After three weeks in the idyllic village atmosphere of Sigoules I returned to Morden today. Having spent the morning continuing ‘the big tidy up’, the rest of the day was spent travelling. By Lydie’s taxi to Bergerac airport; by plane to Southampton; train to Waterloo; and finally tube to Morden.
Having started it last night, my reading on the journey was almost the rest of Hammond Innes’ ‘The Land God Gave to Cain’. Whilst standing in the queue at the departure gate at Bergerac, I noticed a wallet underneath a still occupied seat in the lounge. Leaving my bag to mark my place, I walked over, picked up the wallet and asked the man sitting above it if it was his. It was. He was most grateful. He turned out to be seated across the aisle from me in the plane, and continued his thanks there. Whilst waiting for the call to board I got in conversation with a family of four. The youngest little boy had a toy rabbit called ‘ra-ra’ which was clearly his transitional object. It was dropped under the seat so often that his mother decided to put it in her bag for safe keeping. As we were queueing to present our passports at Southampton I jokingly asked if she’d got the rabbit. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure and had to rifle through her bag to satisfy herself it was still there. Oh dear. Perhaps that was an unnecessary anxiety.
By the time I arrived at Waterloo I was pretty drowsy. There’s nothing like trying to cross that Underground station to wake you up. Everyone is rushing. Most people keep their eyes fixed on the direction in which they are going, often dragging their wheelie-bags behind them. Here was a reminder of what life is like for those still in work and an abrupt reintroduction to the big city after the more relaxed atmosphere of the countryside. This is not just a question of different countries. It is the contrast between less populated rural and congested city lives. It was something that struck me when we moved to Newark from Streatham in 1987. Suddenly people spoke to you in the street. They were prepared to give way when driving. They didn’t push past you in a crowd. Somehow they all had more time.
Today at Waterloo I had just come from an environment where people all said good morning to you whether they knew you or not, and had plenty of time for each other. Being fortunate enough to find a seat on the tube, I joined the rest of commuting London. Each individual was isolated behind their newspaper, book, or thoughts. Hammond Innes made sure I was just the same as everyone else. Anonymity is possible in a crowded environment, impossible in a sparsely populated area. In a day or two, no doubt, I will be a Londoner again. Just now I’m a country boy. At least I know which country.
After a while spent catching up with each other, Jackie and I had a meal at ‘Watch Me’, our favourite Morden restaurant. Our absence whilst I have been in France was noted, but it didn’t stop the waiter, knowing what we like, to suggest what we would wish to eat. We followed his accurate choices and drank Kingfisher.