As a little sequitur to Mrs Malaprop's splendid post about railway-speak on Thursday, the train I was on today suddenly stopped somewhere in Staffordshire. I assumed at first that the driver was a keen botanist who wanted to examine the hedgerow on our right hand side. It was a pretty hedgerow, blooming and blowing with all sorts of shrubs and bushes, and I wouldn't have blamed the driver for wanting to stop the train and have a closer look. Indeed, I was a trifle envious. But then his voice came from the loud-speakers telling us that the train was delayed - Imagine that! A British train delayed! - the delay, he told us in deep and masterful tones, was:
Due to a road traffic accident
Not because of a car-crash, but due to a road traffic accident.
Due, because it was clearly owing, the debt paid by reality to causality and collected with the violent assiduity of a starving mafioso. Road traffic because there's an awful lot of traffic off-road. Or perhaps because there's an awful lot of road accidents that don't involve traffic. I don't know.
Anyway, we sat there for a while and after about forty minutes which I had passed by re-reading L'Innommable the fellow opposite me made a call on his mobile phone. (The Americans call it a cell phone, which has always put me in mind of a garrulous monk).
'Hello? Dave?' he said in a broad Cumbrian accent. He seemed, indeed, to be a broad, Cumbrian man. 'I've been delayed... What?.. There's a been a...'
And I saw the flicker, the confusion, the slight linguistic tsunami pass across his face. It was the face of a man who has been hypnotised to kill his mother and, as he holds chisel above her sleeping head, is half remembering something, half knowing who he is, was and could be again. But he was too weak. TOO WEAK!
'It's due to a road traffic accident,' he said like one of those hostages saying he's being treated well.
'Yes... a road traffic accident... I know it's a train but... listen, I won't be at Preston before five at the earliest.'
It was like watching this: