Charles Spencer

Losing the plot | 24 March 2012

You know those sad, confused people you sometimes see, standing on street corners and shouting dementedly at passing cars. Well, the other week, that madman was me.

I was in Sheffield to cover the Crucible’s Michael Frayn season, and had risen early to write my review. And then my usually reliable laptop failed to come up with an email connection.

I kept trying, and failing, to get the copy across, then realised that unless I got a shift on I would miss my train. So I ordered a taxi and checked out. Only the taxi didn’t come and catching the train looked less and less likely. And it was then that I lost the plot entirely, shaking my fist at passing but occupied cabs, and shouting at God that I wished I were dead — all the symptoms of a certifiable nutter, in fact.

Eventually — and by this time tears of rage and frustration were streaming down my cheeks — the taxi arrived. To his credit the driver drove at a terrific lick and there was a remote possibility that I might catch the train. I ran up the steps and down to the platform, and there was the London train, looking as though it was patiently waiting especially for me.

I jumped aboard, surprised to discover that it was almost empty. Then the horrible truth dawned. I had indeed missed my train, and this was the next one to go. The trouble was I had one of those tickets that are only valid for a particular train — the one I had missed. I sought out the guard. She confirmed that a new single ticket would be required — a cool £66.50. And then she added the killer blow. It would, she said, be cheaper if I had a ‘senior railcard’.

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