Horror Stories from the frontline...

This week, Thursday is the new Saturday for me. With amazing foresight, my good friend sniffer has decided to get married on Friday, and has planned a game of golf for the best man and ushers (one of which is yours truly). To this end, my week here (at work at least) is done. But what a week it's been.


It all started off well enough on Monday morning with the early train up to that Laandon. On schedule and running smoothly, even the tube was deserted meaning that my onward journey across town was a breeze. Beautiful weather is normally a sure sign of heat exhaustion on the underground, but with it being so empty, the travel was quite literally a breeze. That said, it got hotter. A lot hotter.


The work was challenging - lots to do and no time to do it all. I got lumbered (as no one else ever wants to do it - and if it doesn't get done, then nothing gets done) with mashing the numbers into the "tool of despair" to add them all up and make it look like a consistently well designed "thing". It's not a bad job, but I hate it because of its reputation. People mistakenly labour under the misapprehension that it's easy, and therefore boring and in no way worthy of their input. The plain facts are, without it, nothing happens - so it's a necessary evil. There are probably a myriad of better ways to do it, but we don't have them and have you ever tried to turn around an oil tanker in less than a hundred yards of water? You get the picture.


Despite the lack of getting on and getting it done that was apparent for a few contributors, and the last minute rush and panic generated by people when that actually have to agree to committing to what they've guessed at - I got the job done in time for the first of a series of reviews that have to be done before anyone else is allowed to look at the number. Sadly during the review it became apparent that a couple of the contributors hadn't fully understood the implications of what was required of them - and things needed to be amended. This is what is technically referred to as a "pain in the arse"


This was compounded by the fact that it was now Wednesday afternoon (or Friday for me) and there was no one else able to take on the task. The pre-wedding golf and even attendance of the wedding itself was starting to look like it might be in jeopardy. At the last minute IM got involved and pulled a reserve from the ranks to cover and I handed over as best as I could given the insanely short timeline to do so. At least that's how it appeared. Oddly, I'd been banging on about the fact that my weekend started on Wednesday night all week. It's in the vacation tool. All those that needed to know, knew so arrangements didn't need to be so last minute. I wonder what the real story is.... But mine is not to reason why on such subjects.


All that remained for me to do was hop on the train back to the West Country. The seven o'clock train was caught just in the nick of time and sped off towards Slough. But before it got to the place that John Betjeman detested it stopped. And there it stayed - in the middle of nowhere for and hour and half. In the heat. With no available seating. I was lucky enough to be squashed between some people on the buffet car - so at least there was refreshment... For a while... Until it ran out... And then the mob started to get restless.


The buffet car is the demarcation point between the rich and poor of the railway world and the poor are simply not allowed in first class because they haven't bought a first class ticket. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers. Having been stood stationary for and hour or so, we decided enough was enough and found the myriad of empty seats in the air condition posh carriage to be a blessed relief from the agony. Not so for the upper echelons who had paid even more ridiculous prices to sit there for the whole journey. A complaint was lodged with the "train manager" - a perfectly reasonable woman who had to deal with a difficult situation and with little or no support from anyone else. We were asked if we'd consider leaving and graciously declined her offer. She suggested that she should really be charging us full price for our added comfort (read basic human rights given the temperature and overcrowding). We suggested that that wouldn't be the case having paid over £150 for the privilege of being stuffed inside a non moving tin can inside a microwave oven for too long. We all agreed to disagree and no more was said on the subject.


Fee water and crisps all round.


The delay caused a tailback of trains and I had a further hanging around of 40 minutes at Swindon for the changeover. By the time I got off and my stop and schlepped home it was midnight and I was surviving (just) on a packet of crisps, a bottle of water and two cans of Guinness.


Should you be selecting rail transport in the near future and can wholeheartedly recommend that you swerve it if it's anything to do with the Bristol-London mainline. Let's hope it's just a blip - although I doubt it.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous