As the tube was about to pull out of Balham station, two Australian backpackers jumped in as the doors were closing. The bloke got in fine, but the girl got her bag caught in the door, with her still outside.
She was laughing.
Neither of them tried to pull open the door, which is what you have to do. For a second they seemed bamboozled and then she said "Oh, press the button", still laughing..
She indicated the open door/close door buttons to her friend.
I thought, "That's not going to work now. You have to pull the door - it takes a bit of effort and then jump in quickly. Because they're tourists, they don't know that."
The fella pressed the button. The door opened.
I never knew that. So much for me and all my London knowledge.
They were both still laughing. You know when you're abroad and on holiday and maybe in love, everything is fun. Even travelling on the underground.
I was reading my paper and tuned out. When I tuned in again, the tube was at either Clapham Common or Clapham North, they both look the same. I was aware of a slight commotion. I assumed it must be the Aussies as it was coming from where they'd been standing. But when I looked up there was a fat, slurring English woman drinking a can of Special Brew through a straw. It was an unusual and slightly shocking image even to my jaded London-weary eye.
Though Special Brew is famously the beer of tramps, I don't think she was homeless. But as it was 4 o clock in the afternoon, and given that she chose to drink beer through a straw, and that her beer of choice was Special Brew, I guessed she was an alcoholic. She looked middle aged, but then so would anyone if they drank Special Brew through a straw on Monday afternoons.
She was arguing with a man she was with, who like her was fat and white. He seemed younger. He was wearing a baseball cap and oddly inappropriate sports gear. Probably inappropriate because he had clearly not done any sport at any point in his life. He was also drinking Special Brew. He also chose to use a straw. Saves on any of that strenuous lifting of the can to your lips. He was drunk and lairy, red-faced and petulant.
I don't know where they came from. Possibly they'd got on at Clapham South (or maybe Common if we were at North), maybe they'd been seated further up the carriage and had just got up (as they were in the process of getting off the train. Their conversation was personal, but deliberately confrontational (obviously to each other, but performed publicly in order to intimidate the rest of us.) I only heard the dregs of it.
"You should get a life," said the fat woman drinking Special Brew through a straw at 4pm. Mind you, she was saying it to a fat bloke drinking Special Brew through a straw at 4pm, so she had a point.
"I don't need to get a life," he slurred, "I've got a life. I'm my own boss. I do what I want. I've got the best fucking life in the world."
Hey, maybe he had a point. He was drinking Special Brew through a straw. It beats working.
I presume they were lovers, but they seemed more like mother and son. Though that was possibly only because of the man's strangely inappropriate and juvenile clothing and her premature ageing. They staggered off the train and the man cleverly parodied the announcement being made over the intercom. "Mind the Gash!" he leered to no-one in particular. Even he seemed to get no pleasure from his joke.
The Aussie tourists were still standing there, pretending not to watch. No longer laughing. I felt a bit ashamed to be British and the train headed north.