Martin Newell shares a train compartment with some of Mr Blair's admirers (or not, as the case may be) and finds himself stranded in a siding. And who is that bearded fellow in the corner?

The train limped out of London

Reluctantly at four

Old rolling stock, the windows stuck

A draught stabbed through the door

And ancient sticky cola

Had stained the gum-stuck floor.

The twenty-fourth December

A wind scythed from the east

The packed compartment juddered

As engine speed decreased

And stopped. A woman grumbled

"We got this far at least."

The passengers were varied

And found hard to sustain

That very British silence

Which can engulf a train

So they began to chatter

To joke and to complain.

A true-blue counties lady

A hard-up single mother

A farmer and a student lad

A sales rep and one other

A bearded traveller in a hood

Drawn tight enough to smother.

This company heard the tannoy

Announce in muffled tone:

"We don't yet know, why we have stopped

But (high-pitched feedback) blown.

However (crackle) ... rear of train

The sales rep, downing paper

Snarled, "This is a disgrace."

And pulled a mobile telephone

Out of a leather case

"Tell James I've missed my window..

Yup sure. We'll interface."

The single mum with toddler

Said, "It's all right for some.

How far's the toilet up the train?

I need to change his bum."

The counties woman muttered

"How common we've become."

"You think so, do you lady?"

The single mum replied

"If Hattie Harman has her way

It should be rectified

I'll re-train as an architect

With vouchers they provide."

She left the stunned compartment

As further up the train

A lap-top ticked, a Walkman fizzed

The wheels took the strain

Then gradually and groaning

They locked themselves again.

A farmer in the corner

Exclaimed in disbelief:

"I'd hire my cattle out to them

For modest cash relief.

They couldn't draw much slower

And can't be sold for beef."

The counties woman nodded.

"There's something very wrong.

They outlaw beef and hunting

They gave away Hong Kong

Then any yob gets knighted

Because he writes a song."

Just then her sharp invective

Was halted in mid-air,

The hooded fellow traveller

Of whom she'd been aware

Now stroked his beard and fixed her

With firm reproachful stare.

She coughed as if embarrassed

Before she looked away

It seemed as if she knew his face

From where she couldn't say

He said, "May I remind you

Tomorrow's Christmas Day?"

Now shamed, she nodded gently

"You're right of course my dear

It's Christmas yes. But goodness me

It's been all change this year

Last summer ... and The Princess

How far it seems from here."

As if on cue, at this point

The train lurched gently back

The brakes hissed underneath them

The wheels moaned on the track

The sales rep's coat and briefcase

Came tumbling from the rack.

And as the train chugged forward

And picked up speed again

The student sitting opposite

Took his turn to complain.

"The trouble with this country is

Pop culture's down the drain.

"They plunder Sixties treasures

And ask us to applaud it

At such a rate, we'd liquidate

If rock songs had an audit

But shackled by these loans now

We students can't afford it."

The tanned and bearded traveller

Removed his hood from head.

The travellers saw a holy glow

Around the man had spread

The farmer asked, "Come far then?"

"Near East," the stranger said.

"I've travelled many miles

It's been a long old quest

In sweeping sands of desert lands

But heading always west

It's like that with ballooning

One sort of gets obsessed."

This sudden revelation

Made awe evaporate

No pilgrim sent from Orient

But Virgin potentate

The train approached the station

A mere two hours late.

And as they left their carriage

The genial millionaire

Cried, "Turn again Dick Branson

I'd make a happening mayor

A Merry Christmas to you.

And God bless Tony Blair!"

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