As journeys go, the trip from Liverpool Street to Oxford Circus on the Central Line doesn’t rank that highly on anyone’s list of great rail journey of the world. I always enjoy it though, the cosy deep-tunnel tube trains, barely able to contain my athletic frame, throw humanity into a cosy embrace. Cosy enough to observe life at close quarters yet just far enough apart for Londoners (and guests) to do what we do best and, that is, to ignore everyone totally even if they are but inches away.
So no-one looks at you. Fertile ground for people watching.
This afternoon was typical and made me wonder about our self-awareness or lack of it. The train was fairly full and most seats were taken, so as everyone pretended that the strip advertising above our heads (hair removal, hair replacement, hair colouring, hair transplanting…. or a new job? Maybe a holiday?) I was able to discreetly observe who was around. Two respectable City-type ladies sat across from me caught my eye. Not in a Donald Trump kind of way as I am, most obviously a gentleman. The lady to the right was chewing gum. In fact she wasn’t just chewing gum, she must have been chewing a pack of gum. Her mouth was so wide open that any dentist in our carriage, or even one on the platform of a passing station, could have conducted a full inspection of her molars without having to move. I didn’t really want to watch as it was gruesome, but there’s that whole looking at car crash thing isn’t there?
So, I did look away. To the lady sat beside her. She was chewing her nails (beside my chewing gum pet hate, this really grates. It even grates my children) and I mean chewing all of her nails. I’m sure at one point both hands were in her mouth, almost to the point she was restricting her breath and turning blue: I’ve never seen anything like it. At least she didn’t spit the little bits of nail across the carriage and for these small mercies we should be grateful.
Sadly Oxford Circus arrived all too soon.
Ps there was a phone user on the 1930 from Paddington in the quiet coach this evening. We could all hear his wife describe the delicious quinoa waiting for him when he got home.
Obviously he got off at Bath…