TALKING TO STRANGERS

When I travel it is a rather untidy business with my computer which is old and heavy in a trolley thing that is just a smidgeon too wide for the aisle in the train. Then my dog, who is usually a sweet natured girl and entirely biddable, being dragged along behind me and objecting by resisting with four paws on the deck. And my coffee wavering dangerously hot. So this particular evening it was hardly surprising that the good looking woman in the seat I chose objected. ‘I’m sitting here.’ she began.’On both seats?’ I retorted into the challenge now. ‘I don’t want your dog next to me!’ she said. ‘And you won’t get her, she sits on the floor!’ I sat down, stuffed my trolley and Saffie under the table and glared, I thought for a moment she was going to whack me and I smiled ingratiating at the woman opposite who gave me a blank.
Not a good start to one of the most entertaining journeys I ever had on my way to Waterloo, which happens once a week.

This can be a variable trip. Often my dog gets a fan club, a sort of Border Terrier support group and we speak of the virtues of the breed, how adorable they are (only in Britain I hear you say!) This has its problems because then the dog takes up residence with them with me on the other end of the lead. Or we speak of their own dogs and stern business men go into excesses of sentiment and passion and we speak of all the dogs we have known and loved, which gets rather mawkish but fills the time nicely and we feel close, briefly. The great thing about dog talk is the fact that the only thing you need to have in common is a love of dogs. I once met a woman with a chocolate Labrador on my dog walks twice a week for months and we chatted happily together until election time when she told me that Mrs. Thatcher was the best thing that had ever happened. I was astounded and realised I had been consorting with the enemy, we carried on talking but I never quite got over this insight.
The female next to me was definitely not of this ilk. But, fortunately she loved to talk and so do I. I am also a great ear wigger but am not sure how she began, I was doing the easy crossword to prove my intellectual limitations or something. She was onto the fallibility of men, which would definitely be my specialist subject on Mastermind and I was impelled to put in my two pennorth. The woman opposite who looked formidably private was agreeing with her and soon we were all joyfully relating our own tales of deeply unsatisfactory men. The first woman turned out to have grown up in my street but her family had gone upmarket and her mother despaired of her finding ‘a nice Indian man to marry’. This in spite of her not wanting anything of the sort. She told us she was forty, we assured her she didn’t look it (though I don’t know what forty looks like she looked young and so vivacious as to be ageless) she had had an arranged marriage when she was young, had escaped it with the support of her parents and enjoyed her freedom in a way that few women do. They spoke of the joys of the single woman and I spoke of the fun of being with a female partner.
This encounter with these two woman was a total joy and though it has taken me weeks to get around to it, I said I would celebrate it in a blog and here it is for Lydia and the fine independent woman on the train and thanks to you both!

There is some horrible old saying about strangers only being friends you haven’t met yet. I wish to make it clear that I think this is nonsense. The vast majority of people hold no fascination for me of I for them. There are however delightful exceptions.

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