Map

More than just a quota picture, honest.

Considering I’ve never lived in London, I have always had a strange fascination with the London Underground. I’ve never lived in Budapest, Paris or Berlin either, but I have a strange fascination with their underground systems as well. Sheffield, Oxford and Cape Town don’t have underground systems  (too hilly, too small and big flat lump of rock in way, respectively), but I was happy to flirt briefly with the Metro in Newcastle whilst studying there. It was fun for a while, but it was never going to last. I was so hurt when I discovered that she had been allowing other people to ride her during our time together.  

Anyway, one of the best known things about the London Underground, aside from its innate ability to attract young muslim men with rucksacks, is the famous network map. First devised by Harry Beck in 1931, the evolved version is now a design classic and inspired Simon Patterson’s 1992 piece The Great Bear, which I don’t have a copy of.

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Map

What I do have is a copy of is the map above by Gerald Higgins, downloaded from here. And, thanks to my wonderful wife, it is now framed and sitting (vertically) on the wall right next to me.
Yes, this is the UK Motorway System documented in the style of Beck’s Underground map.

Revisiting Higgins’ site recently, I see that he now has another one (which has nothing to do with Beck or the Tube) to add to my collection: It’s Grim Up North – a map showing all the towns and cities mention in the KLF’s 1991 song of the same name.

Brilliant.

How to prevent cervical cancer

I have been reading through the most recent issue of Private Eye magazine, replete with several spectacular examples of two-facedness regarding the whole incomprehensible media circus surrounding Jade Goody, such as this little pair of gems from Scottish poison-dwarf Lorraine Kelly

The bubble has finally burst for the thick, foul-mouthed and thoroughly nasty piece of work that is Jade Goody… As for Jade’s boyfriend, Jack Tweed, all I can say is that they deserve each other. He actually makes her look reasonably intelligent.

Lorraine Kelly, The Sun, 20 Jan 2007

I sincerely hope Jade Goody has her wish for a perfect wedding day tomorrow…

Lorraine Kelly, The Sun, 21 Feb 2009

In their Medicine Balls column by Dr Phil Hammond, (writing under the pseudonym M.D.), however – something that I didn’t consider when I wrote my post about Jade’s wedding:

Jade Goody may be encouraging more people to have cervical smears and HPV vaccinations (if only the NHS could afford them), but a much cheaper way to dramatically reduce your risk of cervical cancer is not to smoke.

The risk is greater the earlier you start and more you smoke. Twenty a day increases your risk seven fold, 40 a day increases it 14 fold, because the damaged cervical cells can’t clear the human papilloma virus. A simple message that not even Max Clifford has thought to mention.

Good point, Doc. And another sign that the NHS in the UK continues to struggle – poorly funded and overworked – to save the lives of those who do nothing to help themselves.

Sentence review

Remember this?

The story of the Labour peer and the waitress?
Both of whom used mobile phones to send text messages while driving.
Both of whom killed innocent individuals by ploughing into the back of their stationary vehicles.

One of whom was given 21 months in prison, the other 12 weeks.

It all seemed a bit unfair, so I was hugely delighted to see the headline on the BBC News Website:

Phone crash sentence under review

In big writing, just like that.

But, guess which one the Solicitor General thinks may be “unduly lenient“…

Spot the difference

This one will test you. Two stories, remarkably similar, but… not.

A driver found guilty of killing another motorist as she used her mobile phone to send a string of text messages and make calls has been jailed.

Phillipa Curtis, from Suffolk, crashed into Victoria McBryde’s parked car at 70mph on the A40 near Wheatley – Ms McBryde was fatally injured.

The 21-year-old was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving at Oxford Crown Court at an earlier hearing. She was jailed for 21 months and given a three-year driving ban.
[link]

Meanwhile:

The sentencing of a Labour peer who sent and received text messages while driving on the M1 where he was involved in a fatal crash has been adjourned.

Lord Ahmed, 51, of Rotherham, was driving his Jaguar when he collided with another car on Christmas Day 2007. The driver of the vehicle, Martyn Gombar, 28, was killed.

Lord Ahmed was never charged over the crash but admitted one charge of dangerous driving in connection with sending and receiving the text messages while driving.
[link]

The lesser charge of dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment as opposed to that of causing death by dangerous driving, which can carry up to 14 years.

The lesson here? Don’t send text messages while driving your car. But if you do, then make sure you are a Labour peer and not a waitress.

Visa woes

Between them, the UK Government, the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa and the British Consulate in Pretoria have conspired against me.
I’m not sure in what proportions the blame should be meted out, but I’m going to have a go. In more ways than one. 

First off, the UK Government. For once, I think they are pretty blameless in this one. All they have done is to extend the list of countries whose citizens need a visa to enter the UK. Unfortunately, South Africa is now on that list (along with 75% of the world’s countries). This is to help prevent terrorists and smugglers from entering the country, probably as part of their “Jobs for Brits” policy: after all, why import terrorists when you have a roaring trade going producing your own?

Secondly, the Department of Home Affairs. This Department has a terrible reputation, which is almost entirely justified. Of all the Government Departments, Home Affairs is the one which elicits the most laughter, anger and sheer disbelief as to how bad an organisation can be. And they must take their share of the blame in this sorry tale. Their security and systems areso bad that anyone can get a South African passport – hence the UK’s concern over who is getting a South African passport.
Of course – if you go the legal route to getting a South African passport, you end up buried under an avalanche of red tape from which it will take you a good few months to escape.
The UK, of course doesn’t have this issue: passports there are completely safe and secure. Right.

But, I’m putting 0.5% of the blame of the UK Government and about 2% on Home Affairs. Why? Because I’m saving it all for the real culprits.
The extra R3,000 that it’s going to cost to take my family across to the UK in July is solely down to the utterly useless ****s at the British Consulate in Pretoria.
Thanks to them losing our (original) documents when we applied for a passport for the boy, we can no longer proceed with that application, nor one for the girl. Getting replacement documents means going through the Department of Home Affairs – and you may have heard what a reputation they have in South Africa.
And thus, because we can’t get the documents which they lost from the Department of Home Affairs, we have had to apply for South African passports for the kids through – the Department of Home Affairs.

A brief pause while I bang my head against a brick wall. Ah – such sweet relief.

The worst bit is that despite the fact that the British Consulate have prevented us from obtaining passports for the kids by being useless, they are rewarded by us paying them some more money for the privilege of taking my (half-British) kids to Britain. And this despite the fact that they will have a combined age of just less than 4 when we go over. And very limited bomb-making expertise. Probably.
It’s insult to injury, it’s salt in the wound, it’s a kick in the balls. None of which are particularly pleasant.
One could draw some interesting parallels to the bunch of merchant bankers in the UK getting bonuses for being rubbish at the jobs.