Wednesday, 27 July 2011

26 July 2011. Letter 11

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 22.21 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford , 26/7/11. Amount of my day wasted: 8 minutes.

Afternoon Mark. 'Ow do, Sue. Thriving, I hope? Peachy and perky, I trust? Good. Splendid! Well done!

I'll be honest with you both. I'm a bit tired today. I'm a little washed out. I've got the midweek slump, the Wednesday blues. I worked late last night (you know what it's like, Mark). I didn't get home till midnight. Of course, it should have been a bit earlier than that, but then that would have meant one of your trains actually running on time, and we all know what an impossible dream that is, don't we?

So, yes. I'm un peu fatigue, as our onion-munching cousins across the Channel like to put it. These late nights in the office, they do that to a man - don't you find, Mark? Do you get tired the morning after another all-nighter with the spreadsheets and the anglepoise, the chewed biros and bitten fingernails and overflowing ashtrays and constant, nagging, relentless inability to make your company work properly? Do you wake up and wonder about your work/life balance?

How about you, Sue? Do you work too hard? Do you communicate long after your team have clocked off and gone home? Do you give your heart and soul to your job? Have you put career before all else? Has communicating taken over your whole life?

I'm intrigued about that, Sue. Actually, I'm intrigued about your working day on a far more basic level (I'll be blunt, Sue: I'm just plain intrigued full stop. You intrigue me. There! I've said it! You intrigue me, Sue! You impossible, mysterious, endlessly intriguing woman! You intrigue me! I don't care who knows it!)

I'm intrigued about what it is that a Director of Communications who doesn't appear to actually do any communicating actually does all day. I hate to keep banging on about it, Sue, but... nobody's enlightening me. Nobody's communicating. What do you do, dude? What's it all about, Alfie?

Anyway. Whatever it is, I don't doubt you're pretty darn good at it. Whatever it is, I'm sure you're the best at it. I mean, you must be. You're the Communications Director! You must be the best! Surely. Right? Whatever it is you actually do.

And it's tiring, isn't it? It's tiring, dedicating yourself to work like we three do. Don't get me wrong, Mark: I love my job. (As I'm sure you do, too, Mark - after all, one doesn't become Managing Director of First Great Western just because you used to play with Thomas the Tank Engine or your Daddy knew someone at Cambridge or whatever. You need passion. You need fire in your belly and coal in your furnace and steam in your pistons!) It's just that, sometimes, my job makes me work late. Sometimes (well, once a week at the moment, but what can you do? I work for the most powerful media organisation in the country, right? And for the bestselling English language newspaper in the world. Them's the breaks!) sometimes I'm required to stay in the office until proofs are read and pages are signed off. Deadlines, innit, Sue.

And that's ok. That's what I signed up for. But what isn't ok is that when I finally do get out of the office and trudge forlornly through Paddington station, clutching my sad little M&S pasta and plastic fork and onto the (too small, too dirty) train, I then find that my scheduled journey home isn't going to run to schedule at all. I didn't sign up for that, Mark! I didn't pay you for that!

And as we dribble through the sad suburbs around Slough and people nod off into their Whopper meals and dark little streams run down the carriage from the toilet and the stench of urine grows and the train slows, and slows, and stops... I can't help thinking to myself: this is not a wonderful world, Mark. This is, in fact, utterly rubbish.

It's not up to you whether I work late or not, Mark, and I would never dream of suggesting it was. But it is up to you to make sure that, even when I do work late, I can rely on your trains to get me home at the time they're supposed to and in a manner befitting that of a highly profitable company operating in a first world country. I think we can all agree on that, can't we? Or should we all get our money back?

What do you say, Mark? What do you say, Sue? Or is that a pointless question?

Au revoir!


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