Thursday, January 20, 2005


“Here, have my seat” says the young man to the pregnant lady, rising from his tube seat with a homely smile. Always nice to see? Even when she and her huge belly have been stood in front of him since Holloway Road, and now he’s getting off the tube anyway, a good five minutes and two stops later at Kings Cross?

A family unit, negotiating the rush-hour tube at Holborn, all worried looks and checks on each other, with mum manoeuvring a push-chair behind and father up ahead with twin-boys hanging off him. Always a sympathetic plight, the sight of such innocent, close-knit explorers, braving the big city? Even when Thomas politely tells the woman she keeps running over his feet, and she stings back with, “you pushed ahead of me at the top of the escalators, mate”? And when Thomas looks sickened and strides off?

A deliberate act of minor violence from a mother against a perfect stranger: always a horror? When Thomas hasn’t shut up for the last hour about how ‘wicked’ the tube is? How some ‘beauty’ at some shoddy temp agency excited him by suggesting, ‘marketing’? That euphemism for slave-wage telesales? And when Thomas sits in my chair each night, as deserving as a pregnant woman? And hasn’t said when he’s going to move out? And when I ask him which couch is next in his sofa surf, says, “something will turn up, Adam, I’ve got lots of friends here”? Friends whom he never seems to see? Preferring to stay in and bond with his family? Meaning me? Each night?

At Holborn, we make it over to the central line platform without further incident. I was ready with pins of sarcasm with which to puncture various bubbles. But Thomas had sad eyes and a fallen smile, I saw there on the platform, and then on the tube. “At least it wasn’t the wheels of the train,” I say, as we crawl on to his false, temporary home, at mine.