Thursday 20 December 2007

A bigger bang, an older child

Someone who has read my observations about British Railways in the 1950s, in my posting of 8 December, e-mails to point out that they were actually rank amateurs when it came to getting services back to normal after a little local difficulty like a massive train crash. He claims that the trams in Hiroshima were running to schedule within 12 hours of the atomic bomb blast, and that all the city’s surviving banks opened on time the following morning (though they only mustered one customer between them, presumably the owner of the Hiroshima Penny Arcade). In fairness, I suppose the authorities wouldn’t have felt the need to use miles of white tape to cordon off the “crime scene” and begin to investigate who on earth could be responsible for it.

I mention these curious facts because there is nothing much more to report other than my cancellation of my last remaining pre-Christmas booze-up, the painful writing of yet more laboured humour for the press and the scrawling of messages on several dozen Christmas cards. Plus one birthday card, which always represents something of a challenge to acquire at this time of year. My father’s birthday was in mid-November, and even then the choice of cards used to be sadly depleted to make way for rack upon rack of seasonal, robins, angels and the like. My personal favourite was always the one with the passengers pushing their stagecoach through a sodding great snowdrift. They always had red, jolly faces and broad smiles. Which is odd, when you think about it, because when you see homeward bound passengers dumped off a failed Virgin train, or pushing their broken down car onto the hard shoulder of the motorway, the last thing they look like is people who are having the time of their lives. Perhaps we have lost the ability to laugh at adversity. Or perhaps the stagecoach card artists are a bunch of mendacious bastards.

But I digress. I needed one birthday card for a friend’s son, born on Christmas Eve (as so many babies seem to be these days, doubtless to ensure that no-one in hospital has to do any unnecessary work on 25 December). I was rather proud of myself for remembering, and bought a suitable card in the village shop. Then, when I was in Newcastle yesterday, I spotted a really fabulous card bearing a big picture of his favourite thing in the whole world, a witty message and a most appealing “4 Today” badge, much better than the “I am 4” sticker on my original purchase. “He’s going to love that,” I thought. I spoke to his mother at lunchtime, just as I was heading for the post box, and said, “Is Adam looking forward to being f…”

“Five, yes, very much so,” she replied

Doesn’t time fly, even when you’re not enjoying yourself?

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