I write this sitting on the cubicle the Virgin Pendolino Express between Birmingham and London. Not for any bodily reason but because I am hiding from the ticket inspector as I once did as a penniless student 20 years ago.
What has brought this 41 year old social entrepreneur,local Councillor and father-of-two to this rather graceless place. It started when I booked a ticket online, something I had never done before. When I got to the station I could go an get the ticket from a machine.
Trouble is, when I did this the bleedin' thing didn't work and I missed the train. I went to the box to explain that the train I had booked onto had gone and could I have my ticket? No duck, I was told, you'll have to buy an entirely new ticket for seventy quid. But I have already paid 55 I pleaded. Oh but it was on the internet wasn't it, you can't transfer those.
I almost went for my wallet then I stopped. Thanks, I said, I'll think about what to do. I then raced to the barrier, sqeezed through at a busy moment and got on the train. I took position near the bog ready for the inspector's arrival. He started his slow movement down the carriage and I got out my next set of Board papers and headed for the cubicle.
Twenty minutes later I am to emerge and hope for the best at the other end. A full ticket inspection and I am dead-meat. But I am fucked if I am paying again for something I have aleady bought.
The point of my story is that as a consumer and a human-being I feel I am being fucked-over. Under nationalisation we were fucked-over by late and dirty trains. Now we are fucked over by a massive disregard for commercial decency. I like Virgin and I haven't completely lost faith. But my patience has been sorely tested.
Almost as much as the queue of people who will be waiting for me when I eventually come out of this bog.