Dear Mark and Sue
Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington 15/3/12. Amount of my day wasted: 13 minutes.
Oh the train runs slow through a humdrum town! This train will drag you down! Oh the train runs sloooww… Old Morrissey knew how to write ‘em, eh? Good old Stevie M! Stevie Morrissey and Laughing Boy Marr: they knew the score and no mistaking.
But wait! I get ahead of myself! I haven’t even said hello! Mark. Sue. Hello! How the devil are you both today? Pistons gleaming? Boilers brimming? Buffers all buffed up? Good! Great! Well done! Appearance is everything in this game. Not to do good, not to be good, but to look good – that’s the way I was brought up. That’s the key to success in this sorry life.
So, where were we? Ah yes. I was sitting on a delayed train (one of your delayed trains, Mark! One of those trains you promised would run on time when I shelled out so handsomely for a ticket!) and I was tossing Smiths lyrics into your lap. Frankly Mr Hopwood this position on Coach C that I hold – it gets me to Paddington but it corrodes my soul… I was happy in the carriage of a Cross Country express service, but this is a First Great Western train and heaven knows I’m miserable now… Why pamper life’s complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?
(That last one wasn’t strictly about trains at all, but it is the greatest lyric in the whole of pop music history, so I figured what the hey. Allow me this one small indulgence. Sue will understand. Sometimes it’s just about the art of it all, isn’t it Sue? Sometimes it’s just about the beauty of the words we use, and not their relevance to anything we’re actually trying to say.)
Anyway. I’m on a train in the morning trundling towards Didcot Parkway and we’re already way behind schedule. The train turned up late, Mark, it left Oxford late, Sue, and if it doesn’t eventually arrive into London Paddington late then my name’s Denis Bergkamp. How late will we be? I’ll let you know when we get there. When we get to the end. But my money’s on substantially so.
I tell you what though lads. I’m glad I finally got to quote some of old Mozza’s oeuvre at you! I’m pleased I managed to squeeze in the Mozzarella at the end, as it were. Now if I can only find a way to get a Half Man Half Biscuit lyric (second best band out of Liverpool after Echo & The Bunnymen, Sue: fact) into one of these letters I can retire from this whole shizzle a happy man.
(I know just the verse too: “Time flies by when you’re the driver of a train / speeding out to Trumpton with a cargo of cocaine / I get high when I’m the pilot of a plane / touching down in Camberwick I’m stoned out of my brain”… but I can’t help wondering if I’ll ever get to use it now. Such a shame. Such a waste, Sue!)
I’ve only got six days of commuting left, after today, Mark! A week and a day! I bet you can’t wait, right? I bet Sue’s knocked up a kind of impromptu Advent Calendar to count down the days. Did you put chocolates behind each door, Sue? I do hope so!
But I’ve been thinking. You know what I should do? Once I’ve stopped writing you letters, I mean. I should hand the baton on! (That’s a metaphorical baton, Mark.) I should pass on the responsibility for letting you know how much of your customers’ time you’re wasting to someone younger and more vigorous than myself.
Have you ever heard about the Dread Pirate Roberts, Mark? No? Let me tell you about the Dread Pirate Roberts. (Don’t worry, there’s a point to this.)
Basically, back in the early 20th century, in what historians now call the Golden Age of Sail, when galleons crossed the Atlantic to the new world, the seas around the Spanish Main were terrorised by pirates – and the most terrifying pirate of all was the Dread Pirate Roberts. Tales of his skill and cunning and ruthlessness and cruelty were legion. His name struck fear into child and adult alike. None could face the Dread Pirate Roberts and not quake in their boots! His ship could not be sunk and he could not be killed! For fully 200 years he ruled the waves.
How did he rule the waves for 200 years, Sue? By constantly reinventing himself! Every time he got too old, or too tired, or actually was killed, or his ship actually was sunk, a new Dread Pirate Roberts simply sprang up in his place. He passed the baton on. And so there was always a Dread Pirate Roberts – and so the legend of his immortality was created.
Good eh? Interestingly, back in the early 1990s, popular music duo The Pet Shop Boys mooted the idea of doing a similar thing. They were going to retire, and another two (younger) men – one moody keyboard-prodder, one sulky singer – would take over as the Pet Shop Boys 2.0. And a decade later they too would be succeeded by another two lads… and so on. And that way there would always be a Pet Shop Boys – from the mid 1980s to the end of recorded time (and recorded music).
Even more interestingly (and this is totally true, by the way) – do you know who they originally identified as the best candidates to take over from them? Can you guess who they wanted to become Pet Shop Boys version 2.0?
Ant and Dec!
I know, Sue. No need to say it, Mark. Let’s just leave it there and wonder what might have been, eh?
So anyway: I’ve been thinking. Should I do the same? Should I make like the Pet Shop Boys nearly did? Should I follow the lead of the Dread Pirate Roberts? Should Dom writing to Mark and Sue become “Dom” writing to you both?
I could hold auditions, Sue! I could advertise for the position! What sort of person would I fancy passing my baton on to? I’d need an extensive interview process to find out! I’d need a casting couch!
Ideally, I’m thinking it needs to be someone with honours degrees in astronomy, meteorology, classical studies, history, popular music and train management. Also someone with deep-seated emotional issues which can only be expressed through overuse of the exclamation mark. Also, I think it should be a girl. And most importantly, I think, a really fit girl.
Someone dead fit, who is nonetheless not too fussy about other people’s looks, and who is willing to do literally anything to get this gig. That’s the kind of person I want to get on my casting couch!
It could be like Britain’s Got Talent, Mark! It could be like the X Factor! I could take the successful hopefuls to Boot Camp! I could put the last 12 of them into the live finals and make them perform for me! Sit! Stand! Beg and roll over! Give me 1000 words on Napoleon Bonaparte’s role in the battle of Iwo Jima with reference to at least six indie classics from the 80s and a Happy Mondays lyric! Also, sit on delayed trains every day and feel your life slipping pointlessly away like the last dregs of dirty bathwater down the plughole. It’s 110 per cent yes from me!
What do you think? Or should I just go for Ant and Dec instead? Ant? Or Dec? The little cheeky one or the other feller?
You know what? I’m going to leave it up to you to decide. I’ll hold off calling either Ant or Dec until I hear from you. (It’s tricky: Ant is definitely the funnier of the two, but Dec does have that Masters in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Jesus College, Oxford, so, y’know…) And in the meantime, I’ll give any other promising candidates a good grilling myself…
Oh! Almost forgot! Today’s train – I promised you an update! We got to London Paddington 13 minutes late, in the end. We never did make up that time. In fact, we lost more time. Through the dank fog of a glorious English spring morning, we pootled and puttered eastwards, ever later, always more delayed. But what can you do? C’est la vie, Mark! C’est la guerre!