A Conversation at the Train Station

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.

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She loves it there – a train conversation

Three women were sat on a train travelling between Guildford and London Waterloo, the day after the first Christmas General Election in the UK since 1923. The right-wing, Brexit-at-all-costs, Conservative Party, lead by Boris Johnson, had won handsomely over the socialist Labour party, of Jeremy Corbyn. The sky was bright and it being mid-morning, the train carriage was sparsely occupied.

Two of the women, middle-aged and white, were sat opposite each other, adjacent to the window, where cricket fields, parks, pubs and a sloping landscape of rows of houses passed by. The third woman was sat in the two-seater behind me. In my peripheral vision, or/and, my imagined projections from her voice, she was in her late fifties, somewhat overweight and from the north of England. It was she that had the ‘coarseness’ to introduce the election results. As they spoke, it became apparent that they were strangers, having met on the train.


What did you think of the election?

Well…. there wasn’t really any other choice – if things were going to get sorted. It couldn’t go on endlessly…

It was getting ridiculous – nothing was getting done – just endless – tooing and froing.

Did you see Nicola Sturgeon – the way she celebrated when Jo Swinson lost-

Oh, I can’t stand her.

She was punching the air and everything. Really going for it – over the top – really bad.

Can’t stand her.

That Jo Swinson’s lost her seat, hasn’t she. Embarrassing, isn’t it? The leader, losing her seat. Mind you, not surprising, really. She wasn’t really up to much. She really was out of her depth.

Just glad it’s over – and things can get done.

And Jeremy Corbyn’s going to have to go too.

Oh, he had no idea. No idea whatsoever. Far too extreme.

I’m just glad it’s over. Don’t have to have it going constantly and, hopefully, things will get done. I’m going away over Christmas and the New Year and I, you know, bought the currency thinking that the rates might get worse but now I’m kind of regretting it!

Oh, where are you going?

New Zealand.

How lovely.

Yeah, my daughter lives out there, so we – me and my husband – try to go out and see her once a year – or she comes over. She’s been living there for three years now.

What does she do there?

She’s a teacher – she absolutely loves it. She loves it there. She works in a primary school and it’s a doddle – well, not a doddle – but she really enjoys it – doesn’t find it stressful. You get much more freedom there. You can take the kids on little trips, choose how you teach – the activities – there’s a curriculum, of course – but it’s so much more flexible. Much less stressful than here where you’ve got all the marking and exams. It’s really nice there.

Yeah, my son’s out in Malaysia, working for an advertising agency, and he’s besotted with the place.

Malaysia, really?

Yeah, he went out to Australia when he spent a year travelling and he just loved it. He met a girl and, you know, they got together and eventually decided to settle in Malaysia. He gets paid well. Really well. And she’s got a good job too. Me and my husband haven’t been yet but we’re planning too. He comes over now and again.

Its spreading wings, isn’t it? It’s hard as parents – but, then you want the best for your children and if they can have a great life – or a better life – they’ve got to take it.

Yeah, my son kind of moved out in stages – so we didn’t have the moment – you know – when they pack up and leave. He would go over every so often and come back and, then, eventually, decided to stay. Our youngest son’s got interested now. He’s talking about Sydney – he’s been once with, you know, friends. He’s going to go travelling once he’s finished Uni, so we’ll see, but he’s always talking about Sydney.

I have a friend who’s just moved there, actually. They’re moving with their young kids and everything. She got made redundant and decided to take the leap.

Oh… you don’t know Zania, do you?

Yes, Zania! That’s who I’m talking about. How do you know her?

We used to work together at an NHS centre. We worked together doing admin and things like that. We’re still in touch – and I was just thinking, I know someone who’s moved to Sydney.

Oh, how funny. Yeah, Zania. She’s hilarious. Not intentionally but – just the way she is – the things she says. Oh, how funny.


The conversation turned to work and mutual acquaintances between the two women. The older woman, sat behind me, fell silent. As the train pushed on towards London, the two new acquaintances parted ways, promising to look out for each other in Epsom. They left the older woman by wishing her grandchildren well. At some point, she too left the train before it reached its destination.

 

 

 

He loves me, I know he does.

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(Credit: Rebecca Siegel/Flickr)

‘He loves me, I know he does. He has his own way of showing me how much…’

‘It was that waster boy from next door.’

She had heard his low voice from downstairs, between her husband’s. He would always cheerfully say hello when she was gardening in the front yard. Tall and bulky, you could not miss him swaying down the road and sometimes, when he stopped to talk, she smelt the alcohol in his breath and saw it in his eyes. An alcoholic, his mother had said, eyes welling as they stood over the fence with the sprawling jasmine plant.

‘How are you feeling?’ her husband said, standing by the bed.

‘OK.’

‘If it was broken, it would hurt much more,’ he repeated once again. ‘It’d be unbearable – here, have some more.’

She wriggled to sit up on the bed and took the plate from him. He came closer and examined her face.

She was grateful for something to do and began to eat slowly. She felt light, as if she could never feel pain again. All was silence save the scraping on the plate. Her husband stayed with her.

‘The baby wasn’t hurt,’ she thought, feeling her stomach under the duvet. ‘Thank you, God. Thank you, God.’

Her husband sat in a chair nearby. He gritted his teeth but he too felt light. The baby was safe and he cared for his wife. Beneath the bottled rage, he was a good man. And, he was not afraid of her – he was sitting looking at her, head bowed, eating.

She held out the half-finished plate. As she wriggled back under the duvet, he had a notion. If he was not afraid, he could touch her. He stood over with his face held together.

‘Can you feel him?’ he asked.

It came out gruff.

‘Let me feel him.’

She lifted up the duvet and felt his hand on her abdomen. He was touching her and started to smile.

‘Is he kicking?’

She shook her head, closing her eyes to be alone with her joy.

‘Please, God,’ she was saying to herself.