Saturday, February 24, 2007

Perhaps courtesy means saying goodbye.

Is it rude to continue talking on the phone when you are dealing with a person at a checkout? I don't know if others feel the same way as I do but it sure seems rude to me. This insidious and isolating culture of rudeness is seeping like a virus through the UK. People wander through their days oblivious to the rest of the world they have chosen to live in. Just tonight I stood behind a well-dressed, mature woman at the checkout of the supermarket (I mention well dressed to quieten those voices that will immediately say "scruffy kids have always been the same"). She had gone about the business of throwing things into her basket without taking a breath in her telephone conversation. Her mobile phone appeared to be locked to her ear and as she reached the checkout she pushed the basket in front of the cashier without so much as a nod or acknowledgement of the exchange they were about to have. She didn't even falter in the conversation she was having. The cashier stood there..apparently invisible to her, she was just a counting and payign resources demanding no more attention than a cash machine. Somehow in the storm that was going on in her head she managed to notice the amount on the cash register,she wedged the phone between her neck and shoulder, foraged in her bag, extracted the money and threw it on the counter. She picked up her purchases and went on. There was no thank you. There was no recognition that there was another human being involved in this interaction. She was lost in the parallel universe of telephone gaga land.

How could this have happened so quickly? How could this country have turned into a nation of zombies walking around the streets plugged into headphones not aware of where they are walking or the people they pass?

I pass the topic over to the consiracy theorists because it is definitely an open book.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Are they trying to sneak this "pay as you go" car tax through?

I have spent the last 5 months in the UK and I am now beginning to understand the dilemma faced by those who are trying to live a more environmentally aware life and yet still carry on living and holding down a job.

When I am in Australia I do not drive a car...I refuse to own one and never drive one at all.. In the UK it seems as if that is impossible unless you
1) live in the middle of town, 2)are very wealthy, 3)you work within walking distance or 4)your children don't do any activities. It seems crazy to me that in this small country where it is vitally important that cars are kept to the minimum (for all sorts of reasons) there is an impossible public transport system which is expens
ive, unreliable and understaffed.

When I first arrived people would make jokes about the train system. The jokes centred on not when trains turned up but if they turned up. Now, as a seasoned commuter I am amazed at the absurdity of "public" transport system. I emphasis "public" because it seems to me that it is designed around the needs of the private companies which run this country's railways.

Wherever I travel in the world trains are my "local" and regional mode of transport. I have crossed the US on trains, travelled around Europe and always use the Australian trains. But here, in the UK? It is so expensive that you only travel by public transport if you absolutely have to. And then, if there is more than one person travelling it becomes far too expensive as many overseas visitors can testify. For those unfamiliar with the UK transport system let me give you an example...for one person to take a 50 minute commute from Brighton to London it costs over 3,500 pounds per year..let me put that into US dollars..that is nearly $7000 and remember that is the reduced rate because you have a season ticket. $7000 for under an hours commute and that does not guarantee you a seat. Standing for hours is not unusual. I am constantly hearing stories of people having to stand even on a trip to Cornwall which is about 4 hours I think.

Lets compare that to what people pay say in California, a comparable commute costs 10 pounds a day..and that does not include reductions for a yearly ticket. What about Australia? For a 2 hour commute (on a fast train) the yearly ticket is under $AU1500 that is equivalent to 600 pounds. The day ticket (the most expensive) is about 9 pounds for a 2hour return trip compared to 20 pounds for a one hour trip. Are you getting the picture? How can this be? With a country, such as Australia, where there are limited numbers of commuters to support a public transport system it is still less than a fifth of the price of the UK and yet the wages are comparable? Perhaps the money that should be going on supporting life in the UK is going somewhere else? For example:..........

......according to the IRAQ analysis website
the UK is spending at least 4.4billion pounds on IRAQ. I cant help but think that 4.4 billion pounds is a lot of public transport in a small country like this!

They can't rob the coffers of the other portfolios...the health service is falling to pieces, the schools are increasingly underfunded and the money has to come from somewhere. Now the government is easing legislation through hidden behind the topical reason that it is addressing global warming...

Don't get me wrong..I am not a supporter of the car or the plane but in the UK without access to this means of transport many people of medium to low income are stuck.

For those in the UK read this is very important whether or not you agree with the petition you need to know this legislation is proposed and to think about where you stand on it. You might want to fill in the petition...I received this email this afternoon and I cant help but feel that there are other ways of addressing global doing something about industry, perhaps getting heavy lorries off the road ...or heaven forbid...maybe supporting a decent, reliable and affordable public transport system.

"There are only 15 days left to register your objection to the 'Pay as you go' road tax - which closes to petitions on the 20th February 2007.

The petition is on the 10 Downing St website but they didn't tell anybody about it. Therefore at this time only 671,354 people have signed it so far and 750,000 signatures are required to stop them introducing it.

Once you've given your details (you don't have to give your full address, just house number and postcode will do), they will send you an email with a link in it. Once you click on that link, you'll have signed the petition.

Democracy in action?

The government's proposal to introduce road pricing will mean you having to purchase a tracking device for your car and paying a monthly bill to use it. The tracking device will cost about £200 and in a recent study by the BBC, the lowest monthly bill was £28 for a rural florist and £194 for a delivery driver. A non working mother who used the car to take the kids to school paid £86 in one month.

On top of this massive increase in tax, you will be tracked. Somebody will know where you are at all times. They will also know how fast you have been going, so even if you accidentally creep over a speed limit in time you can probably expect a Notice of Intended Prosecution with your monthly bill.

Make your feelings known by signing the petition below which is located on the government website