Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Strangers On A Train

Public transport, we're often told is the 'green' option. Admittedly it does rely on fossil fuels, but unless you're a spokesperson for the motor industry, the general consensus is that if you can't walk it or cycle, you should take the train. And what a variety of characters you get to see.!Why this morning I shared a carriage with a gentleman who had taken it upon himself to decorate his bicycle handlebars with an assortment of elastic bands!

So, public transport - the realm of the poor, the carless, the psychologically dubious and the eco-friendly.

A little while, around the time of the Camp For Climate Change, I spotted a couple who I suspected were climate change protesters. Their environmentally-friendly credentials and their status as eco-warriors was somethign these people wore on their sleeve.
Aged around 20, they were wearing his-n-hers foliage green vegetable dye woollen tops. She had gone for a cardigan with large wooden buttons over a natural-dye cotton dress, whilst Mr Climate Change was sporting dreadlocks and a biodegradable hoodie - the toggles on the hood were knitted and thus crude oil free. In the fullness of time the whole ensemble would biodegrade.

Presumably on their way to a long day telling BAA they disapproved of their corporate strategy, or possibly intending to superglue themselves to a van, they'd popped into Sainsbury's to get foodbefore getting on the train. Like their clothing, their provisions were carefully chosen. Carried in a Bag For Life, our intrepid eco-warriors had selected Buxton mineral water (from a British source, so a smaller carbon footprint) Taste The Difference seeded bread (premium products pay the farmers better, it may have even been organic) lettuce (organic and from the UK, natch) and camembert, which they were combining into hearty sandwiches.

Now I have no problem with environmental protesters. I try to do my bit for the planet - I recycle, don't litter, use rechargeable batteries, switch things off, etc. I have a lot of respect for people with strongly-held beliefs, and if it wasn't for the fact that they would disapprove of my leather shoes and the no conversations on British public transport rule, I could have happily had a chat with them.


The special ingredient in their sandwiches was garlic. Raw, fresh, carefully chopped up with a Swiss Army knife, sprinkled delicately over the camembert, garlic. Garlic is quite a powerful odour. My sense of smell is a bit sensitive before 9am. On a chilly morning with the windows closed, there isn't a great deal of air circulating in your average commuter train. Organic or not the stench was overpowering.

Since when did food preparation on the 08:34 to London Euston become socially acceptable? It didn't. Eating Burger King on the train home is a bit antisocial, but the smell passes fairly quickly. Garlic to start the day is a no-no.
Maybe they were going to disable Heathrow by breathing over the check-in desks, or upset the police sniffer dogs.

I think I would have been in a worse mood had it not been for the entertainment offered by the inscrutable expression of the commuter sat immediately opposite the garlic chopper. Plugged into his ipod, refusing to acknowledge the culinary masterpiece being produced in front of him, and staring straight ahead as if being surrounded by a cloud of parfum du Allium sativum was perfectly normal.
Although he was seated in the corner furthest from the doors, when we pulled into London he was one of the first to jump off, swiftly followed by yours truly.

Rant over.

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