Yesterday, making my way into Manchester to go to my Italian conversation class, I hopped off the bus from Delph to Oldham and almost immediately hopped onto a tram to Manchester. I thought my travel plans were working out very well. It’s not often you wait less than a minute for the connecting tram. However, this particular tram seemed not to be going anywhere. Then came a voice over the public address system: “Due to an issue on the Irk Valley section of the line, this tram will have to wait here for a few minutes before being able to proceed. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope to have the tram moving again soon.” I debated with myself about getting off and catching a bus into Manchester. The bus takes ages to get to Manchester, though, and it was cold and windy at the bus stop whereas I was at least snug and warm in the tram. After five or ten minutes I was just about to reconsider my decision when the tram set off.
All seemed to be well but three or four stops up the line we had a repeat performance: “Due to an ongoing issue ... etc.” So it was an ongoing issue now! We got a little more information: the problem (or should I say “issue”?) seemed to be where the Bury – Manchester tramline and ours merged. A points problem, perhaps? By now I didn’t fancy getting off and finding a bus stop; I wasn’t entirely sure whereabouts on the route to Manchester I would come out if I left the tramline. So I stayed put and, lo and behold, we set off once again.
Not for long, however! A couple of stops further along it happened again. Well, they say that things run in threes. As we set off once more, the driver told us: “Passengers should be aware that we may experience a brake application.” A “brake application”?? In other words, the train might have to stop again. Which it did. In the middle of nowhere but within sight of Manchester, indeed within spitting distance of the city. Ten minutes later I had listened in to a wide variety of mobile phone calls explaining the situation, apologising for expected late arrival and a good deal of moaning and complaining.
We got to Manchester in the end but a journey which normally takes about twenty minutes lasted the best part of an hour. I had various errands I wanted to run before my Italian class so I rushed about in the city centre and then scuttled off to my class, only to discover that with all the hustle and bustle I had mixed up the times and arrived half an hour early. So it goes!
Now, I want to know why a “problem” has to be an “issue” in modern parlance (I hear it all the time) and why our train driver couldn’t just tell us that we might have to stop again instead of going on about “experiencing a brake application”. It’s rather pretentious and silly. Almost as bad as what happens on the local trains where you will hear an announcement like this: “We are now approaching Greenfield. Greenfield: your next station stop.” Why a “station stop”? Surely it could just be a “station” or a “stop” but not a combination of the two. Bonkers!
On to other matters: recently I bemoaned the felling of some trees at the bottom of our garden. I’ve just read about a place called Sarria in Galicia where they have been threatening to cut down trees as part of a project to channel the river. Clearly the planners have not heard all the discussion that has gone on about the Somerset Levels and how the channeling of rivers, removing natural meanders that slow the flow, may have contributed to the flooding. Some people are opposed to the tree-felling and have chained themselves to the trees to prevent it happening. Maybe we should have done that.
I’ve also gone on recently about fruit consumption and dietary advice. Well, according to some sources, strawberries can reduce cholesterol. An Italian university has been doing tests, making their Guinea pigs eat half a kilo of strawberries a day and measuring their levels of cholesterol. Eat strawberries every day and your cholesterol levels go down. Stop eating strawberries and they go back up. It’s a pity strawberries are a seasonal fruit because the ones you buy out of season, force-grown under glass, have no taste at all.
Eating strawberries, they reported, also protects against ultraviolet radiation. This must explain the fair complexion of English roses then. It’s nothing to do with English ladies not being exposed to sun; it’s eating strawberries and cream.
Mind you, looking again at the article about strawberries, I find that they based this study on 23 volunteers. Hardly a representative sample of the world population! Back to the drawing board I think!