Tuesday, 31 January 2012

30 January 2012. Letter 79

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford 30/1/12. Amount of my day wasted: 10

Mark! Sue! Ohhhh, Mark. Oh Sue, Sue, Sue. What are we to do? Wither goest us, Mark and Sue, in our shiny trains in the night?

We goest us nowhere fast, that’s where we goest. Or, to be less Shakespearian but more accurate (Shakespeare or accuracy, Mark? If you had to choose, which would you choose? Poetry or pedantry? I’m guessing… pedantry. Precision! Punctuality! Timetables, schedules and orderly conduct! Sue’s the artist of us three, the wordsmith, the communicator; Sue’s the the music maker, the dreamer of dreams. Let’s leave the poetry to the Director of Communications. Me and you, Mark: we’re all about the accuracy!) – to be less Shakespearian and more accurate, we goest places but we goest there slower than we’re supposed to goest.

Ten minutes is the tally for today’s letter, Mark. One whole sixth of an hour. Enough time, according to our previously discussed (but I’m going to keep bringing it up because I’m still rather proud of having thought of it) Barlow Standard, to fall in love 10 times. A double handful of loving! A Decameron* of desire!

My train home last night – the one I had to run for, bursting out of the Bakerloo line like a hare out of the trap, streaking across the concourse, burning through the skies at a hundred degrees (that’s why they call me Mr Fahrenheit), bobbing and weaving through the crowds at London Paddington, shimmying and chicaning through the tourists and day-trippers and beaten-down commuters, a blur of duffel coat and limited edition Adidas trainers and rather fetching red woolly hat that the current wife’s Aunty bought me for Christmas** - that train, that train I burst my lungs to make… it only ended up being delayed in the end didn’t it?

We started off promisingly enough (things always start promisingly, don’t you find, Sue? The beginnings of things – they’re usually alright. It’s once you get into things, once you get into the meat of it, the business end, that they tend to go wrong. Things always fall apart, Sue, the centre cannot hold) – we chuffed and huffed and puffed as far as the silvered outskirts of Reading with no problems at all.

And then – as so often happens – we faltered. We fatally paused. We stopped. We took a good, long look at Reading, Mark, and we decided we weren’t going to budge for at least as long as it takes to fall in love 10 times, according to the parameters set back in 1992 by Mr Gary Barlow.

It was my first day back at work after a week off, Mark! It was only the second train I had caught in seven days! And it was delayed! That’s not great service is it? Those aren’t great statistics! One delay in two?

And here was me thinking we’d turned a corner! Here was me thinking we had put all of this silliness and mutual time-wasting behind us! Here was me thinking that, after the Panorama investigation of last Monday, we were all going to agree to be good boys from now on! (And good girls, sorry Sue. Good boys and good girls.) Here was me thinking that…

Oh! What’s this?

I’ve just reread your reply to my last letter, Mark! You didn’t watch Panorama?

Really? You didn’t watch the Panorama investigation into the state of Britain’s railways? You, as Managing Director of First Great Western, didn’t watch a programme exploring the very business that you’re supposed to be the boss of? Made by the BBC’s flagship investigative team? Seriously?

Why on earth not, Mark? Did you not think there would be anything there to interest you? Did you look at the schedules and think: oh, a programme about the state of Britain’s railways, made by the BBC’s flagship investigative team, exploring whether passengers and taxpayers are getting anything like the service we’re all paying for… ppffftt. Boring. Nothing to see there. Nothing that will interest me. I’d much rather watch Don’t Tell The Bride instead. As Managing Director of First Great Western and the effective custodian of the legacy of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, I’d really much rather watch Don’t Tell The Bride instead.

Did you not at least video it? Or Sky+ it? Or catch it on iPlayer? Have you really no interest at all in what that Panorama investigation might have said about the state of our railways and the service that companies like First Great Western are providing to their customers?

No? None? Not even a little bit? Do you really, as Managing Director of First Great Western, not even care that much?

Crikey, Mark. I’m rendered speechless. I’m quite literally gobsmacked. (Okay, metaphorically gobsmacked. Figuratively gobsmacked.)

I’m quite literally gobsmacked!

And you know what else? I’m a touch cross too. I feel a bit let down. But that’s going to have to wait until my next letter. I’ve run out of time and I’ve run out of words, Mark. But that’s ok. The train I’m sitting on right now, as I write this, on Tuesday morning, with fingers shivery and blue, would also appear to be delayed. Looks like there will be another letter soon!

Until next time!

Au revoir!


*I love that word, Mark! Decameron! Nothing to do with our Prime Minister, Mark! Nowt to do with the chubby-cheeked, red-faced, port-swilling Eton millionaire we’ve got running the gaff and ensuring the neediest in society get as much of a fair deal as our bonus-guzzling banker chums! Nothing to do with him at all! I’m talking about the Decameron, Mark! The 14th century allegory by Giovanni Boccaccio! Bawdy tales of love, life and high jinx in medieval Italy! As told by 10 rough-and-tumble young roister-doisters! A regular laugh riot! You must have read the Decameron, Mark! No? No? What are they teaching in schools these days? Perhaps you should just ask Sue about it then, she’s bound to have a copy lying about somewhere. It’s a great read. A real page-turner. A bonkbuster, Mark! And who knows, maybe they’ll televise it soon. I don’t know why it’s not been televised yet: imagine Skins with spaghetti and codpieces and you’d be on the right lines. And who wouldn’t want to watch that? So much better than Don’t Tell The Bride!

**I look a bit like Where’s Wally in that hat, Mark. But that’s ok. I don’t mind that. He’s got a kind of ironic hotness to him hasn’t he? Where’s Wally I mean. Chicks dig that look, right Sue?

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