bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Platform Game

Dear Rachel,

I know a girl who went on a date with a bloke last year – an internet date, actually – and she said that he’d been basically nice, despite turning up quite late (he’d cycled across town to West Kensington) and appearing irritable and distracted throughout. Towards the end of the evening, while she was talking about her work, he said ‘I’m sorry to have to interrupt you, but I think I’ve broken my arm’ which, after she’d driven him to casualty, it turned that he actually had, after falling off his bike on the way over.  This neatly explained the lateness, irritability, and distraction at a stroke.  I would on principle marry any girl who made several hours of polite chit chat before revealing that they were nursing a more than slightly severe and traumatic injury, and I was saddened to learn that the relationship lasted only another two or three dates before fizzling out.

I am a man who spends a great deal of time browsing in bookshops and standing around in train stations.  As you can therefore imagine, I’m getting a bit cheesed off with Match.com’s television advertising being hell bent upon making these places a kooky haven for watery middle class girl-women and their neutered-at-birth suitors.  I’ve never internet dated, but I can certainly see how it might be a larf and should circumstances arise I’d probably have a pop at it myself – and what a winning ticket that will be for some luckless damsel in the lottery of love.   Rather than pay Match subscription rates, though, I’d probably cut out the middle man by going to an Elbow gig – Elbow are Coldplay for Guardian readers, in case you are unfamiliar – and grabbing a Sophie or Laura or Katherine at random.   I think I said once before that Match.com should change their tag line to ‘Please Get A Mortgage With Me While I’m Still Fertile’, but with this new wave of advertising, they should perhaps try ‘A Pretty Girl You’d Like To Punch’.

Be that as it may, I am the only heterosexual man to include Sleepless In Seattle, Bridget Jones’ Diary (not the sequel), Love Actually and Four Weddings And A Funeral among their very favourite films. I am partial to a good romcom because – and prepare for your eyebrows to raise themselves entirely off your face and hover several feet above your head with incredulity at this point – I am quite the romantic myself, on the extremely quiet.  Taking that into consideration, it is not perhaps too surprising to learn that I’ve actually done something vaguely similar to one of the Match ads. It was in I think early 2002 at Reading station, awaiting the 07.15 to Paddington.

When I look back at my working life, I just remember running pubs and then working the markets, but there was a curious six year episode betwixt the two where I was a telecoms data engineer – a job so profoundly arcane that I would struggle to describe it in any further detail and still make sense.   During this with hindsight slightly strange interlude there was was a girl – I can hardly remember anything about her now, but she was about 24 I should think – who would wait every morning by the newsagents on Platform 5, with the look of boredom and bewilderment often associated with someone contemplating a lifetime of employment in a field they only really studied because it seemed safe.  Accountancy or something.   Anyway, this was in the middle of winter, and she always looked very cold, despite scarf and hat and huge coat and all that. I don’t know why I decided, entirely out of the blue, to get her coffee one morning, other than that she really did always look very cold indeed and – and this is a hard thing to describe – I somehow felt that it’s the sort of thing you should just do at least once in your life.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t really trying to have a go on her.  She just seemed like she might be a bit of a larf, if she could just stave off hypothermia long enough.

I never want to be in a house with a Gaggia in it, so when it comes to coffee, I am strictly a Gold Blend man.  It’s called ‘Gold Blend’ for a start, which they wouldn’t be allowed to do if it wasn’t the very best you could buy, and it goes well with shortbread.  Buying coffee for someone about whom you have no idea, however, is quite tricky, so I decided to just get an Americano, and bring milk in a separate cup, along with sugar, sweeteners, stirrers and so forth.   There did seem to be an awful lot of stuff for such an essentially simple beverage, and I remember putting the sugar and such in my pocket, which I suppose was slightly tatty, albeit operationally astute.  I wasn’t entirely sure what to say, so I just said ‘You look cold, so I got you some coffee’ an opening that, if nothing else, covers the cause and effect of the situation adequately well.  ‘What?’ she replied, which under those circumstances really throws you, especially if, like myself, it occurs to you mid-sentence that you don’t really know why you’re doing this in the first place.  I hadn’t expected Carly Simon to leap out of the waiting room and burst into Nobody Does It Better, but I found ‘What?’ very challenging.   ‘Coffee, just I dunno, you always look so cold.  It’s very brave of you to be out here at all, so I thought I would get you some coffee’ I continued, being a bit erratic.  ‘Thanks’ she said, looking at the various bits and bobs I had thoughtfully arranged on a metal Reading Evening News dispenser, before walking off to the other end of the platform, leaving everything ignored, untouched, and where it was.

I wasn’t particularly broken-hearted – I hadn’t in truth been overly hearted in the first place – but it did seem a little off. In her defence, I hadn’t considered what her response might actually be, so I can’t claim to have been disappointed. However, I didn’t see her waiting for the 07:15 again, because she changed trains and got the later one after that.  I knew because whenever I overslept, I would see her as far up the other end of the platform as she could possibly go without actually standing on the tracks.  Who knows what might have been.   Perhaps her whole purpose was to exist as an anecdote in an obscure blog on an obscure website ten years later, in the same way that I probably exist for her as a sinister coffee distributing potential rapist.  Ah well.

Twitter.

Facebook.

Photards: This week’s photographic jaunt is:

Top: Ancient graffiti on a wall very near where I live.  We have no way of knowing when these mysterious carvings were put there .

Middle: Glass coasters on my stall, covered in rainwater.   It isn’t so much that the roof at Greenwich Market leaks, it’s just that rain tends to ignore it and barge straight through.   A collapsed Victorian storm drain that runs along the centre of the market, blocked further by food traders pouring fat into it, bursts at the slightest provocation, too.

Lower: Wooden snake I found tucked away alongside my storage boxes.  I have no idea how it got there, but I have become strangely fond of it.

4 Comments

  1. Gill

    Aug 3rd, 2011
    8:05 pm

    This is possibly my favourite ever of your blogs…. LOVE the coffee story, and would just like to say that, if someone bought me a hot beverage whilst I was freezing to death, I’d be very grateful.

  2. Paul

    Aug 3rd, 2011
    9:28 pm

    Thanks. I remember thinking at the time that if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder what would’ve happened if I did. I didn’t expect it to be quite such an anticlimax, admittedly, but hey ho.

  3. N

    Jul 31st, 2017
    4:05 pm

    “Brief Encounter” it wasn’t. Or maybe it was, on reflection.

  4. by Paul Smith

    Jul 31st, 2017
    4:13 pm

    Yes, open to interpretation. I’m kind of pleased I did it though, looking back.

Leave a Comment