Strangers on Covid-secure trains..

11 Sep

As I stood on West Sutton station yesterday morning, humming Land of Hope and Glory into my face mask, my head was filled with much more than the carbon monoxide bounce-back effect of my Colgate breath. There were six fellow travellers awaiting the typically late arrival of the Thameslink train to Wimbledon. You would think that, with the vast decrease in passenger numbers and the cutting back on services, the 10.22 might have flirted with punctuality. Reliably unreliable. A slogan for many things these days: Covid pronoucements; upholding the rule of law; England’s football fortunes.

I was curious  about Covid observance. All six put on masks as the tardy Thameslink creaked in. The eight-coach choo-choo was virtually uninhabited. The stench of cleaning fluids rose to meet us as we found socially distanced seats without bother. We chugged along picking up passengers in single figure numbers at Sutton Common and St. Helier. All were beautifully behaved. At Morden South a bloke who looked about as gnarled as me, got on without a mask. As we trundled towards Wimbledon Chase, I wondered if anything would be said. I peered at this guy from about ten yards away but my natural reserve prevented me from challenging the outrage. A young lad (well he was about thirty but that’s a child in my book) spoke out. Haven’t you got a mask, mate? Measured, clear, unthreatening. Only going two stops, no point, came the curt reply.

It’s just worth saying that you’re putting others at risk. Still measured. I liked this young man.

No I’m not. And with that shaft of intelligence the conversation ended and we masked bandits turned to other things. We sped past youngsters enjoying a P.E. lesson in the fresh air and sunshine. The young man walked away down the snaking corridor and, with me, alighted at Wimbledon.

On the tube to Edgware Road a couple of ladies pulled masks to below chins to relieve condensation on their specs. Covid awareness behaviour was impressive. I tend to be a mask remover when out and about but there are plenty who do the ‘neck thing’ as if they have had a tracheotomy or are doing that thing which Victorian men did to keep their beards in good order. Whatever works.

In Bayswater the streets were pleasantly mottled with shoppers. London is such a wonderful place to be at the moment. You can move, you can breathe. I know. I know that we need it teeming so that the economy can pick up. If Brandon Lewis’s stark admission of how our government is prepared to renege on signed agreements, the short term apparent gain will be long term pain, not to say disgrace. I mulled over Michael Howard’s unusual condemnation, in the Lords,  of his right wing Tory mates. I mulled too over the increasing numbers of civil servants who must keep their mouths shut when idiocies are proposed and integrity is chucked out of the window – or lose their jobs.

I took an Uber with my little grandson. We headed for Lord’s (the other one) for a cricket coaching session. Nice driver from Albania; spotless car. At the home of cricket I stood a social distance away from the yummy mummies and yummy daddies, while the six and seven year olds ran amok with the joy of a Ben Stokes superover. Weirdly my mind turned to Joe Biden. A man who has had so much tragedy in his life and still wants to fight for something better for his country. This led to Ed Davey – another man with tragedy in his past but a man who just might take the Lib Dems a little to the left so as to engage with the sanity of Starmer ( well, at the moment but who knows).

As I stood watching children play, I reflected on how my my head space has been consumed by politics and the social upheavals of the recent past. Significant certainties in our lives have been flushed away, some rightly perhaps, but much debate has been of the absolute, unnuanced, he-who-shouts-loudest type. The truth, the law, the complexity of arguments have been, at times, subsumed by the expediency of rashness and self interest. The vast numbers of moderates on left or right – lose their majority voice for fear of ostracism. We also recognise our impotence.

My own specs steamed up as I read the tap-screen menu in the Notting Hill Macdonald’s. My grandson’s simple delight was a Happy Meal and a discussion about whether Jofra Archer was a better bowler than James Anderson. No contest. Jimmy streets ahead. MacD’s have got their Covid act together with seating at every other table; gel stations abound. As we were munching our fries there was voluble chatter nearby about the rule of six.

So you can be six people from six different houses and that’s ok but if you have a large family granny can’t come round if the numbers go over six? More talk of what a beano weekend is coming up as, unlike holidaymakers returning from abroad, the notice given for the rule of six means that we have party time until Monday. My little lad raised his eyebrows when he thought that I might offer an opinion. I kept schtum.

Distressingly the 7.25 back to West Sutton was on time. I missed it by a few seconds. Bloody Thameslink. I had time to check social media on platform 9 at Wimbledon Station. Diana Rigg has died. What a talent. When boys were allowed to ‘fancy’ women, we all fancied Diana Rigg. Emma Peel would have sorted out Dominic Cummings. My glasses steamed up at the thought. RIP.


3 Responses to “Strangers on Covid-secure trains..”

  1. rocket1101 September 12, 2020 at 8:10 am #

    Top blog Paul!

    • Nick September 12, 2020 at 11:00 am #

      Enjoyed as always, thanks Paul!

  2. Stephen Fay September 14, 2020 at 2:00 pm #

    Great writing. I am so glad that my train commute days are over. Did 30 years Brighton to London Victoria and could write a book about the antics of rail companies. Of course in earlier days the trains had comfy seats and doors that you opened yourself. Mind you the down side of these was folk opening them when on the move and as demonstrated once at Gatwick Airport opening the door on the wrong side of the car and not stepping onto the platform but the track. Ouch, not a good plan! We also had a buffet car that was superceded by a trolley service that on a bad day couldn’t get through the mass of commuters standing because there was 20% less seating because of the automatic sliding doors. Oh the wonder of modern train design. How well I remember the train being held for 2 hours outside Balcombe Tunnel in mid – winter because a pointed shard of ice was hanging from one of the tunnel vents and threatening to fall. Those vents were from the steam train days that finished in 1932 on that line, but British Rail with its ‘you’ll never know they might be needed again’ attitude hadn’t capped them off. I did have cause to Thameslink from time to time, but I do not wish to use bad language and will leave the matter closed unless asked. I offer all of today’s commuters my greatest sympathy and can only say it doesn’t go on forever, it just feels like it. Anyway you’d only waste the fare on something you might enjoy!

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