He clicks the side button of his phone and its screen turns black. His carriage is empty, save for a couple of IT goons who he vaguely recognizes. They carry the regulation rucksack: the type people use for mountaineering; for carrying laptops, and sandwiches and crap fantasy novels.
They wear North Face jackets and number two haircuts. One has grown a beard; it makes him look like a homeless man. Both wear dark synthetic looking ties; both stare mutely at mobile devices. It’s a static scene until the bearded one presses his handset, and the other reacts.
Penrith, Cumbria. Says the one without the beard as they pull into South Hampstead.
More people board. School kids and a second set of goons in anoraks. Three women occupy two seats of four. A lone blue-collar dumps a heavy bag, which rattles. The school kids hang close to the door. They are oversized and uncoordinated. Potentially rowdy; but subdued. Because its morning he supposes.
As they pull out of South Hampstead, they pass a deserted office building. The words chaos and disorder have been daubed across two of its windows. Blessed are you who are poor, fills a third.
They are moving slowly, shunting towards a red signal. He catches sight of something gold and sparkling; it’s draped around one of the windows. The remainder of the building is boarded-up. An official sign reads twenty four hour security; it’s accompanied by a stencil of a uniformed security man and a tethered, vicious looking dog.
Red becomes green. The train accelerates and the building disappears. Outside pass well maintained gardens, and back-yard extensions. Sloped, slate-grey, roofs and a naked human washing. Then more featureless building, Edwardian High Streets, and narrow traffic choked roads.
The carriage is a-buzz with conversation. One of the school kids leans out of an imaginary punch. While another casts sly glances in a women’s direction. Blue-collar is sleeping. Sleeping off the night-shift, or a night of carousing, or night he’d prefer to forget. And goon one and goon two are at play.
At Kilburn High Road: he thinks of Kilburn and the High Roads; Ian Drury’s old band. He sees that strange procession of people lurching onto the small stage at The Tally Ho. He sees the Saturday morning pantomime of glass, scattered outside on Fortess Road. He sees the group of seven or eight young lads who chased him half the way to Tufnell Park.
He looks at his mobile phone again; nothing.