On one of my infrequent visits to the grindstone the other day, I found myself on a train with the chatty guard. This is the one who, rather than leaving the talking to SouthWest Trains Woman, supplements her announcements with speeches of his own. And what announcements they are: suavely worded mini-essays on the journey ahead. I think he’s written himself a little script because it’s always the same, and it’s always about three times as wordy as it needs to be (‘mind the gap’, for instance, becomes ‘Passengers alighting at the next station should please be aware that there is a bit of a step down from the train to the platform. Please take extra care when alighting at the next station.’).
I suppose it’s nice to hear someone going the extra mile on his job. But there’s one announcement of his that gets me every time: his announcement about Isleworth. Now when everyone else does it, the Isleworth announcement is ‘Due to a short platform, passengers for Isleworth should use the front four coaches’. When Mr Verbose does it, it goes: ‘Please be aware that the platform at Isleworth is shorter than usual. Therefore, if you were planning to complete your journey at Isleworth you should move towards the front of the train…’ (he then follows with some explicit instructions on how to actually get to the front four coaches of the train – and no, it’s not as simple as ‘walk to the front of the train’ – but does at least reserve those for only the people sitting in the back four coaches). Now I know what he means when he says this – that the Isleworth platform is shorter than the others – but every time I hear this I can’t help but imagine the Isleworth station staff turning up for work in the morning to discover their platform has shrunk in the night.
Or perhaps, even, been stolen?