It goes against the grain to say so, but there's something The GOS isn't grumpy about this week. So in a spirit of fairness and credit where credit is due and all that, this is what it is …
Yesterday The GOS found himself on Stockport station, where the station staff wear quite the silliest overcoats he's seen for a long time. Perhaps they think it entertains the passengers. He'd booked a ticket on a Central Trains service to Ely, which would allow him just enough time to catch the last train of the day back to his home in Suffolk.
It was a bit of a b*mm*r, then, when as the train pulled out of the station the very nice ticket-collector sat down beside him and explained that the train wasn't actually going to Ely at all. It was going to stop for the night in Nottingham, because Central Trains had managed to run out of engine drivers. Not that there's anything wrong with Nottingham, you understand - very friendly place, in fact - but The GOS was rather dismayed at the thought of having to find a hotel there for the night.
But he needn't have worried. The nice ticket-collector pulled out his little machine with all the timetables in, and sat for a long time trying to work out an alternative route that would get The GOS back to Ely in time. He couldn't do it, though, so he telephoned Mrs.Central Trains at head office, and had long discussions with her.
The upshot was that The GOS caught another Central Train from Nottingham to Grantham, then got on a GNER express to Peterborough, Mrs.Central having made sure that GNER would accept his ticket which by now was becoming a major work of fiction with urgent, crabbed writing and crossings-out all over it. At Peterborough another Central Train was waiting, having delayed its departure for ten minutes until The GOS arrived.
Back in Ely, a pleasant gentleman was waiting in a shiny taxi, and sped The GOS to Suffolk at Mrs.Central's expense and in record time, arriving only minutes after the train he should have been on in the first place.
Now, all right, trains shouldn't get cancelled, and it was an act of some inefficiency or penny-pinching to run out of drivers, especially when such an august personality as The GOS was a passenger. But sh*t happens, doesn't it? - a lively old gentleman on the train told a story about a train journey from London to Glasgow that took 46 hours back in the 1940s. And once the sh*t had happened, there was no doubt that Mrs.Central bent over backwards to put it right, and achieved an excellent result which must have left her severely out of pocket.
So, fair do's - a slightly muffled peal of bells for Central Trains and an entire carillon for the ticket-collector, a young man as calm, diplomatic and efficient as you could hope to meet.
The GOS has been travelling by train quite a lot recently, and doesn't partake in all the bitter criticism we read of the railway system as a whole. He finds that almost all trains run exactly on time, they're clean (ish), comfortable, and very fast. They're well-used, too. It's never hard to get information at a major station, and compared to the bad old days of British Rail staff are helpful and can manage a smile more often than not. How the hell it all works, The GOS can't say. You would have thought that having a multitude of train companies using the same tracks and stations all of which belong to someone else, was a recipe for disaster. Apparently even the trains don't actually belong to the operating companies but are rented. But it works, and mostly works very well. You can plan your journey and then book your tickets online, and that works well too. And with The GOS's special Gold Senior Railcard it isn't even terribly expensive. He got to Stockport and back for a lot less than it would have cost to fuel the Grumpycar, which is now so old it probably wouldn't have made it anyway.
Right. That's enough sunshine and flowers. Let's get back to some proper grumpiness. Don't want you b*st*rds getting complacent.
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