Tuesday, 2 August 2011

2 August 2011. Letter 12

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington , 2/8/11. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes.

Mark! Sue! Dudes - we're radio stars! Better: as from tonight we're TV stars! And video, as we all know, killed the radio star. Buggles said that. He wasn't wrong. ("Ooh-we-oo-ooh!" I love that song!)

BBC Oxford, eh? How did we do? Do you think the good folks of Oxfordshire were educated, informed and entertained by us? Have we delivered value for their license fee? I do hope so. Value for money's important, right? It's what keeps companies on top. It's what makes companies worthwhile. It's what ensures customers come back for more. When they've got a choice, that is.

And, yes, it was lovely to meet you both. Truly. Mark: I like you. (Sue: I loved your saucy red dress, I loved that you gave me a birthday card (!), I loved the fact that you not only exist - those nagging rumours of the First Great Western Sue-Bot can finally be laid to rest - but that at one stage you even seemed to be flirting with me. You totally did, Sue! You wore a red dress and gave me a birthday card! I've built whole relationships on less! Right up until you mentioned your husband was in the Territorial Army, anyway. That might have signaled the end of the flirting.)

What was I saying? Oh yes: Mark, I like you. You're a gentleman. But, and this is the tragedy of our sorry situation, I'm afraid I still think you run a rubbish company. You've got a tough job to do... but it is your job to do it. I hand over my money, I want my service. Seriously: it's not a massive thing to ask is it?

I know! Let's do us another metaphor.

Let's say, for example, you and Sue went out for dinner one night. Let's say you went somewhere expensive. Let's say (for the sake of this metaphor at least) that you couldn't book a table, you had to pay in advance and once you arrived you weren't guaranteed a seat. I know, I know, it doesn't sound like a great restaurant, but it's the only one in town, ok? And let's say, once you got there, and were told you'd have to stand for your meal, next to the toilet... let's say you then waited for your food. And waited. And then when it finally came it didn't actually taste very nice and the restaurant manager blamed everything on, oh, I don't know, someone not mending the oven or something. And then he told you he was putting the price up in future.

"But you're the manager!" you'd cry. "It's your job to make sure the oven is mended! And that I'm served my food on time! And, in fact, that I can sit down to eat it! And that it tastes nice! What exactly am I paying for here? And what the blazes are you talking about, putting the price up? Has the whole world gone mad?"

And you know what, Mark: you'd be right to complain. It just wouldn't be good enough, would it?

So yes, it's a tough job: I don't doubt it. But, you know, that is your job. That is your job, Mark.

And so, anyway, after all the excitement this morning, what should happen? Clue: I caught a train...

That's right! Typically, ironically, the train I caught this morning, after our little flirt with the mass media and glimpse into the Empire-straddling magnificence of the British Broadcasting Corporation, hobbled into Paddington 10 minutes late.

I know! Mark: I know, man! Ironic? That's Morisette-grade irony, that is!

After all you'd told me about the improvements you were making, Mark. After all those smiles and that red dress, Sue. And then the very next train I get on is 10 minutes late! It's like... it's like... it's like 10,000 spoons Mark! When all I need is a knife! It's like... right, bear with me on this one: imagine I have a chardonnay, right, and there's this black fly, and - actually, never mind. I think we've established: it was ironic.

It's a point I may address, kids, when I'm on Radio Berkshire tomorrow morning. Or Radio Wiltshire after that. Are you coming? It would be lovely to see you again!

Au revoir!



  1. Just seen you on the 10 o'clock news. Brilliant. Keep it up. All that money the government wants to spend on HS2 when the current networks can't even run on schedule!

  2. I rarely commute by train, rarely have to use Didcot-London Paddington, but the few times I have were not pleasant - especially the time I had to stand in the carriage entrance foyer the whole 45 min journey despite having a reserved seat somewhere - reality was the train was too sardine-packed for me to have the energy to push past people to find the seat.

    When I do go in to London for social things, by comparison, Stagecoach's Oxford Tube bus service is cheaper, less smelly, air conditioned, and you always get a seat. True it takes twice as long to get to London than the train does, at times the traffic is frustrating! But the fact I'm willing to put up with wasting an extra two hours of my day sitting on a bus on the A40 every time I travel to London and back - in today's fast society - well, I think my actions speak louder than words.

  3. D'you know? They might as well admit it takes 10 minutes longer to do this journey, change the schedule to make the delayed times be scheduled times, and most of the time you'll arrive 7min early!