Saturday, 26 March 2011


I’m on a train travelling between Reading and Oxford sitting between two men who are clearly nuts.

One of them is somewhere in front of me along the carriage loudly engaging a hapless young man from the armed forces in conversation. The other is somewhere behind shouting even more loudly down his phone. It is impossible to tune out. Believe me, I’m trying.

“Oh yeah!” Booms the first man, “The power of those Tornados, it’s just incredible, I used to live near RAF Lyneham in Norfolk, and I’d watch them coming in to land.”

There’s a low reluctant murmur of ascent from hapless young guy from the armed forces.

“She nearly pooed herself when I told her!” yells the second man on the phone behind. And then, after a pause in which the person on the other end is clearly saying something, “Yeah! When he grows up he’ll learn the truth about his dad."

And after another momentary pause,

“Yeah! He’s two!”

I would like them to be quiet. I've had a very stressful morning. Two hours ago I didn’t even know I was going to Oxford today. I’ve had to pull some last-minute childcare out of the bag: not for my own three, who are all busy until after four o’clock when their father can take over, but for a three year-old and his brother and sisters who are under my charge until this evening because their parents are away.

Against all the odds I’ve actually made it on to this train from Reading, where I had to change, to the last leg of a journey that has so far included overcoming the suspension of the Bakerloo line and a fatality on the track outside Paddington Station. Now, at last, I’m hoping to relax.

I look at my watch, the meeting started ten minutes ago and I’m about twenty minutes from Oxford where I will have to get a taxi.

I close my eyes.

“Yeah! Those fighter jets based out there in Norfolk are incredible!” Comes the first voice from somewhere in front.

“She really looked like she was going to poo herself when I told her!” Yells the second man from behind down his phone.

“I can’t stand this anymore.” Says a third voice from somewhere very close behind my head.

I open my eyes.

“I’m going to have to kill them,” says the third voice. It is low and male and very menacing.

Is he talking to me?

“If I have this all the way to Manchester I am definitely going to have to kill them both, but especially that one...”

He is not talking to me; he is talking to himself. Out loud.

“He's an idiot,” he continues. “There are no Tornadoes at RAF Lyneham. And I happen to know that for a fact.”

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