15st 3lb, 9.0 units. I have never cared for uncertainty, and today started with a corker: were we going to London or not? It all hinged on whether Mrs H could secure an appointment with a doctor, and then obtain suitably reassuring advice on whether The Baby was well enough to be left with his grandparents. Luckily she obtained a suitably timed slot with our friendly local GP, who pronounced that The Baby seemed to be “on the mend”, and added the perceptive observation that his grandparents in any case probably had rather more experience of dealing with sick children than we did. So that was good.
The low point of the whole excursion luckily arrived before we had even boarded our train, so it was on a steadily improving trend from there. Arriving at Chester station, I advanced purposefully through the automatic ticket barriers while Mrs H (foolishly, it has to be said) showed her ticket to one of the charmless operatives at the manned gate. He naturally pronounced that it would be more than his job was worth to let her through without also seeing her seat reservation, which was buried deep in one of my overcoat pockets, so I gestured to her to follow me through the automatic gate instead. Only to find this prize prat pursuing both of us, bleating on about needing to see our seat reservations.
“For f***’s sake,” I said, “What is the point of installing automatic gates if I still have to faff about finding bits of paper to show to you?”
“There’s no need to swear, sir,” he replied (I begged to differ most profoundly). “We’re only trying to do our job.”
Yeah, right. The classic line of the authority-obsessed little man through the ages. I was sorely tempted to seize him by the throat and bring his head into repeated contact with the nearest hard surface, but reflected that this would only lead to the termination of our journey while I was being photographed and DNA tested down at the police station, so I dug out the bloody tickets he wanted and huffed off. It was lucky, all things considered, that Mrs H did not point out until our train was actually under way that this was the self-same jobsworth who had intercepted her when she was very heavily pregnant and running for an imminently departing train to London.
“Which … platform … for … London,” she puffed, only to be greeted with the whole rigmarole about how he couldn’t help her with that until he had examined her ticket and seat reservation, both of which were buried at the bottom of her handbag. Though not for long, as they were soon strewn across the concourse along with all said bag’s other contents. As she struggled to gather them up, he smugly observed “This is why we advise people always to allow plenty of time when they’re coming for a train.” I think Mrs H would have killed him if she’d had the energy. As it was, no doubt to the jobsworth’s huge chagrin, a kindly female Virgin employee saw her puffing hopelessly towards the departing London train and reopened its doors to that she might limp on board. Human kindness and trying to help a customer; that’s not an attitude that’s going to get her anyway on today’s railway, is it?
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