Thursday, 29 September 2011

29 September 2011. Letter 35

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 29/9/11. Amount of my day wasted: 17 minutes.

Mark! Sue! Wake up! It's a beautiful morning! Feel the sun shining for your eyes! Wake up, it's so beautiful!

The hot weather continues, Mark! Back here in Blighty, Sue, it's 24/7 sunshine. Literally! That Indian Summer, lads, is set fair until at least November - that's what they're saying. At least! Till December, maybe! January, February... some of our more easily excited meteorologists (naming no names Mr "Fish") are even positing the theory that the mercury may not fall until next June! (When we can then expect two or three months of rain, wind and general misery.)

Can you imagine? All of that frost we had in August... and now it's sunny delight till next summer. Truly, Mark, the old adage: "There's nowt so queer as the workings of the Gulf Stream" has never felt truer.

But, for once, and most uncharacteristically, I digress. We're not here to talk about the weather, Mark! What are we, walking cliches? There's more to life than isobars, you know. (But not much more.) We're here to talk about the trains! We're here to discuss delays, chew the fat on your failings, pay lip service to your poor service!

Let us sit upon the vestibule floor, Mark, and tell sad tales of the death of great railway companies.

Yesterday, to be fair, I was not delayed. Yesterday, Mark, all of our joint troubles seemed so far away! Now it looks as though, once again, they're here to stay. Oh, Mark, I long for yesterday! Because today... today the sun may be shining and the first frosts of winter may have melted away, but today we've once again fallen into bad habits.

Seventeen minutes, Sue! How many karaoke classics can a girl get through in 17 minutes? How many renditions of I'm Every Woman or I Will Survive or Simply the Best or Total Eclipse of the Heart can a holidaying Director of Communications belt out in 17 minutes? How many Campari and sodas and Martini Rosso and Red Bulls can a gang of girls in the Greek Islands get down 'em in 17 minutes?

Enough for it to qualify as a good time, I'm guessing. (For you at least. Maybe not for those having to listen.) Enough to appreciate that 17 minutes is not an amount of time to be sniffily sniffed at or dismissively dismissed. Seventeen minutes, Mark! That's 17 minutes of my life, that is! Come Judgement Day, I'm going to think about those 17 minutes and ponder all the things I could have done with them. (All the things aside from singing I Will Survive, Sue. It's karaoke, karaoke, karaoke with you at the moment, isn't it? It's all karaoke! You're karaokecrazy! Karaokecrackers! Step away from the microphone and the "Girls On Tour" CD, Sue!)

When I'm standing at the Pearly Gates, Mark, totting up the time I've lost, wasted or had stolen from me; when I'm tallying the days with St Peter, Sue, marking up the good times, the bad times, the ugly and the wasted times, Sue; when the Angel Gabriel and I are sorting out the whys and wherefores and what-ifs of my three-score and ten, those 17 minutes are going to seem like a long old stretch. (They're going to seem even longer than they would do if they were spent listening to bad karaoke.)

Life moves pretty fast, Mark, time flies, and before we know it we've gone grey and grizzled and worn-out and wrinkly and the feral youth step over us in the street on their way to loot Foot Locker.

Time flies, Mark! Literally! We grow old. We shall wear our trousers rolled. Do you feel old, Mark? (I know you don't feel old, Sue! And why should you?) I feel old. I'm in the last day of my fourth decade, dudes! This time next year I'll be 40! I know that to look at I don't seem a day over 25, I appreciate that to hear me talk you'd think me a mere stripling, a bouncy, clean-limbed, golden-skinned youth in my prime... but, unbelievable as it sounds, I am not.

And as the days slip inexorably past, as the weeks roll by, as the months and the years soldier on and I get nothing but older, I can't help wondering what I'm doing spending so much of my precious time looking at bleeding Slough out of a stationary train window. Perhaps you could tell me, Mark?

Au revoir


PS - I've just had a re-read of this letter, Mark, and I'm sorry if it not the usual gag-fest and laugh-riot you've become accustomed to. The truth is, fun though this all is (and it is fun, isn't it, Sue? It's a regular festival of fun, right? I can picture you all now, in the First Great Western Nerve Centre, creasing up and rolling around and laughing your little monogrammed socks off every time I write you another letter. That is what you do, isn't it? I mean, as opposed to thinking: "Oh no! Dom's written us another letter! We really have to get this business of ours into shape! We must, we must, we must improve our train company! It's just not good enough, poor bloke. We're failing the very people who pay our wages! Heads must roll! No stone must be left unturned, no line of enquiry left un-enquired into. We must do whatever it takes to make sure our trains run on time!" Isn't it? Yep, thought so.) The truth is, fun though this all is, every now and then I do actually get genuinely cheesed off with you. Furious, even. I mean, to be fair, and sorry if it's not very funny... but First Great Western: it's a total shambles, right? Right.

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