The following is based on a conversation that I heard at a train station. Jay
Two women in their fifties arrive on the small suburban train station platform. One is short with a distant smile on her face. She is wearing a light brown rain jacket and black trousers. The other, is tall, wearing a long fur coat that reaches down to her ankles and on her head, she wears a similarly coloured brown Russian-style fur hat. She is wearing bright lipstick and dark mascara under furrowed brows. She looks only ahead. They arrive together through the late 19th century train station building of light brown brick onto the platform.
“Perfecto,” the tall woman says, turning to her left to see the ticket machine.
They buy their tickets and make their way to the platform bridge, a large roofed structure. The tall woman in her long fur coat leads by a few steps and the shorter woman follows with the distant smile on her face as she looked at the few faces of strangers on this quiet mid-day Saturday.
On arriving on the platform for the train to London, they settle on some benches positioned under a long alcove. They occupy the middle of three connected benches. The tall woman leans back, putting down her black handbag. The shorter woman sits on the edge of the bench turned towards her companion.
“I really don’t know what they’re doing over there at Bornewood,” the tall woman said.
Her voice is loud and airy.
“When the energy bills go up, they just won’t manage. There’s no way.”
The short woman give a high pitched titter.
“I asked Janet whether we could organise something,” the tall woman continued, “you know, set-up a room and so on but she said that, no, we’re going to sort everything out. What nonsense.”
“Oh, Caro!” the shorter woman tittered.
“I mean, no-one’s going to pay to come and hear me give a talk,” the tall woman said. “It’s just – it’s just nonsensical.”
Her companion squeaked.
“The trustees have no idea really,” the woman continued. “Someone there, in the management, is a control freak. I don’t know who it is – whether it’s Sally or someone else, but someone there just won’t consider other viewpoints. They’re just tunnel-vision – you know?”
Her companion squeaked excitedly again.
“They’ve got the funding for the building works,” the short woman said. “All they have to do is sort out the administration -”
“Exactly,” the tall woman said. “They got the large funding. It’s – it’s not difficult, really. You just do the administrative bit. You cover the costs of rates, a few staff and so on -”
“And, you can subcontract the cafe,” her companion said.
“Yes, exactly, subcontract all that. Bornewood can’t afford hiring staff – the pensions, wages, benefits and so on. Oh, no, there’s no need for all that. You just contract that out and let someone else deal with that. Imagine how much it would cost if they ran the events, ran the space and a cafe as well.”
The short woman squeaked.
“I haven’t been over there for months,” the tall woman said. “I’m not going over there again. Bollocks to that.”
“We’ll just have to do lovely things,” her friend said.
“Have you been?” the tall woman asked.
“No, not since December – I get the email newsletter and saw that they had received some funding – – I don’t know what for but they had some funding.”
“Well,” the tall woman said, “keep your ear to the ground. Let me know what you hear.”
“I am signed up to the newsletter and I sometimes make my way that way when I go to Firton, so I’ll keep my ear to the ground.”
“Excellent,” the tall woman said. “I’m going to the Isle of Wight next month. I’m staying with Jonathan. He did a very wicked thing. He’s found me accommodation and won’t let me pay for it. What a wicked thing. I said, no, no, I’m paying but he just won’t let me. So, I’ve bought him a book instead. It’s by James Drimble. I know he’ll love it. It’s will be so wonderful to see him again. We haven’t seen each other for thirty years – but, you know, we’ve been in contact. Horses have been our thing. It’s what really connects us, you know. I mean, David and I stay connected but this is different. He loves horses – he has some beautiful Shetland ponies. Just beautiful creatures. It’s what really connects us. It’ll be just perfect. His family is just beautiful. His son’s an engineer on the island doing, you know, engineering stuff. He’s got three children and a beautiful wife. They’re just a wonderful family. The son’s 38 now. I was appalled – you know, 38 – when I last saw him he was 8 years old. How has thirty years gone by? But it’ll be fabulous – I can’t wait.”
“It sounds divine,” the short woman said.
“It was wicked of him – you know, to not let me pay for the accommodation. But, he’ll love the book. I think I might go and move out there, some time, when I’m fed up with Mirford.”
“It’s the horses that really keep me here,” she continued. “I was teaching Fiona how to ride side-saddle on Brent, the other day. Brent is such a sweetheart – a giant, copper sweetheart. He’s so laid back, he’s practically horizontal.”
“Is Brent the one from the riding school?” her friend asked.
“Riding school?” her friend replied. “What riding school? Not at all. It’s Brent. You know, Brent, that I got from that place in Kent?”
“Oh, yes, Brent,” her friend said. “Fiona – they’re – she and her husband seem such a nice couple.”
“Fiona? She is lovely. I find her such nice company. We get along. You know what I mean? You know when you just get along? I think I’m going invite them around for dinner.”
“She’s different to Isla,” the short woman.
“Isla – she’s, she’s”
“She’s like a limpet,” the short woman said.
“Yes, she’s limpet-like. She just, you know, clings to you. She’s depressed.”
“Yes, she gets so close and it’s a bit worrying, you know, she won’t hurt you but – but I think she might hurt herself and have some sort of melt-down.”
“Yes, she has melt-downs. She only lives in a shoe-box of a house – behind the racecourse. All the rooms are less than twelve by twelve. I’ve been there. It’s just terrible – it’s a mess, things everywhere. I went into the kitchen and it was just appalling.”
“She’s harmless really – to others,” the short woman said, “but it’s just the melt-downs and what impact that will have.”
“She did the police officer work. She saw it through that but she’s not working at the moment. You know, she makes knives. That’s her passion – she makes sharp, dangerous things, you know.”
“It’s a bit – a bit concerning,” the short woman said. “Someone like her, who’s got issues, having access to things like that.”
“Well,” the tall woman sighed. “She’s a hoarder. She’s got an awful amount of stuff. You know, I’m clearing out my shed. I’ve pinpointed several things and I’ve said, ‘that’s got to go.”
“Good girl, Caro!” her friend said. “Or, good woman.”
“That bicycle that I had made has got to go. I saw it the other day and said, ‘you’ve got to go.’ It works really well. It’s got twelve combined gears. I went to the shop up on the hill and told them to make it with the twelve gears, as I designed it. The man there said that it wouldn’t work but it did. But it’s got to go. Either at the market or at auction.”
“Good work!” her friend said.
“And next are my skis,” the tall woman said. “The secret service skis will go next.”
The train arrived and the two woman got onto a middle-carriage, next to the train guard’s compartment. They went into the two-seat space and continued their conversation as the train moved on to the next station in its journey to London.