La ‘Carte Huître’ (Oyster Card)

Monday, February 13th 2017

Je devais envoyer une carte d’anniversaire à ma sœur. Elle habite au Canada où le courrier est connu pour marcher assez lentement et puisque j’étais un peu en retard pour envoyer la carte, la seule chance que j’avais qu’elle arrive à temps c’était si je l’envoyais par avion. Pour cela, il fallait une visite au mini-supermarché près de chez nous qui fait aussi bureau de poste.

En y arrivant, je devais attendre quelques minutes pendant qu’une famille française discutait avec le marchand l’achat d’une Oyster Card pour voyager en bus pendant leur séjour à Londres. Ils avaient l’air indécis et se sont écartés du comptoir pour réfléchir et me laisser la place. Tout en m’occupant de mes propres affaires j’ai cru entendre qu’ils n’avaient pas tout à fait compris ce que le marchand leur avait expliqué en anglais au sujet de ce fameux ‘Carte Huître’.

Bien que je sois de nature discrète, j’ai pensé les aider en expliquant la carte en français. J’hésite toujours à parler français quand je rencontre des francophones parce que je sais de moi même qu’une partie du plaisir de voyager dans un pays étranger c’est de parler la langue du pays. Pour cette raison je pense qu’il faut aborder les gens avec une certaine discrétion. Donc j’ai ouvert le feu, pour ainsi dire, en leur disant qu’ils pouvaient aussi bien utiliser une carte bancaire de type ‘sans contact’ dans les bus. Loin d’être contrariés par mon intervention ils en étaient très contents ! Soulagés, même.

Je leur ai expliqué le fonctionnement de la fichue carte et comment l’utiliser en montant dans le bus. Je les ai quittés amicablement avec le sentiment d’avoir fait ma B.A. pour aujoud’hui !

Si vous n’habitez pas Londres, cher lecteur ou chère lectrice, je devrais peut-être vous expliquer que quand vous voyagez en bus dans la capitale, il n’est pas question d’acheter votre billet avec de l’argent comptant dans le bus même. Cela n’existe plus: tout voyage doit être payer à l’avance. Il y a plusieurs façons de faire cela mais les préférées sont l’Oyster Card ou la carte bancaire sans contact. En montant dans le bus vous tapez votre carte sur le lecteur jaune. Dans les bus, vous tapez une seule fois au début du trajet parce que, en bus, tout trajet, court ou long, coûte le même prix. (Par contre, si vous voyagez dans l’Underground ou en train, vous devez tapez votre carte au début et aussi à la fin du trajet parce que le prix varie selon la distance.)

L’Oyster Card est ‘chargée’ d’une certaine somme d’argent et quand celle-ci est épuisée, il faut ajouter encore du crédit. Vous pouvez faire cela aux stations de l’Underground et dans certains magasins. Pour les touristes il y a une version spéciale qui s’appelle Visitor Oyster Card London qui vous donne une réduction sur le tarif de l’Underground.

Bien que ce système soit facile à utiliser une fois que l’on sait comment il marche, pour quelqu’un qui ne sait pas, surtout si on ne parle pas bien l’anglais, cela peut poser des difficultés surtout au début.

Copyright © 2017 SilverTiger,, All rights reserved.

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Snowflakes in Highgate

Saturday, February 11th 2017

It was cold again today and this made us sluggish. According to the weather app on my iPhone, temperatures would range between 2° and 4° Centigrade but that it “feels like -2°”. There was certainly a freezing bite in the air.

Tigger proposed that, rather than wandering about in the open, we should make an indoor visit and proposed the Brent Cross Shopping Centre, as we have not been there for a while. And we still haven’t, because we didn’t actually get there…

To travel to Brent Cross we would take te 214 bus to Highgate and change there to a number 10. We completed the first part of the journey and got off the bus in South Grove in Highgate. Conditions justified the “feels like” reading on my phone: it was beginning to snow. We had thought of having breakfast in Highgate (though by now the designation “brunch” would seem more appropriate) and hurried into the nearby branch of Café Rouge. Service was somewhat desultory but we didn’t mind too much as we were at least in the warm.

Brunch over, we set forth again. By now both of us were feeling rather less  keen on an extended outing but to temporize thought we’d visit the gallery of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution whose premises are just a few doors down from the cafe. They were holding an exhibition of art entitled Paintings from Soviet Russia 1950-1980.

The exhibition was “interesting” rather than anything else. With few exceptions, I found the paintings rather wooden and uninspiring. This was perhaps owing to a self-conscious desire to conform to a pre-determined style and technique rather than to a lack of artistic talent (though I definitely thought to detect a lack of talent in one or two paintings). Others, of course, might disagree with my assessment.

Emerging once more into the cold, with the falling snowflakes adding, if picturesquely, to our dampened spirits, we decided to give up our ideas of visiting Brent Cross – after all, not the most thrilling  of destinations at the best of times – and take the 214 back to the Angel.

At the bus stop, I realized I had not taken any photos of our outing.

“I can’t be bothered to get my camera out,” said I. “I’ll just take a quick snap with my phone.”

View with cyclist
View with cyclist
South Grove, Highgate

And so I did. Barely had I clicked the shutter release when the bus appeared and we hurried aboard out of the cold.

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“Where’s your cap?”

Friday, February 10th 2017

A comment left on a post of mine that mentioned a school I once attended (see Nostalgia in Brighton) prompted memories of my school days. One of these in particular often pops into my thoughts for some strange reason and it is as follows.

For my primary education, I went to a school that was about ten minutes’ walk from home. It was a good school. I liked going there and I learned a lot, both in academic subjects and about life in general. This was in the days when pupils were still provided with milk at school. It was delivered in crates early in the day and at the morning break, each child was handed a bottle. At my school we even had straws for drinking the milk!

Then came a hard winter. It was one of the coldest and bleakest winters the country had known since records began. The problems it caused were exacerbated by coal shortages and as coal was still used more or less everywhere to heat buildings, many businesses and other organizations ran out of fuel and had to close their premises until the weather, and the coal supplies, took a turn for the better.

Our school was one of the establishments that closed, giving us pupils an unexpected extra holiday. Even though the school was closed, the supply of school milk continued and we went every morning to the school canteen, which was a separate building from the classrooms, to claim our ration.

There was snow on the ground and it was very, very cold. We were all dressed up in coats, scarves, gloves and hats. On the day in question, I entered the canteen as usual and proceeded through the crowd of school children towards the table where the bottles of milk were waiting. This time, though, I found myself confronted by the school caretaker.

“Where’s your cap?” he asked, somewhat aggressively.

Though I understood the words, the question seemed so strange that I thought I had misheard and I asked him to repeat it.

“Where’s your cap?”

Again, the remark puzzled me and again I asked him to repeat it.

“Where’s your cap?” he asked for the third time.

“Er, on my head”, I replied hesitantly.

“Yes,” he said, like one who has scored a point. “Take it off.”

In the modern age when people are free, as never before, to wear what they like, where and when they like, it is hard to remember that there was a time – within the living memory of some of us – when gentlemen were supposed to remove their hats on entering a building and that not to do so was considered a social faux pas. The caretaker may seem officious and overbearing to modern minds but in those days, many people would have agreed with him. Rules were rules and the rules required men and boys to take off their hats indoors, even when conditions indoors were as cold as they were outside.

What you learn in childhood is apt to stay with you for the rest of your life even though times and customs change and the adult mind acquires a more independent outlook. Though I no longer feel it necessary to take off my hat every time I enter a premises, yet the caretaker still lurks in a hidden corner of my mind and ever and anon pops up to enquire where my hat is.

For the most part, I ignore him, but there is one situation in which he always wins. When out exploring, we often visit churches for their aesthetic and historic interest. I do not believe there is a tetchy god looking down on me who requires me to bare my head on entering the church but I nonetheless do so. I would find it hard – maybe impossible – not to. Even when I visit the Tradescant Garden Museum which is an old, though decommissioned and once abandoned church, I have to dare myself not to remove my hat.

I tell myself that I remove my hat in church merely as a courtesy to my hosts, just as I remove my shoes when entering a mosque or wipe my feet on the doormat before entering a friend’s house, and that I could, were I so minded, keep it on. If I am honest, though, I think that it is the caretaker, or the childhood conditioning of which he has become the symbol, that still lurks in some secret corner of my mind and jumps out raising an admonitory finger when conditions provoke him.

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