Monday, 14 November 2011

11 November 2011. Letter 53

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 19.22 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 11/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: seven minutes.

Wotcha Mark! What up Sue?

I must confess, meine kleine knockwursts, that I'm a touch disappointed. Last week was a good week! It was such a good week! We'd got all the way through to Friday evening with only Monday's delay blotting an otherwise utterly clean escutcheon! (Mark, you may need to explain that reference to Sue: what trips off the tongue to us classically-educated folk does not come so easily to the more street-smart Director of Communications. You can't blame her for that, Mark!)

Anyway - my point is that, right up until the usual scramble and dash for the 19.22, the Friday night take-no-prisoners and kill-all-hippes chicken run down Platform 3, you were doing okay. Leaving aside the fact that last week I actually caught two less trains than usual (you know that swanky black tie do I mentioned? The one with the dinner, and the drinking? The one with the awards, and the stripping hula girls, and the dancing horses? The one with the dwarf-tossing and the knife-throwing and the fire-eating?* That's right! That's the one! Well I stayed over in London that night, Mark. I was exhausted after all that excitement. I crashed out and curled up on my brother's sofa, Sue! I woke up in the clothes I comatosed-out in. I was, as they were far too polite to say in work the next day, a minging disgrace at my desk Wednesday morning. But I digress...) - leaving aside those two less trains, it was still a pretty good tally for the week.

And then, as so often happens when things seem to be going well, things stopped going well.

We dillied and dallied, Mark! We dallied and dilled, Sue! We lost our way and didn't know where to roam! And, alas, with the rising of the moon and under drizzles from the darkening skies, we pulled into Oxford a full seven minutes behind schedule.

It's been worse, Mark. Of course it's been worse! God knows you know I know you know Sue knows we all know it's been worse! But nevertheless, seven minutes is time enough. Seven minutes is time enough to change the world, Sue! And the world is changing so fast that I can't help thinking that seven minutes out of the action is time enough to miss something vital, something game-changing, something epoch-defining!

I don't want to miss the defining moment of my epoch, Mark! I would be gutted if that happened! I'd be sick as a parrot! Literally! (Have you ever seen a parrot be sick, Sue? It's not pretty. It's pretty darn unpretty. It's an awful mess of green feathers and squawking and pieces of what it ate. Truth be told, Mark, a sick parrot is a bird best avoided altogether.)

Just consider - it took less than seven minutes for Napoleon to defeat Wellington at the battle of Peterloo. Defining moment in the 13th century, that was.

It took less than seven minutes for Lord Botham to score his famous hat trick against Australia - thus winning us the Ashes and defining the 2001 rugby world cup.

It took less than seven minutes for Robert Stephenson to be conceived, Mark. And, in one of those wonderful quirks of history that keep scholars like me captivated, it also took less than seven minutes, exactly seven years later, for the young Bobby to draw (on a crayon, on his parent's kitchen wall) the first prototype for what would become The Rocket: the first ever train. Makes you humble, doesn't it? Especially considering he went on to write Treasure Island, the first long-form novel to actually feature a sick parrot.

So what moments in time do you think we missed on Friday, Mark? What happened in those seven minutes? The collapse of the European financial system? The fall of the free British press? The end of another Middle-Eastern regime? The resignation of a democratically-elected Prime Minister of Italy and his subsequent replacement by an entirely non-elected official appointed by a group of people looking after their own interests who can't trust anything so shaky as "democracy" to come up with a suitable Prime Minister? The exit of Frankie from X Factor?

Could any of these define our era, Mark? Or will I remember these days only for the time I spent staring at my reflection in a train window? Food for thought, Mark! And I don't know about you, but I'm hungry! I could eat a horse!

Au revoir!


*I exaggerate, of course. There were no stripping hula girls. What kind of decadent parties do you think I attend? I'll have you know I'm a moral man, Mark! My reaction upon seeing a stripping hula girl would be to immediately stand up, deliver a stiff lecture on the exploitation of women by a male-dominated, phallically-driven society, admonish them severely for letting down the sisterhood by pandering to the above, button up my trousers with as much dignity as I could muster and walk right out of there.

Did I say trousers? I meant jacket. Of course I meant jacket. I would button up my jacket. Why on earth would the buttons of my trousers be undone!

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