Posted by: Sam Tanner | January 18, 2011

Memories from photographs: why we need them

When I’m feeling down and out I usually start looking at cheap deals to get out of the country or dream about my next escape route. However, when that’s just not possible I look towards photos from my travels in order to propel me to when I’m at my most happiest – exploring somewhere fabulous.

I may be feeling low and sick of the British winter but the prints I have hanging around the flat of volcano craters, idyllic sunsets and beaches make me smile whenever I walk past them.

For me it’s important to capture images of the best times in order to relive them when things aren’t necessarily going your way. At the time of writing this the sun is beginning to set and will gradually throw some pretty colours in through the patio doors. This is just one of the thoughts that puts a smile across my face. The below photo is another:

Posted by: Sam Tanner | November 30, 2010

Snow: a photoblog

Posted by: Sam Tanner | October 19, 2010

Why Southern Rail Fail

I know I complain about it every single day, but let’s face it my daily commute takes a two hour chunk out of my day and I kind of expect it to go smoothly most of the time.

However, I do know that not everything can run 100% according to plan, but it would be nice just once if there was a week when the British Rail Network can run efficiently with no cancellations delays. This would obviously be impossible as every single day for the past 3 weeks my Southern services to and from East Croydon have been at least 5 minutes delayed.

I don’t even understand how a train can be delayed at 7.30 in the morning or on a 15 minute journey from London Bridge or London Victoria, but now I’m convinced that it’s due to some magical force, warlock or pixie dust because something is very wrong.

I must admit now that since my journey has changed in the past couple of months so that I now alight and join services at East Croydon that I haven’t really been faced with a serious delay.  However, when it was a jolly old trip up to Victoria every day, it became painful. Maybe broken down trains cannot be helped, but it seems to happen a disproportionate amount of times in a month Southern Rail doesn’t it.

In August it took me a record of 2 hours 20 minutes to get from Victoria to Three Bridges, that’s London to Crawley. A journey that takes 40 minutes on the train, about the same driving and would have been quicker if I crawled home through Purley Oaks. The problem? Someone has sat on the tracks and refused to move. Why is this sort of thing not addressed by the Rail Network, it happens all the time. There needs to be more of a deterrent that other companies running a service that costs its customers thousands of pounds a year would have thought about.

I know trespassers on the line is not entirely Southern’s fault, but what is their fault is their blatant failing in customer service. Meet the directors at Victoria on a Monday morning at 9am? I would if I didn’t have to be at the bloody office. Do it at 5.30pm when I wouldn’t mind just getting the next train in order to put the world to rights. It would also be nice if staff recognised that all season tickets stopped working after the first week of having them and stop asking me to put my ticket through the barriers when I have already said it doesn’t work. (Mind you this is only at East Croydon, the staff at Three Bridges on the gate are lovely).

I pay an extortionate amount of money every month to use the trains, but they haven’t been on time for ages, I frequently have to stand and I will always be faced with the token passenger with an extreme case of BO. If Southern’s trains are consistently 5 minutes late, why don’t they just change the timetable?

However, Southern’s biggest failing is their inability to interact with their customers and take their points on board. Whenever a story is published in the press it is usually followed by a huge amount of comments slating the service and there is no online presence of any kind which would help in quickly alerting customers to problems. The website doesn’t cut it as the service info won’t load on a BlackBerry.

In recent weeks @Southern_Trains has emerged on Twitter, along the same premise as BP Global PR but on a smaller scale, and has highlighted just how many disgruntled Southern customers are out there. I thought First Capital Connect had a bunch of unhappy commuters, but that’s nothing it you see the tweets that are retweeted by Southern’s Twitter “PR” service. As a marketing professional I can tell you the fact that Southern haven’t tried to establish their own presence or attempt to get to grips with complaints online pathetic. They should know about these grievances and set about trying to correct them or at least provide their customers information on why they are being rubbish. A little goes a long way.

There you go, this is one of the worst cases of ignoring social media and your customers I have encountered yet, but for now I will continue to enjoy the rants highlighted by @Southern_Trains and their sterling sarcastic “public service announcements” which brighten my day.

Posted by: Sam Tanner | October 16, 2010

Getting out of my comfort zone – an evening at the dogs

When an evening at the dogs was first suggested I was up for it although a little bit hesitant that as a well spoken girl I would look out of place among the wide boys, the chavs and the general riff raff of society. I’m not really one for worrying about these issues too much, but after a long week at work the last thing I wanted was to step so far outside of my comfort zone that I felt stranded.

Luckily a Friday night spent at Wimbledon dog track was hardly what I imagined at all, in fact for quite a few it was a family night out and for others it looked to be a date. For us it was a bit of a laugh and a totally new experience for most of us. One of our group even said that the venue has even become more family friendly over the past few years.

In all fairness I had a brilliant time. We went on two for £10 vouchers which got us a drinks voucher for £3 (although no drinks are actually under £3), a free burger voucher (not bad) and a free bet (which I lost). We even got down to trackside and got sand in our hair from when the dogs bounded past.

With betting and the odds explained to me by a member of our group, which I will never get no matter how much anyone tells me, I went off and stuck £2 on a dog I liked the look of, which turned out to be the favourite and won. Turns out I liked winning as I won the next race too. Get in.

I must admit I was a bit scared to put the bet on in the first place, but as no one really bets all that much and it’s more of a laugh, it made it quite easy for me to bet small amounts and have a great time, even if the drinks were overpriced.

The most exciting bit of the evening were the actual races. The lights inside were turned off and the track floodlights came on outside, then you could see the hare coming round, then go! I have never seen a room of people shout and scream for something to win so much in my life – it was brilliant!

The last race of the night happened about 11pm, so it didn’t go on too late and was a totally new experience for me and actually one I quite enjoyed. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s really a night out that should be conducted with an open mind and a group of friends. It’s also worth people watching for those who take it super seriously.

Posted by: Sam Tanner | October 11, 2010

Autumn is here – Photoblog

As a treat on a rare day off work, we both decided that today we would visit Wakehurst Place and have a wander around the estate and soak up some early autumn sunshine.

The colours starting to emerge as the season takes hold are spectacular as always and the sun reallypicked up on the oranges, yellows and golds that are on show at this time of year.

It’s not only at Wakehurst where autumn is in full swing, driving through the Ashdown Forest at the weekend to see my family all the colours were out in full view. It’s such a pretty time of the year to get out and about although we seemed to be the only people going off the paved track and into the woods to explore.

Anyway, these are the sights and colours that greeted us on our wander around Wakehurst Place today.

Posted by: Sam Tanner | October 8, 2010

An idiot abroad or bang on the money?

No one is more happy than me that Karl Pilkington has got his own TV show, especially as he has made me laugh for years. An Idiot Abroad on Sky 1 is not only an elaborate practical joke to see him moan for an hour about the wonders of the world, but also shows the reality behind the fantasy.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say that this is a travel show with a difference, because it’s not, not really. What it shows is an average person thrown into a different culture and a different way of life and how they deal with it.

In fact some of the observations made in this programme are backed up when I talk to people that have also been, in the sense that they go ‘it’s alright’ too. Twice a year the product development team from work venture out to China and go across the whole country looking for new factories. They agree with how the whole gobbing situation is just plain disgusting and outside the cities, China looks like one mass shanty town.

In addition, earlier in the year my brother ventured to the pyramids at Giza and his exact response was ‘was alright, best bit was the Pizza Hut opposite it.’ What I gather speaking to those that have actually ventured out to explore the wonders of the world is that it takes forever to get there and once you are there tourists are everywhere overrunning the place and testing your patience. You could be looking at the most amazing scene but if you’re tired and want to punch another tourist in the face, you’re not really going to enjoy it as much as you could.

This is why I love the show because you just know Karl Pilkington is reacting in the same way that a lot of us would put in the exact same situation. If it’s hot, smelly, takes forever to get there on a coach and overrun with tourists with socks and sandals and bumbags, I would be sulking too.

Posted by: Sam Tanner | September 26, 2010

Whereabouts in Europe am I?

After completely confusing everybody with this little game last month, I have decided to do it again as I had so much fun.

So, which European city is this? I’ll give you a clue – It’s in the EU. And a friend got so off her face in this city that she slept in a shower cubicle.

Answers on a postcard (or preferably in the comments or on Twitter)

Posted by: Sam Tanner | September 18, 2010

Acting on my pledge to explore the UK this year

At the beginning of 2010 I told myself that I wanted to explore as many countries as I could. However, I quickly realised that the money I would need to do this just wasn’t going to become available. I then made a deal with my boyfriend that we should explore the beauty of the UK.

The British ‘summer’ was something that we didn’t bank on and every time we attempted to go out and do something it rained or turned cold. We attempted to make a day of it in Brighton a couple of weeks ago, visited Sea Life and the pier, shivered a bit and went home.

However, after a stressful week at work for the both of us, we decided that we needed to get out and about today before we self imploded. I researched the National Trust website to see if there was something in the area that was worth a visit. We decided on Nymans Gardens in Handcross, West Sussex which is about a 15 minute drive away.

Upon appearing at the entrance to the house and gardens we were asked about 10 times whether we wanted to join as members of the National Trust, which we politely declined each time. The knowing look between us was that we are nowhere near old enough to enjoy this privilege. Then we were asked if we were under 25 and if so we get a year’s membership for £20 each. Bargain. This also gives us an excuse to explore the UK for free. What a turn around in the space of 5 minutes.

We were still the youngest couple exploring Nymans by a good 30 years, but the weather was glorious today and the gardens were just simply stunning. The volunteers in the house took a very special liking to Matt as he is ‘a nice young man’ and it was great to be in a period style house and see how the rich used to live even though most of the house was gutted by a fire in the 1940’s.

The gardens drift off into ancient woodland and although it was quite warm today, you could see that summer is officially over with the golden oranges and bronzes from the leaves on the trees. Disappointing. However, I can’t wait until it snows, the winter activities leaflet we got in our welcome pack looks amazing.

Although we only saw older couples and families walking around today, I really think the younger generation are missing a trick, I mean what else could you really do for free every weekend in the UK?

Having said that I really am hoping to get to Munich at the end of December for the Christmas markets. I am squealing in delight just thinking about it.

A hedge basket mixed with a bit of Where's Wally

Posted by: Sam Tanner | September 10, 2010

Thought trains were bad? Try tram rage.

As some of you probably know, I have got myself a new job which means that firstly, I actually have a workload and secondly, I now have to get a tram to work in the morning.

Although it works out quite well for me in the respect of not having to rely on the tube network, I have noticed a difference in the way that people travel across Croydon. I have had men literally push me out of the way to get a more preferential standing spot and I have even seen a mother with a pushchair miss her stop as nobody would get out of her way.

While I’m on the point, I have never seen so many people want to travel with a pushchair during rush hour and complaining about it. While just travelling on the trains you would get the occasional daytripper that wondered why it was so busy, but if you want to get across Croydon in the morning you have to overcome pushing, shoving, yelling, tutting and what I have identified as tram rage.

It’s like travelling on a different planet, especially around the shopping centre’s. Young girls scream at their guys if they can’t get a seat. KFC is a mandatory travelling meal and ‘yeah’ is added at the end of every sentence on inane phone calls. However, these phone calls are bloody entertaining. People have no shame. I’ve learnt that somebody is stealing from a till at a major retailer, a 12 year old is ‘getting dirty’ with her ‘man’ and that ‘old is like 35’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Croydon is a shit hole – both my parents grew up here. It’s just a different kind of commute and at times more frustrating than getting into Victoria.

Anyone else have a totally altered commute that’s a bit odd to them?

Posted by: Sam Tanner | August 29, 2010

Where in the world am I?

Just a bit of Bank Holiday fun this one. Below is a photo of a city somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Can you guess which city it is? First person to get it right wins gloating rights for the rest of the day, along with some major glory. What more could you want?

Can you guess where it is yet?

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