Monday, 30 August 2010

Fields Divided One By One

I know someone, and I shant name names for he is a litigous so-and-so - but he knows who he is, has repeatedly denied ever eavesdropping on conversations between other passengers on public transport. He would spin this as a symbol of his self-contained & unobtrusive nature and see it as a good habit to have. But its wrong wrong wrong and I’m sure he has missed out on a vast catalogue of half-heard nonsense because of his disinclination to pry. I am personally a fully committed follower of the ‘ha-ha – I know I talk some shite, but that is just ridiuclous’.
Of course, he is wise in one sense as if you don’t keep your wits about you and accidentally vocalise views on the over-heard chatter. For example, if the two girls in front of you on the bus are nattering and listing the flaws in appearance, attitude & intelligence of an unknown & unseen ‘Gabriel’ without at any point indicting that their views were in any way intended for an audience wider than each other, it may cause an awkward moment when you fill in a lull in their chatter to point out to the person you’re sitting beside that “that Gabriel does sound a bit of a hank though doesn’t he?”. Its jolly poor form – and not just in being swayed by such a one-sided & presumably biased take on the fellow’s qualities.
So, I accept that in practical terms it is not always useful – but that doesn’t mean that the aforementioned non-listener is morally justified in his choice. He has convinced himself that it is through sound intentions that he chooses to do this – but it is not. It is clearly because he is a vain, arrogant, ignorant being – who couldn’t possibly imagine some ordinary contributing something that was more involving than his own thoughts. Either way, it is becoming a rare decision in the post-iPod era.

Whilst plentiful advantages of & reasons for the popularity of iPods/mp3 players have been posited : unique storage ability, ease to upload, the bonus of being able to omit the stone-cone ‘flickers’ from albums off entirely, the way that listening through headphones can enhance the music & allow you to pick up on beats, lyrics and sounds that you just don’t notice otherwise , being able to flit between different extremes and genres without having to swap disc, the way they allow you to provide a soundtrack & cinematic element to even the most mundane journeys....but surely the real driving force behind all innovations in this area is to make it easier to detach yourself totally from screffy middle-aged loons cradling small dogs on the 79 trying to chat-up patently unimpressed (though equally canine laden) young girls by rambling on interminably about the various new cross-breed trends that he is soliciting & apparently making “good money, like, very good money” from.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one seeing through his subliminal message ‘luv – if a shitzu/poodle mix is going for £600, what price a semi-Greggs pasty encrusted beard/tracky/cap combo wool bullshitter mixed with a ruthlessly bottle blond , tanned to the max, scornfully short-tempered blousy scouse madam-type eh?’
That was but a 10 minute jaunt too – so the prospect of a 2 hour plus train journey from Morecambe to Liverpool and a ‘packed up’ mp3 player would have filled me with a strong sense of dread if it was not for these honed observational people-listening “skills” and a healthy dollop of nosiness. By any standards though, the over-full , baggage saturated, claustrophobic cafe-coach was a ‘must see’ for sheer oddness

The first to break cover was the bright orange of hue & ‘flamingly camp’ de facto leader of a troupe identifiable from the back of their uniformed garishly green hoodies as “Scottish Street Dance Future 2011”. He was furious. Furious about “everything” but mainly what he protested as the inefficient first-class ticketing policy. From the list of foul-ups he described to the impotent coffee-vendor it did seem as though he & his liege had been handed some pretty dodgy cards along the way, but really, nothing could be done, there had clearly been a mix-up and there were clearly too many people on the train, but it was the same for everyone – although standing up squashed against a wall probably is even less enticing if you’ve just spent the weekend throwing shapes on the cold, unforgiving Glasgow concrete. However valid his grievance, it seemed inherently wrong for this totem, this bastion and advocate of improvisation and will o’ the wisp off-the-cuffism to be reduced to the level of a quibbling fusspot in front of his protégés. Will they be able to take him at face value next time he espouses freedom of expression and lack of respect for the status quo and fusty old-school mores of street dance? Can he be the taboo-busting inciter of street mayhem & busting moves after they’ve heard him say “it’s frankly wrong? We were fully led to believe an upgrade to 1st class was a possibility so planned & packed accordingly – now, we don’t even get a seat. It’s just not on!”?

His concerns were eclipsed shortly afterwards, as Preston beckoned, by a conversation that even the most studiously set-to-ignore ears would have picked up at. The ticket-checking chappie described to the cafe monitor that passengers in coach 2 had overheard (see?!) two girls talking between themselves and the conclusion that had been drawn was that these two were running away from home and had escaped Blackpool without telling their parents that morning. You’d like to think that they both had orange-tipped bindles in the luggage holder, just to add to the effect – and if that didn’t mark them out as runaways the description ticket-man gave – “borth ten or eleven – caked in make-up & borth reading books, you’ll spot them alright” – confirmed all worst fears. He then in a nakedly shithouse move declaimed all responsibility for this by saying that there were police baited on the station at Preston but he’s be at the other end of the train by then so could the poor guy from the cafeteria bit ‘keep an eye on things’

Sadly (especially as by just mentioning it with no conclusion it’s a bit pointless) our carriage’s view of ‘Operation Platform’ was blocked by further additions to our already crammed temporary dwelling. Entering the fray were a very large West Indian woman - with a heroically huge haul of enormous shopping bags which had to be shuttled onto the train one at a time, she then left them in a heap and marched on stand at the other end of the coach – and two strikingly attractive girls in festival-style skimpy clothes and willies. One of these (the ‘fitter one’ to use a scientific term) immediately ordered a coke from the now returned & beleaguered cafe attendant. Then she insisted on having a straw – both were eventually foraged but she was unimpreseesd and unaware of the chap’s previous travails & haranguings described his admittedly drawn-out service as “useless! Abso-fuckin-lutley chao-fuckin-otic!!” which is I have to say very nicely nuanced as sweary rebukes go.
This struck an irate chord with the bonded-through-indignace group further down who took up the reigns of rancour; “and they say it’s the best train in the world” scoffed the dance director – a title I think only he had ever afforded the 12:43 Virgin Trains Lancaster-Wigan service, and one it would struggle to live up to at the best of times, let alone on a packed, hot, argumentative Bank Holiday run.
As we trundled towards my appointed dismount at Wigan, the baggage-heavy lady decided that she now needed her gear to be nearer to her and that the easiest way to achieve this would be to ask everyone else to relay the overflowing bags to her. Despite the now deep-rooted tetchiness and general bemusement at this, everyone chipped in and shuttled them betwixt ourselves with only very minor disgruntlement displayed.
It was testament to the organisational mastery over his ensemble which the dance guru can seemingly summon at will - in the midst even of disarray, in transit, and left me feeling confident that things were going to work out just fine for SSDF’11. But she was quite bossy & if it had been me making these impositions on a group of fed-up strangers I would have been a bit less direct & a bit more polite.

Just as I was about to alight at sunny Wigan this was picked up on by one of the girls who had joined the train at the previous stop (‘the not as hot one’ to keep the same intelligent descriptive system introduced earlier) who asked me “who does she think she is? Did yer hear the way she spoke t’kids?” ....and the only response I could think to give , in a tone of voice that slightly suggested such snooping was somehow above me , was ‘sorry, I didn’t hear...I wasn’t listening to what was going on....’.