Friday, 9 March 2012

8 March 2012. Letter 92

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 18.51 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford 8/3/12. Amount of my day wasted: eight minutes.

Mark! Sue! Mark in the house! Sue in the house! Who’s in the house? Mark and Sue’s in the house! Everybody in the house of love! As noted Walthamstow vaudevillians East 17 so poetically put it: we’ve got to stop the pain and put the wars on hold, let the power of love inside the soul unfold! Everybody in the house of love! One love!

I’m not going to argue with that, Mark! How could one raise an objection to such a noble sentiment, Sue? Outside it’s raining but inside it’s wet! (Or was that a different song? I get confused.)

But never mind all that! East 17 may be reforming – and with a “new transatlantic rock sound” no less (the mind boggles, but it’s true, Sue: that’s a scoop, Mark. You’ll be reading about it soon enough – but remember where you read it first…) – but we’re not here to talk about East 17. The charmingly blunt lyricism of the band they once touted as rivals to Take That (seriously) are no concern of ours, this fine Friday morning.

We’re here, while time and train schedules and the impending end to all things allows us, to talk of infinitely weightier matters than the power of love inside the soul. Unfolding or otherwise! We’re here, as we always are, to discuss train delays.

Mark! We’ve got to stop the pain and put the delays on hold!*

Guess what? I’ve been delayed again. Homewards bound last night, as the evening spread against the sky like a patient etherised upon a table**; on my way west as the lights twinkled on one-by-one through Southall and Twyford, as the pale moon glimmered over Maidenhead and Slough; heading home from another shift at the nation’s favourite Super Soaraway Sunday supplement; on my way home and stuffed into Coach C… I was delayed again.

What’s the latest word on this latest poor show, Mark and Sue? Ease my aching heart with explanations and excuses! Soothe my furrowed brow with details and descriptions! Unknit my knotted gut with your honeyed words of railway-related wisdom!

Was it congestion again? Another signalling issue? Was there a loss of power?

Ooh, how I hate that congestion! (Though it still defeats me how a train track, upon which scheduled trains run at scheduled times, could ever get congested. From whence do these extra trains come, that cause such congestion?)

Gosh, how I loathe those signalling issues! (What exactly does “issues” mean in this context, by the way? What were the issues? If I were to say to my editor, for example, “I couldn’t write this feature due to issues,” she might perfectly reasonably respond with: “What are your issues?” And then I would have to explain just what it is that I meant in the first place. Instead of hiding my failings (I couldn’t be bothered writing the feature, I was smoking fags and messing about on facebook and chatting up the intern) behind woolly words like “issues”.)

And as for those loss of power incidents… they’re the worst, aren’t they? Perfectly good, modern, up-to-date, well-maintained and properly-invested-in trains just losing power like that! I believe we explored the possibility of malign supernatural influences on the efficient running of First Great Western trains before – and largely dismissed the idea (it’s bad luck to believe in the supernatural, Mark) – but when I hear of sudden losses of power… well it seems to me that there might be something in the old hocus-pocus explanation after all.

Whatever the reason – and I pray it wasn’t the work of the Great Deceiver (that really would be a bummer) – the bottom line is that once again, for the ninety-second time in less than nine months in fact, you have not given me what I’m paying for.

Oh Mark! Oh Sue! When will we learn? How much more of my money must you take before we get it right? (Well, not that much more, as it happens – I’m quitting the commute in a fortnight, but still, bear with me, I’m on a roll here. I’ve got me gander up, as they say.) How many more trains need to be delayed before we wake up and smell the engine oil? And won’t somebody think of the children?

Au revoir!


*Can one put delays on hold, Sue? Is that an oxymoron? Or a tautology? Or another of those fancy-named grammatical no-gos that top-notch communicators get so jittery about? About which they get so jittery? Oh heavens, I’m wrapping myself in all manner of English usage tangles here! I’ll be boldy splitting my infinitives in a minute! Enlighten me, Sue! Correct me! Correct my poor communications!

**I can’t claim credit for that particular simile, Mark. That was T.S. Eliot. A man whose name spelled backwards is very nearly “toilets”, which still amuses me no end. (But if you think that’s good, you should try spelling philosopher Ed De Bono’s name backwards. Now that really is funny.) It’s the second and third lines from a poem about a man having a total mid-life breakdown. No idea why it appeals so much.

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