3 Mar

The six-thirty to London comes to a halt – pneumatics hiss, doors swing open. Men in grey flannel suits, camouflaged business attire, mount the morning steed and head to concrete jungles far from suburban greenery. With mortgages on their minds, the nameless, faceless, warriors of economic boom-and-bust climb into regular seats next to familiar-faced strangers. With a tip of the hat, a crinkle of the mouth, they wish silent good mornings to ‘old whatshisname’ whom they should have known, considering they’d sat next to the same perfect stranger for the past five years. Thermos flasks are opened and luke-warm coffee is enjoyed between mouthfuls of pressed-meat and fish paste sandwiches.

The doors close and the train moves forward.

Newspapers are spread and folded to desired locations – crossword puzzles, sports pages, the prime minister’s questions and lack of answers. Depthed in individual worlds of commuter bliss, the gentlemen of commerce prepare themselves for the thirty seven minutes to Paddington – barring of course derailment and leaves on the track!

The train has been cleaned but you can still smell the bleach from where the night porters washed away vomit and piss from the previous evening’s downtown revelers. Nothing like the inner city to bring out the beast – what happens in London stays in London, unless of course it’s left on the train on the way home. The empty kebab wrappers and fish and chip papers have long since ben removed by persons unknown with a basic grasp of the English language; men and women thankful for the opportunity to pursue a future in this other Eden.

 The leather-backed chairs bear mute witness to star crossed lovers, footballing rivals and pen-knife poets. The indelible verse goes unread by the daily commuters.

Graffiti on an otherwise perfectly good leather seat will incur the ire of the train manager who at some stage will have to invest taxpayer money to repair the damage

“Mick loves Charlotte,” but the grey-suited bowler-hatted gents will never share their joy. Their minds’ eye is focused on distant financial horizons; the love affair announced to the world and staring them literally in the face remains anathema. Mick may love Charlotte, but the world really doesn’t give a damn.

Bloody stupid anyway! What’s the point? What are they looking for – immortality on a train that’s twenty years past its replacement date? Eternal love scratched into substandard leather. The gents with the newspapers turn their pages in unison and concentrate on two-up two-down rather than what’s scrawled across the seat-back in front of them.



2.ACROSS: Position taken up some distance away.

2.DOWN: Nice day contaminated with such poisons.


It’d been a Friday night down at the Bull and Bush – the local disco where the kids could hang out, drink their underage pints, and fondle each other outside in the car park. That was where Mick had first seen Charlotte.

A vision in taffeta and blue eye shadow, a sixteen year old woman of the world pretending to be eighteen going on thirty five. Liked them a bit younger did Mick, and this one had taken his fancy. The way the strobe light caught her in mid dance made her appear as if she was carved in marble. A virgo intacta, a monument to the virtues of womanhood petrified on a beer-sticky dance floor. The sparkling mirror ball screwed to the ceiling accented the glitter in her hair; the blond highlights from the do-it-yourself hair dye kit flashed in the darkness. He’d done the usual, offered to buy her a drink in the hope that it would lubricate the knicker elastic of her Saint Michaels. Three rum-and-blacks later and a slow dance to a top forty favorite and they were soul mates.

 As they lay in post-coital bliss, after consummating their undying love, their names dripped in condensation hearts off the rear window of the second hand Ford Cortina – fogged up windows that bore testimony to their eternal affection.

He who dares wins and he who plays pays. Wedding bells and confetti righted the wrong and the three of them moved into her mother’s. Not much to write home about but there again Mick had never been a man of letters. His job stacking tins down at the local supermarket kept him busy enough. Shelves filled with beans and spaghetti necessary to satiate the needy that plied the store to lay waste to Mick’s nightly labors; a population desperate for Italian cuisine and cheap heat-in-the-microwave dinners.

Connoisseurs who at the touch of a button, and with thirty seconds of RF radiation, could recreate the essence of the Mediterranean.

Not much of a job, but about as much as Mick could handle. With the baby and the wife there wasn’t a lot else to spend his money on. Friday nights down at the Bull and Bush were a thing of the past, now it was Friday T.V.  Game shows with the ever present parents-in-law. A house with one bathroom and paper-thin walls meant that all carnal activity was common knowledge. The short, sharp, tap of the headboard hitting the wall and the grunts of his mother-in-law in the room next door were hardly conducive to a successful love life, especially when the disco princess lying next to him looked more like her mother every day!

A year of dirty nappys and a manager that he’d swing for, boiled his piss and cooked his bile. It wasn’t the fact that the shepherd’s pie had been overcooked or that once again the baby had vomited on one of his favorite t-shirts. It was a combination of things – It was everything.


“Much too much, much too young. You’re married with a kid when you should be having fun with me…”

The Specials.


Memories of an easier life and a pocketful of cash raced through his mind as he pounded his fist into the face of his truly beloved – her split lip and blood-soaked dress sealed the covenant that would ensure ever lasting purgatory. As the police officers dragged Mick from his home, their night sticks smashing his teeth and bruising his eyes, he remembered happier days when a trip to London had resulted in scratched posterity on the back of a rail carriage seat.


The train pulls to a stop and the cloud of grey and black suits stand to attention and head for the exit.

“Tickets gentleman, please,” calls the conductor searching for errant free loaders as they try to exit without paying. Looking around the empty carriage, the blue uniformed inspector checks for dropped wallets and forgotten brief cases. There was always something to help supplement the stipend British Rail kept him on. Picking up a newspaper he peruses an unfinished crossword, clicks his tongue, reaches for his pen, and fills in the missing letters.






His eye catches the etched leather and replacing his pen he takes in the love heart knifed into the seat.

 “Bloody vandals!” It wasn’t as though he didn’t have enough to worry about, without some stupid, bloody-kids tearing up the place.

N.B. Slashed seat affairs is a lyric from THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT by THE JAM



  1. Steve Green March 4, 2012 at 4:31 am #

    Very gritty, true to life writing Colin, it certainly doesn’t pull any punches.

    2. Across- Stance.
    2. Down-Cyanide.

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