Brand To Hand

Brand to hand 16th November 2010


 


I had only slept for just over 2 hours. Daylight was still just a hint. It’s always the same when we have Brand to Hands, the worry about not waking up means you don’t really get off to sleep. Everybody is the same apparently. It was now 6.15am as the DLR Beckton train hummed and rattled into Limehouse station. I’d have to change at Poplar and wait for the Stratford train, I calculated I’d be there for 6.45, at least I hoped. The train was empty except for one or two sleeping bodies that shook and jumped when the carriage took a corner. I was consumed with getting a text out to the merchandisers at East Croydon and the two who had been booked for Stratford. This should be quite straight forward job I’d thought, but we’d had quite a lot of no shows recently and there would be no extra guys to cover them today. The Network were a little anxious.  It took me the two stops to Poplar to get the text out. The final line was the Network law. “Call or text when you arrive at your station Black Shoes and Black Trousers please”


Then a 10 minute wait on the cold exposed platform at Poplar station in the shadows of the awe inspiring HSBC and Canary Wharf towers that dominate the whole area from the Isle of Dogs on the other side of the A13 that runs parallel with the station. The tops of them were shrouded in their own air conditioned clouds that poured out of their illuminated heights. It was standing there that I first realised just how cold it was that morning. There was nowhere to shelter there, nobody’s body moved normally, nobody had joints and it seemed nobody had a neck and only a few had eyes that moved.


From Poplar the train moved deep into the dark and threatening east end which was full of jagged lines and sharp angles, holes, diggers, cold steel, heavy concrete, dust and chaos. A dark and unfriendly wasteland. The land around the half built Olympic site looked like desolation in that light. I didn’t suppose it would look any better in full daylight, this was Stratford after all. I huddled inside the carriage, my heart has never opened to Stratford, I don’t suppose it ever will. But you never know.


By the time the train pulled into the platform high above the station I’d had a text back from a guy called MD Rahman at Stratford and one from a guy  called MD Rahman at East Croydon.  The Stratford driver Darren Davis called as I stepped off the train at 6.50.


 Hello mate where are you?


He sounded friendly. After a while you get to know and judge that initial call from the driver.


Agency driver I thought, they are always keen to help, I was relieved; mind you the ALD contract drivers are usually a pretty good bunch.


Just getting off the DLR, where are you?


Right outside the station, you can’t miss me, white van. Not sure how long I’ll be able to stay here though, it’s a no parking zone.


Sit tight mate. I said I’ll be there in 2 minutes, I’m just coming round the corner”


I hurried along the now busy platform and into the heart of the station gearing myself up. Down below streams of people had begun filling up flowing into and out of the concourse. Stratford was awake, just. Though to my eyes it didn’t look very happy about it. Maybe a few minutes after a yawn, moving but not quite coordinated, people still trying to find the path of least resistance through the place. I made a few calls on the move as I was supposed to have the team report in by 7pm and so far had only heard from 2 out of 5. MD Rahman at Croydon had told me he was the only one there. So I called MD Hayder left a message, called Kabir Ahsanul and left a message then without looking up resent all the texts as I weaved though the station picking up speed.


 I saw the white van with a slim wiry black guy pulling bundles of Readers Digest out of a side door. I rode straight up to him  


Hello Mate, Darren Right?  


Hello mate he said turning around. We shook hands. He was likeable and was obviously up for helping out. I said for him to give me a couple of minutes whilst I try and find the merchandisers and then we’d all help move the Bundles. Then I got a call from MD Hayder


Hallo said the strange blank voice


Hello mate where are you


Hallow buss


Mate where are you? Are you at the station?


Yes boss at duh estashun.


Where abouts mate?


ahwest Croydan estashun Boss


What?


Silence


Mate, you’re supposed to be at East Croydon station and its gone 7


I then heard laughing on the other end of the phone which of course raised all the fur on my neck


What are you laughing at mate? I said irritated.


ehwest Croydon boss. He said again laughing


I cut right into him


Listen mate you have got 5 Minutes to get yourself across to East Croydon.  Otherwise you might as well go home. The laughing stopped immediately.


Ok boss. No problem. 5 minutes. I be der. No problem Est Croydan. 5 minute


Call me when you get there. You’ve got 5 minutes I said. I knew it would take at least 15.


I was scanning the station entrance looking for the Stratford MD Rahman. I’d had no reply from Renuka Kankatharn the other merchandiser booked here. The Metro guys were already there in their bright blue and red uniforms looking lively.  Across by the high blue awning I saw a Bangladeshi guy dressed in black stood against it like a leaning pole. Everything else at that moment was moving .He drew my eye. I walked towards him. He saw me coming out of the crowd and straightened up.


From the Network? I asked


Network, yes network.


Ok mate over here.


Back at the van the driver had lifted about 30 bundles out and onto the pavement.


Do you have uniforms mate?


Yeah, here you go mate. He said handing me a plastic bag full of sky blue uniforms. I pulled out a padded branded coat and cap, handed it to the Mohammed then began lifting bundles across to the right of the station out of the way in a place until then claimed by 2 or 3 pale looking smokers just around the corner from the ATM machines..  I lifted the first few bundles by the strapping which snapped after a few steps. Readers Digest spilled across the floor right into the foot flow. I was then the equivalent of a fallen trunk across a river. The river backed up and splashed out in unexpected directions as I crouched down attempting to salvage the merchandise.  I cursed under my breath not daring to look up. Oh if looks could kill I honestly wouldn’t be here.


Then the phone went. The driver at East Croydon


Allo mate Peter at Croydon here.


Hello mate.


I motioned to Mohammed Rahman to help pick up the magazines as he was stood there like a statue looking on. I forgave him as it was still early, it was cold and perhaps his blood and oxygen were still having difficulty flowing in the cold.


Listen what do you want me to do, there’s only one merchandiser here?


 I know mate there is another guy on his way from West Croydon should be there in 5 minutes. Get Mohammed to help you get the bundles out of the van and get him started. I’ll keep trying the other guy and call you back in 10 minutes. 


Mo and I carried bundles across to the main entrance there and got him started. I squeezed him in right at the front of the pecking order by the entrance with the other Magazines and Metro merchandisers. There was now a full on raging river of people pouring in and out of the station.


Ok mate the strap line is “Free Readers Digest” ok? Nice and loud mate. Go for it.


Ok boss he nodded.


Then the I moved the rest of the bundles across to the wall, narrowly avoiding the whole lot crashing down over the pavement at one point as more strapping broke just as I put the bundles on top of a stack. Driver Darren had taken off. I said I’d call him later. Another call to Renuka, still no answer, it was now 7.15am. Damn.  Then more bundles back over to Mo who was stood there mute with a far away unhappy look on his face. A  drooping readers digest hanging out of his hand like the last leaf on an autum tree . The flow not even aware he was there. Mo was a slow mover, slow Mo as he was known to me from then on .


Mate “Free Readers Digest “ I pronounced slowly and patiently


oh oh sorry,  ree ederb deegissh he mumbled


No Mate, that’s not quite right. Listen… FREE…. READERS…. DIGEST.. ok?  I said, looking pleadingly into his eyes as if that might do the trick


Dreeb reedussh diessh


Not quite mate, come on.. Free Readers Digest


Ree…. deedurb…. dieged. he said half heartedly


I looked at him and for a moment. Then the world seemed to go into slow motion, the sound was sucked away to somewhere far away and it seemed that what little colour there was faded into Gray; except for him and I, painted onto the bleak Stratford background. Him in a bright sky blue coat and cap me in a sharp black suit with a blue and white pockerdot shirt.


What are you studying here in london mate? I asked clearly


Pardon


What are you studying at collage, here in london mate?


Tourism  & Management he said


I looked right at him. He caught my look… the world remained frozen


Right mate, the strap line is “Free…. Readers….. Digest” and with a little enthusiasm please.


REE DEEDER DEIGED he said enthusiastically


I looked at him for a second or two then the world around us and all its noise crashed back into our  conciousness.


It’ll do. I sighed, just make sure you say it loud


Ok buss….. Dree Deeder Gieged


The phone rang.


 Hello


I hear at Straford, said a womans voice. It had to be Renuka


Where abouts babe? I asked spinning around and scanning the surrounding area. I’m at the front of the station and I can’t see you.


I hear I hear. Straford front station.


Where at  the front of the station?


I hear. Front. Straford station


Where at the front of the station? There is only 1 main entrance


I near cafe front of station.


I looked over to the coffee stall a few yards away but couldn’t see anyone on a phone.


You can’t be at the front. I said getting annoyed now, and there is no cafe at the front of the station


yes yes at Straford front of station.


No. I said. You can’t be at the front cos I know I’m here and you most certainly are not here. Listen, I’m stood next to the Metro guy so find them and you’ll find us.


There was a silence


Oh Metro… oh ok ok I’m coming i’m coming.


I moved a few more bundles across to slow Mo. Stratford was now incredibly busy in and out of the station and would continue like this for the next hour and we had to catch the flow now or we would return bundles. But if slow Mo had been a fisherman we wouldn’t be eating fish tonight.


The dark indigo morning sky had given way and turned a deep orange red now. A shepherds warning red. It really was very cold and though the seasons move impercepibly forward blending into one another there is always a day when you notice that the previous season is over and the next has begun. Today was one of those days. Winters had gained in confidence, its strong cold fingers searching us, feeling and probing for any hidden warm spot we may be clinging possesivley on to.


Dree bleedurds dieged mumbled slow Mo


Just then a panic stricken Hindu woman appeared out of the crowd.  


You’re late I said. Which she obviously knew by the wild stampeed look in her eye. Instantly I felt mean as she was in a terrible state and looked crushed.


Why didn’t you call or text to let me know?


I was on underground. Sorry really sorry, really.


Come on, I said taking pity on her, over here. I took her warmly by the shoulders over to where the bundles were. Got her a jacket out from where i’d hidden them and helped her off with her coat. Then on with a sky blue T shirt and the branded padded uniform. She was all arms and legs and hair, spilling her things out of her bags across the pavement. I gently zipped her up in the coat and whilst she was re arranging her long black hair under the branded hat, I picked her things up off the floor, carefully folded her coat, put her things back in her bag and put them all neatly into the plastic bag and tied it tightly. Then when she was a little calmer we took a few bundles to other side of the entrance. I placed them around the plastic bag so it looked like a rubbish bag as it would have been easy to steal had somebody wanted to. Usually we’d put them in the van but she was late and as I said driver Darren was long gone and wouldn’t be back till just before 10am


Then I guided her, hands gently on her shoulders again, calming her down, back out into the middle of the pavement and the flow. I then demonstrated how to give away a free magazine and explained the strap line to her.


Now could you say Free Readers Digest I said gently


Free areaders Digess  she said


Great, I said perfect , smiling into her eyes. She got straight on with it and was actually a pretty good merchandiser and an obvious hard worker.


That was Stratford sorted


I called the Mohammed Rahman at Croydon to see if Mohammad Hayder had arrived from west Croydon. He had.


Boss there is another one here too.


Really, put him on the phone.


There was the sound of muffled wind, static and a police siren, though it could have been an ambulance or even a fire engine.


Hello I said a little too loudly as I noticed a few faces there at Stratford turn to look at me.


Hallo Buss


Hello is that Kabir I said a little quieter


Yes buss


Mate, why didn’t you call or answer my texts?


Silence.


Hello… Kabir


I was on train buss, said the voice


It’s overland to Croydon so it wasn’t really an excuse but experience told me that that conversation over the phone would be onesided, pointless and would only lead to my whole morning being spoiled


So why didn’t you call when you got off the train?


Silence


Mate, if I don’t know your there how can we pay you?


Silence


Are you there mate? Hello!


Hello Buss


Ok ok, put Mohammed back on the phone, jeez..


Mo told me they were outside the main entrance of the station, they had uniforms on and were all set to go. Croydon Mo sounded quite bright and could speak clearer English. It was a genuine relief


Great well done mate, Ok crack on and I’ll get across to you in the next hour or so ok.


Ok boss


So the text to the office went at just after 7.35.


Croydon. Full Team. 3 Mercs. 1300 mags.


Stratford. Full Team. 2 Mercs. 1500 mags.


Next, the loo. The jug of coffee I’d drank to jump start me awake this morning had worked its way through the highways and streams of the land of Mick and arrived at the ocean. I had been dying to go since I got to Stratford but there hadn’t been time and the nearest toilet at this time of day is a McDonalds through the shopping centre way on the other side of the precinct. It was getting serious though. I had to go and I had to go now!


I hurried almost limping though the windy precinct, past the stall holders setting up their clanging stall frames shouting to one another over their tinny metallic radio, past the bakery that didn’t smell of bread just yet. Past Holland and Barrats, I don’t know why it surprises me that there is one there. Maybe it’s because I associate them with health foods etc and health is not something I associate with Stratford. Inside McDonalds the cockerel had only just called, the place was cold and grumpy. It was defiantly still too early in the morning at Ronalds. Everybody in there was solo and had a table to themselves with a paper cup of tea or coffee and an invisible vibe sign that read all 4 of the chairs at this table are taken. The only sound was the dishevelled african and oriental staff shouting “next please” to the half asleep untidy queue at the counter. A large black woman with dreads and dressed in what looked like 3 or 4 coats was face down on a table snoring with her hand still holding her cup. I slid through the place almost unnoticed. A big mean looking white guy with a shaved head glanced at me coldly over the top of his Daily Star as I passed his table towards the loo.


Thankfully the toilet was unoccupied.


Thank you thank you thank you I said.


I don’t know what it’s like for girls but sometimes a pee is the greatest thing in the whole world for boys. I don’t know why I presume it’s a bigger relief for boys; maybe it’s because we stand up during and so can feel the weight lifting more acutely. It’s just a theory and of course I could be wrong.


I stepped out of there a whole different person, lighter and stress free and walked at a relaxed pace back through the precinct towards the station. I studied the guy’s faces putting up the stalls as I passed by. They had obviously been doing it for a long time rain or shine. What a job I thought. Bless them, but then caught myself. What a job this was too! I laughed to myself. Everybody is doing something to get by and at times it all seems a little mad and everything seems strange.  Its what you make of the moment isn’t it.


I enjoy those moments when the world shows itself to you, when just for a split second your able to see what is going on with others. There are times amongst all the sharp edges, the bleakness, the long faces and claustrophobia when there are lights. Right then it was an older grey haired guy with a tough weathered face and a barrel chest singing along to a Bon Jovi song as he set up his stall, then at the end he pulled a guitar hero pose.


“You gave looouve” ….. wait for it wait for it.. “A bad name!!”


All was well in the world, I thought. Good luck to you mate and thank you.


Ok time to get some photographs of the guys. It was a part of the job I have got to like very much over the years. I got the camera out and ready as I approached Renuka. She was working hard though she still looked slightly panic stricken. Maybe that’s just the way she was, some people are aren’t they.


Rush HourI walked up to her camera at the ready and asked if it would be ok if I took a few shots of her for my boss.  She looked puzzled but nodded her head. The trick was to get them as the person had taken hold but before the magazine left the merchandisers hand. She was easy to capture as she was working well. I got her pretty quickly. I am always trying to catch them smiling but I knew she was never gonna sun beam for me as she had a deep down fear in her eyes, but she was a handsome woman and that would have to do.


The Brits who work regularly for us know me by now and roll their eyes when they see me approach with the camera.


Come on, you know the score. You know I’m not leaving you alone till you give me the love, I tell those who are reluctant. I simply snap away until they crack


Ok, ok now leave me alone, they say when I have the shot


 I usually leave them smiling and with a little bit of love that is always left over after a photo shoot. But with the Bangladeshis I have to work it a little differently.


Most Bangladeshi guys who work for us are in London studying. As foreign students they are allowed to work 20 hours a week untaxed. So these type of jobs are perfect for them to earn a little extra to help them get by whilst they are here. The majority of them are unmarried with maybe one or two from more liberal families who have a girlfriend back home. They are usually very respectful with good manners and to my eyes seem very traditional. Quite a lot of them go back home for a month to get married, usually after about a year or maybe a year and a half here. They then come back to Britain sometimes for another 2 or 3 years to continue their studies without their new brides who they keep in touch with via Skype or Facebook. It has always been a puzzle to me.


It seems their parents find them a suitable bride back home, preferably from the mythical village as the bride would then obviously be more devout and or traditional. Arranged marriages and respect for their parents word are part of their tradition and culture I know, but I suspect in a many cases these marriages are to keep the guys on the straight and narrow whilst they are away. They are young  men away from the restrictions, codes and culture of their homes. They are living for a time in a decadent free society with all its temptations it’s freedoms, women and liquor and probably much more in the minds of their parents in that far away land who are not able to look into the eyes of their sons to see whether they are being good Muslim boys or not.  So this is what I do.


 Mate would it be ok if I took a few photos for the client.


Ok boss.


The first few shots are usually some sort of semi heroic pose they pull with a look carved out of solid granite looking as Nobel as possible under a lop sided beanie or a huge inappropriate coat. At some point I may have to tuck a shirt in, pull trousers out of socks, zip up jackets, point at their fly’s to be zipped up, roll up sleeves, take off a Manchester united scarf or a NY beanie from underneath our branded caps. Then when they look like branded heroes and with a twinkle in my eye, I hit them with


Mate, have you got a girlfriend?


9 times out of 10 they look in total shock or just don’t register. So I say again


Mate, have you got a girl friend? They will look me and say


Pardon?


Do you have a girlfriend?  Are you married? I say again


9 times out of 10 they are single and look at the floor and say shyly


No boss


Those who are married usually puff out their chests and proudly say


Yes boss I have wife


I say to those without girl friends


Do you want one?


All the time I’m behind the camera waiting.


Pardon?


Do you want a girlfriend?


Yes boss they say


Then I drop the camera for a split second and whisper conspiratorially 


Well, if you give me a beautiful smile I’ll email it to you later. I take really good photos and you can post it on face book tonight and I promise you you’ll have a girl friend by the weekend ok ?


Hey presto a smile and laughter, and I snap away. It’s always a way of bringing a little bit of joy and lightness on some of these early mornings. 


If they have a girl friend or wife I lean towards them and whisper


Oh really, do you like you like your wife? I say mischievously


Yes boss .. some say


Well, now listen, this camera, I say pointing to the camera, Is your beautiful wife ok. So come on, look into her eyes and give her the looove brother. Later you can send the shot to them and remind them of just how handsome you are.


Bingo. Laughter. I always send them the shot and in my mind I tell myself that there is many a Bangladeshi maiden who is holding tight to her rapidly beating heart the photograph I have taken of her handsome smiling young man. He may be dressed in ill fitting Orange or Yellow or Red or what ever colour the uniforms may be on that day, but boy that is a beautiful smile.


It doesn’t always work and Slow Mo was a whole different kettle of fish. Either Slow Mo didn’t have a girl friend, didn’t want a girl friend, was married and didn’t like his wife, was recently divorced and so was in fact in London out of shame and was still sore or simply couldn’t work out how to download photos on his computer and send them via email or post them on face book. Slow Mo, he wasn’t having any of it.


I tried and tried with him. But in the end I just snapped away and got him mostly side on. It honestly made me a little sad that he didn’t get to smile. He seemed more concerned with working on his pronunciation.


Dreeb dreederbs giegeshed. Dreeb dreederbs giegeshed.


I gave up on him. It was the best it was going to be. I checked the time it was 8.20am. Did I have enough time to get to Croydon East? I’d have to make it before 10. It was now daylight and all was illuminated Stratford station another 1 hour and 40 minutes there? Nah, I could make Croydon. 


Driver Peter had called during the photo session, apparently the merchandisers at Croydon had been moved away from the front of the station by the station manager to the tram stops across the road but the tram station manager had moved them on too.  So they were down the road apparently right out of the flow. It would be best if I went across. I said goodbye. Slow Mo kept asking me


You be back boss? You coming back?


Yes I lied I’ll be back before the end of shift. I didn’t want them clearing off before the end of shift as had happened before.


Up on the DLR platform I pushed my way onto the packed train. It was sardine time. I hadn’t expected it actually. I went from door to door along the platform trying to find a space but in the end I had to politely push my way on just like everybody else.  I hung onto a pole at arms length as the train rattled and hummed and shook back towards the city and made a few calls as we were above ground. I was relieved to be leaving Stratford and was happy to be going on a journey even if it was only Croydon, but which wato get there. I had to change at poplar anyway and wait for a Bank or Tower Hill train but it gave me time to read up on Prince William marrying that “commoner” Kate. I thought it was hilarious, commoner or not, the boy done well I thought. She’s a beauty and appears to be quite smart. I checked my Metro stars, then decisions decisions. To go to Bank, get the Northern line to London Bridge then to Croydon East or to change at Shadwell and get the slick new East London overland and change along the way for a connection. The latter seemed like less hassle.


The connection at Shadwell was about 5 or 6 minutes wait. There were maps of the overground network but none to show me where the best connection was to get the rail link, mind you once on the train I couldn’t have seen a map anyway as it was unbelievably packed. The windows were steamed and the atmosphere clammy and damp. But then at Canada Water the carriages emptied, I found a seat and breathed out. At the next station, Surrey Quays when the doors opened the carriage seemed to gulp in the fresh air and from then on the line came up above ground.


 The journey though through South London was a wonderful change to the dark east end. The rail line runs through suburban England with gardens backing up to the rail tracks, green parks dotted the journey and the damp of the morning dew twinkled on the brown, yellow and gold autumn leaves as the pale sun rose that morning. South London appeared to be pleasantly sleepy and it suited me. The sunlight flickered hypnotically through the bare branches of the trees that lined the tracks from New Cross through Honour Oak, Forrest Hill and Sydenham. I felt cosy there in the carriage and could have stayed on to where ever the train was going too. In fact I did which was a mistake.


The train stopped at the end of the line at Crystal Palace. It was 9.15am.  I stepped out of the carriage. It smelled fresh and damp, one of those places where you could taste the soil in the air. I made my way quickly along the long deserted platform up the wooden stairs and into the station. But there was nobody around to ask for directions so I went back down and up and down the 3 sets of stairs thoroughly searching all 4 platforms for a connection to East Croydon. But it wasn’t to be.  Time was getting on. If I went to West Croydon it would be too late when I actually arrived and there were no trains to Norwood Junction mainline station for another 25 minutes, again I would only just get there for 10 O’clock. So after a long pause half way up a flight of stairs I decided there was nothing else for it and as train had just pulled in going into London Bridge via Sydenham. I would have to go back to Sydenham and get a connection there. I ran for it and jumped on just as the doors closing.


It was 9.25am as the train left the station. I got a text from an unidentified number


We all finish boss byeee


What !!


I called the number it was MD Hayder.


“Hello boss” he said cheerfully “All finish here Byeee” and put the phone down.


 I was a little shall we say irritated. I bit my lip and called him straight back


“Mohammed please don’t put the phone down when I’m still talking to you ok.”


Oh, ok boss, we all finished, byee


Mate, have you given the uniforms back to the driver?


Uniform? No, no have uniform


No mate, have you given them to the driver?


Driver got uniform all finished, byeee


I gave up


Ok bye” I said


I called Mo Rahman there who explained that they had sold out early that all was well and they were just leaving.


Thank you for your help today Mo I said . I’m glad you were there.


No problem boss. Thank you.


I sat back and stretched my legs in the empty carriage whilst the flickering hypnotic light worked its magic on me, the train clunking creaking and rattling all the way back towards the city. Suburbia and all its leafy gold fell away and were replaced by industrial scars and waste grounds as we approached the outskirts of the city then just before London Bridge, steel and glass took the skyline and old stone and busy roads took over below.


London Bridge was a breeze. I strolled off the platform and across the station, through barriers to platform 3. I had been dreading the cramped Jubilee line. But then I’d remembered there is a train from there, one stop north straight to Charing Cross. 3 minutes later I was rolling slowly down the tracks in another empty carriage above the roofs of the city and across glittering the river, beautiful. Charing Cross was calm, tranquil and quiet. The tidal wave of rush hour had long since crashed upon the west end shores and had dispersed into the roads arteries and offices there. I slipped silently down the steps at the side of the station into Villiers Street. All was winter sunshine peacefulness a waiter in his apron brushed the pavement outside the Pompidou Brassiere, the smell of fresh coffee and croissants wafting deliciously on and through the atmosphere. I love it in the city at that time of day, it seems to secretly breathe out.


I arrived at Embankment tube station at bang on 10 O’clock. A text came in from slow Mo at Stratford saying they had sold out and were going home. All was well everything sold out. I text back a thanks to them both before I went into the underground.


From there not including Embankment itself the westbound District line stops 13 times to Turnham Green which is where Network HQ is and is roughly about 20 to 25 minutes or at least 40 winks. I let a Circle line train go and a District line to Wimbledon as I would have to change at Earls Court and I wanted those 40 winks. It seems to be the only place that I am able to drop right off to sleep these days. I count the stations to my destination then sit up straight, fold my arms on top of my bag, then close my eyes and just drift off. I believe others do the same. There have been the odd occasions when I have gone straight past my stop all the way to Ealing Broadway or Richmond but 9 times out of 10 I nearly always wake up just before or at the station.


 It could be the rhythmical rocking or the clicking of the tracks, the muffled rumble as you go into a tunnel, the shaking and creaking of the carriage. Even the little off key whistle by the driver as now and then the train comes out into an open air stretch of track. Or it could be the electrical hum as the train slows into a station, the hiss as the doors slide open and the clunk. Then there is always the soft lullaby Angel’s voice who reminds us reassuringly in her delightful English middle class accent “This is Barons Court. This is a district line train to Ealing Broadway” Then the beeping, the hiss and the clunk of the doors shutting and the train is off again with the Angel to remind us that the next station is Hammersmith and to those who understand English to ‘alight’ there for connections to such and such a place. All that time I’m fast asleep. It’s remarkable really. I do it 5 days a week from Bank to Turnham Green which is of course a longer better quality sleep and if I haven’t slept well at home I console myself that I will do on the district line. We were scarcely out of Hammersmith when I was woken by a jolt as the train took the hill just outside the station and ascended up into the fresh air above the houses at Ravenscourt Park.


I thought I was dreaming at first as West London was cloaked in a think swirling mysterious fog.  It was such a surprise after the dark of the east, the glittering south and sunny west end. The view across the roof tops was spooky and other worldly. The dark shape of a crow sat brooding in the top of a leafless tree that reached up from the road somewhere far below on the other side of the station. Hot breath like ectoplasm escaped from people who’d got of the train mixing with the mysterious mist. The spire of Ravenscourt Methodist church was only just visible and added to the curious feeling that I’d woken up in a different time. West London was shrouded eerie and muffled.  How wonderful.


I sat up looked around, there was only one or two people left in the carriage nobody noticed me. I stretched my legs and checked the phone. The other team leader had sold out too. I sent him a Thank you text, forwarded his results and sent mine just as I got into Turnham green


Croydon. Full Team. 3 Mercs. 1300 mags. Sold Out. Start 7.15am. Finish 9.25am


Stratford. Full Team. 2 Mercs. 1500 mags. Sold Out. Start 7.05am Finish 10.00am


I crossed the road outside the station and squeezed in between the waiting taxis on the opposite side then onto Turnham Green Park towards the office. The flock of pigeons that are always gathered crowded around the water trough parted for me as I turned the corner. Then along the avenue of the old pruned Lime trees whose bushy towering stumps lined the path. It looked like it led to another world in the swirling mist ahead and like ghosts oblivious to the cold the tennis courts to the right were full school kids running around playing football and the boot camp fitness people to the left were running up and down the playing fields puffing and panting clouds shouting each other on. All was well, that was that, but it just the start of the day.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

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