Sitting on the train at King’s Cross, waiting to depart for Edinburgh and the snowy north. Four Geordies have commandeered the table directly ahead, but they seem of a well-behaved generation, and are tucking into panini rather than bottles of Newcastle Brown.
I found myself in London courtesy of my boss being a bit under the weather and unable to travel to a product launch he was booked on. So I took his place, and his room in the Tower Bridge Hilton, which was, I have to say, very well appointed. Modern but comfy furniture, a huge bed, and trendy lighting. Perhaps the only downside was the disabled access shower, which flooded the bathroom very effectively. I have previous with these showers – it is a mercy Wiseman wasn’t sharing my room and distributing his follicles all over the bathroom floor.
The sink was outfitted with some sort of chrome designer tap, which had a joystick on the top controlling water pressure and temperature. However, the water pressure seemed fairly oblivious to my joystick-wiggling, if you’ll pardon the expression, and remained resolutely medium. Not a problem, and in fact, something of a bonus, as the tap was so close to the edge of the (beautifully contoured) basin as to make it tricky to wash one’s hands without flooding the immediate vicinity. A high pressure tap could have been a disaster. Another example of style winning over substance, as it so often does in our modern venti-triple-shot-skinny-latte society. I read a comforting article on the BBC News website recently which announced that a recent survey had decreed that the coffee offered by the large chains (Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero) was of low quality and seriously overpriced. Comforting because it made me realise I wasn’t alone in my assessment of their coffee and prices. Coffee is a matter of taste, of course, but that doesn’t mean that people who like Starbucks coffee aren’t completely misguided.
But back to taps. In the same hotel, the public toilets were kitted out with equally trendy automated taps, which were even more useless. I acquired some liquid soap from the ultra chic dispenser on the wall, and then placed my hands under the tap. Nothing happened. The sensor which detected your uncleansed hands was, altitude-wise, just underneath the output of the tap. Which was high above the rim of the basin. So I raised my hands a bit, and lo, the water flowed, onto my hands and all over the polished inter-sink surface (what exactly does one call the worktop-like area around the sinks in a public loo?). Lowering my hands into the basin, in an attempt to prevent this haemorrhaging of water, abruptly stopped the water flow. Genius.
Modern life is like this. Full of fancy gadgets which look very nice, and purport to make your life easier (saving you the hassle of turning a tap on and off, for example), but don’t always actually do the job their manual predecessors did so well (providing water for you to wash your hands with, for example). Full of coffees in Label-embossed cups which make you feel like you’re at one with the hip iPod-wearing generation because you’re not drinking coffee, you’re drinking a skinny-venti-mocha-frappucino. But actually you’re drinking a bucket of frothy milk with a tiny drop of coffee in the bottom. (With apologies to David from London)
The automatic lights in my car are a bit better. Initially I was a bit disconcerted by them (You think I don’t know when to turn my own headlights on, huh?), and sometimes during heavy rain they don’t switch on. One of my pet targets for verbal abuse is the driver of an oncoming car who hasn’t switched on their lights in heavy rain or low visibility. I now fire the same volley of abuse at my automatic lights, who in fairness take it all on the chin and don’t answer back. They still don’t switch on, however.
(Yes, I could switch the auto function off completely and operate them manually, but… whisper it, I do like the way they switch themselves on when you enter a tunnel and the like. And yes, I have retained enough manual control of my life to override the automatic function when the rain is heavy enough to reduce visibility.)
Snow has been coming down heavily in the north of England this weekend, according to the news. I have now travelled through what I thought was the affected area, and haven’t seen any snow, although it’s kind of dark out there. Perhaps the train’s automatic headlights haven’t come on. The Alps have been receiving snow of late, which bodes well for my second skiing extravagance of the season, in March. The Admin Supremo, DC and an old flatmate Tom are joining me for some snow action underneath Il Cervino, which is how the Italians refer to the Matterhorn. Filipideedooda is unable to come with us due to carelessly allowing part of her foot to break off while boarding in Val d’Isère. She found out it was broken after deciding to have it x-rayed once she’d been reassured by the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary that it “definitely wasn’t broken and an x-ray wasn’t necessary”. It’s a shame she won’t make it, although she might have had a tough week coping with four lads.
It’s now February, and I’ve turned the page on the calendar to discover that I have only two things lined up in February: on 10 Feb I am buying a laptop and mobile phone for Nasty Jen, and on 22 Feb I am sending money to Hazel. Curious, don’t remember writing those reminders in…