Meanwhile, back in 1997, on the train to work

The next morning, a long long time later.

I walk to the front of the train looking for an empty four-seater section but no joy and I sit opposite a tired-looking man in a suit. He has dark putty arcs underneath each eye, cumulative lack of sleep. The same old thoughts going round and round have gotten to him. A girl over the aisle is chatting about work and about Christmas eve. Now she is yawning exaggeratedly. This is part of her conversation. Now she’s talking about golfing presents for Larry. When you are older, perhaps people will associate me purely with my pastimes. Perhaps they already do. But if you have no particular hobbies your present becomes ‘smellies’. Or socks. The Asian lady behind her looks more peaceful with a book, but the chatty girl also has an open book, thumb in the crease. The man she is talking at is now responding with one word answers while she gently massages her left index finger.

At Fareham she quickly moves her bag as lots of commuters board. My pack stays right where it is, on the seat to my left. Most people have a tabloid, necks bent forward, reinforcing their entrenched ideas about the world given by fathers with their tabloids. A woman is looking at the TV pages. No, a complete magazine dedicated to TV. TV Quick. TV, quick! The different channels are highlighted with pastel shades. Another man opposite looks vaguely permanently amused so I assume it is to do with me. Another man in cheap thermal gloves and rectangular glasses, light brown jeans and sensible brown shoes. His hair is thinning and his ears are pink from the morning chill. I realise mine probably are too. His interesting feature is his down jacket, not the shiney space age style of the clubber, but matt orange. The Simpsons stare at me from the TV mag. I once thought they were radioactive, that was why they were yellow.

The train moves on through the urban scenery. On boarding, it was dark hedges and shabby woods, green fields and mist. Now its rows of back-to-backs and NO BALL GAMES housing, brightened by coloured panels fading fast. A red brick church, but they didn’t bother with a tower or spire. The crows have gathered in the corner of the football pitch and then we are back to the terraces of houses, viewed from the back as we move south on Portsea Island.


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