Idle renewed his season ticket on New Year's Eve, thereby avoiding a 4%+ increase (something to look forward to at the end of the year). £4300, since you ask, to get from North East Hampshire into Waterloo, and the tubes and buses.
Today was a holiday, but rather than do my tax return, I decided to have lunch in London with a former junior banker who worked for me for two or three years but decided earlier in the year to study for an MBA in Milan, where he is now ensconced.
After lunching and buying some shirts in the sales, I wandered casually back to Waterloo to take the 1630 train. This is an agreeable train to catch, being pre-rush-hour and therefore half-empty. We took off at 1630 on the dot, I had newspapers and a pen for the crossword, and all was well with the world.
Well, we got as far as Sandown Park before the brakes came on in such a way that we experienced commuters know is not a good sign. And from 1645 until 1830, that's where we stayed. The driver, the guard, the man who answered the tannoy's baleful call "are there any employees of South West Trains on board?" - all of them proved completely useless when it came to getting us going again. Despite being only about ten minutes upline from Woking, a huge train depot and junction, it took them over an hour and a half to get a 'fitter' onto the train.
And you know what happened next? He simply uncoupled the rear five carriages from the front five, after the unlucky residents of the rear had been instructed to march forward to the front five. We left the dodgy half, with its electrical failure, sitting like a beached whale on the southbound fast track. It had been clear from the first minute of our sudden stop that it was electrical failure and that if the driver couldn't reboot it, we would uncouple. They told us so. But the driver didn't know how to do it, nor did the guard.
So, on idle's first day on the trains following a £4300 renewal, he is already in time deficit to the tune of 100 minutes to South West Trains. A figure which will surely rise to a thousand and more in the months ahead, never to be returned. A year of commuting stretches out in front of one like the Gobi Desert.
Of course, the train companies are required by their charter to recompense the poor dumb fools who suffer their gross inadequacy each year. Idle, like the other PDFs who renewed their season tickets this week, received a rebate..........