They prosecute nuns, don't they?

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The Independent Culture
SECOND-HAND bookshops? We got 'em. Hundreds, round here. They won't be here much longer, because the British Library has moved to the gritty, dust-blown scum territory of Kings Cross, and now Bloomsbury rents will be going up, but that's all right: we won't have bookshops but we'll by God have Starbucks and Pret-A-pigging Manger and ditsy clothes shops and tourist tatterias, probably a few robot-service sushi bars and lots of high-impact opticians selling ironical spectacles for the terribly exciting young New Media specialists and title-sequence background animators who'll be moving in, any day now.

But, for the moment, we have second-hand bookshops, containing wonders. Today I scored a dog-eared copy of the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and William Adlington's 1566 translation of The Golden Asse by Apuleius, and, as you can imagine, they have set me thinking about London's public transport system. The thing is, Old Jack Chrysostom missed his chance. What we really need is a simple ejaculation: "Oh God, I wish You existed because there is stuff I need you to deal with."

Stuff, for example, like reducing the HQ of London Transport to a smoking crater, shrouded in a feverish dust compounded of the pulverised bones of honking managers in nylon socks.

And why? Not because of the closure of half of London's tube lines at any given time. Eight million people a day driven weeping on to the surface by cackling, blood-drenched Underground guards wielding 8ft 6in 16-plait kangaroo-hide RM Williams stockwhips? No; we cannot blame London Transport for this little problem, which was in reality caused (as Nostradamus predicted) by: (a) peculiar suggestive fissures in the Deputy Director of Unpersuasive Whining Noises' dinnertime liver'n'onions; (b) a dodgy misalignment between Jupiter, Aldebaran and the undiscovered planet Sprod the Putative; (c) two dead toads under a beulah bush witnessed by the Assistant Manager (Managerial Information Services (Support) Directorate (Support Division (Secretariat))) on his holidays; and (d) a flock of pigs flying past the boardroom window and distracting the Chief Enforcement Officer at a crucial moment.

Furthermore, it's nothing to do with London Transport. Surprised? Ha. London Transport doesn't do tubes any more. Tubes are London Underground Limited. London Transport does buses, despite the fact that they all seem actually to be run by companies called things like Arriva and Praevia and Sensitol.

Do you understand any of this? No; nor do I. It's something to do with "business", and, as anyone will tell you, it would be intolerably bad form for any God to take revenge on some hapless organisation, which, in normal times, you might think should simply be disbanded and its management sold into gerontophiliac slavery. Any God might, on the other hand, feel obliged to step in on behalf of the nun.

The nun was London Transport. You will remember the nun, because a week or so ago she was hauled before the courts by London Transport for falling asleep on the bus and missing her stop. What would you have done with the nun? That's right: you would have said to yourself, "Poor thing, up since 5am, spent her day in good works, has taken a vow of poverty, I will see her safely on her way with a kind word out of sheer human decency." But not London Transport! No; they prosecuted her. Their mothers may fondly believe that they are selling drugs in a brothel, but, no! They prosecute nuns! Real men!

A lesser journalist than I might have thought, at this point, it was worth ringing London Transport and speaking to a "spokesperson", or, possibly, some adenoidal jobsworth in cheap trousers who would parrot a wholly unconvincing set of self-serving lies through clenched and yellowing teeth, which I would then report. Well balls to that. London Transport has no right to reply. It has no right to live. It has, like so many other thoroughly modern, profit-centred, management-oriented organisations, so completely absolved itself of any of the duties of simple humanity that it has lost the right to be accorded the complementary privileges. And so one reads St John Chrysostom with mounting fervour, praying for God to reappear from His immemorial fastness and smite the buggers into screaming oblivion, aionas ton aionon.

But it won't happen. They will go on from strength to strength, and nuns will continue to be prosecuted, and the tube lines will continue to disintegrate, and men in cheap trousers will continue to be paid for telling unconvincing lies. And Apuleius? Oh come on. The Golden Asse. Says it all, really, wouldn't you agree?