Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Man on the Train

As the part of the train starting in Bournemouth pulled up, I went well up to the front, and waited by a door; it was my intention to travel in the quiet carriage, a very necessary precaution on such a long journey.  A little man approached and stood close by to me.  I inspected him out of the corner of my eye – he was a short fairly plump man, smartly dressed in a green tweed jacket and trousers with a lambswool brown jumper, check shirt, and tie.  He had little hair, being completely bald on the top of his head, but with short dark hair, with a short curl around the back and sides.  He was, I guess, in his mid to late fifties, and had a slight twinkle in his eye, rather reminding me of a short and plump version of Christopher Lillicrap.  I rather liked him, in the distant way necessary for those one meets on journeys.  He looked at his watch and tutted and then looked meaningfully at me.  It was exactly the time the train was due to depart. 
“Oh,” I said, “they won’t open the doors until the other part of the train arrives from Bournemouth.  I think it is running a minute or two late.  Once it gets here, they will attach it and let us on”.
“I am going to London,”he answered “Where are you going?”  I was slightly taken aback by the directness of the question. 
“London as well.”  I replied slightly curtly in order to convey a reluctance to converse, while still being polite.
“Do you live there?  I do.  I just came down for the day.  I went to Boscombe.  I walked there.  It seemed nice in parts, but I think I like Bournemouth better.  What are you doing for Christmas?”  Here was a rather dangerous question.  Clearly this man was rather eccentric, and I could see I would have difficulty in avoiding him.
“I have not really thought about it yet”, I answered rather untruthfully.
“I am coming down here.  I like it here.  It will be nicer than London.  I like the idea of having Christmas at the coast, and I have never had the opportunity to do it.  I have been thinking about it all year, and finally decided to do it.  I do hope it is the right thing.”  He stopped talking and clutched the right lower side of his chest.
“Are you alright?”
“I am having some chest pains.  I have had two heart attacks you know.”
“Oh, I should think it is not a heart attack.  It is the wrong side of the chest.  Perhaps you suffer from angina, or have you overdone it today?”  I felt mildly alarmed, but it seemed that there was nothing majorly wrong.  The other part of the train approached the platform. 
“Oh yes, I get angina sometimes.  And I did rush here from the beach to get the train.  I think I was too fast.  That must be it.”
“Do you have some tablets or spray for your angina?”
“I have GTN spray for under my tongue, but that never helps.  I will just have to get by and hope it is nothing major.”
“Well, maybe you should use the spray, as it might help.  Perhaps it would be good to sit down and rest and see how you are before you get the next train.”  I felt fairly sure there was nothing wrong with him, but was vaguely worried, and, I am ashamed to say, more worried at the prospect of having this man talk to me on a two hour forty five minute journey.  As the trains coupled with a jolt, I was wondering if I would be able to put my headphones on in an effort to dissuade him.  The train doors opened, and I stepped back and gestured for him to get on first.
He got on and started to make for the right.
“Which way are you going?” he asked.  I hastily turned to the carriage on my left (not my first choice!) and answered
“I was going this way.”  To my horror, he turned and followed.  I hastened into the carriage and took a seat in an airline arrangement further up the carriage.  He stopped and sat at a table setting about four rows away.  This was excellent – we would not be able to talk (and I put my unwanted headphones on to ensure this was the case), but I could see him, and hasten to his aid if he did appear to take ill.  Furthermore, a woman with a crutch came and sat on the table opposite him.
Feeling vaguely guilty lest he really was ill, and also for rebuffing his attempts to be friendly, I managed to find some music I felt in the mood for (Elgar’s Music Makers) and turned to the book I had started reading – A Room With a View.  The irony of reading this book at that time was not lost on my, and I felt myself wondering how Miss Bartlett would have dealt with such a passenger.  I could see him chatting to the woman quite a bit, and pitied her a little. 
The train was fairly quiet.  A rather prim young woman, who had hugged a man who looked like her father had got on with a small vanity case of the sort I thought had vanished decades ago.  She opened it and took out a make-up case, and began liberally applying make-up.  The man and woman were chatting as the guard came along, and I paused my music to hear what was happening.
“This man is having chest pains”.  The guard stopped and sat down.
“I remember you – you were taken ill on the train near Basingstoke” he said.  I realised that perhaps this man was a repeat offender.  He sat there holding his chest.
“I have some tea in my flask.  Would you like some?”  The woman took a flask out.
The guard asked the man if he wanted him to arrange help for him at Brockenhurst, but the man refused and said he wanted to get home to London.
“I am going to Brockenhurst” said the woman.  “I can keep an eye on him.”
The guard told them to be sure to summon him, or use the passenger alarm if the man worsened, and said he would look in on the man, who said, disappointingly, that his name was Keith.  Keith sat sipping tea and looking sorry for himself, while the woman looked very worried indeed.  I decided to keep quite an eye on things, rehearsing in my mind what I would do if he collapsed.

To be continued..........

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