sixteenvember

Early walk to the station. No birds yet, just a blue glow in the sky as the clouds begin to hint at a distant coming dawn.

Through open curtains I see a comically large TV in a darkened room showing the Teletubbies sunbaby rising in front of an unseen viewer, but the real sun is an hour away from rising.

Rounding the corner, I suddenly hear birds. A relief, as their absence was slightly unsettling, even if just reminding me that as the days shorten, these early mornings get somehow earlier and earlier even if my clock says the same time.

The trilling and tweeting of blackbirds, robins and wrens fills the trees, and through the vegetation I see people walking their dogs in the darkness, narrow beams of torchlight illuminating their path.

The railway company sent me a Marks and Spencer gift card yesterday to apologise for their poor service. This is instead of or on top of Delay Repay, which is a facility whereby ticket refunds can be granted in an almost automatic way to passengers who are delayed for more than fifteen minutes on their train journey. It strikes me as a pretty reasonable system, and one which in my experience works well, and payments are made quickly.

It all stems from the weird way our railways are run, with Network Rail operating the actual tracks and infrastructure, and then various companies running services on certain lines, and with freight trains operating their own.

The basis behind Delay Repay, as I understand it, is that when a delay occurs, the root cause is sought. Once identified, it is they who pays up. Sometimes it’s the train company’s fault. Sometimes Network Rail. Sometimes, as recently, it was a freight train. No doubt the freight company will have gone back to identify another cause behind their delay, which knocked on and caused further delays elsewhere.

It’s a race to the bottom, and on paper it makes some sense, but it also seems a bit farcical. But it works, I guess, and I feel like it’s a satisfactory system.

So why the M&S gift card? Who pays for these? How many have they sent out? Do they send them to loyal Delay Repay users (who would by that virtue be amongst the most repaid and least in need of further compensation)? And the well-meaning letter apologised for the recent poor service, and tells me they are making improvements. I’m sure they are. A new timetable is just around the corner and I haven’t yet worked out how annoying the changes to my own commute will be.

In the evening I watched Radio Days, the Woody Allen film. It was just… delightful. Why had I waited so long to watch it? An ensemble cast (including a number of actors cleverly chosen for their very distinctive voice*), a cleverly knitted set of intertwined stories, and just the most beautiful love letter to the golden era of radio I’ve yet seen. It’s like one of those ‘ode to cinema’ type films, except to radio – and yet also a great film. One of those clever films that makes one nostalgic for a time through which one hasn’t lived. I loved it.

* Julie Kavner was the most surprising! I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything else, but as soon as she dipped into Marge Simpson territory, my jaw dropped. It was also fun seeing a teeny tiny Seth Green

We had almost 5cm of rain today, according to the weather station, Five centimetres!

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