Friday, 18 November 2011

17 November 2011. Letter 56

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 17/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes.

Mark! Sue! Morning has broken! Just like the first morning! Blackbird has spoken! Just like the first bird!

Sue - how goes the trip through the temporal vortex? Where are you? Or more accurately, when are you? Tell us, Sue, what sights have you seen? Have you seen your shadow at morning striding behind you? Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you? Frisch weht der Wind, Sue! With all of history as your playground thanks to your time-travelling leave of absence, what have you chosen to do? Why not see that first morning, Sue? Why not hear that first blackbird?

Why not make like Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC (great film, Mark - and the first film to be made entirely with digital technology by a young Steven Spielberg, too. Screenplay by Tarantino. Score by Girls Aloud. What a line-up!)? Why not travel back to a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth and woolly mammoths did battle with giant skeleton armies and we all hung out in fur bikinis and communicated mostly through the medium of grunting? That would be a sight worth seeing, wouldn't it? That would be a holiday worth taking! I'm picturing it right now!

Or you could just go to Marbella again. Whatever.

But (once more!) I'm getting distracted! I'm deviating and detouring! I'm getting derailed, dudes! We're not here to discuss Sue's fur-bikini'd battles with the Stegosauruses (Stegosauri?). We're here to discuss the trains, Mark! Let us never forget: trains is all. And all is trains. In the beginning was the word, Mark (Not that word! Not The Word, seminal 90s music show starring Terry Christian!) And the word was "trains". At least as far as we're concerned it was. Let there be trains, Mark! And we see that the trains are good!

Or, er, not.

The trains are not good.

I write these words on a train in the morning, Mark. Friday morning at nine am, as John, Paul, George and Ringo almost had it. (Ringo's our favourite, isn't he Mark? It's gotta be Ringo! John had the genius, Paul had the talent, George had the looks, the cool, the insouciance... but Ringo! Ringo was the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine! Ringo wins! Ringo owns that pop culture shizzle. You can keep your Working Class Heroes and your Here Comes the Suns and your clever vaudeville-referencing middle bits from A Day In The Life... because nobody - nobody, Mark - said the words "fat controller" quite like Ringo!)

It's Friday morning, it's nine am, my train is currently taking a breather somewhere near Southall, and I'm going to be late again. But that's a story for another day and another letter... because today I am tasked with transcribing the tale of last night's travel.

Last night, Mark, I was delayed. I know. I know, dude! I'd huffed and puffed and blown through the tubes to reach Paddington Station in time to catch the fabled 18.51 - and still I was delayed. Somewhere near Reading, Mark, we stopped. For 10 minutes. And so, today, as the sun struggles above the slurry and despair of Southall in the morning, I am here, once again, to waste your time back.

I know what you're going to say! You're going to say sorry! (Quite right too - and thankyou for saying sorry. It is appreciated.) But I also know that somewhere, lurking at the back of your mind like a particularly naughty child, will be the thought: 'it's only 10 minutes. And the last delay was only seven minutes. And the other recent delays have likewise only been 13 minutes and seven minutes. These aren't so bad. These delays that you've got mapped out - they're nothing much to shout about'.

Bad thought, Mark! Dismiss that thought! Send that thought to bed without any supper!

These 10 minute delays, Mark, these seven minute and 13 minute delays... they accumulate. They wear one down. They... sap. They're sapping me, Mark! Let me illustrate with a pithy and well-placed pugilistic analogy. Let us strip to our shorts, tape up our hands and indulge ourselves in the noble language of the ring!

These sapping under-15 minute delays, Mark - they're like jabs. Quick, sharp, painful. Left! Left! Right! Left! Snap! Oof! Durr! Ouch! They're not knockout blows, Mark, they're not the 20 minute uppercuts, the big swinging half-hour roundhouses... but they add up. They cause damage. Land enough of them, Mark, and you'll have me on the ropes. You'll have me reeling. You'll have me needing attention at the bell.

I'm a big man, Mark, but I'm out of shape. And all this jabbing - it's getting through my guard. It's draining me, Mark! I'm sapped! I'm a roped dope!

Do you watch the Simpsons, Mark? You do! Well done! Have you seen the episode of the Simpsons where Moe the barkeep talks about his boxing career? He started out as 'Kid Gorgeous', Mark - then after a few too many jabs was renamed 'Kid Presentable'. And then 'Kid Gruesome' - and finally, after 40 knockouts, 'Kid Moe'. That's me, Mark. I'm about at the Kid Presentable stage.

Don't make me Kid Gruesome, Mark! Don't make me Kid Moe! Stop hitting me! For the love of God, please stop hitting me!

Oops! There's the bell! That's yer 10 minutes. Ding ding! Here comes the girl in the swimsuit and stilettos and the "Round 56" sign! And I'm off to spit into a bucket.

Au revoir!



  1. Dom.

    If you don't like it drive, or catch the coach or better still move. You have a choice Dom a real choice, exercise it, take the power in your own hands, vote with your feet, in fact take control & stop being a victim, be a winner Dom, take your life back. I'm sure that you would be much happier in Luton or Sevenoaks (or is it Oneoak after the wind the other night)or Grays or god forgive even Bicester. Alternatelky stay where you are and get a proper job that does not entail a daily trip to the den of despondency that our great capital city has become. The choice, Dom is yours

  2. You're right! I need to quit my job, abandon my career and move to Luton! Rather than expect the trains to run on time.
    Good point, well made.