Bing-bong. “Ladies and gentleman, we regret to inform you that due to a bridge strike near Baldock this service will be delayed. The train will stop at the next station and await clearance before proceeding.”

Passenger responses in the carriage are entirely predictable, and adhere furiously to national stereotype. The English appear locked in competition as to who can sigh with the greatest degree of fatalistic resignation. Eyes are rolled and watches examined with great ostentation. A French couple gesticulate in melodramatic fashion. Meanwhile an American in the carriage slams his fist on the table, exclaims ‘God damn!’, and looks ready to ‘sue the pants off’ the next railway employee he can lay hands on.

Two minutes later, and good old fashioned British logic is in force as the train stands at Royston station, waiting to proceed. An increasing crowd of confused travellers cluster round resolutely closed doors. Frustrated, they seek help from a nearby fluorescent jacket. “Excuse me, but the doors wont open.”

“I’m afraid that train is the express from Cambridge to King’s Cross.”

“But we want to go to London, and it’s just standing there.”

“Sorry, but it doesn’t stop at this station.” The train eventually pulls away, leaving them variously dumb-struck and apoplectic.

Arriving at their destination the occupants of the carriage filter silently off the train, allowing themselves the occasional exchange of knowing looks, signifying ‘at last’. Adopting the distinctive gait of one who is in a hurry but would never be so indecorous as to run, they remain clumped together as they head toward the underground. The English affect long-suffering stoicism and the American barks into his phone, while the couple examine a guide book with a gallic shrug.

Bing-bong. “Passengers are advised that due to a security alert, all underground services are currently suffering severe delays.”