Monthly Archives: September 2018

Sitting Down

I’m holding onto my coffee. Breathe. Breathe. It’s a reusable cup. I’m doing the right thing, saving our planet. The Dairy Grind cafe advertise their little logo of eco friendly and sustainable coffee harvesting. We are supporting local farmers in some country. Small communities. The milk is local, so they say. Just me and my coffee.

There’s a train coming. I missed my last train, so I’m completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t know what the schedule is, but I do know it’s stopping at my station. The display board says so. It’s slowly coming a stop.

I’ve only have to stand behind the yellow line and I can alight the carriage, but how? Where do I sit? These aren’t my people, my community of travellers. They aren’t my village. Am I intruding?

The carriage door blankly faces me. The deafening warning tone of the door lock release alarm my senses. I find my finger pressing the button to open the doors. With a swish, they open. It’s quiet onboard. Deafeningly quiet.

There are lots and lots of empty seats. I freeze. There’s a woman in the seat, where is usually sit on my train. I turn, there are five empty seats in the six seater. A man wearing headphones looks up from his screen and looks at me. Someone else coughs. I quickly sit down.

There’s a man sitting in the two seater I’m sitting in. His shirt blends in with the colour of the seat fabric. ‘I didn’t see you’, I think to myself. I’ve made my decision. I pull down the tray-table, placing my coffee cup on it. My handbag becomes squashed on my lap. I fidget. I realign my weight. I fidget. The man next to me does nothing. No reaction. I look over, he is squashed in the corner.

I look back to my coffee cup. I move my arm, but my forearm is touching his. Why did I move my arm? It wasn’t offending anyone? I have to get out of here. The man next to me does nothing. He stares out the window. I’m staring at his wild eyebrows. His nostrils expand and contract, can he smell something I can’t?

I remove my coffee cup from the tray-table, return the tray back to its position, lock it back in place, take hold of my handbag and stand.

There are more empty seats further into the carriage. I move past a woman, her shoulder peeking out from her seat. How can I manoeuvre past without touching her? I spy another seat before her. I sit down.

I sit down with a sigh or frustration and relief. I hear a, “haaaaa” exhale from my lips. The man next to me imitates my “haaaaa”. Surreptitiously, I glance sideways, but he isn’t facing my direction. Just like the other man, he looks out the window. Was there an echo in the carriage? I have to move.

The crackled announcement over the PA tells me the train is approaching my stop. “Haaaaa”, I say to myself. Again, I hear the echo.

Standing by the carriage door, and as the alarm sounds to warn of the opening doors, I press the release button and make my uncomfortable escape.

– Pamela

Two Gins Too Many?

Those pretty little painted cans of gin and tonic are the devil in disguise. The trolley lady was too well helpful with her personal service for my need to calm my nerves. My head is thumping. What is this public convenience hell?

The feeling of cold hardness against my head interspersed with the gentle movement to an under-toned rumble. Newspaper stuck to my face, a mirrored imprint of Boris Johnson smeared across my forehead, Wotsits in my teeth and a chocolate biscuit in my, once upon a time quaffed, hair. I dare not look up in case someone notices me.

My eyes drink up the passing view, my blurred vision turns to rolling hills and floating cows. A farmer’s tractor. Am I in Switzerland, the land of the cows?

The conductor told me I’d be back home in no time. I touch my seat, yes, I’m still in First Class. Yes, I’m still on the same train. I can tell by the leather touch on my fingers. I must be in England. But there’s a smell. Something not familiar to my South East London senses.

At first, I smell something akin to a burnt whiskey; smokey, full-flavoured and weighty, but then I’m completely thrown off course by a smell I’ve not smelt since Reception School, when Becky Forthright, at the age of 5 years old ran through the class with a full and wet flannelette nappy. She was from a supported family.

Turning to face the centre of the train carriage, I’m confronted by a man. A man covered in muck. He’s wearing a flat cap, unshaven and, oh, his stale breath, strong enough to peel paint. Snoring. A bent cigarette balancing on his lower lip. Pages from the offending newspaper in his hand.

These are those moments I wish the earth would open up and swallow me whole. I’m living an unbearable hell and it must be close to afternoon tea. Where is my husband? Probably in his garage sawing another piece of wood for that ridiculous tree beehive. I’ll saw his left testicle off if he comes into the lounge wearing his mauve cardigan, covered in saw dust.

He heard about saving bees on a programme on BBC1. We only watch BBC1, although I know when he’s been on ITV, there’s a ghost image of that gobby Susan woman on my television screen.

I can barely stand up, my heel is broken and I don’t want to disturb the street urchin. He’s saddled right up next to me. He must think I’m his next meal ticket. Not on my watch.

I’ve broken free of my homeless shackles. A gin and tonic can makes a deafening clanging noise as it rolls away, it imagines seeking freedom, too.

Thankfully, my shopping bags are on the overhead luggage rack. Even in my unsolicited state of inebriation, I managed to fulfil some sense of humanity and humility.

At the opposite end of First Class, I settled myself in for the long haul trip.

Then I start to think, have I died and this is the long train to hell? Does no one know how to reach me? Where is my mobile phone?

– Harriet

Stop That Pigeon

Circling me with its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, it draws closer. Diseased, and more annoying than as a restless six year old craving attention. Surrounded by an air of innocence, but I know better. I know.

Oh, why are these vermin attracted to me? Can they smell fear? What do they secretly know? A businessman standing next to me juts out his briefcase to shoo it away.

Relieved, the sudden arrival of the train frightens away nature’s beast. As the carriage doors open, a crowd surges forward and we stampede inside. My cares about that fiend vanishes just as quickly. The doors close, a muffled announcement crackles over the speakers and we commence our journey.

Relaxing into the gentle sway of the train, the clickity-click persuades me into a warmth of slumber. Breaking through the caressing peace comes a subtle, yet distinctive call. A call of an indignant, coo. At first it is subtle and distant, without a care in the world. It draws closer.

In the corner of my eye, a woman rises ever so carefully, so not to raise alarm. In front, a man looks up from his screen, but doesn’t look down. He put his screen down and looks towards the woman. His face says a thousand words.

Gently, I turn my head. At first, the only picture in my vision is the woman and a group of strangers staring at the same point. I focus my gaze. There. On the headrest of the fourth row aisle seat is, the pigeon.

Before I can drop to the floor, the eye of the pigeon stares directly at me. Why, me? ‘What have I done to you’, my thoughts run wild.

An explosion of screams breaks the silence. A sudden powerful forward upward motion of newspapers, briefcases, hats, phones and discarded fast food wrappers litter the once empty expanse above the our heads. Frightful arms and legs lash out, punching and kicking the air as the invasion of swooshing feathers from an invisible source cuts through the mayhem.

Through the airborne debris, I hear a woman, her screams from her bright red lipstick lips, I see her, clutching at her hair, ragged and disarrayed, whilst tears stream from her distorted face. A man clings to the window as he attempts to climb onto the luggage rack, slamming his battered briefcase into the carriage window, swinging whatever his in his hand at his attacker. A younger woman cowers by the carriage door, forlorn, defeated in her battle for survival. What feels like hours of battle against the warring pigeon, the train stops to pick up more passengers.

The doors open. A collective of battered and beaten survivors, my fellow passengers, stampede onto the platform. Suckered by the onslaught of escaping passengers, airborne debris litters the platform. Warnings of ‘run for your life’, echo throughout the station. Stunned onlookers watch as our collective come to a stop, calm down and turn our attention to our war zone.

The inside of the carriage settles into a litter of wrappers and newspapers, as the pigeon stands at the carriage door, cooing. Cooing! Looking innocent and vulnerable, the pigeon alights the train. Cooing.

With its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, the pigeon disappears into the crowd.

– Malcolm

Suitcase Crush

Heathrow airport here I come. Look out sandy beaches. Soak me up sunshine. Quench me, sex on the beach, my favourite cocktail. I keep running through my imaginary check list for take off. Passport, check. Phone, check. Checked in online, check. Download boarding pass, check. Cash, check. Map, on my phone, check. One suitcase no more than twenty-three kilograms. Twenty-two point eight, said my bathroom scales, check. Hand luggage, well, I have a largish overhead cabin locker-bag, a carry bag and my handbag. If them at the airport want to be pathetic, I’ll put my carry bag in my handbag until I’m out of sight and pull it out again.

The carriage is empty, except for a business woman on her phone at the other end bringing down the mood, trying to convince someone how important she is. No one cares lady, take a pill. If only she would. Oh wait, I have my headphones.

The Guard walks past for a seventh time, giving me a strange look. You’re not my Daddy. I don’t get old people. ‘What-ever’, I glare back at him . He asked me to move from the six-seater I am sitting in and move to a two-seater. No thanks, I’m comfortable where I am. This is lush. I got my suitcase next to me, no one can invade my space. My handbag and carry bag on the floor and my feet, stretched out over them, on the seat opposite. I’m already in holiday mode. This is the life.

Oh no. My headphones dropped me off to sleep for a minute. We’re picking up more losers in suits. Why are there only men getting on this train? Have I missed my station? Crap. I got to change to the bus to get to the airport. I can’t see the sign outside the window, it’s an ocean of stupid. No wait. It’s cool. Another five stops to go. So happy this is the fast train, not the all-stopper. Ugh!

My phone pinged. Who’s on my back? It’s Pippa. She WhatsApp me. “U @ ✈️”.

“No. 🚂 full of 🕵🏻‍♂️.🤮”, I smiled to myself. Knowing these guys have no idea I’m talking about them, to Pippa. She’ll get it.

“Detectives?”, Pippa writes in full words when she’s being sarky.
“Suits!”, not to make too much of a point.

If only she could see these old men looking at me because I’ve got a suitcase and I’m going on holiday. They’re just jealous.

Pippa was telling me about a girl she likes at the cafe she goes to, to read her books. She’s going to do something amazing one day, she keeps telling me. Pippa thinks it’s so amazing she came out to us. You know, decades ago it was something people did, because they had to justify themselves, but you what, these days, no one cares, there are bigger things to worry about. Like the bees, or if some old orange fart is going to push the red button and blow us up, or if I’m too fat, or not clever, or not sporty, or not listening to the coolest tunes on Spotify. But I’m going on holidays, on a plane. This year I’m not going to Margate with Mummy and Daddy. And what Pippa doesn’t get is, she said all this last night.

“☀️☀️☀️”, I replied.

Just then, we stopped at another station. More suits cramming into the carriage. It’s supposed to be summer holidays and there are hundreds of suits queuing to get in. What’s going on? These people are so sad. Why aren’t you at Bognor Regis or Butlins or whatever? Stop cramming in my carriage and bringing down my holiday mood.

“This is nuts. Help me off this nightmare”, I was serious this time. Pippa would pay attention to me this time, in stead of banging on about her new café lover.
“U K?”, Pippa quickly hit back.

Am I OK? Of course not. It’s rammed in here. Standing room only and she asks if I’m ok. I feel like I’m at Butlins at group check in at the hotel. It’s nuts and no I’m not ok.

The train is stuck at a red signal and looks like we are going to be here for a while. I don’t care, cause I got time to kill. But these suits are bricking it, they all want to get off this train and I want them gone, too.

My stop. I’m here at my stop. Right, grab my handbag, carry bag and my suitcase, but I can’t get out of this six-seater. ‘MOVE!’ I’m screaming in my head. I want to scream it out loud, but I don’t want to lower myself to the level of these people. A big lump of a suit is standing in front of me with his headphones on. I have to touch him to get his attention. ‘Ewwww’, is the only thought running through my mind.

The large lump takes a step to the side, but his big fat gut still blocks my escape. No room for me and my suitcase. Three men and a woman start looking at me, surely they know I want to get off this carriage, but they all move about, knocking into each other.

With a wry smile and a cringe, I manage a “Sorry”. Trying to force my way to the door. Then the carriage subtly jolts and the platform starts to move sideways. Uninterested people on the platform begin to glide past the carriage window.

“Stop the train”, I find myself shouting to the bemused suits as the train pulls away from the platform. Goodbye Heathrow airport. Goodbye sandy beaches. Goodbye sunshine. Goodbye, sex on the beach.

This is so unfair. FML.

– Nancy