Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Scribbling in the diary on her lap, black scraggly hair, black skirt and grey jumper, as plain and formal as a school uniform, mid-30s, pale skin hung on jutting bones, steel-rimmed spectacles: Librarian, perhaps? That, or else it was a dead shrub that was taking the tube this morning.

As I sat down next to her, she was writing: "... Simon round again last night. Sat with M. & I; F. in the shop still. An hour or so. Tea. Why does he? To talk about the weather. Politics, work, school days. Then the gift as he said goodbye: chocolates. Awful. And that little touch on my elbow" - or pretty much. Then, later in the journey, as I remember it: "J. back from holiday today. Wonder how it'll have been. What photos there will be: him and that wife. Tenerife! What he'll say about the project. Done everything he wanted. J.'ll read it all today."

Next: "Ugly, strange man, reading (with an erection I think) you - my diary. Here on the tube. Over my shoulder this very minute. Have to stop writing you now."

And in a split second, I had blurted out: "I don't have an erection!" After which, an entire carriage of staring, unspeaking heads turned - pretty much in unison - to look at me. Heat flooded through my face. The woman next to me fixed her stare straight ahead, as if frozen.

As I left my journey early at the next station, I saw the man sat the other side of her. He had a slick of unwashed hair; jowly, booze-reddened features ... and a hand, deep in the pocket of baggy tracksuit bottoms. Good morning, London? Good morning, world?