Tuesday, 10 January 2012

10 January 2012. Letter 74

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 10/1/12. Amount of my day wasted: eight minutes.

Good morning Mark. Good day to you, Sue. (A bit of formality never goes amiss, does it Mark? A setting of standards. A reminder that we’re British! Not for us the awful colonial “hiya”s and “hey”s and “g’day”s! Away with those horrid continental kisses and hugs and unnecessary displays of affection! We are British, and know that a simple Good Morning more than suffices!)

So how the devil are we today? Well? Good? Bad (that’s bad meaning good, of course)? Sorted? Sound? Smart? Up town and top ranking?

Are we filled with optimism this mild winter morn? Does the world not seem so bad after all? Do you think there might be hope for us? Do we turn the wheel and look to windward? All I ask is a tall train, Mark! And a star to steer her by!

Good. Excellent. I’m pleased to hear it. And you know what? I felt much the same this morning, in my moonlit kitchen before dawn, stirring my coffee and pouring my Cheerios (technically they’re not actually Cheerios as such – they’re the Aldi version of Cheerios. Called Cheery-ah!s or somesuch. Belts have to be tightened, Mark! The crunch continueth, Sue! And if I’m to be spending £30-odd quid a month more on my train ticket than I was last year, then savings have to be made elsewhere! And so the lavish extravagance, the positively Caligulan decadence of a Sainsbury’s shop is given up in favour of a trawl around the aisles of Aldi. I expect it’s the same for both of you, right? We’re all in it together!).

Where was I? Oh yes, I felt much the same, this morning! As I lathered myself up in Lynx Africa (the chicks go wild for that stuff, right Sue?) and listened to Chris Evans on the radio and sang along to Bowie’s Heroes (“I! I will be king! And you! You will be queen!”), as I dressed for work, as I prepared a face to meet the faces that I meet, I too felt filled with some kind of optimism. I felt like things might not be so relentlessly and remorselessly awful after all.

After all, Mark! You managed delay-free journeys on both Friday last week and Monday this week! That’s four journeys in a row, Sue! Perhaps, thought I, they’ve finally sorted things out! Perhaps they’ve got it together! Perhaps, inspired by the 199 days to go to the Olympics, or inspired by the news of the new High Speed Train link to Birmingham (start work now, Mark, I mean right now, right this second, and we could be on that first train as soon as, um, 2014. I know! That’s practically tomorrow, right? That’s virtually this afternoon! The time will fly!), or inspired by the inspiring return of Thierry Henry to the Emirates last night (one of the most decent and principled men in football, is Henry, Mark. Apart from when he’s cheating to deny Ireland a place in the World Cup, of course. Apart from the cheating, obviously, one of the most decent and principled men in football!) – perhaps, inspired by one or all of the above, thought I, Mark and Sue have only gone and done the Mussolini! Perhaps they’ve finally made the trains run on time!

And so I stood on the platform at Oxford station at eight am, Mark, feeling for once oddly hopeful and optimistic. And I waited for the arrival of my train. And you know what happened next? It turned up late!

Mark! That train begins at Oxford! That’s why I get it! It’s my only chance of a seat in the morning (even if it does make me habitually late for work as a result). Sue! I can see that train, from my spot on the platform! I saw it this morning, waiting inexplicably in the sidings as the minutes ticked by. And I thought to myself: that train should not be there, in the sidings, waiting inexplicably (or inexplicably waiting) as the minutes tick by! That train should be here, in the station, pulled up to the platform, welcoming me and my fellow travellers aboard! In fact, that train should have already done that stuff and by now be chuffing merrily to London town, taking me to a place where I can edit features for the country’s best-read Saturday supplement magazine!

In short, Mark, to cut to the chase, Sue, we were delayed. Slow before we even began. The race was over before we even started. We never got off the blocks.

And so, like the last dregs of coffee muddying the washing up bowl, like the last sad Cheery-ah!s tipped into the sink, like the last soiled suds of Lynx Africa slipping down the plughole, my erstwhile optimism dribbled away into nothingness.

I got on the train, Mark (eventually). I put my headphones on (an exceptional pair they are too, as recommended by Jam magazine, Sue, a one-off News of the World men’s supplement of exceptional quality that came out last March, produced by a small but wildly talented team of hip young gunslingers. Someone should offer the features editor of Jam magazine a job, Mark! A high-paying job! I hear he’ll be in the market soon, once he finishes his maternity cover on the country’s best-read Saturday supplement magazine this spring!), I set the iPod to the playlist labelled “Righteous fury and terrible vengeance”, I snapped open the laptop, and I started to write.

And here I am. And here it is. Hope it hasn’t spoiled your mood…

Au revoir!


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