Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 18/8/11. Amount of my day wasted: nine minutes.
Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Dearie, dearie, me. Mark. Sue. Whatever are we to do? Three days, three delays. What's going on? What's occurring? What the blue blazes are you chaps playing at?
And all in the week that we find out about our fares increases, too! Oh my days! I'm no huge Alastair Campbell or anything, Mark (I'm not even a small Alastair Campbell. I'm not even Sol Campbell. I'm not even Naomi Campbell) but even I can see that this was probably not the week in which you wanted your service to deteriorate even further. You don't need a doctor to diagnose that spin, Sue. You need... actually, what do you need? Competence, maybe? Or a conscience.
These things, and so much more, have been on my mind, Mark, in the 24 hours since last I wrote to you. Yes, yes, I know you've been lording it up in the old Costas, Mark, conga-ing the days away and quaffing pina coladas through the balmy vay-cay nights... but back here in Blighty, it's all going Pete Tong.
Mark: I'm not ashamed to say that Sue and I have been in a proper pickle about it. We've been fretting, fixating. We've been frustrated and befuddled over just what we're going to do with this whole situation. What are we going to do? How can we fix this?
I'm just a kid with a crazy dream and she's just a girl with a gift for communication... but together we wanna make this work, you know what I mean? We want to make First Great Western first again! Great again! (We kind of figure the Western bit is covered already.) And if we can't do that... well then we want to at least make some of the trains run on time!
And you know what people keep telling me? They keep saying it's going to take money. My money. (Not your money - your money's fine, your money's safe.) What do you think?
Oh, Mark! I knew you'd say that! You think it's going to take my money to sort it out too! You want my folding. You need my lucre - a lot of it, and as filthy as it comes. Well... you've got it. It's yours. You've got eight per cent more from now on, to add to the nine per cent more I gave you last year. (Thank me later. No really: thank me later. But do thank me.)
So: there's your wonga. There's your wedge. Now go sort it all out. Make the trains run on time, Mark. Get communicating, Sue. Don't let my hard-earned go to waste.
Do I sound a little obsessed with this topic? I am sorry: I'll drop it now. I'll talk about something else. (After all, there's plenty of time. I've got nine minutes of your time to waste today, Mark. Nine minutes you owe me after this morning's delay.) But I'm afraid it is something of a fault of mine (one of my few visible faults, Sue! How many did you spot, that time we met, that day we caught the train? How many of my peccadilloes did you pick up on?) - it is a fault, this habit I have of banging on and on about something until it's resolved.
Perhaps that's why I became a journalist, Sue. Journalism is, after all, one of the few professions where being an obsessive pedant and self-aggrandising smartypants is seen as a thoroughly good thing. It's one of the few careers where that kind of behaviour is encouraged.
How about train company management, Mark? What kind of qualifications do you need to get into that game? How about directing communications, Sue? What's the entry-level requirements for that kind of gig?
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yes, my faults. My (mostly hidden, but occasionally glaring) faults. Generosity is one. Banging on about stuff another. And, er, something else. Oh yes! Forgetfulness!*
You know what someone once said to me, Mark? He said that my problem was that I exaggerated everything.
The cheek of it! Do you want to know what I said right back to him? I said that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard in my whole life. I said that was the most absurd thing anyone had ever said about anything ever. I said that I had never in fact exaggerated once in my whole life. I told him he was the biggest fool on the face of the earth.
But I'm being rude, talking about myself like this. What do you think, Mark? What's your interpretation, Sue? Am I too generous? Do I bang on too much? Am I becoming obsessed? Am I beginning to grate on you, like an itch, like a dripping tap, like a papercut? Are these letters, to be frank, becoming a pain in the proverbial? Am I getting right on your Hamptons?
It's awful when that happens, isn't it? When there's this daily irritation, this persistent, unnecessary annoyance in your life, this one little thing that every single day seems designed to wind you up? It so is! Isn't it Mark? Sue?
*That was a joke, Sue. I'm not really forgetful. I'm like an elephant in that respect. Literally.