It all started well – I caught the train, which was on time, although we were slightly held up by a slow train ahead of us as we approached Stratford, we were only a few minutes late into Liverpool Street. And, as I waited to get out, I saw a friend of mine, Gabriella, who was going to visit her daughter and family for a few days and we had a brief chat.
I discovered that I had not, as I’d assumed, got my Oyster card in my bag, so it’s as well that one can now use contactless payment on a bank card – I’ve checked since and the right amount was taken out. Although the trip to Islington is quicker and more direct on the Tube than on the bus, there’s a lot of walking involved as one has to change lines, but I can enjoy the ability to walk quickly, not having had it for a while. And I reached the flat and put my key in the door and it didn’t work. Eventually, I remembered that my tenant had had to change the lock for some reason and I don’t actually remember whether or not I had a key – anyway, she’d dropped in a key with the letting agent so I had to walk back to fetch it. And she’d left the spare in the flat, so I’ve got that now and I’ll get copies made.
As I left, I thought I’d just try my key in the flat below, so I rang the bell (I’d mentioned to my other tenant that I was coming so wasn’t being sneaky, just not wanting to march in if he were there and could open the door to me) and, not only did it not work but it was stuck. It turned a bit and no more, either way. I got a bit desperate after a few minutes, didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I had a pair of nail scissors in my bag and was able to use them for extra leverage and got it out. I’ve emailed him to ask: the lock has never been changed so we’re puzzled. I’ve got to go back next week so he will meet me there.
When I got back on the Tube and changed at Euston for Green Park, the train was crowded. There was one seat left however and a young woman was moving towards it, until she saw me, and then she indicated that I should take it, which was really kind and a bit startling as I hadn’t entirely realised I’d reached that sort of age. But I took it and smiled and thanked her, and she was able to sit down after the next station anyway.
There were two exhibitions on at the Royal Academy, so I went round the first one and then went for lunch. I had a very good salad, Puy lentils and chickpeas and various salady vegetables, and a pot of Earl Grey, which tasted good but was too strong. I couldn’t manage all the second cup and, if I have it there again, I’ll ask for a jug of hot water. Then I had to go up to the top floor for the second exhibition, which I hadn’t quite realised – again, appreciated my ability to walk again. On balance, I probably preferred the Russian one, on the basis that there were several abstracts that I’d certainly put on my walls.
I pottered into Fortnums and Hatchards because you can’t be in Piccadilly and not, but I wasn’t in a buying mood and I headed back to the station. And by then, it was really quite busy on the Underground. And, after the obligatory change of line, I was quite okay with standing again, but a young man got up and invited me to take his seat. I was totally startled – twice in one day, how old do I actually look? – but thanked him and sat down, because how kind and lovely and I wouldn’t rebuff politeness for anything – and I murmured to the woman next to me, who was probably in her 70s, that I must be looking really old! And she said no, just very tired. Which actually didn’t help.
So, I got on the 4 o’clock train and found a seat and thought hopefully about toddling off to the buffet for a cup of tea, once we were on the move, and was just sending a text to LT to say what train I was on, when the conductor announced one the intercom, in a rather dismayed and upset voice, that there had been a ‘fatality on the line’ at Chelmsford and so the train wasn’t going to set off -“we’re not going nowhere for now,” as she put it. So I relayed this to LT, who replied “oh bugger” – quite.
And the lovely conductor came down the train to give advice and hear what passengers had to say, not that anyone had any criticism for her or the train company. We thought dark thoughts about the jumper. I promise, darlings, if ever I decide to end it all, I won’t jump on a train track in the middle of the afternoon and ruin a whole lot of people’s getting home time, quite apart from devastating a driver’s day. He or she will have flashbacks for life, I’m sure. I assume it wasn’t an accident as that would have made headline news.
Later, bottles of water were left for us to help ourselves. This was very different from previous times when I’ve been on a severely delayed train and good for Abellio Greater Anglia for implementing good customer services. Eventually, we left at 5.35 and went very slowly to start with as other trains had been held up at stations along the route and we were in a queue – at least we were the first train to leave Liverpool Street. I finally arrived home at quarter past eight, a couple of hours late, but it could have been worse. And LT already had the pan smoking ready for steaks to go on.
I still keep peering in the mirror, wondering how ancient I actually look. But the simple fact that Londoners are lovely can’t be denied. On the journey back to the station, a woman and little boy in a pushchair caught my attention, because he was a sweetie. And I looked for them when we got out, meaning to help her with the stairs. But a man was ahead of me, carrying it with her. Because, if you’re ignored, it looks as if you don’t need help and, if you do, you receive it. That’s always been my experience, anyway.