Wednesday, 26 October 2011

25 October 2011. Letter 47

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 25/10/11. Amount of my day wasted: 13 minutes.

Mark! Sue! What's the story, Mark and Sue-ey? Do you need a little time to wake up? Do you need a little time to rest your mind?

No? Good! Great! Let's get down to the nitty and the gritty then. Let's get our hands dirty. Let's roll up our sleeves and remove our rings and lather up our forearms and prepare to plunge, James Herriot-like, up to our elbows in the fundamentals of train travel. Does that sound agreeable to you? It does? Wonderful! Here goes, then...

It is with a heart made heavy by responsibility and a soul weighed down by the burden of bearing bad news that I feel I have to inform you, Mark, that once again, one of your trains ran late. And perhaps most pertinently from my own perspective, the train in question was supposed to be carrying me to work.

I know. I know. My head is bowed, my brow is furrowed. Me eyes well up. Why must it be so, Mark? What, in the words of the Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield's 1987 Number 2 hit (as you doubtless remember, Sue, it was kept off the Number 1 spot by Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up, although of course it did reach the top of the charts in Ireland - the Irish, presumably, being less enamoured of the Newton-le-Willows warbler than the rest of us), have I done to deserve this?

It was delayed by 13 minutes, Mark. That's 21 point six recurring per cent of an hour, Sue. That's enough time to listen to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up 3.67924528 times! And if you think 13 minutes motionless on a tatty old train feels like a long time, just try listening to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up 3.67924528 times!

The difference, of course, is that I can choose whether or not to listen to Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up 3.67924528 times (depending mostly on how insane I might be). And I did not choose to spend an extra 13 minutes on your train. In fact, I had paid you a substantial amount of money to make sure I did not spend those extra 13 minutes on your train. It was a specific part of our unspoken contract.

So, anyway. Here I am. Cheated out of my time by your inefficiencies again. Come chasing petty recompense again. And what shall we talk about today? What's going on in the world?

How about the Eurozone Crisis, Mark? Nah, too prosaic, too easy to sort out. It'll never take me 13 minutes to cover that! I can do it in a single sentence. You want my solution to the Eurozone Crisis? Sell some of Greece to Germany. Simples. The Greeks get their money, the Germans get that nice spot of land by the Med they've been after for a while, none of the banks default, job's a good 'un. Or, as they say in the Fatherland: Das ist gute arbeit!

What about Colonel Gaddafi, then? (You know Colonel Gaddafi, Sue! Funny looking Libyan chap, friend of the Blairs, valued customer of the British arms dealing community, occasional flogger of Semtex. Got lynched by a mob recently. Rum old business all round.)

Hmm. You know what, Mark? I'm not going to discuss Colonel Gaddafi with you. It's just too gory. Just too... icky! Colonel Gadd-icky, that's what I call him!

Ooh, I know! Sue! John Terry! Captain of England! Lion of Chelsea! Alleged racial abuser of opponents and supposed cuckolder of team-mates! Shall we talk about John Terry, with his sub-Sid Vicious hair and his sub-standard morality? Shall we chew the fat over John Terry, with his deeply dodgy Dad and his supposed mocking of American tourists in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks? Shall we, Mark? What say you, Sue? Yes? Okay then, let's do it!

You first!

What's that you say? No? Oh. Perhaps you're right. Perhaps we should stay clear of the whole racism in sport issue. Perhaps we shouldn't get embroiled in that particular imbroglio. Perhaps we should stick to what we know. Good thinking, Sue! Good communicating!

So. Sticking to what we know, then. And what, my controversy-dodging comrades, do we know? Do we know, for example, why the trains are always late? Do we know why they're overcrowded? Do we know why they're so expensive? Do we know any of these things?

Because if we do know these things, Mark, then the next question must surely be: why are we allowing things to continue in this sorry state? Because we do want to improve, don't we Mark? We want the trains to run on time! We want people to be able to sit down when they've paid outlandish amounts for their tickets! We want to not have to raise ticket prices by twice the rate of inflation for two years running whilst in the midst of the worst recession in living memory! Right? Right!

So what are we going to do about it? Are we going to make some positive changes, Mark... or will we simply do what John Terry always does? Will we just mutter a few insincere apologies and carry on as before?

What do you think, chaps?

Au revoir!


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