Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 19.03 FGW service from Paddington to Plymouth, 22/8/11. Amount of my day wasted: 15 minutes.
Marky Mark! Siouxsie Sue! (You guys should form a supergroup! A kind of proto-goth/punk meets jock-rap/pop hybrid. You can't have names like that and not do something musical with them...)
How's life treating you? Wine and roses, I hope? Whiskers on kittens and, er, what was it, bright copper kettles? You get the idea, anyway.
Today's letter is going to need a little explanation. Some clarification. You'll observe from the line above that I caught the Plymouth train, last night. Mark, Sue: I didn't go to Plymouth last night. (Why would I want to go to Plymouth? What is there in Plymouth anyway? Apart from Plymouth Hoe, I mean. And the National Marine Aquarium. And the National Armada memorial, the Mayflower Steps, Crownhill Fort and Smeaton's Tower. And of course Home Park, stamping ground of Plymouth Argyle Football Club and a veritable am-dram venue of dreams. But apart from that, really, what is there in Plymouth for a boy like me? Nothing, Mark. Zip. Nada. Rien, nul, zero.)
So I didn't go to Plymouth.
What I did do, was go to Reading. (Again.) What I did do, was try to be clever.
Now I know what you're going to say. You're going to say exactly what Mr Moynihan, my old head of Sixth Form and as fine a chap as one might ever encounter, said.* He said: "You're clever Dominic, but you're not as clever as you think you are. And if your cleverness doesn't get you in trouble, your lack of cleverness will." Pretty deep, eh? He was a deep guy.
And guess what? He was right, too! It's only taken about 20 years, but bless me if the old feller wasn't proved on the money in the end! Here's how, Mark: listen closely, it's a properly fascinating tale. And we've got 15 minutes to waste together in the telling...
So. Last night, having just missed the 18.51 (one word, Mark: tourists. Actually, eight words: tourists standing still in front of ticket barriers. And escalators. Ten words, then. But pretty annoying all the same) I looked at the timetables, I did a few quick mental calculations, I weighed up the options, balanced the probabilities, did the maths, crossed the 'i's and dotted the 't's and made what I thought was a clever decision.
I decided (you might want to take notes, Sue) to hop on the 19.03 to Plymouth, jump out at Reading at exactly the allotted time it was due to arrive there (according to your timetable) of 19.32... and then, after a merry skip through the subway to Platform 7, leap gaily onto the 19.41 to Birmingham New Street, due in to Oxford at 20.05!
Brilliant! And, with the bonus of having to only endure a First Great Western train for half my journey home.
Oh, Mark, can you imagine the sheer scale of self-congratulation that was happening in my tiny mind last night? Can you? I all-but-swaggered on to that train, so confident was I that I'd finally cracked the system. After all, with nine minutes to spare at Reading, I was assured of making that connection, right? Right?
Mark, I blame myself. I was obviously too clever. Or not clever enough. Or not as clever as I thought I was. Or some horrid Mr Moynihan-vindicating combination of the three. Of course I should have guessed that the train would not arrive at Reading at the time it was supposed to! Of course I should have known that nine minutes grace would not suffice! I felt so stupid, Sue! I felt so intellectually weak and mentally worthless!
I stepped off that train at Reading a broken man, Mark. And then I waited 15 minutes or so for the next fast train to Oxford. And instead of arriving energised and optimistic into the city of dreaming spires at a credible 20.05, I trundled in weary and dreary at 20.20. A victim of my own half-cocked attempts at cleverness.
You know what happened? I flew too close to the sun, Sue. I got my wings all melted off. I'm like Icarus. I'm exactly like Icarus.
So how did I recover? How does one bounce back from a thing like that?
All I can say is... thank the Lord for Celebrity Big Brother! I got the missus to tune the television to Channel 5 and all was well with the world again! Do you watch, Sue? Are you addicted? Oh, you should! It's marvellously energising. It's a tonic!
Why, if it wasn't for the hilarious antics of Jedward and Sally Bercow, if it weren't for the razor-sharp satire of Kerry Katona and that bloke who was once in Corrie but might now be in Waterloo Road but nobody's really sure, then I would have gone to bed with all my previous intellectual confidence shot.
I say it again, Sue! Thank the lord for Frank Endemol (or whatever his name is)!
What do you think, Mark? Are you in love with the antics of adorable Essex girl Amy Childs? Do the ramblings of American Pie-Eyed actress Tara Reid give you hope for humanity? Will the non-nonsense wit of celebrity photographer (or photographer of celebrities) Darren Lyons renew all our flagging intellects?
If there's one thing the Celebrity Big Brother house is teaching me, Mark, it is that no matter how stupid I am, or how stupid I do, I'm never going to be as stupid as some. And that, my learned friends, is a beautiful lesson to learn, is it not?
It almost gives me hope!
* Was that a split infinitive, Sue? Did I boldly split where no infinitive has been split before? I figure, you're the Communications Director, you're the one who's going to know, of the three of us, best, when you see a split infinitive...
ps - Oh, before I forget. I write this on a train in the morning that's currently going nowhere near Slough. I mean, it's going nowhere... and we're near Slough. Not that it's going nowhere near Slough. Either way: expect another letter later. Won't that be a treat?