Forward thinking

The West Coast rail franchise changes hands next Sunday morning, with Avanti – Italian for forward and a partnership between the Italian state rail operator Trenitalia and the Aberdeen-based First Group – taking over the busiest route in the country from Virgin. So, what will change? Well the livery, obviously, and, well, the livery. Not only will the present rolling stock be used, at least for the time being, but the entire Virgin senior management is decamping to Avanti.

I’ve been travelling that route, each way, for the last several weeks and if the new old people asked my advice, which they haven’t, but they’re going to get it anyway, then there are a few things they need to do. The trains are always really busy. Rather than hourly to Glasgow make them half-hourly or put on more to the Midlands and north of England stops.

Also, always put on 11 carriages, not nine as you are wont to, and ensure that you can reserve a seat up to a couple of hours online before departure, not days. If not, then introduce a handicap system for the unreserved passengers in the race for the few vacant seats in the buffet car. Elderly Scots first I’m thinking.

Finally, to the woman who travelled in the seat next to me to Penrith, got off and battered on the window across the passage, startling the two women next to the glass, and who repeatedly gave me the V-sign, I’m sorry for laughing.

The smell of money

The Royal Bank of Scotland is the bank that almost broke Britain. When it went down in the financial crash in 2008 you and me and a few others bailed it out at a cost of £45+ billion. In all, our saving of the failed banks cost about £500bn, but who’s counting? Well the media are when it comes to Labour’s spending plans, which are chickenfeed in comparison. But we’ll move swiftly on.

RBS will never pay back the taxpayer. Never mind, it has a new chief executive who took over at the beginning of November, the first woman to head a major UK bank. She’s Alison Rose and she will earn pay of £2.2m a year, plus a bonus of up to 175% of her salary and a pension contribution of £110,000 a year. Rose’s pay, compared to that of head honchos of other banks, was described by the RBS as “restrained”. How much does it take to go wild?

Rose has promised to make the bank more open and inclusive and yadda yadda. And, in what may be a harbinger of the new approach, last week RBS launched a digital bank to compete with start-ups Monzo and Starling. I don’t know what a monzo is but I know starlings are in major decline from the days Glasgow corpie hired a man to fire a shotgun from the top of the City Chambers in an effort to stop them doing their business all over the Square.

The new bank aims to target those of us who live “financially unsustainable” lives with little or no savings. It sounds like just the bank for me, although its fiscal future may be shaky. There’s one thing, however, that doesn’t smell right to me. It’s called BO. Okay, Bó. But, still, nó.

Trump is nuts

Donald Trump, in yet another strange episode of wish fulfilment, posted a Photoshopped picture during the week of his head on the body of the fictional boxer Rocky. It was just hours after the legendary poet, author and broadcaster Clive James passed away. To mangle one of James’s lines, the President looked like a condom stuffed with walnuts.

Smoke alarm

I’ve been in and out of a few hospitals over the last several months, all of which have signs telling people not to smoke, either in the hospital but, particularly, the grounds. However, you can’t get inside without cutting your way through a pall of smoke and the purveyors clustered around the entrances.

Now I appreciate it’s difficult to police what may be acres of surrounding landscape but surely they could be kept away from the immediate vicinity. I know that smokers are entirely selfish, can’t be shamed and clearly don’t observe the rules.

Can’t the hospital staff be issued with tasers and be done with it?

No sex please we're actors

I don’t know how you qualify for the job and I wouldn’t tell you if I knew, but there’s a new role in stage, TV and film, and it’s that of intimacy co-ordinator, which is, again, a bit of an oxymoron. Because the job is to ensure that the couple (or the ménage for all I know) don't get co-ordinated.

This new job comes (oops) after #metoo backlash and it’s up to the chaperone to safeguard actors in nude or sex scenes by, for all I know, taping over their genitals or throwing ice water over them. And apparently there’s a shortage, although you would have thought there’d be a lengthy queue.

For this information I am indebted to the young actress Céline Buckens and what she describes – her puns – as a titbit on the ins and outs of sex scenes. Enough, matron.