I referred in a recent article to the risk of being taken for a terrorist whilst taking photographs in London. Mary Ann was due back from Cornwall on a very late train, and I thought it might be interesting to try out my new equipment at the station to see how it coped with night-time photography. The platforms were closed, and I set up instead in a corner of the car park overlooking the forecourt where the taxis and buses wait. As I was about to take the first photograph, a jobsworth in a high-viz jacket appeared, one of those who thinks that the wearing of bright yellow stands substitute for a brain. What was I doing?, he demanded to know. My usual line in these circumstances is to be rigidly polite while pressing for details of my alleged offence. The following conversation ensued:
Me: Taking photographs
Jobsworth: Do you have permission to do that?
Me: From whom do I need permission?
Jobsworth: The government
Me: From Mr Cameron, you mean?
Jobsworth: If you know him personally, yes.
The proper course here is to repeat back to the official exactly what he has said to make sure you have got it right and to emphasise what you think of him and it. I did so and he conceded that had been facetious in referring to the government. It would be First Great Western, who run the regional franchise (“run” in the wider sense of that term – “crawl” would be better for that bunch of incompetent shysters) or Network Rail, the property owners. I asked Jobsworth to cite some authority for this but got no answer. Then:
Me: Can I please have your name?
Jobsworth: It’s on my badge.
I had to put my nose almost to his chest to read the badge in the dark corner of the car park, but established that his name was..well, we’ll stick to Jobsworth for now. Well Jobsworth, I said, you have won yourself a place in a blog post. And here it is. If either of us could have been in the right down to that point, failing to give his name properly put Jobsworth in the wrong.
Meanwhile, I have asked the ever helpful First Great Western Twitter team to follow this up and find out if there is in fact such a rule or whether Jobsworth was engaged in a self-aggrandising frolic of his own.
I took only one photograph whilst Jobsworth was slithering up to me; dangerous stuff, as you can see.