“tink” or When did bicycle bells become so unfit for purpose?

I felt a rant coming on; it’s my age I think, more and more despite my best intentions I feel less and less tolerant. I try not to give in but sometimes I just have to.

Telly.

Do you remember when “Telly” was an event? Good telly that is. People set aside some time in the evening and watched television programmes. I remember this happening right into the 1980s. There was telly time and there was everything else time and this time division made the watching of telly something to look forward to, it was an event. You settled down in your favourite armchair and made it an event and because there were only three and then later four channels to choose from (I actually remember when there were only two to choose from) it was even more of an event. Now we have more telly than we know what to do with and the whole telly thing has become diluted. I can’t really say that there is much these days that I would go out of my way to watch. We have catch-up and on demand and the whole sense of “Telly” being an event, being something of worth, has largely disappeared.

Yesterday I caught an advert for Sky, I think it was Sky, it may have been Virgin but I wasn’t really paying that much attention to be honest but anyhoo, our hero, that nice Irish guy, can’t remember his name, must be a celebrity of some sort, is in his unfeasibly large living room unwrapping a huge cube thingy and marvelling at the amount of “things” or “stuff” presented upon the many and various shelves set into the surface of said huge cube thingy.

The next thing you know he’s in the kitchen, kettle in one hand and “tablet” in the other wittering on about how you can catch or keep up with your favourites no matter where you are. Oh for the love of Mike or Pete or god even, he’s only gone to the kitchen to make himself a hot drink, just wait for the sodding adverts!

And why do we need to be able to catch or keep up with our favourites wherever we are, on the move, whatever? Just because the technology exists to enable a certain thing to be done it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good thing to do it. Wake up people, these tech giants have snared you with their promise of inter-connectivity and everything being everywhere and you are blithely in most cases paying through the nose for it.

Films on trains.

Yesterday as I sat in the new food court at Euston station, munching on my responsibly sourced chicken burger and sipping my free trade, organic coffee (it was a branch of Leon and I have to say it was very good food) my gaze was caught by a large electronic advertising display which informed me that passengers on London Midland trains could now watch blockbuster movies free of charge on their trains. My heart sank; I imagined a small screen set into the back of each seat, all the “facing” and table seats being replaced with airline style seats. Then my brain took over, but no, that would be far too expensive so the scenario switched to screens set into the ceiling down the length of the carriages… no, not enough headroom, I went back to the seat-back screen set-up. As it happens the reality of it is neither of those options but rather a free of charge film streaming service, you take your “device” and logon (even though I prefer log on but I’m assured that logon is the hip and trendy way to write it), and watch the film on your watch or phone or tablet or laptop or whatever.

The managing director of London Midland, Patrick Verwer (oh, how close to Viewer) is recorded as saying: “Our aim is to create simply better journeys for all our customers. Free entertainment and Wi-Fi will not only improve the customer experience – it will change the way people think about travelling on our trains.”

I’ve always liked travelling on trains and all I ask of them is that they run punctually, are kept clean, have enough seats on board (London Underground take note), that the seats should line-up with the windows (oh god, how I hate it when you plonk yourself down in the first empty seat you come to and all the window you have is the six inches from the back of the window from the seat in front), and when things go awry and let’s face it, with the best will in the world, from time to time things do go awry, that we the passengers are updated with what’s going on.

I’m sorry Mr. Verwer but all the free Wi-Fi and Blockbusteryness in the world can’t make-up for travelling on a dirty, late and uncommunicative train, not that I’m saying that all London Midland trains are dirty, late and uncommunicative but I’ve been on a few that were. And the spectre is raised of the legions of zombies all sitting there staring at their “devices”. Can you imagine the twittering (nothing to do with 140 characters or fewer) from the earpieces? Not to mention those enlightened souls who will insist on not using any type of earphones at all but will instead treat us all to the aural delights of the main feature. My customer experience can be vastly improved by sitting next to a clean window and watching the countryside slip past.

And yes, we’re all teched-up these days and no doubt there will be people who can’t organise their working life sufficiently to avoid having to finish that report on the train or maybe those people who want to fire-off some smart-arse emails just to prove that they put in the extra hours, ok, ok, that’s fine, have free Wi-Fi, I’ll certainly use it for the odd foray onto Facebook or Instagram but to suggest that traveling by train will somehow be better because we can all watch a film… Oh no, not this lad.

Tink.

Recently I was walking along a footpath besides the River Thames, it was a warm sunny day and there were lots of people out enjoying the views and the weather. There were pedestrians and cyclists, some cyclists (the normal ones) were peddling along, weaving in and out of the pedestrians and some cyclists were of the Lycra-clad buffoon class who tear along thinking that they have a god-given right to ply their course and woe betide anyone who gets in their way. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against cyclists per se but some of them seem to take on an almost guerrilla-like character when clad in their multi-colour uniforms they race along carrying all before them. No, I’m not capitalising “god” because I’m not referring to any specific god. If some people want to dress-up in skin-tight multi-coloured Lycra and ride their bicycles then fine, it’s nice to have a hobby, I can’t and won’t moan about that, I play with toy trains and collect banknotes, that’s my thing and I don’t believe it hurts anyone (apart from my knees) but why do some of the Lycra brigade get so militant?

The footpath was in many places quite narrow, wide enough for three people to walk abreast but not wide enough to accommodate Lycra-clad buffoons racing past with any degree of safety so where there were pedestrian obstructions the Lycra-clad buffoons were obliged to operate their bicycle bells. I was first alerted to this when I heard a strange, almost inaudible “tink” sound behind me. I heard it again; slightly louder this time and intrigued I turned around to see a cyclist bearing down on me. I stepped to one side and he went past, “tinking” as he went. It then dawned on me that this curious “tink” sound was his bell. Once I’d been made aware if the “tink” I heard it time and again, “tink”.

What happened? When I was a kid, bicycle bells went “RING-RING, RING-RING”, you could hear them half a mile away and you knew what they were, now they go “tink” and by the time it has registered that maybe it’s someone behind you on a bike trying to get past the cyclist is almost upon you and seemingly angry into the bargain; “tink” indeed!

On Wikipedia (yes, yes, I know…) a bicycle bell is described thus:

“A bicycle bell is a percussive signalling instrument mounted on a bicycle for warning pedestrians and other cyclists … actuated by a thumb-operated lever that is geared to rapidly rotate two loosely slung metal discs inside the bell housing. Said discs repeatedly rattle and strike the bell to produce a sound not unlike that of an electric bell. No mention of “tink”.

And there must be a whole generation who have grown up with the “tink” who think that this is normal and who are continually upset and angry that people don’t get out of their way in spite of their “tink”.

Is it only the benefit of being of a certain age, of remembering how things were? Does age really bring wisdom? Buy a proper bell my dear cyclists, buy a proper bell.

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