My name is Johnathan Randall, because I was told never to introduce myself with a nickname.
I am a travel historian. I study and write about how our need to get around continues to shape our world through roads, railways, airports and whole new towns. I love the non-places we pass through along a journey and the effort that goes into catering for people who just want to get a move on.
I am much happier speaking and writing about these things than I was when I was working in the offices of several transport organisations. I will occasionally share what I learned during those times. More generally, my travel thoughts and/or research have been used by the likes of Truck & Driver, BBC local radio, Daily Express, The Guardian, The Independent, Mail Online and Daily Mirror (detail). I am a radio producer experienced with entertainment and talk shows.
While I do occasionally share some of this work on here, it's best to contact me for the full details.
The rest of this page is a much more generic blog, covering my love for media, travel, amusing signs, post codes and lists. It is largely irreverent and mostly outdated.
There are billions of websites on the internet. Thank you for clicking on my one.
For 45 years, various governments have been trying to bring motorway fuel prices under control.
The thorny subject goes against government policy, which has always been to avoid regulating the industry (and over time they have become increasingly hands-off). But motorway fuel pricing has always been a cause for complaint, and politicians can't help but get involved when they think some PR is available.
For many years their solution was to require service stations to display a sample fuel price on the motorway signs. The problem was somebody had to update it, and with 1980s technology that meant asking a junior member of staff to walk half a mile down the motorway with a stepladder and some giant numbers.
Today you'd just say the job could be done with an electronic screen, but even as recently as 2005 it was difficult to find a source of power for those. And the operators had wriggled out of the idea by then.
If we are to buy into the stupid "Grafton Quarter" vision for a second, we need an area that is actually pleasant to visit. Streets like South William Street would be fine if there was a ratio of one car to 10 pedestrians. That's how shared spaces work.
Problem is the street is usually full of pedestrians and full of cars. This makes it awfully crowded, and frankly unpleasant.
The good news is it only took a global pandemic for Dublin City Council to consider pedestrianising the area, starting with a series of trials.
The hospitality sector has really struggled during 2020. I commend the government for doing something about it.
I also commend all the businesses - including giants like KFC, and motorway service area provider Moto, who have agreed to turn their tax cuts into cheaper prices, rather than taking the additional cash.
In doing that, the system becomes rather unfair. What about all the smaller restaurants who need that cash just to pay their bills?
I read with interest that the Greater Exeter Strategic Plan is expected to propose closing both Exeter services and Cullompton services, and replacing them both with one new site.
For all too long now Britain's planners have treated motorway service areas like haunted monuments we daren't touch in case it unleashes a curse. In truth the greatest curse of all is a roundabout that has been covered in traffic lights and crazy lane markings.
This is a rare example of serious and useful advice. From me.
It genuinely pains me to see so many people writing complaints that make a fool out of the author.
What happens is when people get angry, they become obsessed with the notion that they are infallible. They don't need spell check. They don't need decency. Nobody is going to check if their story is exaggerated.
Problem is you are not writing a complaint to yourself. Making yourself feel good might be nice when you write it, but it won't get you a good reply.
I spent five years reading and responding to complaints on behalf of some large organisations. Let me tell you, how you write it makes a big difference.
I love Irish Spars. Partly because they are bigger and more exciting, and partly because my non-local ears can't tell the difference between Spar, a spa and Conor McGregor's insistence that his work is called "sparring".
All of these things amuse me. Another thing that amuses me is a ridiculous concept for a birthday party, especially during a lockdown where we aren't actually allowed to attend any birthday parties. I hope that despite this, the chicken fillet roll has a great day.
Local Spar is holding a birthday party for the chicken fillet roll, how's your lockdown going? pic.twitter.com/ViJ39T1cbY— Johnathan Randall (@MrJRan) April 23, 2020
The world needs adverts. I say that as a blogger who depends on monetisation, and as a media employee who's employer depends on commercials.
Coronavirus has caused all sorts of issues for people like us. Nobody has the money to advertise, nobody has anything to sell and nobody is in the mood to buy things.
But please, advertise.
Thankfully some industries are keeping the world of media afloat by continuing to advertise. But I have noticed, the tone of the adverts has changed.
It's now a very soft-footed approach to the subject. They don't want you to know that it's an advert. The actual advertising is like meat in the middle of an assuring, hushed voice.
Every advert sounds like this.
Recently I was looking at places you can fly to from Bournemouth Airport, and was rather surprised to see 'London' on the list.
Obviously there are no direct flights for this short hop, but for just £7 you can fly from Bournemouth to Dublin, and from there you can easily get to all-sorts of places in Europe.
That's an excellent connection which Bournemouth should be pleased with. Curiously, it also opens you up to a number of London airports. For less than £15 more, you can get to Stansted, Gatwick or Southend.
So immediately I went to the National Rail website. A direct journey between Bournemouth and London via eco-friendly electric rail would cost almost twice as much. Here's the proof.
It's not stress, or confusion, or excitement. It's just people.
A worryingly high number of people carry out their business without a moment's thought for how it might inconvenience others. When you get a lot of people in one place, like in an airport, you can really see who those people are.
Look at it this way: all of those people who managed to ignore all of the instructions. You can bet they drove to the airport. And you can bet they ignored all of the road signs too.
Not because they are fundamentally evil or too stubborn to heed information, but because their brain is never switched on enough to process the information they are given.
That's why airports are a nightmare. So many people, none of them able to think for themselves.
The whole thing is really cleverly done. It's like they've tried to tick all the boxes of how to make money: have sponsored outfits, make those outfits associated with paradise, have clips with those outfits go viral online, create a sponsored app for people to download, have cute props that can be sold in shops, get your product placement in every shot, go to an advert break every time something happens so people will go on Twitter...
It's genius, but it's a bit like Girls Aloud. Their songs made a lot of money but you knew straight away that they were only in it for the money. They were following a script, a mathematical formula for how to become rich.
That's the thing with Love Island. Each and every series is exactly the same. The "islanders" are all clones of previous contestants. The plot twists are all exactly the same. Each and every fight has been either scripted or edited to make it look as dramatic as possible, so that people can go online and start bullying one of them.
Even the scheduling is exactly the same. The first episode, the final, and any big moments start at 9pm on a Sunday. This doesn't happen by accident: it's finely crafted by experts.
Personally I find such predictable repetition incredibly boring but people don't agree.