Tuesday, 7 February 2012

7 February 2012. Letter 83

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington 7/2/12. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes

Mark! Sue!

Oh, if you knew, Mark and Sue, then you’d know why I feel blue! Because of you – my Mark and Sue-oo-oo-ooh… well I love your trains, yes I love them Mark and Sue!

Actually, and with apologies to Buddy Holly*, that’s not strictly true. I don’t love your trains, Mark. My feelings towards your trains, Sue… it’s not love exactly. It’s not even lust. We barely flirt. We’re hardly even at that meaningful-glances-across-the-dancefloor stage. Would I buy one of your trains a drink? No. I’d accept a drink from one of your trains of course, but that doesn’t say much. Would I try to get off with one of your trains, if I was really drunk and feeling vulnerable and suffering from particularly low self-esteem? Would I what? What on earth are you talking about, Sue?

And yet, I need your trains, Mark. I need them more than want them (and I want them twice a day, every day). It’s a… dysfunctional relationship.

But let’s not start off on the wrong track! Let’s not get diverted into the sidings so soon! Let this letter be fast and smooth and efficient and comfortable and above all value for money! That’s what we’re about, Mark! That’s what we are! That’s what we do!

So! With that in mind I want to say thankyou for your latest reply. Thankyou, Mark! I love your letters! And this one was especially brilliant – you’ve totally hit form again. Because the thing is, Mark, much as I despair of your train company, and frustrating and infuriating though having to travel on your trains is, I maintain that you, on a personal level, seem a thoroughly decent chap. You do take the time to reply to my letters (sorry Sue, is this making you feel a little uncomfortable?) and I do believe that you are genuinely sorry that First Great Western would appear to be such a laughably inept company. And most of all, by taking the time to personally reply to me, you are showing yourself to be the bigger man of us three. (No offence, Sue.)

But, you know what? It doesn’t really excuse the service you’re failing to provide, does it? I mean, just because you’re a decent bloke, it doesn’t excuse the fact that you’re still taking all this money off me and still wasting so much of my time every week.

Graham Taylor, Mark: remember him? He seemed like a decent enough man – but it didn’t stop me shouting “turnip head!” at the telly every time his England team put in another miserable performance. The buck has to stop somewhere, Mark. And this particular buck is parked up at your buffers.

Still. At least you were caught up in the delays yourself last week. That makes me feel a little better. In solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris, as they used to say in the forums of Ancient Rome and the libraries of old Vinopolis. It is a comfort to the miserable to have companions in their misery. It’s good to know that some nights you must be sitting on these awful trains yourself, cursing the fact that they’re not doing expressly what we’re all paying them to do.

Do you curse, Mark? Do you write angry letters? Do you fire off furious emails? To whom, Mark? Sue? The Government? The United Nations? Network Rail?

Ah, Network Rail! Not only the reason (according to you) that so many of your trains are failing to run on time, but also the reason you missed the Panorama report into the state of the British railways. Ooh, that Network Rail! Booooo to Network Rail! I hope you gave them merry hell, when you met them the other week, Mark! I hope you came out swinging! No retreat, Mark, no surrender!

I see even the Government is getting miffed with the big cheeses at Network Rail (I just spent 10 minutes trying to think of a train-related alternative to “cheeses” there that might work, Sue. And I couldn’t. Any suggestions? You’re the Communications Director, after all. The big engines at Network Rail? The big boilers? The big chuffing pistons?). I read in my Super Soaraway yesterday that, in a move that is clearly in no way political bandwagon-jumping or an attempt to mollify the masses without having to actually instigate any real change, in a move that in no way could be construed as tossing the electorate a bone while ensuring the rotten system itself stays firmly in place, certain politicians are calling for the bosses of Network Rail to forego their bonuses this year. Ooooh!

And then I read in my Super Soaraway this morning (as we dawdled along the line from Reading to London, as we crept through the frozen suburbs in the pale morning light 10 minutes behind schedule) that those same bosses have caved in and agreed not to take their bonuses! Crikey!

What do you think, Mark? Do you think they should have got their bonuses, on top of their salaries, in recognition of the outstanding work they’re doing? Would you take a bonus? Will you take a bonus?

I can’t wait to hear all about it! But as Buddy Holly said: that’ll be the day!

Au revoir!


*I love Buddy Holly, Sue! Do you like Buddy Holly? He was, without doubt, the coolest cat who ever picked up a guitar and sang about his pet pig (true story: Peggy Sue is about his pet pig. It was originally called Piggy Sue). Great glasses, too. Buddy Holly, Sue: he was more important than Elvis, more important than the Beatles, more important than Led Zep. He was more important than great forgotten Madchester wunderkinds Northside, even. Because without Buddy Holly there wouldn’t have been any of those other bands. (Did you know that John Lennon named the Beatles after Buddy Holly’s band the Crickets?)

And he wasn’t just a musician, either. Before he learned those three chords and wrote a song about his pet pig, he was a respected academic. Buddy Holly: he was a bona fide genius, Mark. From Emiritus Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to bespectacled pop sensation! From pioneering theoretical Relativist to Stratocaster-strumming chart-topper! They just don’t make ‘em like old Buddy Holly anymore, eh?

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