The other day I went to the railway station. I asked for a return ticket. The booking clerk said “Where to?” I answered: “Back here, of course.” After this brief misunderstanding I asked “How long will the next train be?” to which he replied “About eight carriages.” “Smart, aren’t you?” I said. “No, sir,” he replied “I’m Jenkins. Smart’s on strike.”
While I waited for my train I heard an announcement over the Tannoy. They said they were sorry but all trains that day were running ten minutes late. However, they promised that the next day they would be running normally, twenty minutes late.
Some countries are famous for their public transport systems. Others are infamous for them. A man in Britain wanted to commit suicide so he jumped in front of a train on the London to Southend line. He died of starvation. Bookshops in the UK sell the national train timetable in the fiction section. During one particularly long winter it took a train about twenty-seven hours to get from York to Portsmouth (only about four hundred kilometres). British Rail apologised for the early arrival.
The longest straight railway line in the world runs across the Nullarbor Plain in Australia (it is 478 kilometres without a bend). Because sand is often blown over the rails it can sometimes take many more days than normal for trains to reach the other side. One story tells of a woman who said to the guard “When will we get to Perth? I’m going to have a baby very soon.” The guard asked “Why did you get on the train if you were pregnant?” She replied “I wasn’t pregnant when I got on.”
Air travel can have its fair share of delays too. One aeroplane I was on had four engines but the captain said that one of them was broken. He pointed out that with only three engines the journey would take two hours longer. After half an hour he informed us that a second engine had failed so we would spend another four hours flying. I looked in my diary and started changing my appointments for the evening. Then the captain spoke again: “I’m terribly sorry, but our third engine has broken. It will now be another six hours before we can land.” I turned to the passenger sitting next to me. “You know what?” I said, “If that last engine breaks, we are going to be stuck up here all night!”
a return ticket – bilet powrotny
a booking clerk – kasjer
a carriage = a coach – wagon kolejowy
an announcement – ogłoszenie
infamous – niesławny
a Tannoy (system) – system nagłaśniający
to commit suicide – popełnić samobójstwo
to die of starvation – umrzeć z głodu
pregnant – ciężarna
Some of the information other people gave in the story is in direct speech and some is in reported speech. Which paragraphs contain which?
Which verbs are used in the text to describe the way people speak (besides „say” and „speak”)?
Paragraphs 1 and 4 have direct speech. Paragraphs 2 and 3 have reported speech. The last paragraph (the one about the aeroplane) has a mixture of both.
Verbs to describe the way people speak: answer, ask, reply, promise, apologise, point out, inform.
Did you know?
A legend about Benito Mussolini was that he was going to make all the trains in Italy run on time. There is no evidence that he did though.
The joke in the story about suicide and starvation is so old that people were telling it in the days of Queen Victoria, over a hundred years ago.
About forty percent of delayed trains in Britain are the reason for the other sixty percent (i. e. one delay causes another delay and so on).
One of the most famous reasons for late trains was „the wrong kind of snow”. Others include „leaves on the line” and „we can’t find a driver”. Believe it or not, leaves are one of the biggest problems for train drivers.
In spite of the delays, aeroplanes and trains are the safest modes of transport in the world, even safer than walking.
polecane: Pierwszy Polak połknął elektroniczną pigułkę