Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Leaving a theatre, film or symposium alone is an odd thing. The desire to discuss the performance, the absence of company, seems to be replaced by an increased purpose of stride, that’s my experience anyway.
And so it was that following a very enjoyable evening at One Man, Two Guvnors (10/10 first half, 7.5/10 second half) I strode purposefully into the McDonald’s on the Strand and right into what I suspected was the ladies toilet. I simply had to go. As I went, a huge belch, of Barney Gumble proportions, came from the cubicle next to mine. A male voice then shouted,
Profanity followed. I was in the ladies with a very drunk, and possibly hostile, drunk man. Perhaps I wasn’t even in the ladies.
I knew the bathroom door was open, and in my confusion about the male/female toilet situation I had made eye contact with a number of diners. I also knew the burping and language would be audible in the restaurant and that I would be a prominent suspect.
I finished my wee, shook, and left the cubicle. A youth with bleached blond hair and a large chain was at the sink splashing his face and neck with water. I decided not to wash my hands (dirty) and quickly left to what I now presume to be the unisex toilets before hurriedly shuffling through the golden arches and back into the night.
The Strand (or is just Strand?) is full of homeless people, one of whom was being fed burgers and coffee by two pretty young girls. Reality was disturbing my post-theatre stride so with added purpose I walked towards Charing Cross Station and down the escalators to the north bound Bakerloo line.
On the last escalator I heard the chanting. I know Millwall had a big win this evening (I checked Twitter at the interval).Great. Second only to ‘Millwall fans after a loss’ when it comes to people you don’t want to meet on a train, Millwall fans celebrating a victory are guaranteed to ruin a late night train journey.
Even as a lifelong football fan, I’ve never been a fan of chanting outside of the ground. It’s clannish, aggressive and, especially when one is trying to read, quite rude. The chanters are in the middle of the platform. I edge towards the top, at least two carriages away from them. The train is due in three minutes. I look down, they are kids, the lot of them, still intimidating though, it’s the chanting, it’s like they’re headed to a lynching, even if I know they’re going home to mum.
I board the train, sit down and relax. I can hear the youths chanting in the distance, but ignore them. At every stop they seem to get closer, like they are changing carriages, like they are looking for me.
A man in his early thirties is sitting opposite me with a woman he clearly has been on a date with. She is dressed like a posh hippy. He’s wearing a shabby suit. He has a poorly groomed beard and a blotchy face. He holds himself with confidence though. Or he may be drunk.
“They are determined to annoy as many people as possible” he says to his date.
Right on brother I think.
The bell rings and the doors close. We are safe for another stop at least.
The man continues a conversation with his girl.
“I was in Café Nero killing time” he begins.
“Hey, what did time ever do to you?”
“Oh” he laughs, pauses, then laughs again saying “very good”, touching her hand as he does so.
He touches her hand. And she likes it.
As I make notes he continues his story and touches her hand again at least one time. Later they’ll kiss and maybe more. There’ll be more dates and for the next few years, perhaps for the rest of their lives, they’ll share a little joke, that neither of them find funny, every time somebody says ‘killing time’.