The Write Way
8 October 2010
One Wonders ...
I heard an item on one of our news shows last week about the government having to sell off some erstwhile public utility, because the latest cost-benefit analysis had shown that it was uneconomic to maintain it.
Who else remembers the days when governments existed to provide services to and for the people?
That's what they were there for ... full stop. Not to show a profit, not to provide bonuses to the Fat Cats at the top of the Food Chain, not to pay plump dividends to shareholders, but to provide transport, roads and bridges, health care, education, water and power supplies, communication systems, a state-run bank ... and jobs. Lots and lots of jobs that paid reasonable wages for working in safe conditions, so that people had money to pay their rents, their mortgages, their food bills, save a bit for a holiday ... and pay their taxes, which funded the services and the jobs that paid the wages to ... and so it went.
It was a simple system that everyone understood ... and it worked.
My Dad used to tell me stories about the Great Depression in the 30s, and how he and his mates used hop on the goods trains to travel the requisite 100 miles they needed to be between dole payments, to show that they were actively looking for work. They'd often get lucky and find work for a few weeks in these distant cities, before they had to find another train to take them another 100 miles to start looking all over again.
After the war, when things were still tight, he found work on one of the numerous government projects set up to build infrastructure and provide paid work for the thousands of returning soldiers and unemployed. For many years after I was of an age to understand, I'd look with pride on the miles and miles of shiny silver water pipes that ran across our suburbs, and I'd think to myself, "My daddy built that!"
We travelled on public trains that pulled into stations that were manned by numerous staff who wore smart uniforms, with ties, silver buttons and peaked caps (the things you recall from childhood ...) These stations were kept in tip-top condition, and the Railways Department held an annual Garden Competition and awarded wonderful shields to the winning stations.
Staff tended their gardens during the slower times of the day and displayed the shield in special glass cases built near the ticket office, so everyone could feel proud of their station. There were lots of different categories, from best Rose Garden to Most Colourful Display etc and it was a pleasure to get to the station early to admire the gardens.
There was always a Ladies Waiting Room on the station, so women travelling with children could attend to their needs while waiting for the train. In winter, there'd be a fire lit in the Cosy wood heater, built into a corner in every waiting room and kept burning by the station staff.
But now, our stations are more often than not "unmanned;" tickets are processed, not by a smiling Station Master who knew your name, asked about your family and was there late at night if you needed help, but by machines that scan your ticket.
No staff are there to care for gardens, so they've been replaced by advertising billboards and soft-drink dispensers.
Security cameras pan across the stations and panic-buttons are dotted across the platform for those unfortunate enough to have to travel at night.
And all these measures have been put in place to cut costs and increase profits, because that now seems to be the raison d'Ítre for all government departments.
Sigh ... One wonders if you should even bother voting for any of them these days.
Ah yes, I can see that despite all my grumblings, you haven't lapsed into a coma just yet and still have your finger on the pulse, for, of course, if we begin a sentence using the generic pronoun 'one,' we must be consistent and use it all the way through the sentence:
Either: One wonders if one should even bother voting for any of them these days.
Or: You wonder if you should even even bother voting for any of them these days.
Note that the generic 'one' is singular (one wonders), and the generic 'you' is plural (you wonder).
So now one knows what one must do ...
Here's an oldie but a goodie about ... trains:
A man and his wife check into a
hotel. The husband wants to have a drink at the bar but his wife is extremely
tired so she decides to go on up to their room to rest.
Again a train shakes the room so violently she's thrown to the floor. Exasperated, she calls the front desk and asks for the manager. The manager says, "I'll be right up."
The manager is sceptical but the wife insists the story is true. "Look... lie here on the bed -- you'll be thrown right to the floor!"
So he lies down next to the wife. Just then the husband walks in. "What do you think you're doing!", he says.
The manager calmly replies, "Would you believe I'm waiting for a train?"
And this week's Little Something Extra has some surprising information about railways and ancient Greeks ... I bet you didn't know that public railways existed as early as 600 BC?
No, neither did I.
You'll also find a number of articles to help you do the one vital thing that every writer must be able to do (and I've even got the right URL this week!)
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This week's quiz:
How much attention do you pay to your local trains?
bogie, loop, demurrage, boiler, fettling, brake van, shunt, buffer stop, fusee, gauge
1. width between the inner faces of the rails
2. cylindrical container adjacent to the firebox in which steam is produced to drive a steam locomotive
3. making repairs to rail track, especially concerned with maintaining the drainage of the ballast, and the proper cant of the rail track and rails
4. pyrotechnic device similar to an automotive flare that is used for signalling
5. undercarriage assembly incorporating the wheels, suspension, brakes and, in powered units, the traction motors
6. barrier installed at the end of a dead end track to prevent rail vehicles from proceeding further
7. move trains or vehicles from one track to another
8. heavy vehicle with powerful brakes which was attached to the rear of goods trains in the days when most wagons were not fitted with a continuous braking system; function was to supplement the locomotive's braking power in slowing and stopping the train and to keep the couplings uniformly tight by selective light braking to avoid snatching and breakages; also conveyed the train guard
9. Used on single-track railway lines; a second parallel track (running for a short distance), allowing two trains to pass by one another
10. charge levied by a railroad to a shipper for excessive delay in unloading cargo
And since much of the world is caught up in the Commonwealth Games at the moment, here are some sporting moments ...
Did you know that the champion oarsman was a gentleman and a sculler?
These days, with all the emphasis on one's physical fitness, a new organisation has sprung up called "Athletics Anonymous." When you get the urge to play golf, tennis, go power-walking or bicycle riding (or anything else involving a type of physical activity), they send someone over to watch TV with you until the urge passes.
Q: How do you start a jelly race?
Last week's quiz:
palimpsest, patache, palisade, paralipsis, palinode, paradigm, palindrome, palinopsia, patible, pareable
1. abnormally recurring visual imagery - PALINOPSIA
2. a word or phrase that reads the same backward as forward - PALINDROME
3. a poem in which the poet retracts a view or sentiment expressed in a former poem; a retraction of a statement - PALINODE
4. a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing; figurative something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form - PALIMPSEST
5. to cut off the outer coating, layer, or part of - PAREABLE
6. rhetoric the device of giving emphasis by professing to say little or nothing of a subject, as in not to mention their unpaid debts of several millions - PARALIPSIS
7. fortification consisting of a strong fence made of stakes driven into the ground - PALISADE
8. a tender to a fleet, formerly used for conveying men, orders or treasure - PATACHE
9. a typical example or pattern of something; a pattern or model; a world view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject - PARADIGM
10. sufferable; tolerable; endurable - PATIBLE
Two friends who'd been imbibing a tad longer than was wise are were walking down a City street when one fell down the subway steps.
When he got back up top he told his drinking partner, "Boy! You've got to see the train set that bloke's got down there!"
A Little Something Extra
Here are a few conversation starters for your next social gathering ... or snippets to kick-start your ideas if you're suffering from writer's block!
Our first-best friends, the Romans, used trucks on wooden tracks in their mines -- early precursors of railways.
A German stained glass window, dating back to the 14th century in Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral, shows a primitive mine truck -- maybe the world's first picture of a railway?
In 2007, a heavily modified train belonging to France's TGV beat its original world record when it travelled from Metz to Reims at a speed of 574.8 kilometres per hour (357.2 mph)!
Timeline of the development of railways ... from ancient times to the world's first open line -- the Liverpool to Manchester, which opened in 1830 here
And if you want to write, you must be able to spell. Here's how to become a better speller ... with all the benefits that brings to your business and personal life here
Oxymoron of the week: efficient railways
Word of the week: Deadman's Handle: safety mechanism on a train controller which automatically applies the brake if a lever is released. It is intended to stop a train if the driver is incapacitated
And a Latin phrase apropos of nothing in particular ...
Te capiam, cunicule sceleste!
[TAY KAH-pee-ahmkoo-nee-KOO-lay skay-LAYS-tay]
(I'll get you, you wascally wabbit!)
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2010
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com