, I don’t remember much of the rest of the day. Some highlights I do remember are as follows:

We saw an ibex. It looked well angry:

He will have you

He will have you

 

We did an off road section! A bloke called barrée kept blocking all the routes in the area, meaning we had to sneak down some closed roads. Many of these seemed to be homages to the wonders of gravel and fallen leaves, which obviously make for ideal descending.

The last climb was a killer. ‘Averaging’ 7%, it must have been closer to 20% in a lot of places, and after 110km I was definitely not in the mood for it. After a brief tantrum I got on with it, finished the climb, and then got caught in a storm of some kind.

As a mark of how far behind everyone else I was, I was the only one to get back to the chalet wet.

After a bonus climb back to the finish from Flumet, and 300km and 3 days later, it was finally done. Everyone was a mixture of relief, hunger, thrist and tiredness. A few Kronenbourgs and a monstrous bbq soon dealt with that, followed by a celebratory Genepi or three and a lot of laughs with the whole group. A great end to an eventful few days!

Overall it was a tough but rewarding trip. I might take a small break from stupid activities for a while, but knowing my easily led disposition I’ll have signed up for a sponsored bungee jump or similar by this time next week. Watch this space.

We were all cycling for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, so please take a minute or two to have a look at all the great work they do – and there’s a link to the donation page up top if you feel compelled to part with any cash (pretty please?).

A massive thanks to Michael, Marjolein, Sue, Matt, Cliff, Barry and Kate for looking after us so brilliantly for the whole trip and making it so much fun – and thanks to everyone else who took part for all the laughs, camaraderie and hopefully not ironic applause when I staggered in an hour after everyone else.

Same time next year??

District Line gains sentience, turns feral

In a terrifying turn of events, it has been confirmed that London’s least reliable Tube line has become a living entity and is refusing to obey its TfL overlords unless a string of bizarre demands are met.

The line, characterised by carriages which pre-date stainless steel and a ragtag collection of empty stations with fancy names, has never been the most efficient of rail networks, but since the turn of the year its behaviour has become erratic to the point where scientists have been able to prove that it has indeed developed feelings, a soul, and the mental capacity of a senile horse.

I have borne witness to these strange unfoldings and can report the following additional features to the service:

Laziness  – The new District Line has yet to grasp the concept of a timetable, adamantly believing it to be a sturdy piece of furniture made of clocks. This means that trains now arrive simultaneously or not at all, as though all the trains have been sent out at once like a massive metal snake. Whilst TfL still insist that your service will arrive at 5,15,25 past the hour etc., the new schedule is random and is currently closer to 3,3,3 and tomorrow past the hour.

All trains lead to Richmond – Much as with the schedule, the neat rotation of destinations is a thing of the past. The thinking District Line has decided that Richmond is very much the place to be and cannot be convinced otherwise. It is said to find the cobbled streets and wildly overpriced boutiques a delight. The pattern that used to run Wimbledon, Richmond, Ealing Broadway now reads Richmond, Richmond, Richmond, and the only services to Ealing occur when controllers can distract the line with a delicious biscuit and quietly change the sign on the front of the train. This happens roughly once an hour.

Will almost certainly go to Richmond instead

Will almost certainly go to Richmond instead

Whimsy

The renewed focus on Richmond as the centre of the District Line’s universe has begun to force out other information taking up space in the network’s mind-carriage which it deems unimportant, such as where it’s meant to go. This morning, while managing to remember the way to Ealing Common, we got somewhat waylaid when the District Line was distracted by a Piccadilly Line train, which it finds highly sexually attractive. Something about the rounder trains and the ability to go into deep tunnels and to Uxbridge leave the District Line all hot and bothered. Unfortunately this meant that our train followed its sexy prey all the way to North Ealing, instead of Ealing Broadway, before the driver was able to wrestle it back under control (I shit you not, this genuinely happened today). In fairness the driver did a wonderful job with his explanation – a masterstroke of brevity – “This train will terminate here”. He left all manner of tantalising questions unanswered, questions like ‘Why?’, ‘How?’ and ‘Isn’t this station on a different line?’

It’s rumoured that unless TfL get a handle on the situation, and let’s face it, they won’t, we can expect this disturbing new beast to continue to act up. Rumours suggest that the District Line has written down a bucket list which it repeats to itself daily in a sort of chant. Items include ‘Punch Victoria Line’, ‘Build new station between Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park’ and the more worrying entries of ‘Parkour’ and ‘Joust’.

The only hope TfL have of taming the beast is to wait until it’s briefly out of service, suspended or otherwise not working and administer a series of massive electric shocks to regain control of the line. Ironically, thanks to its own continued incompetence (or as it prefers, tube improvement works), Transport for London will have the opportunity to do this on most weekends, all bank holidays, and really the vast majority of the working week.

It will only be a five minute job, so they’ve committed to having it done by late 2018.

UKIP song heralds hilarious new era of political broadcasts

Nigel Farage and his band of people who are only saying what everyone else is thinking would like everyone to know that they have an MP and a song and they’re going all the bloody way to Downing Street.

Well it works for Vladimir

Well it works for Vladimir

The party, with an average gender of man, and average skin colour of white and an average emotional state somewhere between drunk and angry, have grabbed headlines in the past week by overcoming all odds and gaining an MP in a constituency where their candidate was already the MP, but used to be in another party. If they were on a football team, they would be the equivalent of Santiago Vergini.

Just wanted an excuse to get that in, sorry.

To celebrate snaring approximately 0.2% of the seats in parliament, supporters of the new force in British politics immediately released a song with such classic pop themes as the work pension scheme, tax on the minimum wage and an old white bloke who supports a far right party singing in a Jamaican accent. I’m not going to link to it because it’s one of the more cringeworthy things I’ve ever forced myself to sit through, but suffice to say I thought it was a piss take for quite a long time.

UKIP are now of the opinion that it’ll get to number one, which should give you a fairly good idea of the kind of minds attracted to the organisation.

What they have done, I hope, is ushered in a new dawn of political broadcasts through the glorious medium of song. Whilst undeniably a flying pile of wank, it is still infinitely more watchable than any party political broadcast that has ever been created. For the uninitiated, they go like this:

Scene 1: Fade in – Person who is nothing like you: “I am just like you.”

Scene 2: Person visits old person or minority, talks about something abstract which they then shoehorn back to their party

Scene 3: Party leader says something, slow mo of leader with ‘normals’ to show that they’re down with real people

Scene 4: Smiles, music, fade out. VOTE FOR US.

I feel like these inane 4 minute wastes of airwaves could be jazzed up a bit if everybody went down the musical route. As a starter for 10, for any political PR types reading, I’ve come up with a verse or two for each of the big 3. I think these would go down a storm and also convey key party ideologies, so feel free to use them.

Conservatives – to the tune of You’re Beautiful by James Blunt – sung by David Cameron

My life is brilliant, my funds secure,
I saw a poor man,of that I’m sure.
He smiled at me in my Jaguar,
he was sitting in a van,
but I won’t lose no sleep on it, ’cause I’ve got a plan.
 
We’ll kill them all,
We’ll kill them all,
We’ll kill them all, it’s true.
I can’t stand folk, who are just flat broke,
And I don’t know what to do,
But I do know I don’t like you.
 

Labour – to the tune of Hello by Lionel Ritchie – sung by Ed Miliband

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?
What do you mean you don’t know who I am? I’m Ed Miliba…hello? Hello? 
Ed? Balls. They’ve hung up.
 

Lib Dems – to the tune of Help! by the Beatles – sung by Nick Clegg

Just the chorus, sung over and over again, maybe with a couple of sobs thrown in for good measure. 

“Thank you for travelling on the Central line”

Eh?

Did that actually happen? Right, status check: Am I still asleep? No. Am I drunk? No. Is the body odour emanating from the man whose armpit I’m now inhabiting causing me to hear things? It’s possible, but normally there are more dancing rabbits by this point.

No, my ears did not deceive – a mode of transport just thanked me for choosing it.

I’m not sure how many of you have experienced the joy of any tube line at morning rush hour, but choice is a concept that is far removed from such an environment. Unless you’re into being half-crushed by leaking strangers in a box that makes a clown car look roomy, it’s very unlikely that you’ve expressed a strong consumer preference to travel on the Central line.

That’s not to say there aren’t options. There are certainly options. I’ve even tried some, a personal highlight being the bus, which assured me it was a 40 minute journey and then proceeded to take two bloody hours. Cycling won’t get me killed but will make me unsuitably sweaty for a work environment which is distinctly lacking in showers. Walking is a stretch at 5 and a bit miles. So yes, in one way I am choosing to travel on the Central line, but in another, much more realistic sense, of course I’m fucking not. Allow me to paint a word picture:

Person: “I’ve chopped my arm off by accident.”

Doctor: “I can see that.”

Person: “Can you help?”

Doctor: “I can. But first I’d just like to thank you for choosing our hospital today. It really means a lot to us that you’ve chosen to have your gushing, terrifying wound treated here.”

Person: “But the next nearest hospital is 30 miles away.”

Doctor: “I know, but still, you’re a valued customer.”

Person: “I really am losing quite a lot of blood.”

That is the kind of thanks you’re getting on the Central line.

No TfL, thank you.

No TfL, thank you.

This sort of unnecessary, simpering, hollow adoration is becoming more and more commonplace – and it’s unbelievably annoying. Somebody, somewhere, has sat around a table and said “Tube users need to feel more valued. Why don’t we thank them every time they step into a carriage?”, and a group of other, supposedly rational and qualified people have agreed that this is not a wholly shit idea.

It is a wholly shit idea. It’s a massive, flashing, neon sign that says that you know your service is horrendous, and the only thing you’re going to do about it is record a short voiceover. The worse a company is, the more thanks they offer. TalkTalk are serial thankers who are unable to provide even a vague semblance of internet for vast swathes of the year, while Ryanair host a small party for their customers whenever a plane lands on the same day it was meant to.

Meanwhile, better organisations spend less time trying on the empty platitudes. (Sadly, this doesn’t mean they’re actively rude to customers – it would be a glorious day when John Lewis unveil the slogan “Shut up – you fucking love it”) What they do do is spend more time on actually doing things to improve how people experience their brand, which is easy to lose sight of when your company is juggling the really important stuff like getting more likes on Facebook. The best brands don’t tell customers how much they love them, they show them. Actions speak louder than words.

In summary, keep the thanks, buy more fucking trains.