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Filed under: Irony

12th February 2004, the wee hours | Comments (29)

Old British Rail train poster

I feel I ought to point out that my recent WaSP buzz regarding Great Britain’s excellence in the railway department was, how can I say, a ‘touch ironic’.

Unfortunately not everyone understood that, and as a consequence my inbox is filling up with emails like this one *:

Jesus Christ, you fucking Brits! Think you built the whole fuckin’ World don’t you!? Well lemmie tell you something: America knew how to build a goddamn’ railway!

Try laying tracks across five frickin’ temperate zones with nothing but a bag of jerky and the love of your Country’s flag to defend you at night.

Try having to deal with godamned Chinese workers all godamned day! WORK YOU LITTLE BASTARDS! you shout, WORK!!, putting up with their yapping and their stupid hats. Try wielding a whip for 12 hours a day. Try kicking chinks up the ass 50 times every hour. Now THAT’S tiring, now THAT’s working!! But by God that’s what our forefathers did! I don’t see you pompous pricks putting up with shit like that to build your pissant railroad!!

WE built our nation’s rail system using nothing but our BARE HANDS (and the bare hands of Chinese and other immigrant workers), rolling naked in the dust, using our own sweat (and the sweat of Chinese and other immigrant workers) to congeal America’s great dust into mud to form foundations for the tracks, while you goddamn sumbitches only have to stick a few miles of rails around your poxy little island, AND YOU HAVE THE NERVE TO SAY YOU’RE ‘WORLD FAMOUS’ FOR IT!?!? FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!!!

A slightly calmer email came from Germany:

Ven I utilized zer railvay system ov your country I vas nicht impressen vis zer punctuality!! In Germany zer drivers vould have been shot for zis lacsidasical attitude. May I surggestenstrater zat you correct your attitude, Herr Orchard!

Well Mr America, and Herr Flick, I’m not arguing.
We’re crap at railways.
Everyone knows it.

We used to be good at building them when we had an empire, but someone seems to have lost the manual around 1960, and since then everything that falls under the umbrella of UK Transport has been rubbish.

Oh, woe is us.

*OK, not at all like that one, I made both those up, but still people seemed to be a bit annoyed and insistent that their rail networks were better than ours. I'm sure they are. Irony, people, irony!

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Comments (29)

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  1. DarkBlue:

    "When we had an empire..." - good God man (replace with politically-correct deity of your choice), how can you write this? Don't you know your history? There never was an empire, Britain was never "great", we never "ruled the waves" and we are crap at railways to boot!

    If the Blairite secret police find out that mentioned that e-word they will release your name to press, hint that you are mentally unstable and take us into a pre-emptive war against some third-world country (which they will then blame on you).

    Not to worry though, due to our puppet-masters in Brussels you will be able to claim a massive compensatory payout for your "suffering". I just hope you get to spend before you mysteriously commit suicide (despite having no suicidal tendencies whatsoever).

    It was nice knowing you!

    Posted 48 minutes after the fact
  2. Rowen:

    Isn't "irony" what they make the train tracks out of?

    Posted 49 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ DarkBlue
  3. Mathieu 'P01' HENRI:

    ^__^ stupid cow boys. 2nd degree humour is too tough for them.
    When was released that train ad ?

    Posted 51 minutes after the fact
  4. DarkBlue:

    Oh that's very good Rowen. lol

    Posted 1 hour, 37 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Rowen
  5. Zelnox:

    Hahaha, that's funny.

    Posted 2 hours, 8 minutes after the fact
  6. Scrivs:

    Huh, and all this time I thought us Americans drove cars...go figure.

    Posted 6 hours, 32 minutes after the fact
  7. Phillip Harrington:

    People don't appreciate British humor anymore, if they ever did, which I doubt. Subtle! Ironic! And you lost all credibility when you 'fessed to making some of the emails up. Truth is always funnier. No need to embelish.

    Posted 6 hours, 40 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Rob Foxx
  8. Colin D. Devroe:

    I am from America, born/raised. I've ridden about a dozen different trains in my lifetime, from NY railway systems, to Philly to Chicago, even the Disney Monorail. They all sucked.

    Posted 7 hours, 7 minutes after the fact
  9. Tim:

    Hey Dunstan,

    I must admit, when I read the post at the WaSP, I thought "some Yank has a rose-tinted view of our railway system". Then I saw that it was written by you, so I knew you were 'avin' a laff...

    BTW, the good old Heart of Wessex line must pass not too far from your place, no? I hear that once the driver had to stop the train in order to shoo a cow off the line ;)

    Posted 8 hours, 6 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Sarah
  10. Richard Rutter:

    Dunstan, that WasP post was the funniest thing I've read all year. Particular as my reading of it coincided perfectly with "We apologize to passengers for late running of your train. This is due to technical problems." I kid you not; it made me laugh out loud and giggle like a girl, much to the annoyance of my fellow passengers.

    And now this post regarding failure to spot irony has just made it that bit better. I'll be grinning for the rest day. Thank you.

    Posted 8 hours, 43 minutes after the fact
  11. ColetasSoft:

    Well, regardless of how you look at it, the efficiency of the British Railway System *is* legendary... and while it may be one of the most famous things about Great Britain, I don´t read anywhere in the Buzz post that it is "the most famous in the world" (actually, it doesn´t even state that it more famous than nay other railway system).

    People should learn how to read and not be so uptight; all the more so when it´s WEB ACCESSIBILITY we´re talking about.

    Oh well, I guess some people just have to "set things straight", don´t they?

    Posted 8 hours, 56 minutes after the fact
  12. Rob Foxx:

    Americans do get our sense of humour - they liked The Office so much they're going to take the idea and ruin it for themselves! ;o)

    Posted 10 hours, 38 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Phillip Harrington
    Inspired: ↓ Matthew
  13. Nedward:

    For what it's worth, this American laughed.

    I scanned an article [1] from last week's New Yorker [2], which profiles the American Robert Kiley, hired by Ken Livingstone to reorganize the Tube. They should put more content online...


    Posted 13 hours, 13 minutes after the fact
  14. MH:

    Isnt "Flick" in german, "Fuck" in english....

    Posted 13 hours, 52 minutes after the fact
    Inspired: ↓ Gerrit, ↓ Alastair
  15. Gerrit:

    nah, Flick was an German industry-tycoon who "donated" a lot of money to the nazis (and his company repeated that with the conservative parties 50 years later). "Fuck" means Ficken in German.
    It's still funny, though.

    Posted 14 hours, 33 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ MH
  16. Waylman:

    Hmmm, you say Britian lost the manual about 1960, huh? To bad, the US seems to have lost theirs around the same time. My father happens to have worked for various railroad companies (big ones that keep getting bought out by even bigger ones) for 30 years plus. I can tell you that the US rail system has made no improvments in that time. In fact they have consistantly cut back on employees and now run on the absolute minimum.

    As the rail coprporations bot bigger and more powerful they got used to others relieing on them. Somewhere along the line they stopped being concerned with customer satisfaction. My father likes to tell the following story to demonstrate. He was at the station and overheard the following conversation:
    employee: I found the car for the tile company with their supplies. Remember, they called about it the other day.
    boss: Where is it?
    employee: It is in the middle of the yard. Do you want me to get it out.
    boss: How long will it take?
    employee: No more than an hour, and then maybe another 5 minutes to deliver it.
    boss: Who cares. They'll get it when we move that train in another two weeks.

    Ok, so that is not exactly how it went, but I'm not exagerating by any means. And they can't figure out why everyone is now shipping by truck.

    We all know the passanger rail system is bad here as well. If only we had something half as good as the high speed trains of Europe or Asia.

    I'm sure I could go on, but you get the point.

    Posted 14 hours, 37 minutes after the fact
  17. Alastair:

    I think that Dunstan was actually referring to "Herr Flick of the Gestapo"!

    Posted 14 hours, 39 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ MH
    Inspired: ↓ Aquarion
  18. Ryan Parman:

    Not to be too off-topic here, but I must mention that I've never seen the panorama showing daytime before. It's always in the dead of night. Although, I guess it figures being 8 hours behind you and all...

    Posted 15 hours, 11 minutes after the fact
  19. Aquarion:

    That's what I'd guessed too...

    Posted 15 hours, 49 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Alastair
  20. Matthew:

    lol :)

    Nice one, Dunstan.

    Posted 15 hours, 50 minutes after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Rob Foxx
  21. Sergio:

    You brits think you own Irony! But you... don't!

    In fact, Monty Python owns it!

    Posted 16 hours, 18 minutes after the fact
  22. Matthew:

    Hope everyone who didn't get the irony still liked the accessible conversion... ;-)

    Posted 16 hours, 45 minutes after the fact
  23. Sian:

    You can't please all of the people all of the time and at some point (intentionally or not) you will offend, it's part of the downside of the whole 'blog' thing.

    Minor in significance (with regarding the amount of mail/comments I received) I had a rather vociferous objection to my post relating to Raga's video for 'Can't get enough'. I was told that in no uncertain terms that I was a motherf**ker, a bi*tch, that Raghav 'wasn't one of yours' (whatever this means), all over a whimsical complaint on my behalf that the extras in his videos didn't know how to hold a violin bow. I dread to think that the replies would have been if I voiced the opinion that he couldn't sing or looked like a spud.

    Posted 17 hours, 41 minutes after the fact
  24. Nicole:

    Maybe your accent obscured the irony...

    Posted 18 hours, 29 minutes after the fact
  25. Brian Andersen:

    That's just hilarious :)

    Posted 23 hours after the fact
  26. David:

    When you visit San Francisco, Dunstan, you can use's service to get real-time transit information (for Muni trains in the city and the 22 Filmore bus). I've used it in the past (when I lived in SF) with pleasant success as the predictions are reasonably accurate:

    Posted 1 day, 14 hours after the fact
  27. Vlad:

    and i thought a discussion about the accessibility of uk rail's website would be dry :] admirable job with the letters :p

    Posted 5 days, 4 hours after the fact
  28. Sarah:

    re no. 9, Tim,

    wrong type of cow?

    Posted 5 days, 8 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Tim
    Inspired: ↓ Tim
  29. Tim:

    "wrong type of cow"

    Yeah - probably. In the spirit of "There's A Bill Bailey Sketch For Every Occasion", though:

    "We're sorry for the delay; very heavy fluff from Saturn has surrounded the driver's brain; we're just trying to chip it away now", or

    "I'm very sorry, but we seem to have driven into the belly of a dragon. I don't know how that happened; it must have been waiting for us in the tunnel!"

    Posted 6 days, 7 hours after the fact
    Inspired by: ↑ Sarah

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