|The Ultimate Catastrophe | HISTORY Page | Obituary Page ||
I was dashing out for the train on Thursday and, as has became customary, felt in my pocket to check that my travel pass was there. Gulp, it wasn't. Since it's always been there on checking for the past nine years, I panicked, checked all pockets, duffle-bag, and sundry papers and books I had on the train the previous day. No travel card.
Quick survey in the vicinity of the coathooks drew a blank, dash up to the studio, ditto. Having missed one train, I checked in at the station, but no-one had handed anything in. By now I was convinced it must have been left on the train since my memory blanked out after I had removed my return ticket from the plastic wallet with my pass.
I was advised to contact the lost-prop office at Piccadilly and charged full fare. A sickening experience being faced with the realities of unsubsidised fares! I dashed straight to the class, arrived late, and tore back to Picc Station but by the time I located the lost prop office it had already closed.
Seemingly you are not supposed to lose any property after 4 pm, Mon to Fri.
I thought I may as well have a fling while I was in the big city, having spent so much on my fare, and retreated to Dillons in search of consolation. The January sale was still on well, perhaps it wasn't the January sale, but some sale and while it seemed a trifle bin-endish, I did locate a large Lunar Atlas, reduced in various stage from £19.99 to an all-tine low of £2.99. Published in 1990, in mint condition, I couldn't fathom why they were so anxious to unload it, but decided that it was a token offering from Fate to compensate me for my immediate loss. I felt a bit better about matters as I travelled home.
Next morning things looked black again. I couldn't find a BR Lost Prop Office number, so rang up a general number to find that all departments were covered by it, which meant I did considerable hanging-on until the operator found an opportune moment to put me through. Still, once I got there the lady sounded sympathetic as she took down my details and I expounded my theory that the pass must been lost on the 15.57 to Marple, and sounded more optimistic than I felt that it would turn up eventually.
I left her with my phone number and then made an effort to get through to Marple station, just in case someone had handed it in there, but was baffled by BR policy, which seems to keep the numbers of all local stations ex-directory. I nearly rang back to the nice lady at Picc, but reasoned that she'd check up with Marple if there wasn't anything in M/cr.
So I turned to another ransack of all the coats hanging in the hall, in the forlorn hope that it had been hiding someplace all this time; no joy, but I did locate a £ coin lurking in what should have been an empty pocket, which softened the blow of my extra outlay on fares more than the theoretical savings on Lunar Atlases.
The day before, Parcel Force had called when everybody was out but instead of just hiding the parcel in the garden-shed, had left a card suggesting I call on their Bredbury depot, presumably as it was a long time since they'd seen me. Traipsing up to this isolated outpost involves passing the library Information Centre, so I thought I'd call in and make enquiries about procedures for getting a replacement pass in case the original didn't turn up.
By this time, I'd convinced myself that it was most unlikely to turn up, and was vaguely imagining how long it would he before I got a replacement and how much excess fares I'd he caught for before my status was quo'd. For one thing I'd need a passport photo.
There should have been some spares left over from the time (in 1985!) I acquired my pass; I looked where I thought they should be and, lo! that's there they were. Which seemed an auspicious money-saving start. So when I called in the info centre and bent the ear of the lady in charge, expecting to be told I'd have to hie to the transport office in Stockport, my flabber was gasted when she smiled and said they were now authorised to issue passes, and if I had a photo, I could have a replacement there and then.
I produced my pic, signed a form, and was ushered back on to the doorstep clutching my brand new pass, complete with plastic wallet. No fuss, no charge, no sweat. I was impressed very favourably by the efficiency of our local staff... All my problems over, already. I almost caught the bus home, just to prove it worked...
We were just sitting down to the evening meal when the phone rang. Yeah, you guessed it. It was the guy at Marple station to say that someone had handed in my pass, and they'd be glad to return it if I'd call tomorrow. Which is why I have now got a standby pass as insurance for the future. And a warm spot for the ladies that look after the ageing in the community.
Sometimes two days can stretch to a lifetime. Did it all really happen in a mere two days, I keep asking myself? From the Ultimate Catastrophe and then right back to normality so soon?
On Saturday the sun was shining (what else) as I set out for Marple, duly collected my original pass, exchanged some friendly banter, and walked back. Fate did not let me win all the way. Just as I started to climb up Compstall Brow, the wind freshened and the rain and sleeted pelted down. They've just finished cutting hack all the overgrown bushes at the side of the path, and there was absolutely no shelter.
I got absolutely drenched, and it was no consolation when the sun struggled out again as I turned into the avenue. En route, I paused to wipe the sleet from my specs and noticed a large notice outside Gothic Farm as I passed — "EGGS, HAY & STRAW" it said at the top, and then filling 2/3rds of the space "GOLF BALLS". Their fields adjoin the golf links. Looks as though they must have had a good harvest this year... ■
Letter to Steve Sneyd, 6 March 1994
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