Sunday, 9 November 2014

Liverpool Street Station

    It’s not often you find a place that brings all sorts of people together. People from every walk of life, from all backgrounds, people with all sorts of futures ahead of them. Think about it. Even in places like libraries, pubs, evening classes, school playgrounds, everyone there has something in common. Possibly the only democratic place these days is a transport hub.  But in a large train station, everyone’s moving, or queueing, or staring at noticeboards. The place to go to watch people is a bar within a train station.

     Down there. Group of men. They’ve been here since at least half past eight this morning, drinking pint after pint after pint. By half eleven, they’re adding chasers. The table’s full of empty glasses, and I can’t imagine for a moment how any of them are managing to stay upright, or even lean without crashing, face first, to the floor. They’re mostly in their mid-40s, clad in t-shirts/polo shirts of cheap, manmade fibres. The oldest member of the group puffs constantly on an e-cig, apart from at thirty minute intervals when he disappears outside for an analogue cigarette. Oddly, sitting with the group is a younger man, dressed in designer jeans, cashmere brown jumper, the collar of a smart shirt poking through the neck hole. Alone of the group, he wears a wedding ring, is very obviously drunk, and seems unsure as to whether he’s going to fall asleep, fall off his chair, or puke next time he yawns.

     Then there are the middle aged couples, sharing a pot of tea, trying to pretend they’re oblivious to the noise and drunkenness around them. Quietly remarking on the quality of the tea cups, pressing lips together tightly as they swallow their (still too hot) tea, anxious not to dawdle in case they miss their train. On the way to the platform, they’ll pass Starbucks and wish they’d gone there instead. Not wanting to be tagged as the sort of person who frequents pubs during the day, they’ll secretly blame their spouse for not suggesting looking for a café, instead of heading into the pub.

      The group of drunk men are at the ‘Meaningful drunk’ stage now. Lots of hand of shoulder deep chat, forefinger thumping into own chest sincerity, and ‘burrano, burrano, burrano, YOU’RE agoodman. Yurra good man. You. You. Are. A goodman.’ They’d make eye contact if they could, but no longer have control of their faces.

     The stag do groups mill around. Men self-consciously wearing top hat & tails, or personalised t-shirts (depending on social class), drinking champagne or pints (again, depending on working or middle class), and seeing who can be rowdiest (ex public schoolboys win hands down). They’ve got half an hour to kill before their train leaves, and they intend to make it count.

     The football fans, scattered around the bar, identifiable by their West Ham shirts. The one group that seems to cover all ages, genders, social classes. From the seven year old girl, squeezing close to her dad as she sips a J20, to the skinny old geezer in his seventies (whom you just know is going to tell someone he’s ‘supported the Hammers for 67 years, man and boy’ in a thin, high-pitched Cockney accent) to the bloke in his forties, modelling the signature ‘Status Quo bald patch and wispy ponytail’ hairdon’t. Some are in large groups, others are on their own, but mostly groups of three or four, having a quick pint or two before the game.

     The tourists. Specifically, the French family next. to me. Mum, Dad, teenage son. No conversation. No eye contact. All three of them instead delicately tapping and swiping phone screens, occasionally sighing to themselves, but not sharing the source of their ennui with anyone other than the people living in their phone. A modern disease. Highly contagious.

     The hipsters. I thought we had a problem with them in certain parts of Norwich. But here, in Liverpool Street station, you can’t move for them. Rolled up skinny jeans exposing bony white ankles, flat caps, winkle pickers. Not a hair left unstyled, not a face devoid of beardedness, not a glass of milk drunk unironically. Trying so hard to be individual that it becomes a uniform.

     The elderly gentleman. Politely asked if he could sit on the other side of the enormous table I’m occupying. He takes out a copy of ‘Europe’ by Jan Morris. But instead, he gazes out, unseeingly, across, the room, his face troubled, forefinger pressed against his cheek, his mind many miles away from the deep leather armchair he sits in. Then, abruptly, the present and immediate world rushes in on him like a wave, and his thoughts are gone. He picks up his book, becomes engrossed for as long as it takes him to drink his pint of real ale. I manage not to cry for the full 45 minutes he sits with me.

     And the baby. The baby in the pushchair, with the family who come in after the French tourists have left. Kicking his legs. Blowing raspberries. Catching my eye, grinning at me, and reminding me of the purity of an infant’s smile. That they expect the world around them to be good, happy, welcoming. That they are secure in the knowledge that they are loved, treasured, precious. The simple innocence of his smile at me, that I reciprocated, even as my eyes filled with tears, knowing I have no memory of feeling that way.

     And then me. A twatty blogger, who’s had too many knocks of late. A twatty blogger who couldn’t bear to meet the people who’ve meant so much to her, in case she was a let-down, was rejected, in case people realised how much of a nothing she was. A twatty blogger whose confidence, never much more than a will o’ the wisp, deserted her. A twatty blogger who gave up, gave in. A twatty blogger   who cried for thirteen hours straight in Liverpool Street station. A twatty blogger who realised she has nothing to offer anyone. A twatty blogger who is a disappointment.   A twatty, fragile, broken blogger who never left the station. 


Nicola Miller said...

Oh no!

Your writing is worth diamonds and rubies compared to the sponsored crap pumped out by most other bloggers.

Seriously- please do whatever you need to do to get that confidence and self esteem back up so it is commensurate with your ability and wit and general bloody good-eggness.

Yours, One Who Knows These Things

Anonymous said...

Sending a really big cotton wool hug. I think you are in need of one xxx

Anonymous said...

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.
It's about learning to dance in the rain.
Huge, warm CW hug xxx

LearnerMother said...

A twatty blogger who was MUCH MISSED by the rest of us twatty bloggers! If I had known I would have come to get you and we could have been twatty together...looking forward to meeting you properly next time round! X

Janey said...

Oh J, that's gutting. Had a funny feeling when I saw your unclaimed badge and twitter silence. The place was heaving with twatty bloggers and I'm sorry you had a shit day. X

Samantha P said...

Oh Lucy Lu! You have no idea how many times Lottie Michelle and I talked about you (in a good way!) and wondered where you were! I have to admit I broke out in shingles during the day from stress even though my mind was telling me it was all a great positive experience. I think you would have appreciated the Think Bombs - especially Francesca Martinez talking about how empowering it is when you realise that no one is normal - check it out on Mumsnet - I think they've put the vid up. Let's have our own mini Blogfest (maybe in the pub in Liverpool St Station? No maybe not :-) ). You were missed and no one has any expectations of how you should behave on the outside because we already know the wavelength you're tuned to and it resonates. Xxx

Lottie Lomas said...

You are not alone; We were all shitting bricks. I had to keep hanging out with the smokers and go outside just to let my armpits cool off (noice).

Next year mrs, we're all meeting up somewhere first, get all 'that stuff' out of the way, take a deep breath, and go in together. Ok?

Lisa J said...

Had I known this at the time, I would have marched out of the venue and gone to forcibly remove you from Liverpool St Station and take you back with me. I really really really wanted to meet you. Your blog is my absolute favourite and you write like a goddess. You great big dick. (that was said with affection, by the way). x

Anonymous said...

I'm glad everyone else has said what I wanted to say. I'm not even a blogger, let alone a twatty one, can't even aspire to twatty blogdom, but can aspire to friendship and hugs whenever required so next time you find yourself in need of a place to hide, text your grumpy old friend. I might just need a partner in hiding. xxxxx

Lucy Benedict said...

You lovely lot, you're making me well up again (but in a good way). I'm fine now, just more than a little ashamed of making such a twat out of myself (and wasting the chance to meet so many of you!). I don't know quite what came over me, to be honest. Worra twat. And yes, a great big dick too ;-)


Lucy Benedict said...

Oh, and I ought to thank the friend who texted me all day, and was the only person who knew what was going on. I think I may have stretched their patience a *little*. So to you, thank you x