History is replete with the tales of ordinary people who suddenly realised that all about them was falling apart and only they could save the day. Captain Oates took that short walk, Grace Darling rowed that boat and Bob Diamond finally resigned.
Last week, on TranspennineEastCoastWestLineCattleCoachTrainservices plc, it was the turn of Angus, the train manager, who found himself on the doomed Thursday afternoon service from Waverley to York, stopping at Newcastle, which is where I was supposed to get off.
Quick aside. We’re not talking Tay Bridge doomed here, but the buffet car closed at Dunbar. Disaster.
Angus (names have been changed to protect the innocent) first made his announcement over the tannoy. Things south of Berwick were getting serious, he said, in a tone which suggested that Angus was of the opinion that there had been far too much frivolity in Northumberland, and it was time these Morris dancers stopped thwacking each other about with bladders on sticks and got themselves straightened out.
We might, said Angus, get through. We might, with a stroke of luck, power through. The engines might just take it. Montgomery Scott, chief engineer, USS Enterprise, eat your heart out.
Angus addressed us again. He wouldn’t lie, he said, and forfend the thought should cross our minds, things had become bleaker, rail-wise. Replacement buses were being sought. Mafeking would be relieved.
Speaking remotely was not enough for Angus. With heroic disregard for his own safety, he strode through his train like Gene Hackman in the Poseidon Adventure to tell us what was going on, even though he didn’t know what was going on, and freely said so, even to the young American lady with a voice that threatened to crack the windows who claimed this was a “thoid woild soivice”.
Angus with glowering visage toured his train again and braved the screeching American. In tones of deepest hue he broke the news that there was nothing south of Berwick. In a manner that reminded one of the great speech in Spartacus where Kirk Douglas as the eponymous hero must tell his people that there are no boats to carry them home, Angus told us there were no replacement coaches. The A1, he said, was no more. Well, temporarily, at any rate. Replacement ferries had been discounted.
Berwick seethed with abandoned passengers from previous failed missions. Angus leapt from the train and made no bones about it. England was lost to us. With the authority of a man who knows, he herded the survivors aboard. I suspect there may even have been some folk just there on the platform to bid farewell to friends and family who suddenly found themselves aboard the last train to Scotland, overwhelmed as they must have been by the formidable presence of Angus in full-on take-charge attitude.
Angus took on rain, landslides, lightning, a clapped-out rail network, and at least three out of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, and got his train and his passengers back to Waverley, where he handed out forms, placated screaming Americans and pointed baffled backpackers in the direction of hostels.
If the balloon goes up, I’m voting we put Angus in charge.
Don’t worry about paying the leccy bill, Bob
Dear Mr Diamond, or may I call you Bob? I realise that you’ve been very busy what with explaining stuff to MPs and the media and so on, and so you may not have had time to check out your benefit rights and all that, so I’ve done it for you.
You probably didn’t realise this, but since you’ve voluntarily chucked your job, Jobcentre Plus probably won’t cough up Jobseeker’s Allowance for a couple of weeks, but you can claim a hardship payment, if you find you can’t meet the leccy bill.
Thought you should know.
Ticket to ride
OH yes! Let’s start the Tour de France in Edinburgh. Anything that involves superfit young men in lycra hurtling around the city gets my vote, and everyone knows that the best way to get that decorating finished at home is to invite folks to visit. Invite the rest of the world to look at Edinburgh, and we might just get those trams finished and some scaffolding down.
Time to square up to the Japanese
Why were old-school vampires afraid of garlic? I can see why the fresh fanged American twilight twits shun garlic. Such glossy creatures should never smell of anything apart from designer cologne and mouthwash. One sure way to scare off these box-fresh blood suckers would be to advance towards them sporting claggy nylon-clad deodorant-free armpits.
And now, another surprising fear. The Japanese, apparently, are afraid of square sausage, and brief against them in guide books.
Well, this is knowledge which could have come in handy round about the middle of the last century.