It is one of the fundamental rules of life. The moment you are gifted with some blissful solitude in barges some lunatic and pokes you in the eye. Metaphorically, I mean.
I had a four-seat area to myself. Across the aisle slouched a traveller surrounded by bags. He looked weary and was slugging away on a can of Fosters. Three women clattered onto the train and sat in my area. It was one of those groups where one of them is the leader and the others just nod and smile. The leader spewed out a relentless stream of nonsense, the others just nodded and smiled. It was one of the most terrifying monologues I've ever heard, it reminded me of this mother of all mad mother-in-law monologues. I took a few notes. It wasn't the actual content of the monologue which was remarkable, it was the way she traversed the subjects of quiche, sailing, politics and garden parties without stopping to breathe and without any prompting from the others.
They had evidently been to some sort of Labour Party do (in case my international readers were unaware - we had local elections last week).
...we ate copious amounts of quiche, all bought from Cloughs of course, as you do...the BNP got 400 votes, everyone is hacked off, this man put a Labour vote in the BNP pile, I pointed it out of course, they'll catch it later on...blah blah...he'd had the seat for twelve years...blah blah...that pretty girl, very pretty indeed, we talked about the expenses scandal, I spoke to Ash Edwards, you know he's in the cabinet, I said can't we have a committee that feeds into the cabinet, he's very pleasant you know, I drove fifty-six miles around picking up people...
The other two women had not got a word in edgeways. Any attempt to do so would have been as futile as trying to get a suntan in Scotland. I caught the traveller's eye. A hunted look was in his eyes. He sighed wearily, half a sigh and half the sound of a man's soul being rung like a towel. In that moment we forged a silent partnership. We would survive.
...Anthea has a saying 'those who pay together win together', they're having a garden party if you're interested...I've been Labour all my life, it's something very deep within me...blah blah...Janice (who's a Lib. Dem.) likes to go walking 'like woman', you know, all the chit-chat beforehand, and we like our walks but most of us are not up to 'striding edge'...blah blah...one of the reasons I couldn't go skiing (aside from weddings, babies and things) was I had already used up twenty days of holiday...David said I am to stay and look after the kids, it is -I'm afraid to say - the new generation...the first time I took a Topper out I got in trouble for going too far, but I can sail, I can even windsurf, you don't want to hang around waiting...my French is fantastic of course...
Finally they got of the train.
"Oh the sweet, sweet relief," I said, stretching out my feet and breathing in the tranquillity. Heaven, I believe, will be a bit like capturing moments like these and prolonging them for eternity.
"Thank fuck for that," said the traveller, taking a swig of his Fosters. "It would have been alright if they had something decent to talk about."
A Little Girl Feeding Some Baby Crocodiles, 1932
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