Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Woman in Beige

The Husband
It's four-thirty in the morning. The alarm has drilled through our dreams and she's got to be up to catch a train to Cwmbran in Wales. I'd take her in the car, it's not that far (about 140 miles), but the doctors have told me not to drive for six months. Lousy timing, but there it is. I'll sort out the cats and whatnot while she gets a shower and whatnot.

The Taxi Driver
She's ready for me. That's good. I hate it when a fare books me to pick them up at an exact time and then keeps me hanging about. OK, I could let the meter run, but it's just time wasted. She seems chirpy enough in her beige coat despite the early hour, but not too talkative. Some fares'll natter incessantly the whole journey, natter, natter, natter. Traffic's light at this hour and we're at the railway station in good time. She wants a receipt, mildly annoying but hey ho, she needs it for expenses. A tip! Nice.

The Ticket Sales Clerk
The woman in beige doesn't want to buy a ticket despite the fact that this is manifestly a ticket sales counter. She wants to know the platform for the train to Hereford, as if this were the enquiries desk or something. I pick up my Big Book of Trains and consult it for the prescribed number of moments then inform her that it's platform 10b. It's not, of course, but she won't know that - until it's too late.

The Coffee Barista
The woman in the beige coat doesn't seem to know what to order. She asks for a plain black coffee. Honestly, doesn't she even know that a black coffee is an Americano? I thought everybody knew that. And she's having a giant packet of Salt 'n Vinegar to go with it, blech! Has the woman no taste at all? There's all these lovely pastries and muffins and she wants crisps. Crisps with coffee, I ask you!

Random Passenger #1
Look at that stupid woman, she's gulped her coffee and it's too hot so she's spat it onto her beige coat. That'll leave a stain. Silly moo, doesn't she know that the coffee here is heated to roughly the same temperature as molten lava? Bugger! The 06:52 to Leicester's been cancelled because of cable theft at Nuneaton. typical! Mind you, what can you expect of the people in that area - when they're not robbing, they're throwing sticks at the moon or something.

The Enquiries Clerk
The woman in beige has been hanging around on the concourse for ages now, sipping her coffee and walking up and down, wonder what's up with her? Oh heck, here she comes. The train to Hereford? I consult the computer. It Knows All and Tells All. It's gone, I tell her. She seems downcast by these tidings. She starts blathering on about being told one platform and having to run to another because the announcement came on and it was 6b and then there was no train there only the Glasgow one which is no good and on and on and on. I bet it was Barry on Tickets that told her the wrong platform in the first place. That's just his style that is, the bastard. The next Hereford train is in an hour so she's not too happy. Mind you, I wouldn't want to hang around here for an hour either – and it's my job!

The Coffee Barista
Oh, hello, beige-woman's back. Is she regretting her choice of crisps and is looking for a nice sensible pastry? No, she just wants us to throw away her empty cup because there aren't any waste bins on railway stations since the IRA blew them all up or something in the 70s. It's funny really to see all these people wandering around holding their rubbish like a holy talisman or something because there's nowhere to put it – the ones that have the decency not to just chuck it on the floor anyway,

The Enquiries Clerk
The woman in beige is back, her face glowing from within from the lightbulb of an idea she's just had. If she goes to Newport (train for there due out in 7 minutes), can she get to Cwmbran from there? Yes, she can – and I'm telling the truth, not like that bastard Barry. She scuttles off looking happy – well, happier anyway.

The Ticket Inspector.
I love my job. I love seeing all the different Tickets everyday. Sometimes I make up little rhymes to amuse them as we speed through the countryside. Today I'm doing "If in doubt/Get your ticket out" for starters. The Ticket in the beige coat in the corner seat seems to like this. She smiles as she hands over the all-important little rectangle of cardboard. Maybe I'll do some more then. "Stay in your seat/And rest your feet/While you rock to the beat" Yeah, I love my job.

The Husband
To amuse myself, I'm looking at her route on Google Earth. I text this to her and she replies that she's been doing exactly the same thing on her phone at exactly the same time! Spooky or what?

The Welsh Platform Attendant
So there we were, me and Gareth, just havin' a bit of a chat about that train by here that's so slow movin', the sheep ride on it, when up comes this English woman. Wants to know how to get to Cwmbran. Well tha's easy, innit? Platform 3 - and that's the God's-honest truth, that. We don't hold wi' the likes o' that Barry in Birmingham, leadin' people up the garden path. Tha's not friendly, see?

The Private Finance Executive
Well it's a lovely day here in Cwmbran but where on Earth are all the taxis? There are spots marked out on the road behind the station labelled "Taxi", but taxis there are none. There's just myself and this woman in a beige coat with – if I'm not mistaken – a coffee stain on the front of it. We chat for a while and joke that, with Cwmbran being so small, Dai the Taxi is probably off being Dai the Butcher or something. Minutes pass and still no taxi, but it's nice here in the sunshine in this pretty town. The lady from behind the counter at the station comes out and gives me a card with the number of a local taxi company in case Dai (or whoever) doesn't show up soon. The woman in beige eyes the card, probably wishing she'd been given it, but as it is, I am the one with the Power to Summon Taxis, not her. We chat some more and then Dai (or whoever) turns up and, because I am a gallant fellow (and can Summon Taxis on a whim), I let her have the taxi.

The Receptionist
Well, she's here at last, so the meeting can finally start. The others were here ages ago. Still, probably not her fault, just the bloody trains. Mind you, I'm not sure I'd have come to work in a coffee-stained beige coat!
All of the people, places and events in this post are real, apart from the woman in beige, who appears by kind permission of Clumsy Narrative Devices Inc.

No cows were harmed during the making of this post.


  1. I'm so glad about the cows! And you mentioned sheep too - Dr. M has an affinity for sheep (hmm - obsession might be the more proper term).

    Thank you for giving me a story - I really enjoy them. And this one just feeds into my idea that people everywhere are talking and thinking about me. What - they're not?

  2. Wonderful story! It is amazing how you find the same kinds of people the world over - you could have written this about people in my hometown, even though we do not have a train service.

    It is comforting to find that cables are also stolen in the UK. In good old SA it has become an everyday occurance. Ninety percent of our water comes from underground supplies and recently they even store the cables to the pumps which left the whole town without water for two days.

  3. Please forgive: It should read "..they even stole the cables.." and 90% of our town's water, not true for the whole country.

  4. There's nothing to compare with the vagarities of british public transport.

    The only thing you missed by having black coffee was the small plastic tub of UHT milk, designed to explode its contents in your face whilst returning from the buffet car.

    I love the different voices in this story

  5. I adore this little piece of writing. Holy cow. How entertaining!

  6. Brilliant! You have such a fantastic knack of interpreting the potentially mundane, into something compelling and full of wit and humanity... I love stories that aren't about much, but contain loads.. cheers!

  7. Once again, thanks for the kind words all.

    @Human - the tea-leaves in Nuneaton haven't thought of stealing water-pump cables yet, but it's only a matter of time...

    Composing this helped to pass the 4.5 hours journey time - for a two hour meeting - then 3.5 hours back. Yay for public transport.

  8. Hey, I found your blog via viewtiful_justin, and I have to say this: Great finding! Added you to my favorites. Wonderful words, simply: inspiring.

  9. Well it took me a bit, what with certain brothers kicking me off the computer, but I finally got finished reading this. I love it. I don't know why, I love writings that give you a sort of voyeuristic view of someone's day. It's neat.

    And this Barry man has quite the reputation, someone should have warned her. :-p!

  10. @Motte Thanks for reading and I hope I prove worthy of your favorites list.

    @Adorably Dead (great handle, BTW) thanks. I must say it was a lot of fun to write.


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