Monday, 2 April 2012

Love in a Time of Planned Closures

A slightly older posh couple sat down opposite me on the tube at Euston earlier. They were fairly regular looking - having lived in London for over three years now I've got used to overhearing the quaffing laughter and obnoxious observations of the rich - and fairly innocuous. The bloke had slicked back grey hair and a salmon pink shirt, she has high quality leather boots on and an Edinburgh accent. 
They look well suited.
The first thing he said as they sat down was "when we get to Hampstead we'll go to a Pizza Express", classy fella. They chat about walking the posh shops of Hampstead, she's clutching one of those Ikea-sponsored Oyster card holders you get when you sign up. 

Then he does something unexpected. He leans across to her and says "it's great to see you", taking her hand in the process. She returns the compliment, looks awkward and, at the first opportunity, gesticulates and removes his hand. Both are wearing wedding rings.
I suspect they haven't seen each other for at least ten years. They begin talking about writing, he moans about the creative process. 

I bet they met on one of those terrible 'writers holidays'. Tens of white, middle class Brits sitting round in a worse-than-advertised hotel in Corfu talking about how to "channel James Joyce". Salmon shirt probably told his wife he needed some time to "find inspiration", he'd given up his job as an engineering lecturer at the University of East Anglia a year previous confident of writing some academic tomes that Cambridge University Press would "just lap up". But they didn't like the yawning pages which talked in impenetrable language about the workings of a sandwich toaster maker. Or the debut novel about a Cornish rambler who discovers a dinosaur egg in a bag donated to British Heart Foundation.  
She had probably always been a writer, a kept woman she had tried and failed to be published as a children's writer thinking Enid Blyton style books with a modern twist would work on a generation which either demands nostalgia or true excitement. She'd been reticent to go without her husband but he'd refused to go to "somewhere so obviously vulgar". But old leather boots liked it when she got there, the hotel was modest but comfortable and she enjoyed the time to relax on her own. 
Salmon shirt spotted her straight away. He had always had a wandering eye and he spotted an opportunity to express his ever so forthright views at her. He probably took her to a local social club, assessed the ground. Second date seafood bar. Third date her room, he 'forgets' his Aran sweater. Back at 11.30pm to reclaim the woollen wonder. First drink mini port, second mini whisky. Giant pants, back pains and adultery. 

And now here they sit, opposite me. Today the product of five years coercion by email from salmon shirt. Leather boots' husband is off visiting his mother in Surrey. After the chain meal, they'll probably walk around the posh shops of Hampstead, stroll on the heath, she'll eventually take his arm and they'll pretend that pretending to understand their own views on high philosophy is enjoyable. They'll head back to a fairly dodgy hotel he's booked in Piccadilly. The salmon shirt will end up on the bathroom floor, crumpled. They'll have awkward, crap sex and feel like their lives are empty, now without even an illicit excitement.

Or maybe they're just mates.

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