THE GREAT FIRE OF FARNHAM

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I’m about to cross the fabled lands of the Home Counties. Suburban bliss and all of its delights are but a commuter train away.
Waterloo Station – for me, a rather gaudy piece of Victoriana. A name I’d read in books or somewhere before coming to London. For others, it’s a recurring nightmare that repeats every day between the hours of 8 and 9 and 5 and 6!

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I ask a girl for a dramatic shot of me entering its gaping lit-up mouth, aching to gulp me up into its fluorescent belly.
Hello! I’m going to Farnham!
An excited, grinning me a stark contrast of the disillusioned gatekeeper.

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The boards, I’m told, will tell me where to go.
I realise he probably wanted to tell me where to go, too.
The glare of the self service ticket machines shout me over, but I’ve learnt not to trust that there modern technology (it’s the Devil’s circuitry, I say) and get a one way ticket to Farnham from a friendly cashier, my contactless transaction bleeping approvingly.
I have twenty minutes to wait. I try to spend those twenty minutes intellectually (reading Tolstoy) but find the 3am section of a discarded copy of The Sun much more mentally satisfying.
Licking my lips, I notice they’re less than luscious, taking a beating from cold winds and a lack of TLC. Boots beckons.
My favourite section of Boots is of course the perfume stands – Britney Spears’ Fantasy, a noughties treasure takes my fancy. I liberally spray it onto my neck and clothes, dousing myself in the odorous time capsule of the Gimme More era.
I lap up the unamused glances from the shop assistants, handing over a tub of Carmex (for that perfect pout,) unaware that I have under a minute before my train leaves.
A familiar sensation of tardiness induced panic jolted me through the barriers and onto the train, my dramatic panting wasted on the fact the “train crew will be ten minutes late for unforeseen circumstances.

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A seat welcomed my weary buttocks, my leather satchel slotting comfortably into the baggage shelf.
I again attempt Tolstoy’s Hadji Morad, but the my internal alarm bells started to inform me that now was not the time for clever people stuff, but for snoozing and window-watching.
I drift in and out of chugger chug choo choo sleep, opening my eyes to a different set of people sitting opposite each time.

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A couple, have a well-tempered but dull conversation about the office and re-runs of The Office, sharing excitement about being ahead of the curve in the water cooler battleground. They smile and giggle, but they have a nervous fog of confusion about them. Like they’re dreaming of a nice place away from a too hot train and a mortgage to pay.
The commuter train – a little dip of my toe into a world exotic and alien to me.

A signet ring - a sign of good breeding or bad taste
A signet ring – a sign of good breeding or bad taste

Farnham!
I shuffle off the train with the South Surrey brigade, looking up to see the bright lights of the suburbs (the fairy lights of The Waverley Arms pub opposite the station, a fine example of the British pee-smelling institution.)
Gavin!
My carriage, a bulbous Fiat driven by a Barboured boyfriend, awaits!

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