Friday, 3 February 2012

2 February 2012. Letter 82

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford 2/2/12. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes

Good morning, Mark! Good day to you, Sue! How are you both? Are you ok? Are you well? Are you good? Are you doing real good?

Splendid. Excellent. Keep it up!

As for me: well, I’m a bit chilly. It’s brisk out, isn’t it? Brr! Minus thirty, that’s what they’re saying! Minus forty-five if you factor in the wind chill! Snow expected a foot deep by the weekend! Large areas to be cut off completely!

Thankfully for us, that’s the forecast for Finland, Mark… but nonetheless, here in Blighty it’s still a touch bracing. There’s a nip in the air! I fear for the blossom on the trees, Sue! I fret for the daffodil bulbs so bravely pushing their way out of the cracked and frozen earth! I weep for the early butterflies and the over-keen bumble-bees! Nature is cruel, Mark. Mother Nature: she’s proper hardcore.

Anyway. Enough arborial ramblings! Let’s call time on these bucolic musings! We’re not here to talk country matters: we’re here to talk trains. Trains! Here’s to trains – the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, as Homer Simpson once said. (It was either trains or beer, I can never remember which.)

Guess what, Mark? Take a wild punt, Sue. That’s right! My train yesterday – it was delayed! Again! That’s every day this week, kids! Monday, Tuesday: had delays. Wednesday, Thursday: had delays. Friday… well, we’ll see won’t we? I’m on a train now, as I write this, on Friday morning. Let’s see if this once winds up delayed too. Or if my train home tonight also fails to make the advertised grade.

Let’s see if you can pull off the full house, Mark! Let’s see if you can score the Shanghai, Sue! A full week in which every day sees a delay. A full week in which you manage to mess up my day, every day. A full week of failure! The five-day jackpot! How exciting, Mark! I’m trembling with antici…

…pation, Sue!

So. My train home last night: it was delayed. It was late setting off from London Paddington – and it was late arriving in Oxford. Do you know why it was late setting off? There was an announcement (top communicating, Sue!). We were told, and you’ll love this, that the train was delayed while we waited for a late-running member of the train crew. He was late-running because… the train that was bringing him to our train was delayed!

What does “satire”, mean, Mark? What does “couldn’t make this nonsense up” mean, Sue?

So: the upshot of all this bumbling and incompetence? We were late. I was late getting home. I missed the kids’ bedtime again. You wasted 10 minutes of my life last night, Mark, and so here I am again, writing to waste your time in return. And the beat goes on.

And you know what? I expect you’ve barely recovered from yesterday’s letter. I expect you’re still breathless at the sheer size of it, aren’t you Sue? Did you need a lie-down afterwards, Mark? Did you need a stiff drink?

My editor, Mark (she likes a stiff drink herself) – she asked me an interesting question yesterday, after reading that long, long letter. (I don’t know why she wasn’t working at the time, but there you go: one rule for us and one for them, eh?) She asked me if I never got tired of writing to you: she wondered if I never felt like I was running out of things to say.

As if, Mark! You know what it’s like, Sue! You and me – we’re communicators! We’ll never run out of things to say! We were born this way! It’s what we are, right Sue? It’s what we do!

When did you realise that communicating was your destiny, Sue? I remember very clearly how I started communicating for a living. It’s a beautiful story. An inspiring story. Someone should set it to music. What happened was this: I got my first real laptop, bought it at the five and dime. I wrote on it till my fingers bled, Sue! That was the summer of ’89*.

And then… well, me and some guys from school: we had a magazine and we tried real hard. I remember that Jimmy quit, Jody got married – I should have known we’d never get far. But… oh Sue! When I look back now that summer seemed to last forever! And if I had the choice? I’d always want to be there. Those were the best days of my life!**

Now, of course, people pay me to do it. Apart from you, obviously. You’re not paying me. I’m paying you. Now that’s ironic, isn’t it? On a purely daily basis, on a word-per-minute ratio, I’ve far and away written more words for you, Mark and Sue, than I have for anyone else. And nobody’s paid me to do it, like they pay me for all the other words I write. Worse: I’ve effectively had to pay you to do so.

Hmm. I need to think that one through. My pyrrhic victory might have just got a little more… pyrrhic.

Still: as old Dostoyevsky said – happiness writes white. It doesn’t show up on the page. (You remember old Dostoyevsky, don’t you Mark? Played on the left wing for Zenit St Petersburg back in the 80s? Electric pace. Questionable temperament. The sweetest left foot east of Check Point Charlie! Wrote a bit on the side, too. Fyodor! Fyodor! That’s what the crowds used to chant! His name is Fyodor and he’s the greatest Russian novelist and left-winger the world has ever seen! Fyodor Dostoyevsky! Do you remember that goal he scored against Tractor Volgograd to win the Russian cup? Do you remember that novel he wrote about that bloke who committed that crime and then got punished for it? Fyodor Dostoyevsky! What a player! What a guy!)

Where was I? Oh yes: happiness writes white, Mark. It doesn’t show up on the page. Whereas your terrible, scandalous, ridiculous excuse for a train service, the one you’re making me pay £480 a month to use, the one with the above-inflation price rises every year, the one that has failed to deliver me to and from work on time for a single day this week… your train service, Mark, gives me plenty to write about. It’s all unhappy and it’s all showing up on the page, Sue! In black and white and read all over, baby!

Au revoir!


*Technically, it was actually the summer of ’92, but that wouldn’t have worked half so well, would it?

**Also, they weren’t really the best days of my life. Don’t get me wrong: they were alright days, they were a laugh and all… but the best days of my life? No. The best days of my life were between the ages of 0 and six. Now THAT was a good laugh.

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