Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford 13/2/12. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes
Darlings! Loveys! Sweeties! How are you? Are you loved up and buffed up and ready for action? Are you feeling amorous and looking glamorous and floating on the sweet winds of courtly love and train management? Do the stresses and strains and worries and relentless tallies of loss and failure simply wash over you today, like so much dirty rain off a honeymooning duck’s back?
I do hope so! I hope that’s exactly how things are today! I hope you’re feeling super! Because, my fellow riders on the love train (“all aboard the love train! Plenty of seats at the back! Passengers without a valid ticket for the whole of the journey on the love train will be charged for a full price single ticket! The love train would like to apologise for the late running of this service today! This was due to the late running of the earlier unrequited-love train. Misread signals were to blame”) – because, my fellow passengers on le train d’amour (as they say in Italy), today is the feast of St Valentine!
And, as I always am on remembrance days for third century Catholic martyrs – and there’s more of them than you might think – I’m in a good mood today, Mark! So good that I almost didn’t bother writing to you about the delay to my train home last night…
But not, on reflection, that good a mood. Be sensible, Dominic, I thought. If you let Mark and Sue off the hook this one time, just because a Catholic priest got beaten, and then stoned, and then beheaded 1800 years ago for trying to convert the Emperor Claudius Gothicus, then you’re going to be letting them off delays every other day of the week!
Steadfastness, that’s the thing, Sue! Fortitude! Shoulders squared, back straightened, jaw set! Chest out, legs akimbo! Big smiles! There’s no point in starting a project like this, in making a commitment like this, unless we’re all prepared to see it through. Even if it must mean writing to you on the feast of St Valentine.
I promised you I would write every time my train was delayed, Mark. I swore that I would waste as much time of yours as you waste of mine. And those kind of solemn vows should not be cast aside lightly. What substandard train management and childish revenge plans have joined, let no man split asunder! (No, nor woman, neither, Sue.)
And so here I am, Sue. Just a boy, in the rain, saying my train was delayed last night again. By ten minutes again. I got home ten minutes late again. I missed the kids’ bedtime again. It’s all happening again and again and again.
Are you familiar with the concept of deja-vu, Mark? The word comes from the German, meaning, in the literal translation, “that weird thing that happens when, like, something happens? And you feel like it’s happened before? Yeah? I know! Freaky! And you’re all like: dude, this has totally happened before! And everyone else is all: nooo way dude! And you’re like, yes way! Totally way!” (The Germans are awfully good at coming up with words that manage to encompass a whole lot of other words, aren’t they, Sue? Excellent communicators, the Germans. Despite the whole sauerkraut and lederhosen and first-half-of-the-last-century military unpleasantness. We could learn a lot about communications from the Germans, Sue. Like how to shout, for a start.)
Anyway. Are you familiar with the concept of deja-vu, Mark? The word comes from the German, meaning, in the literal translation, “that weird thing that happens when, like, something happens? And you feel like it’s happened before? Yeah? I know! Freaky, dude! And you’re all like: dude, this has totally happened before! And everyone else is all: nooo way dude! And you’re like, yes way! Totally way!” (The Germans are awfully good at coming up with words that manage to encompass a whole lot of other words, aren’t they, Sue? Excellent communicators, the Germans. Despite the whole sauerkraut and lederhosen and first-half-of-the-last-century unpleasantness. We could learn a lot about communications from the Germans, Sue. Like how to shout, for a start.)*
Well I keep thinking I have deja-vu, Mark, every time I get on one of your trains and it’s delayed and I’m late home and I miss my kids’ bedtimes. I keep thinking: I feel like I’ve been here before. Sometimes even on days other than those days commemorating the beating and then stoning and then beheading of third century Catholic priests.
And you know what, Mark? I wish it would stop. It’s beginning to wear me out a little, all this deja-vu. And today, of all days in the liturgical year, today, of all days in the Gregorian calendar, I can’t afford to be worn out. Today I need to keep my pecker up, Sue! Today is St Valentine’s Day!
You have no idea what I have to go through on St Valentine’s Day, Mark. You have no idea how draining this day is for a boy like me. I work in an office full of women, you see (much as I imagine the Operations Floor of the First Great Western Command and Control SuperHub to be – only with women instead of men. Okay, I didn’t explain that very well. Try this. Look around, Mark. See all those men? Well imagine they’re all women. And then see Sue? Imagine she’s me. That’s it! That’s what it’s like in my office! I’m Sue!) – I work in an office full of chicks, and if it’s bad enough trying to fight them off for the other 365 days of the year (it’s a leap year remember!) then on St Valentine’s Day, it’s almost impossible.
Almost, Mark: but somehow I manage it. I dig deep, and I pull through.
Can you imagine battling through adversity to achieve something that seems impossible, Mark? Can you think of any aspect of your working life where a little effort and a wee bit of striving against the odds might be in order?
I look forward to hearing all about it!
*Worst deja-vu joke ever. Sorry. Worst deja-vu joke ever. Sorry.**
**I did it again. Sorry again.