Tuesday, 27 September 2011

26 September 2011. Letter 33

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 26/9/11. Amount of my day wasted: 20 minutes.

My dearest Mark! My most treasured Sue! I trust this finds you both in the pink!

(I've decided my previous letters to you both lacked a little formality. The lightness of tone and chumminess of content may have distracted you from the essential seriousness of their message. This must not be, Mark! Apart from anything else, we're British, aren't we? We have standards to maintain! A sense of decorum and a certain standard of propriety must be observed! If we lose that, Sue, we become no better than mere savages. This shizzle must be kept real, y'all!)

So. It is my sad and onerous duty to report that once again, Mark, my day was disrupted due to one of your lackadaisical locomotives. I know! Who'dathunkit? And, yes, Mark, to address a point raised in your latest reply, I fear I am losing my confidence in your service. That's me in the (metaphorical) corner, Mark. That's me in the (also metaphorical) spotlight! Losing my confidence! Trying to keep up with you... and, to be full and frank for a moment, I don't know if I can do it.

Have I said too much, Mark?

I haven't, as the song goes, said enough.

But wait! Sue! Forgive my manners - I haven't asked after you! How's the tan coming along? How are the tavernas and takeaways of Thessaloniki and Tenerife? What's pumping on the stereos and discotheques of Santorini and Zante? Are you eating properly? Are you getting enough sleep? I know you're on your hols, Sue, but you've got to look after yourself! We need you to come back to work fit and refreshed and ready for some top-level communicating again!

Okay? Good? Well done! Now to business.

Mark, Sue: you'll notice from your careful perusal of the lines above that last night I managed to make it onto the "early" train. The 18.51, Mark! What a way to start the week! Just to put things into context, getting the 18.51 means leaving work bang on time. It means jumping up and logging off and getting out before the chimes of Big Ben have bonged the last bong of six. Which is not as easy or straightforward as it sounds, Mark. It's no walk in the park, Sue.

Leaving work on time - it's an exercise in faux-nonchalance and mock-casual subterfuge, Mark. Leaving work on time - it's a study in skulking and skullduggery, Sue. It's like walking past a policeman. Like getting sniffed by a sniffer-dog. It's something that makes us feel guilty, that makes us feel bad, wrong, morally deficient and deserving of the lash, Sue! Even when we're innocent! Inexplicably! Yet indubitably!

Leaving work on time, Mark, means making a swift yet hopefully-unnoticed exit. It means sneaking towards the door whilst appearing to be merely taking a constitutional stroll around the office. It means logging off the computer whilst appearing to be merely double-checking an important email. It means shrugging on the old jacket and scooping up the old bag whilst appearing to be merely trying to smarten oneself up a bit. (Tricky, that last one.)

In a word, Sue, leaving work on time is... ninja. It's totally ninja! You gotta get all crouching dragon and house of flying tigers on it! You gotta make like a Samurai, Sue! You gotta go Shaolin!

And you know what? Last night, Mark, I was that ninja. Oh, you should have seen me! I was so fast I'd turned off my monitor and was out the door before the screen went dark. I was so smooth I made smooth peanut butter look chunky. I was so slick I... well, you get the idea. The point is I got out and over to Paddington and made it onto the 18.51.

And off we went! With a trumpety-trump! All the way to Maidenhead, Mark! Until, inevitably, tediously, tiresomely, we stopped and dawdled around pointlessly for 20 minutes before limping the rest of the way to Oxford. And arrived at about the same time as we would have if we weren't Samurai and sneaked out in order to make the early train in the first place.

I'll be blunt. Nobody was feeling very Samurai, once we shuffled past Slough, Sue. People were grumbling and grousing in a most un-British manner*. The old gentleman in the seat in front of me, Mark, positively harrumphed. The students in the seats behind ran out of battery for their game of Angry Birds. Even the fit blonde girl sitting beside me (told you I was ninja, Mark!) got uppity. She called someone to complain, to moan, to generally let off steam about her disrupted plans.

She may have even used some rude words to describe your train company! I mean, properly rude words! The kinds of words one wouldn't expect fit blonde girls to have even heard of, let alone ejaculate out loud!

Can you imagine, Mark! I was shocked. I was saddened. That it should come to this: comely girls using the language of the mess hall.

These delays, Sue: like I said, they're making us no better than mere savages.

Au revoir!


*Of course one can be both Samurai and British! Have you never heard of the British Samurai, Sue? Why, if it wasn't for the Queen's Own Samurai Fusiliers, we'd never have successfully invaded China back in the Wars of the Roses! If it wasn't for the Charge of the Light Samurai Brigade, we'd never have defeated Mario Balotelli at the Battle for Stalingrad! History, Sue. That's the thing. Without making the mistakes of the past we're doomed to live in the future. Cicero said that. One of the most exciting R&B artists of the 90s he was, too.

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