Tuesday, 3 January 2012

3 January 2012. Letter 71

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 3/1/12. Amount of my day wasted: 11 minutes.

Mark! Sue! New year, new you! New year, new me! New year, new efficient, comfortable, reliable train service! Right? Right!

Oh, hold up. Wait a moment, Mark. Stop right there, Sue. Something’s wrong; something’s not quite right. The trains, Mark! The trains! They’re not quite right! They are, in fact, wrong. Still!

Mark: it’s only the third day of January. The new year is barely begun. And yet, already, Mark, I’m sitting on a stopped train (my first train of the year, Mark) staring at a platform in Didcot station, lashed by the rain and battered by the winds, grey and sullen and sodden in the dismal January morning light… and I’m wondering why I’ve been staring at this sorry scene for 10 minutes now. I’m wondering when this train might start moving again.

Are things to be as bad this year as they were last year, Mark? Have we learned nothing? I racked up 17 hours in delays over the last six months of last year, Mark. You took away 17 hours of my life in delays over the last six months of last year, Sue. That’s 17 hours on top of the scheduled journey times. That’s 17 hours I should have spent at work, or at home. Seventeen hours I should have spent in the loving bosom of my nearest and dearest… or at home.

(The jokes won’t be getting any better this year either, Sue. I’d apologise for that, but… well, they make me laugh and that’s what matters most, right? So long as one of us is having a good time. That was always my philosophy during my time as a Wedding DJ, and that’s my philosophy when writing bad jokes to the Managing Director and Director of Communications of underperforming train companies. That, plus lots of S Club 7.)

But this year, Mark! Oh, this year, Sue! I thought this year would be different! It’s 2012, my time-travelling comrades! We’re in the future! This is an Olympic year, a Jubilee year! This is the year of Mayan Prophecies and Presidential Elections! It’s the year I’ll be appearing on Panorama and the year I’ll get round to writing that era-defining book I keep banging on about. Anything could happen this year!

At least… such were my optimistic thoughts, as I shelled out an extra six per cent for my monthly train ticket this morning, Mark. It’s 2012, I thought! Mark and Sue are going to sort out their shoddy excuse for a train service once and for all! (Well – Mark will. Mark will sort it out, with sleeves rolled up and hands dirty, with brow furrowed and sinews straining… and Sue will communicate. This will be the year that Sue will communicate! O brave new world, that has such communicating in it!)

If I’m to pay more for a service that has to this point been demonstrably awful (seventeen hours delayed in six months!) then it stands to reason that with the above-inflation price hike will come a corresponding, widespread and comprehensive sorting out of that service. Right? Right!

Alas, Mark. Alack, Sue! Alas and alack! It seems, already, just three days into the new year, just one journey into the new year, my faith, my hope, has been for nothing. Is 2012 to be another year of disappointment, Mark? Will 2012 be another 12 months of commuting misery for me, Sue?

Oh well. I should have known. Resolutions never last, do they? New year, new you? Sounds like a great idea at five past midnight on New Years Day, when the bongs are still echoing and the fireworks are still lighting up the skies and the pina coladas are still flowing (what do you mean you don’t have pina coladas on New Year’s Eve, Sue? Have you never been to Scotland? They basically invented New Year’s Eve (I believe they call it Hootenanny) – and every year at midnight the Scottish tradition is to don the old hula skirt (they call it a kilt) recite a few verses by the famous Jewish poet Rabbi Burns, set up a limbo dance and sink a couple litres of pina colada, before all settling down to watch Braveheart and moan about Paul Gascoigne’s goal against them in Euro 96. It’s practically the law up there, Mark! It’s how they’ve been doing it for literally thousands of years.)

But the problem with new year, new you, is that in the unfeeling, unforgiving light of morning, it all seems like a bit too much bother to bother with. When reality bites, Mark, new year new you has a decidedly icky aftertaste. Much like pina colada. Or Braveheart.

So obviously your new year resolution was to make your trains run on time. Of course it was! It’s what you promise to do every year, isn’t it? And like the 40-Silk Cut-a-day fagash Lil who vows to never spark up again, like the 18-stone chocoholic who insists that comfort-eating is to be a thing of the past, like the dedicated dipsomaniac who solemnly pours the last of his bottle of Sainsbury’s Value Brandy down the drain… give it a day or two and all those promises have come to nothing again.

Lil’s back on the tabs, Mark, the big lass is face-down in a tub of ice-cream again, the Sainsbury’s Value Brandy has been replaced, replenished and regurgitated… and the trains of First Great Western are once again slipping behind schedule.

Nobody keeps their resolutions. Everyone falls off the wagon, Mark. People fail, Sue. Life is disappointment, mes petites pessimists, and anyone who says different is trying to sell you something.

So should I forgive and forget, Mark? Should I understand and empathise? Should I cut you some slack?

Of course not.

You’re charging me for this service, Mark! You’re charging me more for this service! You’ve just put up the price by six per cent! And I’m still delayed! Am I angry about that? Yes! Should I be more angry? Yes! We all should! We should be furious, Mark! It’s a disgrace.

Oh dear. There goes the new year optimism. And there goes my own resolution: to always look on the bright side. Looks like we’re as bad as each other, eh? Still – there’s always S Club 7 to cheer us up! Ain't no party like an S Club Party!

Au revoir!


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