“‘Ello?” growled the voice to the left of me. “It’s me. Yeah, alright?,” the bloke continued into his phone. “They tried to nick me for armed robbery.”
My eyes jerked open.
It was Friday evening. I’d escaped the kids and all domestic chores and was blissfully heading into north London to see a play with my Irish cousin and partner. After a rather intense week of my two putting up with only each other for company, I decided to do some mindfulness meditation based on the Headspace approach (more on that another time).
The train journey is quite short but normally dead quiet. It is a commuter line after all. Depending on the time of day, it is usually chock full of weary city workers avoiding eye contact by burying their heads in their phone/kindle/newspaper. But tonight I was going against the commuter flow on an all-stopper train making, as it turned out, for a much more colourful journey.
“Only a week before me birthday as well!” the twenty something went on. “Last year I was inside for me birthday“, he complained with a wry smile.
Was this guy serious, I wondered? I looked around at the woman next to me plugged into her headphones, expecting a facial reaction but got not a flicker from her eye. “Why on earth would you advertise that on the train to everyone,” I mused? But then I realised I was stupidly applying middle-class mum logic and quickly adjusted it to the world this guy clearly lived in: this was evidently something to boast about.
The word ‘shifty’ was about to float across my brain when he sprang up and bounced down to the train doors for the next stop. Enough said.
I returned to shutting my eyes and attempted to imagine sunlight filling my body, starting with the top of the head. The train stopped, doors opened, the sound of shuffling of feet and general Friday evening banter floats in. I can do this, I think determinedly.
“Absolutely NO ONE is taking French GCSE next year!” pronounces a young, cut glass accent. My curiosity totally wins over and my eyes re-open; I am far too nosy for my own good.
Two dark-haired girls have plonked themselves down in the seats in front of me, followed by violin cases and school rucsacks. Dressed in exactly the same items of school uniform, from their regulation coats to their dowdie shoes, I guess they are a year or two older than my daughter from a private school (their regulation rain coats inconveniently covered the school emblem on their blazers). Only girls at private schools wear such tightly regulated uniforms. My daughter’s friends wouldn’t be seen dead in a school regulation raincoat – or any coat for that matter.
“Well, almost no one,” she clarified. “Only four people are doing it as they have parents who are from abroad or something. Absolutely NO ONE likes Mrs X and people muck about” she went on.
As a newbie state secondary school parent, my ears pricked up at this. One of the things I’ve been learning to adapt to this year is the vast difference in ability of teachers at her school. Some are excellent, some average, and some clearly struggling to master the art of handling disrespectful, boisterous 12 year olds. To hear that parents who are paying thousands of pounds a year for their daughters’ education are still getting average or even incompetent teachers was actually a bit of a relief, if not also rather depressing….
“Geography’s really boring these days,” replies the other girl. “I end up doodling most of the time.” The conversation drifted loudly onto every other subject except school work. I zone out.
Attempting to resume my meditation, my eyes are arrested by a silver haired lady sitting in the same seat that Mr Shifty has earlier occupied. Before you think I’m hopeless at focussing, let me explain what she was wearing and you’ll have a bit of understanding. Her trousers were a bright orange patterned affair, her shoes red, her jacket another hue of orange, her hair a cropped silver, and on top of that sat a stylish red peaked hat. The whole thing was finished off with matching red lipstick. My initial reaction was ‘Yikes! Those colours together” followed by warm admiration at her boldness and “Who gives a stuff?’ attitude. I decided that she’d written her own version of that famous poem and called it “When I am old, I shall wear orange and red.” Respect.
Returning to my meditation, the imaginary sunlight reaches only as far as my left elbow before I hear the announcement for my stop. I concede that it may not have been the most successful attempt at visualisation meditation, but you couldn’t fault it for being mindful 🙂
As I get off the train, I see two black twenty something girls sitting opposite each other threading each other’s eyebrows.
Who ever said train rides were boring?