State of the Nation

It seems New Order were right. Back in 1986 they released the single State of the Nation. Let’s look at the evidence.

Last week I planned to travel to London, on Wednesday to be precise. This would have involved an easyJet flight from Edinburgh to Luton (I chose this route for schedule reasons) and a little bit of train travel. My employer booked both the flight and the train trip on my behalf. We paid £27.50 for the train trip from Luton to Londons Kings Cross Thameslink, which is slightly more than normal as my employer uses a central booking agent. Early last week, on Monday, I learnt that the travel would have to be rearranged as the person I was visiting had an urgent client visit to make in Brussels. So I duly set about rearranging the travel. Imagine my surprise when I learnt that the refund my employer would receive was only £7.20. I hadn’t even travelled. Never mind that, I hadn’t even booked a guaranteed seat. Worse, I’ve made that train trip many times, the train is eight carriages in length (FirstScotRail please take note), it’s never full, I always get a seat regardless of the time of day. So why is the train company so greedy? Purchase a £1000 TV from a big name retailer, take it home, let it in its box, take it back unused and you get a full refund. It’s the same with this particular train ticket – it was unused. It’s a state of the nation.

What’s your crime number?
And today, Saturday, to top it off, I found myself reading Jon Ronson’s piece in The Guardian Weekend, 11 November 2006. Of course, friends and regular readers will be asking the question: “why’s he reading The Guardian?” Well, that’s a question that I’ll leave unanswered, but suffice to say, I had my reasons and they were well-intentioned. Jon was lamenting about the loss of his mobile telephone. Frankly, I would love to lose my mobile telephones, but that’s another posting. Mr Ronson had one of those mobile-telephone-replacement policies that let him “throw it a lake and we’ll replace it free of charge”. Of course, he didn’t throw it in a lake, he just lost it. Mislaid it. Put it down somewhere and forget where he had left it. So he called up the “replacement company”. They asked for “crime number”, the sort that the police issue when something has been stolen. Since Jon had merely lost his ‘phone, he didn’t have a crime number and pretty much refused to get one. However, the guy at the replacement company quietly whispered, “the police don’t mind, it happens all the time”.

So Mr Ronson grudgingly telephoned the police…only to be recognised by the policeman taking the statement. The policeman offered to drive Jon around Moss Side with a view to getting the kids who committed this heinous crime. Despite protesting politely, Mr Ronson ended up spending time in a squad car, driving around Moss Side. The conversation went kind of like this: “It might be him…oh no, it’s not…”. Anyway, without spoiling too much of the original article, Jon ended up panicking about wasting police time. He couldn’t have panicked too much about it, well, certainly not after he had told his mother about it, because he then went on to write an article about. An article that was published today, and read by a presumably reasonably sized Guardian readership; we might surmise that a few enforcers of the law are included in that group. So Mr Ronson got his crime number, even though no crime was committed (apart from his own admission to wasting police time). The replacement company were happy, Jon got his replacement mobile ‘phone. It’s a state of the nation.

Mid-life crisis, when or if?
And to top it all, according to Rebecca Williams, in the same issue of The Guardian Weekend, on the subject of a mid-life crisis, it’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”. Mine must be due real soon now.