Wednesday, 29 February 2012

29 February 2012. Letter 89

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington 29/2/12. Amount of my day wasted: seven minutes

Well hello Mark! Sue! Fancy meeting you here! Come here often? Of course you do. You come here all the time. We all three of us do.

So. It seems that perhaps that last week and a bit was a blip, after all. An anomaly, as our egg-headed friends in the science labs like to put it. The exception that proves the rule.

As I write, squashed into a train made up of five carriages less than it should be (five carriages less than I paid for, five carriages less than you promised it would be when I did pay), I can’t help being just a little bit disappointed in you both. For a little while it looked so good back there! For a little while it looked like we’d really turned the corner (can trains turn corners?). For a little while it looked like we were going to grab this running a successful train franchise lark by the scruff of its neck and see if we could pioneer the bold and beautiful concept of giving the customers the service we promised!

We could have been heroes, Mark! Just for one week (and a bit).

And instead… well, here we all are again. Still playing out this silly game of time-wasting tit-for-tat. It’s enough to make you give up hope, is it not?

Mark! Sue! Don’t give up hope! The sun also rises! Let’s be positive! All this talk of going slow – it’s getting me down, my loves. Like a cat in a bag, waiting to dr—actually, let’s not go there. That’s no good at all. That’s not going to make us feel positive. I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking of, quoting the Verve like that.

That’s the problem with Richard Ashcroft, isn’t it? He starts a perfectly sweet little song about his funny, furry, favourite pet cat, and before you know it, the poor little blighter’s been tied in a sack and taken to the canal. What’s wrong with him, Sue? What’s his problem with cats?

He just can’t help himself, can he? The scruffy, crazy-eyed, lanky Lancastrian. He does it to himself: and that’s what really hurts.

He wants to cheer up, that’s what mad Richard wants! He wants to write a positive, life-affirming, uplifting tune for a change! He should take a leaf out of S Club 7’s songbook, Mark! Reach for the stars! Climb every mountain higher! Ain’t no party like an S Club Party!

Remind me to drop him a note sometime, Sue. I’ll jot down a few lyric ideas and send them his way. I’m sure he’ll be grateful.

So, anyway. Let’s forget about Mr Ashcroft and his peculiar penchant for feline euthanasia. Let’s talk about nice stuff. Let’s talk, in fact, about me! After all, Mark: our days together may be numbered, and I want to make every moment precious.

What’s that? Yes! Our days may be numbered. The woods decay and fall, Sue. Even the most beautiful flowers in the forest are doomed to shed their petals, wilt and rot away. Even the prettiest kittens face the wrath of Ashcroft eventually.

Here’s the thing. As you know, I’ve been spending my days this last year or two writing and editing for the pleasure of millions of readers of the most read supplement of the most read English language newspaper in the world. (Technically for two of them: but when they shut down the first one, the Sunday one, I was lucky enough to move over to the other one, the daily one. Although that daily one now has a Sunday edition too, of course. I’ve been bounced around the weekends more than most, I don’t mind telling you, Sue.)

I’ve been covering maternity leave, you see: I’ve been stepping into the shoes vacated by the Features Director.

And now… well, she’s had the baby. (She had two babies, as it happens. Crazy!) And she’s coming back to work. What does that mean for us? That means I’m going freelance again, Mark. That means I’m going to be working mostly from home, writing for all and sundry and anyone with a discerning readership and a dirty dollar to offer.

That means I’m not going to be commuting every day. That means, in four weeks’ time, I’ll no longer be catching your godawful trains morning and night – nor paying the best part of five hundred nicker a month to do so.

I know, Mark! Sue: dry your eyes, mate. I know it’s hard to take but her mind has been made up. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. There’s plenty more annoyed commuters on your trains (I can see at least a couple dozen right now). Maybe one of them will prove to be as childish as me and start writing to you too?

(Admittedly, they’re unlikely to have my exhaustive knowledge of pop music, or profound understanding of weather patterns, or winning way with a historical analogy, but there you go. You can’t have everything. You want the moon on a stick, Sue!)

But don’t worry! We’ve still got four weeks together! We’ve still got time to make it to 100 letters!

Do you think we will, Mark? Do you think we’ll make it to 100 delays in nine months? It’ll be a sprint finish, won’t it? It’ll be exactly like Coe vs Beckenbauer in the 1982 Olympics! Exciting!

Au revoir!


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