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British Hi-Speed...


We keep on running into organisations with the phrase "hi-speed" tucked snugly inside their titles. It all started with British Hi-Speed Rail, with whom Bristow has a hate-hate relationship but the list keeps on growing. So as well as that beloved and now defunct organisation that used to be British Railways, we examine

    British Hi-Speed Post Office
    British Hi-Speed Inland Revenue
    British Hi-Speed Radio
    British Hi-Speed Police
    British Hi-Speed Stock Exchange
    British Hi-Speed Lottery

British Hi-Speed Rail

East Winchley Station

Like thousands of his fellow workers, Bristow relies on British Hi-Speed Rail to get to work. He commutes from East Winchley, a charming old fashioned station, staffed by a Station Master (with formal peaked hat), Assistant Stationmaster Perkins and a variety of bit part characters. There is so much lost property that a man is retained just to staff the lost property office (needless to say it is Bristow who loses the exotic objects that boggle the minds of the staff, including a centurion’s helmet and leopardskin swimming trunks).

One of the longest-running themes is the unreliability of British Hi-Speed Rail. Here strip 130
Strip 130 was published in the Evening Standard in July 1963
is an early example.

The trains are always running late. There is a blackboard permanently labelled "British Hi Speed Rail regret extensive delays due to.. " and then the excuse of the day is chalked up below. These vary from the prosaic to the downright strange seen here in strip 5756
Strip 5756 was published in the Evening Standard in October 1980 and in Bristow
On the rare day that the services run on time, the announcer will be dumbstruck whilst the commuters strike up Land of Hope and Glory

A truthful notice board (not normally seen at East Winchley or any other station)

Every year the fares go up and hard-hearted station staff snigger openly as the hapless commuters line up to buy their tickets - strip 5387
Strip 5387 was published in the Evening Standard in 19 and in The Penguin Bristow
. Then they share out the money and go into tax exile, thus explaining why the waiting rooms and enquiry booths are never manned.

The Station Master

The Station Master at East Winchley faces a tough job. He must manage his unruly staff and keep the public informed about the various and extensive delays that plague the system. Strip 3627
Strip 3627 was published in the Evening Standard in November 1972 and in More Bristow. This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald, December 1972
was undoubtedly meant as a joke but in recent years this very excuse has been solemnly offered by the railway operating companies. The Station Master is quick to reach for his ceremonial top hat when hears that Sir Reginald is travelling north from his station (why on earth they would depart from a suburban / commuter dump like East Winchley is unclear).He is a hard man (see the Sharkey Bros below) when he has to be but perhaps the pressures of the job are getting to him, as we see in strip 5056
Strip 5056 was published in the Evening Standard in January 1978 . This scan is from the Melbourne Age, February 1978

Assistant Stationmaster Perkins

Highslide JS
Strip 3758 was published in the Evening Standard in April 1973

Orders for Assistant Stationmaster Perkins

Like Bristow, Perkins is obsessed with promotion. If the Station Master’s ceremonial top hat is missing it is because Perkins has it on his head and is taking his picture in the Photo-Me booth. Ditto the Station Master’s Winter Greatcoat. But wearing the gear doesn't get him the job. He seems destined to fail his exams and remain an Assistant (much to the relief of his boss). This may be due to his strange attitude to his work strip 3760
Strip 3760 was published in the Evening Standard in April 1973 and in Bristow Extra

Unfortunately for Perkins the Station Master sees him as expendible. When the commuters riot over yet another late departure it is Perkins who is sent out to pacify them and a nasty incident is averted only by the arrival of the train.

Perkins strikes up an unlikely romance with the station announcer, leading to much giggles and heavy breathing over the loudspeaker system. And, of course, to extensive delays caused by love at first sight. Bristow is quick to see the possibilities of their engagement - reception in the buffet, wedding photos in the photo-me booth and extensive delays caused by confetti on the line.

Highslide JS
Strip 4228 was published in the Evening Standard in October 1974 and in Bristow Latest

Love on the platform.

The buffet

Bristow is lucky - his station boasts a buffet from which rock hard cakes and curly sandwiches may be obtained to lighten his journey. Quite how a suburban station can justify a buffet is not clear, especially as the manageress was recruited by a British Hi-Speed Rail talent scout that overheard her husband complaining about the packaged lunches she prepared for him. She soon imposes her mark by substantially increasing the prices. "Bravo my dear like your style" says the Station Master "This calls for a celebration. Perkins, send out for tea and cakes".

Even the ultra-critical Peterson of Public Relations seems to like the buffet. He enjoys a soothing coffee whilst complaining loudly about his rat's nest of an office and cretinous colleagues with whom he is forced to work.

Highslide JS
Strip 4055 was published in the Evening Standard in March 1974 and in Bristow Extra

The Sharkey Brothers, scourge of the Southern Region

Highslide JS
Strip 4359 was published in the Evening Standard in April 1975 and Bristow Latest

The Sharkeys at the cab of their engine - note the out-of-place London Underground logo.

The most dreaded drivers on the network, the Sharkeys drive the 8:15 Commuter Special engaging in their own brand of humour and terrorising the passengers. To wait until a late commuter is just about to open the carriage door before hurtling away is the work of a moment for Gervaise and Jonathan. They have no fear of retribution - the luckless commuter who tries to break into their compartment is hauled up before the Station Master and has his season ticket endorsed. Meanwhile the Sharkeys, convulsing themselves imagining the wheels of their train crushing the bowler hats of their passengers, cause still more delays.

Sad historical update note

The Southern Region no longer exists. Nor does British Rail. Bristow should really be directing his jibes and contumely at companies like Connex South Central, Silverlink or Great Eastern. For the benefit of non-British readers, dear old British Rail was sold off in the early 1990s. One company, Railtrack, owns and maintains the railways. Or at least it did until forced into liquidation by the Government in October 2001. Many others operate trains, competing against each other and driven by the need to make short-term profits. Services into London are overcrowded and unpunctual. Four serious accidents between 1999 and 2003, at Paddington, Hatfield, Potters Bar and Selby shook public confidence in rail travel. However since then passenger numbers havev continued to grow, despite rail fares increasing every year in excess of inflation.

We say
Bring Back British Hi-Speed Rail ! 
Promote Perkins !!
Invest in more and bigger buffets !!! (oops, got carried away there).


British Hi-Speed Post Office

An official addresses massed ranks of postmen.
Official: Gentlemen of the Post Office, the Christmas Rush is nearly on us. There will be millions of letters to deliver. We know you will all do your duty. The mail must get through! Any questions?
The postmen en masse:  Yes. Why must it get through?
Official sotto voce  to a colleague: Someone find out
strip 5035 December 1977

British Hi-Speed Inland Revenue

Their ambition is that, by linking with British Hi-Speed Post Office and British Long-Distance Weather forecasters, everyone’s tax demands can be delivered on a wet Monday morning.

British Hi-Speed Radio

They frequently report traffic jams caused by Chester-Perry juggernauts breaking down, shedding loads or having an accident. Weather news consists of readings from the C-P roof and sports news from the graffiti in the C-P lifts.

British Hi-Speed Police

They are able to clamp and tow away a vehicle parked outside the C-P building before the driver has walked to the pavement. Which is bad news for Sampson of Sales. The police also enjoy harassing Bristow, telling him to "Move along" when he is merely pausing outside the staff entrance, and one of their number enjoys a romance with Traffic Warden 262.

British Hi-Speed Stock Exchange

Pandemonium breaks out when Chester-Perry's put in a take-over bid for Myles & Rudge. The last time anybody saw anything like it was after the Great Tea Trolley Disaster of '67

British Hi-Speed Lottery

They reject an application for a covered stand. For a desk-top football site.