What a Wonderful World /(Even More Strangers on Trains)

24 Jun

This was the title of the piece I wrote on Tuesday. I still believe that it IS a wonderful world but last night’s events have shaken me.

I was standing on Sutton station at 7.30am. Destination? Croydon. Problem? The RMT workers on Southern Trains were on strike. My Thameslink train seemed OK. I checked my diary. The last 15 journeys with Thameslink had been delayed (5 mins or more) or cancelled. Naturally the Chief Executive got a huge pay-hike recently. I had a meeting to go to but time for a Costa coffee.

I sat outside in the sun with my double-shot Americano, downwind of those in need of both caffeine and nicotine. I was about to shift upwind when two youths joined my table and started a rapid conversation in Polish (I think). One lad was a smart, blazered sixth former, I judged on his way to an exam. The other was a little older, in working clothes, manual. I was caught between smoke and incomprehension. By and by a couple more blazered lads came along, saw my Polish schoolboy and shouted, “Yo Johnny. Y’alright!”

Johnny’s response was to wave and slip effortlessly into Croydonion. “Cheers Jez. Got Economics. Shit scared.” He took another sip of an expresso and continued his impenetrable chatter with his overalled buddy. I mused on the yoof of today and thought that things were OK.

Meeting over and back on the train to London. Only 5 minutes late. Southern doing OK even if the commuters coming up from Brighton were spitting feathers. My copy of the Metro showed just how much the capital’s main commuter rag was backing Remain. Unfortunately almost all other tabloids had the Brexit bug. It could be ‘Gotcha’ all over again in the Sun if the Leavers get their way.

I overheard two conversations. There was a group of two women and a man – all over 70 I guessed – discussing how many Nectar points would get you a Flymo. This was followed by a long critique of the film Mama Mia which the ladies had watched, with wine, the night before. The man said little throughout save for, “Make sure you get a Flymo with wheels.” Being a Flymo man myself, I silently agreed with him.

My attention turned to the guy opposite who had taken a call. Now I have, more or less, got over the fact that train travellers don’t give a toss about who they disturb with their ‘devices’; nor are they remotely concerned with privacy. If this chap had spoken a tad more loudly, they would have heard him in the next carriage. I noted the following:

“Des, we’re on the same bloody page mate. I don’t see the fucking issue. The projections allow us to move rapido. Don’t need the say-so of bossman. Get along to Andy’s office and kick himinto fucking gear.” Pause. Then:” Don’t fucking worry about her. She’s a pussy. I’ll deal with her if you won’t.”

Thereafter there was a mixture of silence and laughter and macho ‘Yeah, Rights’. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about but the table vibrated with his vibrato. I found myself wanting to know if I had enough Nectar points for a little Flymo.

On the walk from Waterloo to Charing Cross I happened upon a large number of frocked, suited and booted students. Gowns and mortar boards filled the walkways outside the Festival Hall. Clearly yet another degree ceremony with lovely excited youth-chatter and champagne corks primed to pop. I strolled through feeling good for them all. Hope and fun was in the air. I had almost left the throng when I saw a slim, fragile, heavily tattooed girl standing in her finery holding her Mortar Board sheepishly at her side. She was with a small, elderly couple. Were they parents or grandparents? As I neared I heard the new graduate in classic, authentic, cockney opine,” I dunno what the fuck I’m doin’ ‘ere, I really don’t.” She said it with a sweet smile but through a grid of lip-rings.

I was a yard or two past the group when the little lady rejoined, ” You do look , lovely, Em.”

*     *     *     *     *     *

I would normally end my little blog there. After the events of last night I wonder how many of our young people will be wondering what the fuck they’re really doing here. I am resolved, henceforth, not to bang on about the dreadful position in which we have placed ourselves,. Division and complaint become habits that do no one much good at all.

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