PictureCardiff Central station

   I've become a professional complainer.
   The more I use public transport, the more cause for complaint. Both Arriva Trains Wales and Stagecoach (the buses not the drama workshops!) have felt my ire of late.
   The latter didn't give proper compensation despite the fact that the bus due to take us from Pontypridd to Merthyr late at night
simply didn't appear.
   I heard later that the driver's son had been taken ill ; but there should've been a replacement all the same.
   The taxi home was extortionate, but as I failed to get a receipt, the only thing I received was a voucher for the price of the journey.
   Arriva do generally respond with vouchers, yet often deny any wrong-doing.
   Twice in a matter of weeks both myself and younger daughter were thrown off the train (along with all the other passengers) at Merthyr Vale, so it could make up the time
. The train then proceeded on to Merthyr empty!
   When confronted, Arriva denied this had even occurred , claiming they had electronic records to prove it. I had texts and calls from my distressed daughter to prove otherwise!
   Should this happen again, I will refuse to alight. Haven't they got an obligation to passengers?
  Actually, their only obligation seems to be to targets, like the rest of society from the police force to stressed-out teachers.
   Customers seem superfluous, as we are expected to travel in ancient rolling stock which belongs in the Industrial and Maritime Museum.
   We are expected to wait for some far-off electrification, as Westminster and Cardiff Bay hit responsibility back and fore in an endless match of political tennis.
   I'm in danger of repeating myself, but none of the major political parties dare mention the 'n' word.
  Even Plaid Cymru, who could afford to be adventurous, talk about 'not-for-profit' rather than nationalisation; not arguing for a Tren Cymru network owned by the people of Wales, or buses returned to Council control as Cardiff's is today.
   Comedians used to mock British Rail, as did the right-wing press, yet companies like Arriva and Stagecoach get off very lightly.
   Just as our first ever privatised train in Wales happened to be a bus, so that tradition is regularly maintained.

   The two most popular destinations for commuters in Wales are places called 'Delayed' and 'Cancelled'.
   I genuinely admire the small firm which provides our bus service in my area of Merthyr, as they offer an alternative to Stagecoach's monopoly.
   You get to know the drivers and they know many customers by first names. They often stop outside people's houses and help the old and infirm with their bags.
  They too can be erratic with their 'phantom' buses, yet give me them over the big, impersonal companies any day.
   They're like the village pub ,however, with a 'For Sale' sign always looming above.
   Stations can be places of intense observation and inspiration, though I sometimes wish I spent less time gazing up with anxious eyes at the screen, anticipating yet another cancellation.

                       BIRD-MAN  ON  THE  PLATFORM

Striding up and down the platform
but it's going in his direction

his hands are pigeons taking off,
he keeps on preening himself
in every smutty window

jay tie and starling suit,
checks his mobile, wings clipped
underneath his dove-white shirt

his day's delayed upon the screen,
a hair slips out of place,
a seagull chasing crumbs of time

the next train promising :
a woman asks him a question
believing he's an official there

he's anxious about an appointment
with his former manager

he's preparing for an interview
at an office down the line :
the empty carriages are leaving

finger to ear like beak to a bin ;
in cages of closed-down waiting rooms
his reflection's always frowning.



Ben Roach
04/10/2014 08:48

I love how something so everyday has been completely transformed through the use of great imagery. My favourite line has to be: "his hands are pigeons taking off." A beautiful way to describe the scene!


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