Tuesday, 1 November 2011

31 October 2011. Letter 50

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 31/10/11. Amount of my day wasted: 12 minutes.

Mark! Sue! What's the score? What's the Bobby Moore? Are we winning yet? Are we getting hammered at home? Are we being humiliated in our own backyard? Are our own fans streaming for the exits well before the final whistle? Can we not at least salvage a scrappy point from this game? Shall we be hauled off at half time? Will it be an early bath for the three of us?

Today, my locomotive-loving chums, I'm feeling mostly penitent. I feel humble. I'm, like, totally lowly! I feel... worthless and weak, Mark. I feel... naked, Sue. Wide-eyed and blank-minded. Blank-eyed and wide open. And minded to proclaim my own shortcomings.

I know, Mark. No need to say it Sue: I know. I can scarce believe it myself. I can barely bear to bring it up and blurt it out. But I must. On this, the occasion of my 50th letter to you, my Golden Jubilee of letters to you, I must come clean. There's no easy way to say it, lads: I made a mistake.

Two mistakes! I made two mistakes! My agonies are compounded, Mark! My sorrows stack up, Sue! And so I stand here naked and ashamed before you. Look at me! Fixate upon that image! Get it clear in your minds as I make my confession.

Here goes. Deep breath. (You still imagining me naked and ashamed?* Good. I'll continue.)

Dudes. In yesterday's letter I incorrectly billed Friday's delayed journey as being from Paddington to Paddington! Thwack! (That's the sound of me self-flagellating, by the way. Ouch!) And as if that wasn't shameful enough, in the same letter, in the same sentence, I incorrectly described the delayed train in question as being the 19.21! Thwack! (More self-flagellation.) When of course there's no such train! Thwack! I meant the 19.22! Thwack! To Oxford! Thwack! Oh, the shame! The shame! Thwack thwack! Please sir may I have another! Thwack thwack thwackety thwack!

Sue: forgive me. My communication skills have been found wanting. It was below-par communicating. It's certainly not the kind of communicating you would encourage in the First Great Western Communications Hub, of that I'm convinced.

The thing is, my petites pedantiques, despite my self-flagellation, I feel I should make a case for the defence. You see, it was all Network Rail's fault.

Oh, not really! It was my fault alone. But, to be fair, Mark, I write these letters in a blur of emotion and a whirl of passion. It was only a matter of time before I made a mistake. I sit here, on your mostly motionless or occasionally creeping trains, scowling at the screen of my phone, jabbing at the display with one furious finger, unleashing a torrent of wild rapture, trying to get it all down in a letter to you before I lose my tenuous grip on my emotions altogether.

These letters, Mark, they're a firestorm! They're a firestorm snowballing out of control! I'm like Steve McQueen in Towering Inferno, Sue! I'm exactly like Steve McQueen in Towering Inferno, racing through the burning building (so imagine: the building is your shambolic train service, Mark, the flames are my letters, and I'm Steve McQueen, trying to keep control of the flames and get out before the whole building collapses altogether. Good metaphor, eh? No? Really? Oh. Well can I at least still be Steve McQueen? I want to be Steve McQueen!).

What was I saying? Oh yes. These letters! They're written in a frenzy, Sue! Fifty of them! Fifty letters written in a frenzy! Who can blame me for the odd mistake? I try to say what i mean and I choke! I try to write away and I stumble!

We all make mistakes, Mark - Lord knows you're aware of that. But let me make a solemn promise to you both. Let me swear an oath. I started writing these letters with the express and focused intention of wasting your time, just as you waste mine. Not only to do that, but to waste a corresponding amount of your time. Not a moment more, Mark. Not a second less, Sue. Distracting you with unnecessary factual errors concerning the destination and departure times of the trains that are wasting my time in the first place doesn't do any of us any favours!

From now on, I shall try not to make any silly mistakes in my letters - no matter how fired up I am, no matter how boiling my blood may be and how rampant the flames of my ardour. I shall be cool, Sue. I shall be calm. Dispassionate. I shall be like... Steve McQueen in the Great Escape! I shall be the Cooler King! Watch me bounce my baseball!

And in return... it would be lovely if you chaps also tried a bit harder? Whaddyasay? I was 12 minutes delayed on the way in to London on Monday morning, Mark. Wouldn't it be great if that wasn't to happen again?

Au revoir!


*Not literally naked! Good heavens! I hope you weren't imagining me literally naked! I meant metaphorically, or figuratively, or symbolically naked! Imagining me literally naked would never do! Such a thing would be most upsetting for all concerned! It would have you spluttering out your tea, Mark! It would have you choking on your Hobnobs, Sue! I blush at the very idea!

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