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Beam me up off that train

CAN there be such a thing as monotonous irregularity? I would define this as describing an event that happens frequently but with sufficient randomness that it is impossible to anticipate and thus avoid being bored useless by it.

If I say "train driver conversation", some of you will know what I mean. A bit like a train itself, the train driver conversation comes around with monotonous irregularity. You are sitting there in the staffroom enjoying your piece (yes, non central belters, that is the correct spelling for the kind of piece I mean) when it starts up, often from a colleague whose patter you may normally enjoy.

"You know, we'd be paid more if we were train drivers."

There then follows half an hour of teeth-grinding tedium covering the lack of qualifications needed to become a train driver, the ease of the job ("you just sit there"), no mention of the neds (and that is the correct spelling - nerds and neds are not the same) who drop concrete blocks on you from bridges. The virtues of this idyllic, stress-free, lucrative existence are expounded at length and then some.

Small boys, reputedly, all express an interest in being a train driver at some time on life's journey. I had a 21st century version of the same wish: I wanted to be assistant chief engineer on the Starship Enterprise (stress free, you just sit there controlling the matteranti-matter reaction, no mention of Klingon neds dropping photon torpedoes on the bridge), but I also toyed with the idea of being a science teacher from a fairly early age.

This does not seem to be a very common ambition, but I do come across it now and again. When I started in my present post four years ago, a shy pupil with a troubled background began at the same time. When he settled, he proved to have an incredibly strong will and a talent for physics. By the end of S3 he was expressing a desire to teach the subject and the two of us worked together with some junior classes during his work experience.

He moved on, but I bumped into him again a week or so ago. Twice my height and full of quiet confidence, he told me he was about to begin training for his first job. He wasn't going to be a physics teacher any more. Instead, he was going to be a train driver. No, that's the 1970s sitcom ending. In reality, he had joined the Metropolitan Police.

I wished him well, my spirits lifted, and I reflected on the hidden perks of my job once more.

Gregor Steele still harbours a desire to walk around in a red Space Federation jersey, announcing: "Ye cannae change the laws o' physics!"

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