Monday, 21 November 2011

18 November 2011. Letter 57

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 18/11/11. Amount of my day wasted: 17 minutes

What ho, Mark! What’s the view, Sue? What do we see, when we open the (metaphorical) blinds and peer, bleary-eyed and cloudy of brain, through the glass and into the wide world today?

I don’t know about you lads, but I’m not seeing much. Are you seeing much, Mark? How about you, Sue? What’s out of the window of your time-machine today? How are those relative dimensions in space? Is it a pretty view, Sue? Or are you struggling, too?

I’m struggling, Sue. I'm just not seeing much, today. My eyes are bleary, my brain is cloudy… but it’s not that. Not today. (My eyes are bleary, my brain is cloudy, as standard, Sue. I’m usually all bleared up, I’m generally clouded, until at least after the working day is over. It pretty much takes until I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here comes on before I really get into my stride for the day. I get around an hour of clear thought a day, I’d say. An hour I spend laughing at kangaroo testicle-swallowing has-beens. It’s a life, Mark! It’s a living, Sue!)

But that’s not it! Not today! Today even the brightest and the bestest of us are struggling to see. Today even the perkiest and most opthalmically-perfect of us are having trouble focusing. And do you know why?

Winter has come, Mark! The seasons have turned, Sue! That Indian Summer we were enjoying so much (you remember the Indian Summer, don't you? Long, languorous, lazy days spent (metaphorically) punting on the (metaphorical) streams, Mark! Sweet, half-remembered dreams of hazy bliss, Sue, Elizabeth and Leicester beating oars! The stern was formed a gilded shell, Sue! Supine on the floor of a narrow canoe!)

And now it’s over. Our Indian Summer – gone! The frosts return to Rajasthan, Mark. The mighty Ganges freezes over once more, and all the subcontinent prepares to hibernate for another nine months.

And here, in England, there comes the fog. Little darlin’. And I say: it’s not alright. Yoko Ono was wrong, Sue! (I know what you’re thinking, Sue, but you’re also wrong. Here Comes The Sun may have George Harrison’s songwriting credit on it, but what most people don’t realise is he lifted the tune, note for note and almost word for word, from the Yoko Ono track, Here Comes The Fog. If you’re of a vinyl-collecting bent you can find it on her 1923 EP Strangeways Here We Come. Track three. Anyway, Mark, she successfully sued Harrison for copyright infringement – and he was forced to hand over John Lennon in lieu of royalties. True story.*)

The fog man cometh, Mark! The mists roll in from the sea! It’s a whiteout! And, as old Billy Giles will tell you, that can only mean the official start of winter. Brrr!

How is winter viewed by les grandes fromages at First Great Western, Mark? How do the changing seasons affect daily operations at the FGW Operational Nerve Centre, Sue?

Are the crack climactic response team primed and ready? Are the analysis experts on standby? Have the criteria for what constitutes the correct or incorrect kinds of snow/leaves/rain/frost/fog/air been drawn-up, reviewed, updated, laminated and blu-tacked up above the photocopying machine? Are the TVs showing the Weather Channel 24/7? Are the radios tuned in to Weather FM? Are you all feverishly refreshing your favourite weather websites? (I like a website called 'Weatherbadger', as it happens, Mark. Mostly for the badgers, though occasionally for the weather too.)

Either way, and whatever your favourite animal-themed weather website might be, I do hope you're prepared for winter! I hope you’re approaching the season with due diligence! I also hope, while you’re at it, that you remember to turn off the air-conditioning in your trains quite soon. I was freezing on Friday morning, Mark! It was quite literally colder within than without!

Ah! That reminds me! The real reason we’re here! We’ve not come together to talk about the weather, have we Mark? We’ve not all taken time out of our super-busy, ever-so-productive, high-powered and action-packed days to chinwag about climate change! We're here, once again, to address the problem of the trains. The perennial problem, Mark!

On Friday morning, I am sorry to say, my train to Paddington was delayed. Delayed, Mark! Can you credit it? Would you believe it? Would you, in fact, Adam and Eve it? What's that you say? You would? Now why would that be?

Seventeen of your earth minutes - that was the sad tally on Friday morning. Seventeen of my earth minutes! Seventeen minutes of my life. Seventeen minutes I could have spent otherwise engaged in some useful activity - who knows, some life-changing activity, Mark! Something cosmic, Sue! Anything could have happened in those 17 minutes! And now... and now nothing will. They are lost and gone forever. I will never see them again.

I'm beginning to wonder what I might have made of my life, Mark, if all these wasted minutes were added up and laid end to end. If I were to receive them back like some kind of tax rebate at the end of the year. How many hours would they come to, Mark? (I could add them up myself, but, to be honest, I can't be bothered.) There have been 56 letters since June 28 alone! Fifty-seven if you include this. Fifty-seven chunks of my time you have taken away in the time it's taken for summer's glory to fade into the first fogs of winter.

Do you think that come June 28 again they might add up to 24 hours, Mark? Or 48? Or more? I think there's a pretty good chance of that. I think there's a decent chance that you're stealing at least a day a year from me. Put it like that, Mark, and it begins to sound outrageous, doesn't it? It begins to sound disgraceful.

As winter comes, Mark, as the days dwindle and the mists rise, I don't want to be wasting my life in an unnecessarily air-conditioned train. I don't want to have to waste your time with these ridiculous letters. But then you know that. Of course you know that! And believe me, Mark - no matter how hard it is for you to read these things, no matter how tedious and trite you find wading through this trash to be... rest assured that it's hurting me more than it's hurting you.

I've had to employ a team of simian letter-writers Mark. I've got a factory full of 'em, churning out this stuff for you. It's like Beneath the Planet of the Apes in there! My inspiration ran out months ago - I've had to take on a good three-dozen typewriting monkeys, bashing out the old 'Dear Mark and Sue's, day in, day out, 24/7, three-six-five. It's the only way I can keep up, Mark! It's the only way I can stay on top of it all, Sue! And I don't mind telling you, it's costing me a fortune in peanuts and flea-spray. I may start to invoice.

And on that note... I'm afraid there's not been too much focus to today's complaint, has there? Has it been a bit up-and-down, Mark? Blowing a bit hot and cold, Sue? Sorry about that. Blame the fog. Blame the cold. Blame Network Rail. Blame those stupid monkeys. And I promise, from the bottom of my heart, from the heart of my bottom, that I'm committed to providing you with a better letter-writing experience in future. Or at least the monkeys are.

Au revoir!


*Obviously this is not a true story, Sue. Be sensible.

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