Tuesday, August 30, 2005

When You Hear, The Tootin' Of The Whistle...

After last week’s Woodward and Bernstein-esque investigation of teenagers and their menacing ways, I thought it apt to continue to fight the good fight and uncover scandal and injustice, wherever they may cower. So this week I turned my laser beam attention to the world of commuter transport and stumbled across a web of half-truths and conspiracies that extended all the way up to the highest level of office… the station master’s. Today’s Daily Record takes up the story…

“Will you remember this day forever?” inquired the poster above the luggage rack on my train home last Friday night. It was an advert encouraging commuters to give up the daily grind and undertake volunteer service overseas. “Yes,” I replied with a sneer. “It’s the day that’s never going to end.” Cue Scooby Doo-like flashback music...

4.55pm I clear my desk in the office and make my way stealthily through the throng of industrious people towards the front door. I always make sure and carry a piece of paper or two when I’m sneaking out of the office early so it looks like I’m late for a five o’clock crisis meeting. Either that or I shout something vaguely officious into my switched off mobile phone. “NO Sharon. Those papers have to be in Milan TONIGHT! Och stay there, I’m on my way.”

5.07pm Arrive at Haymarket Station just in time to hop on to my train. As usual, there are no free seats but it’s only a 17 minute journey so I’m happy to stand near the driver’s cab and pretend I’m Casey Jones. Remember him? Steamin’ and a-rollin’?

5.10pm My phone rings. It’s my pal Andy from the office. “Hey Neil, meant to call you earlier. Dave and I are off to the pub. Fancy it?” For a moment I thought about saying I was tied up in a crisis meeting but the Scotrail tannoy system blows my cover. “Sorry mate, I’m on my way home.”

5.13pm The train grinds to a complete halt in the middle of nowhere; or Winchburgh as it’s known to the locals. The driver emerges from the cab and climbs down to the trackside presumably to sweep away some troublesome leaves from the line.

5.30pm The conductor makes a second apologetic announcement saying there’s some signal trouble ahead.

5.45pm The driver returns to the train and reveals that we’re being sent back to Haymarket due to a “major hindrance” on the line ahead. Must be a hell of a lot of leaves.

5.55pm The train arrives back at Haymarket, now overflowing with restless commuters waiting for cancelled services. Some are planning to split a £40 taxi ride five ways while others are planning to split open the forehead of the station master. I stroll casually through the baying mob whistling a happy tune and head for the pub.

6.08pm There’s no sign of Andy or Dave in the pub. Bastards. For the first time in recorded history they really must have had “just a couple” and then disappeared. I step back out of the pub heading for the station just as the heavens decide to open. Bastard.

6.19pm It’s bedlam at Haymarket. The “information” screens are displaying messages saying that all Glasgow trains are cancelled and a temporary bus service will be introduced. An angry passenger is berating the poor girl at the ticket counter with hysterical declarations of “It’s just not good enough” and “let me speak to your supervisor.” I’m sure he also screamed something about bringing back National Service but by this time I was following the hordes outside to queue for the fabled buses. Almost immediately a shout goes up that the Glasgow service has resumed and the masses sprint back to the platform.

6.41pm Sure enough, a train turns up but it’s packed to bursting. The Waverley commuters can barely contain their smug smiles and waves as the train continues on after a token, 30 second stop.

6.49pm A weary Scotrail voice announces that another service will arrive at 7.04.

7.10pm Another service does arrive and this time there’s room for everyone. Standing of course.

7.16pm The train grinds to a halt at, you’ve guessed it, Winchburgh.

7.23pm The conductor announces we should be on our way momentarily.

7.36pm Many moments later, the train lurches forward and for the first time I notice an attractive woman beside me reading a John Irving novel. “Have you read his new one?” is exactly the kind of smooth and devastating chat up line I’d have delivered had I been a suave, trilby-wearing Trevor Howard in “Brief Encounter”. Instead, I spy the VSO poster and suddenly the prospect of ploughing fields in war torn, famine-ravaged countries becomes overwhelming.

8.05pm Finally arrive home and immediately log on to
www.vso.org.uk. From the looks of things, this volunteering malarky is demanding. Maybe I’ll just take the bus next week.


At 30/8/05 4:43 am, Blogger carl said...

Thank you Neil for your comment on the VSO's. Again you have come through in a clutch situation.

At 30/8/05 10:35 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You could've biked that journey in 45 minutes ;-)


At 1/9/05 8:15 pm, Blogger DC said...


I don't think you can stand much more of this sorta thing.

I think it may be time for a remake of "Falling Down", with yourself in the M. Douglas role. Alternatively, have a film crew follow you until you really crack ,and then we could have a potential award winning documentary on our hands.Title suggestions:

_ Soapy's Struggle

- Sutherland's Downfall

- Banker's Blues

- Inside the mind of a mad Banker

- There was no silent "w "

- Soaps v Scotrail - Hell Unleashed

Then again, perhaps not !



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