Tag Archives: british

The occasional joys of being a sardine

29 Sep

I thawed like a big block of ice on a hot day.

Two loud Americans were sat next to me on my journey home. Producing a shelves worth of cereal bars and flapjacks (out of an apparently bottomless bag) and loudly examining their contents. “How much fat? Is nothing in this country HEALTHY?”

Beside from being bemused at the irony of their large shapes and their quest to find something healthy (did the two words ‘snickers’ and ‘flapjack’ on the packaging not say something?), inside I was sighing.

Half an hour of THIS? I had chosen the wrong darned carriage.

I was being the typical London Ice-Queen commuter

I’m not quite sure how it happened – but along with the other Ice Queen and King sat with us, I ended up being embroiled in their conversation. Within minutes I was sharing a recipe on healthy breakfast flapjack (that I’d never made), laughing at stories of their holiday, and discussing the delights of British confectionary! Not only that but I’d been introduced to the Mother in Law, Husband, daughter and sister that were spread across the carriage.

I didn’t want to get off!

But that was unusual.

Packed like sardines we journey to work. A carriage full of lives, swimming with memories, problems, excitement, despair. We sit with the closeness of good friends yet avoid communication. Pushed together by lack of space and the only known thing in common is a mutual un-knowingness of one another.

Sometimes I play a game – imagining people’s mornings, conversations, hobbies, how they like to spend their weekends and what makes them laugh.

I’m a straight face hidden behind a paper, a book or folded hands. Nameless and unknown. Another traveller.

My journeys generally fall into two categories: Bad or average. The only ‘good’ journeys are the ones shared with friends, or funny tourists who blissfully unaware of our staunch British etiquette.

Last night, on the half hour train journey home, Chloe and I laughed until our sides hurt, forgetting passengers around us and the ‘hush be quiet’ unspoken London rules.

We were carelessness children laughing at ‘in jokes’.

I wasn’t watching for rolling eyes or dagger stares, oh I bet there were a few. I was having fun. Only now do I wonder whether those unknown and unnamed people saw something of me – a little piece of character, a glimpse of Anna, an insight to add to the straight face they often see.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself.

I will be more than polite. I will be more friendly. More… human. You won’t find me speaking to every commuter in my carriage (for I would probably end up with a carriage all of my very own). Instead I will not be afraid to smile and engage.

I challenge you to do the same!

Focus on the journey and see what happens. See if you can find joy in the doing as well as the finishing.

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes


Let’s pretend

19 Sep
The crunch of autumn leaves underfoot
I feel like a child
Let’s go into the garden
And play.
Throw armfuls of
Leafy confetti
Into fresh country air.
A winter wedding
An autumn snowstorm
Pass me my green wellies
Caked in muddy memories,
Help me find a sturdy branch
A ‘walking stick’
An explorers pole
Hold my hand.
Tell me stories of squirrels
That throw nuts
From trees
On unsuspecting passers by,
And hibernating doormice
Who curl under robes of leaves
Awakening when dew no longer threatens
Take me through familiar fields,
Past the stables and down
Into thick woods
Where our roads are
Hardened mud tracks
Cloaked in crunching
Carpets of brown
And burnt orange
Let’s climb stiles
Get stuck in mud
And laugh until our sides ache
Cows looking on
As we offer gloved hands
To pull each other out
We can meander home
When our legs ache
Or our noses turn Rudolph red,
To eat eggs and toast
In front of the spitting fire
As we watch flames dance
And lively coals jump
Onto the stone hearth
But here
The streets of London offer
Crunching leaves
Under work shoes and suited legs
Grown-up responsibilities
And laughter
Of course
But lacking that
Carefree tone
So Mum
May we come home
For a weekend
Leave our grown-up lives
Put on muddy wellies
And pretend

Goodbye airs and graces. Goodbye British-ness

14 Sep

I have seen three couples arguing in the streets today. Three! Not just having tense conversation in stage whispered tones. But arguing, really arguing. Picture the girl crying, tears and snot streaming. Ranting passionately, angrily, whilst the bloke is standing there (in one case) arms outstretched in confusion as to why his girlfriend feels it appropriate for such a display of emotion in a such a public place.

Why couldn’t she wait until we got home? Or at least drag me down a side street for some privacy. Where are these tissues all girls are meant to carry around in their ridiculously large bags. This is embarrassing.

And it made me think.

What is it about arguing outdoors, in clear view of people? Us Brits who blush at the thought of a wardrobe malfunction or a huge, angry, red spot. Who would, on a normal day, do everything in our power to avert glares and chatter from passers-by. Passion, that’s what it is! Despair and anger that seem to override social awareness and the ability to go red in the cheeks.

But there’s something about the vulnerability of a girl’s tears and shouts being displayed so publicly. And the thing is, it was never meant to happen that way! I imagine they set out for an enjoyable day of sightseeing, until hormones or late busses, downpours of rain and tired feet turn words into accusations and ‘final straws’.

I don’t know why I’m siding with the men on this one! Maybe it’s because these blokes seemed so unsure and surprised by this display. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl, and yes I’ve been there. That sense of urgency and despair, the lack of brief questioning as to whether this is really the time or place (albeit neither), the poor guy trying to satiate me whilst I make an unabridged public display. The tissues? I didn’t even bother looking.

Once the sobs subside and the post bawl headache kicks in. So do the red cheeks and the fear that someone you know may have seen you. The British-ness returns and you promise yourself that you will never ever do that again.