… and when you come back, everything is changed. I’ve been working away, which meant a hotel. I don’t know about me and hotels, really. Everything is clean and air-conditioned, and you eat breakfast because it’s there, and in some quantity. For some reason, this is presumed to be the high life, as are trains. In reality, they are each exhausting, and no rest at all. You come back with sore eyes because the beds are too comfortable, and further overweight, because you are (I am) greedy.
I made it back early by playing a dangerous bluff with a ticket collector. I had one of those tickets which entitle you to go on a specific train only, and could cause you to be surcharged. I had lost the seat reservation, though, so I could say ‘I’ve lost the seat reservation,’ although I was, I knew, on the wrong train. I was let off with menaces. There is something daft, though, isn’t there about a seat with lots of seats going where you want, and really you should just hang around the station, but I wanted to be in B, not A. So I pushed my luck. I suppose this makes me a fare-dodger. Sorry. But if there are to be any inalienable rights left, they are the right to a post office and the right to a seat on a train which has plenty of them. Nothing about that in the Queen’s Speech. Trains, I mean. They’re going to ‘part-privatise’ the Post Office. Even Mandelson didn’t manage that, and he tried.
Nemesis awaited, though. When I got home, the phones – all bar one – had stopped working. Did I think ‘Oh good, I can’t look at the internet,’ and retire gracefully? Nope. I fretted. I unscrewed some sockets, and tested an old phone, and rang 151, and some other useless numbers which suggested I go online. I slept poorly. I rang an engineer at 7.15 a.m. (he was nice enough to say he’d have had to get up anyway), and I am finally sorted out. Note: ‘an engineer’. If you ring BT for advice, they tell you, straight out, that it would be financially crippling to get one of their engineers. They say, and not in so many words, but directly, ‘Look in the Yellow Pages for someone who used to be a BT engineer.’ I did. It worked. But there is something farcical about it, all the same.
Other things have changed. The competitors on Deal Or No Deal, for instance. Noel Edmonds has aged. Life has moved on at a ridiculous speed, and yet it’s only been seven days. It wasn’t an unproductive week, workwise. (Did I write ‘workwise’? Sorry.) But I am now in a race with time, and every week counts. My great-grandfather died at 80, my grandfather at 73, my father at 65. If this was an IQ test instead of life, I would have every right to be worried.
I should be worried anyway. Improvisations on trains about the reality of tickets can take many forms. But I found myself playing, for the first time, the role of the palpably elderly man, who didn’t like to cause a fuss, and might totter over if denied. It was a rubbish piece of impro: but that I even attempted it has left me considering my position.