bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

The Girl With The OMG Handbag

Dear Rachel

There have always been widespread reports of ghostly passengers on the tube, especially for some reason on the Bakerloo Line between Paddington and Oxford Circus.   I think I know how they have come about.   This accidental ghostbusting occurred last Thursday while removing a pair of gloves at Holland Park.  Around Christmas, I suddenly took to glove removal by gently tugging at each gloved finger in turn, before removing the glove proper, for no other reason than I felt it might lend me an air of sinister gravitas, in the manner of a Bond villain.   Catching myself doing this in the reflection of the window opposite revealed that actually it makes you look like a preposterous homosexual weirdo and I immediately resolved to never do it again, but not before I had noticed the reflection of the girl sitting next to me.   She had a canvas shoulder bag with ‘OMG’ written on it in giant letters, which I thought was quite a larf, and more crucially was wearing the commuter classic office clothes with trainers combination, which I have always found strangely endearing.

This clothing mis-match once sparked a prolonged debate between myself and Joe as to whether or not it constituted a Modern Sin, and if it could therefore be placed alongside white jeans, saying ‘Can I get?’ instead of ‘Can/may I have?’, and several others we were compiling for a long-gone project of ours.   I recall many hours spent in the Lion on Junction Road, Archway arguing if liking the Clash more than the Pistols was a sin (Joe: no, me: yes) and similarly if liking the Velvet Underground more than the Stooges also constituted sinful activity (Me: yes, Joe, no).   This sort of thing was happening a lot at the time.  2008 was not a vintage year – to think otherwise would, now we’re in the swing of things, be sinful.

Anyway.    I was traveling at the time from Hyde Park Corner to Mile End – from central to east London, if you’re unfamiliar – where I spent large parts of a hair-raising but happy childhood.   Mile End has enabled me to formulate a theory recently about class, which is this: if you’re a middle class person, you can return to the area in which you grew up, and it will be pretty much the same.  If you’re working class and return to the area in which you grew up, it will be full of middle class people.   They’re everywhere.   You can’t move in east London for Bestival tickets and self-loathing.    Before we go any further, however, it’s worth pointing out that this is not necessarily a bad thing.    Having a middle class means that your society is civilised and successful.   Imagine a society without a middle class – yes, we’d lose the Strokes, the Guardian, Apple products and the Labour Party, and all the therapists would be bankrupt in a week – but we’d also be open to the worst excesses of medieval society by becoming either peasants or aristocrats.   The main flaw, as far as contemporary society is concerned, is that there is only a middle class, with everyone else demonised, marginalised or discredited, which throws the whole system out of kilter.   Be that as it may, gentrification of Mile End has been slower than in other parts of east London simply because whatever it is that middle class people want – kitchen plumbing so that hummous comes out of one tap and cava comes out the other, picnics every day from March to October, compulsory viewing of This Is England, gay children – can’t seem to take root there.   You could move Harrods, Kew Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Holland Park and the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association to Mile End, you could literally pave the streets there with gold, and it would still be shit.

It is for this reason that I retain a soft spot for it, of course.   It’ll come up eventually, like Deptford is nearly doing, but it’s not a bad place as such.   It was, however, unlikely to gentrify in the time it took to get there from Hyde Park last Thursday, and as we passed St Paul’s I noticed that the girl with the OMG handbag and trainers was no longer being reflected in the window opposite.   This was presumably because she’d left the tube at some point – my money’s on Chancery Lane – without me noticing, leaving her seat empty, and the window opposite unreflected-in.   It nonetheless gave me a bit of a jolt, and I wondered for a second if indeed she had been a spectre of some kind.  She wasn’t, obviously – ghosts don’t have jobs – but to my mind that is how these ghostly passenger stories start, with people seeing the reflection of someone in the opposite window and thinking it’s an apparition.   It can sometimes be wise to check that everyone is alive, though – a man was once challenged by a ticket inspector at East Finchley, whereupon it was found that he had been dead for a week.   It would be an awkward thing to have to point out to someone, though, so I can see why people didn’t like to mention it.

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Facebook – ditching this shortly by the way.  It’s all about Facebook pages these days – groups are for squares.

Photards – this week’s studies are:

Top: Childbrain, aka Mike, with his dog.   The dog has just beaten him at backgammon.

Middle: Butters from the Christmas table.   They were generously laced with alcohol and so strong that they made your eyes water.   Some diners attempted to ’slam’ Christmas pudding with them.   From the left – brandy, cherry brandy, and Amarula Cream dairy treats.

Lower: My old dear with Lawrence of Arabia’s motorbike, in the Imperial War Museum.   Perhaps they should call it the Imperial Warm Museum to make it sound friendlier.   In any case, my old dear (who I think may have been at the sherry) is imitating the stance of a motorcyclist.   Lawrence of Arabia tore round the place on this motorcycle organising the Arab Revolt, digging up pyramids, wearing boating blazers, and generally having one of the most interesting lives of all time.   My old dear seems to think that he did it pushing a shopping trolley.

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