I was travelling by train from Newcastle to London. Returning, with my daughter, from our regular summer visit. The journey up had been pleasant, save for the foghorn voice of a woman, seated three seats away. She’d opened her mouth at King’s Cross and proceeded to interrogate a sculpture student; all the way to Northallerton, she boomed.
After the poor girl departed, her attention switched to an older woman on her right. At Durham, a taxi was booked. She gave the carriage her most intimate details: telephone number, house number and mobile phone. She lived a stones throw from my mothers. So as we left, I checked her out. There was nothing to distinguish her from the other seventy two or so strangers leaving the carriage; nothing familiar about her at all.
Foghorn Leghorn was not missed on our return. A journey that began quietly, but all that changed at Darlington. Two twenty something girls sat down in the seats facing. They talked incessantly about things that people like me have no interest in: a long deconstruction of the previous nights drinking session, was followed by mid-priced cars, and then their planned eventual destination, Gay Paree .
Girl one ran through the cities four most popular tourist attractions: The Arc de Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower , Champs-Élysées and Notre Dame . Not to be outdone girl two chanted mussels, snails and frogs legs. She confessed to having only tried mussels recently, but was expecting to be awash with gastropods and amphibians. The cliché about frogs legs tasting like chicken somehow fond it’s way into the mix, and I was reminded once again of Foghorn Leghorn, who’d waxed lyrical about the taste of human flesh. Cooked it tasted like pork she boomed; and there went another certainty – I’d always thought burning human flesh smelt like pork. But I digress.
Paris with it’s Arch de Triumph and frogs legs, gave way to banter about boys in their favourite bar. One, a devilishly handsome fellow; was so good looking he had no use for chat-up-lines. Presumably the less visually pleasing males collected his discarded dialogue, the way tramps pick choice dog-ends from the ground. Handsome Jack also has a car that he lovingly tends. Something more expensive than a Fiat or Nissan. Something German. He’s spoken to girl two; which in her world of looks, glances and vodka shots, amounts to a declaration of love.
As on the outward journey, I glance at my loud travelling companions when they leave the train. I see what Handsome Jack sees: a pair of ordinary twenty something’s, lively and full of life, but not really his type. Buried in their barroom banter was a rejection, delivered by a consummate professional. A man used to letting a girl down easy.
And oh how I wish Agents and Publishers were the same as Handsome Jack. But instead of a soft landing; I get two sentence e-mails that speak of tough markets and insufficient enthusiasm. I have no drink to soften the impact, no choice of others, more sculpturally challenged.
I have a bar on a Monday night, when the after-work crowd has thinned out. The staff are making a meal of polishing glasses. Later a cleaner comes in and sweeps away all those discarded chat-up-lines. Maybe I’ll pick one before it’s swept away, and save it for a rejection day. Maybe some day I’ll use it, and get lucky. Maybe.