Friday, 10 February 2012

9 February 2012. Letter 84

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford 9/2/12. Amount of my day wasted: 10 minutes

‘Allo Mark! Salut, Sue!

How are you this morning? Are you well? Are you warm? Are you keeping warm, Mark? Are you nicely wrapped up, Sue? I do hope so! Baby, it’s cold outside, as Tom Jones so creepily growled at Cerys Matthews, oh baby, it’s cold outside!

I told you it was going to get colder, didn’t I, Mark? I warned you to check my favourite badger-themed weather website for news of the impending snowstorm, for notice of the snowmaggedon, for the heads-up on the snowpocalypse. It’s a whiteout, Mark! The earth sleeps under this numb blanket! The green shoots of spring are bent and broken by this cold and suffocating tide of white! Rough winds do shake the darling buds of mid February!

England lies frozen, Mark! All is caught in the freeze! Nothing moves!

But what’s this? Do my eyes play tricks on me? Across the still and silent hills, a single blue and gold speck slicing through the ice… a chuffing, puffing, huffing train! A brave little engine, Sue, carrying its passengers to work in the pallid morning light! My heart leaps!

I’m on that train, Mark! Oh proud train, Sue! On time, despite the snowaclysm! On schedule, despite the snowtastrophe! Well done!

Unfortunately, however, I’m on this train writing about last night’s train, which was not on time and not on schedule and did not do what it was supposed to. I’m on this train writing to you about last night’s train, which was delayed. And it wasn’t even snowing then! Poor show!

Here’s what happened last night, Mark. Here’s the facts. I got to Paddington on time, I got on the train on time, we left on time, we slowed down almost before we’d left the station, we went at walking pace all the way to the shining city of Slough, we left there late, we continued going slowly through the broken favelas and sordid shanty towns outside Reading, we left there late too, we suddenly found our legs around the ringing plains of windy Didcot Parkway, and we got into Oxford 11 minutes late.

That’s the facts. Just the facts, and some unnecessary adjectives (didn’t really need that “sordid shanty towns” line, did I, Sue? Broken favelas would have done just fine by itself. Still, too late now. But thanks for pointing it out!).

That’s what happened last night, on my delayed train. (It’s the facts, but it’s not everything that happened, naturally. I could tell you about all the incidental stuff too, stuff like how my iPod shuffle played six songs by the Pixies back to back, which has got to be some kind of chaos theory-proving record of some sort surely; or stuff like how I scored an 80-point, seven-letter word on Words With Friends on my phone (the word was “latents” in case you’re interested) and was immediately accused of cheating by my opponent, who is incidentally not my friend and just some random person from the internet who can’t handle being beaten at an online Scrabble-type game by the likes of me; or I could tell you stuff like how I only realised the girl next to me was actually extraordinarily beautiful once she got up to leave at Reading and perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there about the relative values and merits of actually interacting with people in the real world instead of immersing yourself in your Pixies music collection and taunting random strangers from the internet whom you happen to be trouncing at online Scrabble-type games. I could tell you about all that stuff… but I won’t. I won’t bother. You wouldn’t be interested in that at all.)

Anyway, you know what, Mark? It’s too cold! It’s too cold to talk about that stuff! So let’s talk instead about how cold it is!

I hope you’re okay, in all this cold. Are you keeping toasty? Are you swaddling yourselves in jumpers and layering up your socks and pulling your hats down low over your ears and all the rest of the stuff you have to do because you can’t actually afford to turn the heating up? I hope so! The important thing in this weather, as the powers that be like to remind us, is to stay warm.

(The other important thing in this weather, of course, is to ensure that the energy companies continue to make mahoosive profits. Even if it means that the knock-on effect is that their customers can’t actually afford to use that energy to stay warm and instead have to take the official government advice to put on a couple extra cardigans rather than turn the boiler on. Quite right too! Profits must come before customers, Mark! That’s right, isn’t it! That’s how successful businesses work! The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many! Mr Spock at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was wrong! Daft old pointy-eared logician! This is the real world, Spock! Wake up and smell the budget coffee!)

So: I hope you’re nice and snug, Mark and Sue. I hope you’re managing to heat the First Great Western Operational Command Centre adequately: those ballrooms and banqueting halls can get awful draughty, after all. Those parlours and promenades and palace gardens can take some warming up. Those towers and turrets and proud minarets are susceptible to a spot of frost damage. Stoke up the fires, Mark! Get another load of blankets in, Sue! Take them off the boys and girls in the customer complaints department if you need to!

Oh, Sue, look at the time! Count the words! We’ve nearly reached our limit for another day! And I’ve not even mentioned the England manager yet! Mark: I meant to write you a whole letter about the situation in the Football Association! It’s exciting, isn’t it?

Do you fancy Harry for the job, Sue? Now he’s a proven and demonstrably innocent man? Is this to be a clean break from all those iffy foreign managers and the point where we show the world what a principled and upright band of sporting brothers we Englishmen can be? With a star player suspended for violent conduct, a captain facing racism charges and a new manager fresh from dodging Cell Block H? Why not just call Joey Barton up and make the full house?

But… like I say, Sue, we have no time for such matters. The clock has caught us again. Stay warm, Mark! Keep it muffled tight, Sue!

Au revoir!


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