[lit-ideas] Re: 5 Short Stories

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 13 May 2004 21:33:46 -0700

on 5/13/04 9:52 AM, Stephen Straker at straker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx wrote:

> (They read very like the Tales of David Ritchie. How odd.)
When I was last in England, one of my filial duties was to deliver my
deceased mother's car to my brother.  Apart from the ancient Honda Civic's
automatic transmission's odd, sticky love of second gear, and my younger
daughter's interesting way with map instructions, there's nothing to report
to literary and influential folk like yourselves about the journey up.

To come down from Derby in a car-less manner involves either a long walk, or
the buying of tickets.  I opted for ticket buying, but as the fellow in one
of Stephen Straker's forwarded stories discovers, walking may be simpler.

Option one, was to fly.  Believe it or not, you can now fly from some
airport in the Midlands to Gatwick for more or less sixpence.  All a person
has to do is book in advance, and then get up at three in the morning and
line or queue up at the EasyJet counter for umpteen hours of checking in.
With airport taxes and slick runway fees, the tickets come to, in today's
dollars, somewhere between the equivalent of a bucket shop hernia repair and
the mental cost of a very severe cold.

Option two is very cheap; one could take the bus.  I've gone off buses.  I
remember one time when it took me thirty or more hours to go from London to
Kyle of Lochalsh.  This time included hours spent stuck on foggy moors in
the middle of nowhere, Lowlands-of-Scotland, on a broke coach.

Option three was to travel by trusty train.  All one (or in our case, two)
needed was a ticket, or tickets.  Like the fellow in the Guardian story, I
tried the internet.  The British have a website called something like, Jump
the Queue dot com, which in grand British tradition offers "discount"
tickets that are, in fact, marked up.  No joy there.

Next stop, the trusty local station.  It turns out that the ticket office is
no longer person'd in the middle of the day.  Back again, later.  "What does
a single from Derby to here cost...?"  The man got down a five inch thick
book and began to leaf through the pages.
"Have you no computers," I asked.
"Haven't got round to them."
This was not some halt near Lord Emsworth's castle.  This was a station with
four platforms, half an hour from central London.  Queen Victoria once trod
its steps.
The man discovered that I was eligible for a supersaver or a daysaver or a
knowspicker or something like that.  Trouble was, you couldn't buy that kind
of ticket at his station.
"How much would I save?"
"Twenty quid."
"Where do I go?"
It turned out that Waterloo was, as they say, "my best bet."  Once there, I
lined or queued up, got to the front, asked the kind lady for a ticket to
"Don't sell those here.  You have to queue up at window A."
I did as I was told.  Well actually there wasn't much queuing to be done.
As it happened, I was the only person in front of window A.  Problem was,
there was no one *behind* window A.  I returned to the first lady's window.
"Er, there's no one there."
She looked five windows down, a distance of about ten feet.
"I wonder where he's gone."
"Could you perhaps go and find him?"
And, you know, she did.  Very helpful.  It turned out that the only person
qualified to sell tickets from London to Derby was in the toilet.  When he
emerged, I bought the tickets.

The man said that I could get from Derby to London, take the tube across
London, catch another train at London Bridge and be at my father's house in
three and a half hours.  In the way of things, what with the ticket buying
difficulties and deep knowledge of how trains in Britain run, I was
sceptical.  But, you know, he was quite right.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

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