Ok so I’m at risk of becoming quietly obsessed with ranting about my train experiences but there we have it – they’re a big part of my life so stick with me.
After yesterdays fiasco with buying tickets All I need is a train ticket – you’d think that my journey today would be trouble free. Surely it would, after all what could go wrong?
So I drag my case down to the train station in the rain and pop over to the fast ticket machine with 20mins to spare before my train leaves – no bad time management attitude problem for me no more (I’ll explain that some other time). So it’s a FAST ticket machine, key is in the name, right?
I had to print off tickets for three journeys – couple minutes max, it’s fast after all. Urrrgh apparently not. I know it’s a crap photo but if you look closely you can probably see the blue ‘please wait’ screen. So it goes something like this…
1. Insert credit card; 2. Remove credit card; 3. WAIT
4. Type in reference number; 5. Touch confirm; 6. WAIT
7. WAIT some more; 8. Prints one of three tickets; 9. WAIT
10. Print ticket two in set; 11. WAIT; 12. Print last ticket in set
13. WAIT and repeat from start for each of three journeys
Not sure if that was clear but there was a hell of a lot of waiting in that there experience, it took about 15 mins to print three tickets, I had to apologise to people who started forming queue behind me and generally it was a crap customer experience and I almost missed my train, even though I’d left loads of time.
Can anyone explain why you have to collect each journey separately?
Why cant I just have one booking reference? It was all booked at the same time in the same transaction anyway.
Anyone know of any ways around this?
Is the whole train customer service experience just shite because they know there is no other way for most of us to travel such distance?
How hard can it be?
I know where I am and I know where I need to go, I know roughly what time – sometimes I know exactly what time, and I have a credit card ready and waiting to buy the tickets.
So why, why, why do I dread booking train tickets so much? And why is it always such an infuriating experience?
Camera Train by dok1
Take today for instance. I needed a single to London tomorrow, a single from London to Weston-super-Mare (who says my job isn’t glamorous) and then onwards home to Newton Abbot. So three tickets but I knew what time and when and even what type of ticket I needed so it shouldn’t have taken more than five minutes max.
So first stop was the trainline website. I searched for my first ticket, problems with the site meant that advance fairs weren’t available. I knew I was on an off peak train so decided to book an off-peak single. I got as far as choosing the fare, reserving a seat and agreeing to pay the £1 booking fee even though I would then collect the tickets myself from the fast ticket machine. Then it made me log in, that’s ok, simples. Right? Nooo, wrong. I log in and it takes me back to the home page to start the process all over again.
Now I have been known to be patient occasionally so I decide to have another go but this time the whole site freezes. So I skip over to the First Great Western website which was also hideously slow but did at least allow me to book the tickets eventually. The whole process took the best part of an hour – an hour of my life that I will never get back, an hour of my life that I could have spent doing other more useful things, like having a lunch break.
There is a silver lining to this story that comes in the form of Dave! I was moaning on twitter about how RUBBISH my experience had been….nothing more than venting really, certainly didn’t expect anything to come of it, I didn’t even know that @thetrainline had an account.
Then out of nowhere I get a tweet from Dave offering to help sort it out. I was delighted at the personal touch. I’d already resorted to FGW by the time I saw Dave’s response but it might have been enough to encourage me to give trainline another chance next time….if I forget that they’ll charge me an additional booking fee!
Look for the silver lining by skittzitilby
I don’t tend to watch much TV but tonight for some reason I stuck it on just as ITV’s new series of Children’s Hospital was starting. This series does what it says on the tin and follows the ins and outs of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
The person who caught my eye and sucked me in was seven year old Jack Norfolk:
Jack just radiated through the tv! He was intelligent, articulate and charismatic far beyond what you would find in your average seven year old. He has had health problems since birth and during this episode he underwent his 22nd operation…as well as one of his weekly dialysis sessions.
So why blog about it, yes I’m slightly addicted to this new way of ranting to the world, but more importantly it was a comment made by one of the consultants that I wanted to share and discuss with the world. Dr Malcolm Lewis (Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist) had the following observation:
“Jack has lost all that sense of fear and most of the respect for doctors and nurses and just treats us as he should do I suppose, like ordinary human beings that he can enjoy his childhood with”.
I loved this quote, I loved the idea that Jack treats the adults, especially those with medical skills, as normals I loved Dr Lewis’ honesty in his reflection and the sentiment that Jack had got it right. Did leave me wondering what more could be done to break down the system that naturally elevates health professionals and leaves patients with a sense of fear in the first place! Any ideas people?
They promised to return to Jack later in the series so I’ve set up series record. The final say goes to Dr Lewis “there are lots of patients with complicated conditions, but there arent many Jacks”.
In September 2007 my Dad, Bobby J, turned 60. Having recently taken early retirement from his job as a postman, him and my mum were both looking forward to easing into retirement. At about the same time my little sis, Abi, and her fella, Steve, announced that they’d set a date to get married in early June 2008. Within a week of dad’s birthday our lives had turned upside down.
My dad is from Boston, Lincolnshire and so we’d always joked about him being a yellowbelly but he literally turned yellow in the course of a few days. To cut a very long story short he had developed obstructive jaundice, caused by cancer of the bile duct, cholangiocarcinoma. That September marked the start of a very challenging nine months for our family – if people want to know more just ask and I’ll do a separate blog on that.
For the sake of this post I wanted to focus on one of the hardest things to deal with, which was not knowing whether Dad would survive or how long he had left. Initially we were told he’d be extremely lucky to make Christmas 2007, he went on to have major surgery in January 2008 with horrendous odds, including a high chance of not surviving the operation. Then he developed MRSA and it looked like that would finish him off. However, despite all of the bad news and being incredibly poorly, dad’s attitude throughout was staunchly optimistic. My dad is a big believer in the power of Mind Over Matter – that combined with a healthy dose of Julian stubbornness meant that in Spring 2008 he started chemotherapy to try and kill any bits of tumour that they weren’t able to remove in surgery. He was determined to be back on his feet in time to walk my sister down the aisle that June.
Dad’s illness was hard for all of us to deal with but it was particularly difficult for my little sis. She’d always been daddy’s little girl, she is the youngest and the apple of his eye. She also prefers to ignore things for as long as possible, she doesn’t do talking about death or illness very well. So she had to arrange her wedding not knowing if dad would make it. She bought her wedding dress about six weeks after dad was diagnosed, just in case she needed to use it in a hurry. Throughout dad’s treatment there was constant banter between them…she frequently would tell him off for attention seeking, and tell him that “it’s all about me you know dad”.
Dad had to stop chemo early because the side effects were too great, he lost fine motor skills in his hands, his skin was burning from the drugs and until days before Abi’s wedding he literally couldn’t walk due to blisters and burning sensation on the soles of his feet. In hindsight, there was never any doubt in my mind that Dad would walk Abi down the aisle at her wedding…but I acknowledge that hindsight is a little deceptive and there were many moments of doubt.
I wanted to write this post, partly as a precursor to nine months – part two, that will follow in due course. However I also wanted to share a happy cancer story. There was very little information available about bile duct cancer when dad was diagnosed, all that we heard often was that very few people survived as it was rarely diagnosed in time for successful treatment.
I’m not sure how much of Bobby J’s survival and recovery was down to luck, his relentless spirit, his stubborn positive attitude, having a goal to look forward to, or just the fantastically amazing care we got from the NHS (his GP and the staff at Torbay and Derriford Hospitals). What I do know is that you’d struggle to find a prouder man than he was the day he walked Abi down the aisle….or a prouder family than we were, all of us bursting with pride, relief and gratitude.
My good friend in the twittersphere, Rich W, recently blogged about the use of cake as a management tool. His post was inspired by what I think was a tongue in cheek comment from the lovely Hadley Beeman. In a nutshell Rich declared the positive effects of the ‘making and sharing of cakes with your staff or colleagues – in an entirely uninvited way (and not out of some form of obligation, as with buying cakes every time it’s your birthday)’ ~ the Hadley Effect.
Rich’s post got me thinking about why I bake for colleagues, and whether even at an unacknowledged level, there is some ‘management technique’ reason for it! After a full ten minutes of reflection (helped along by a coffee and a bun my Gran had baked earlier today*) I decided not in my case.
I enjoy baking….lots. So much in fact that I can not possibly consume all of what I bake. I think this is why I first started baking for my colleagues. I guess there was also a little bit of me that wanted to do something nice for our team too, but I’d say it was about 50% being a team player and 50% selfish – not wanting to end up morbidly obese!
One thought I did have though was around Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I wonder whether there is some connection between a manager providing for your base level physiological need for food that gets a good reaction – as well as what Rich flagged about it providing an opportunity for interaction, and generally showing, or appearing to show, that they care a little.
Interestingly I think there is an inverse correlation between my baking frequency and my management career! That is, the more managerial responsibility I get, the less time I have and the less baking I do….which is a shame if the Hadley Effect is a real one. Maybe it’s time to get the mixing bowl out again…I’ll keep you all posted.
* Did I mention baking is big in my family!