An hour to wait at Victoria Station. Am lucky enough to find a seat, so I settle down with my M&S sandwiches and watch the world. Take a minute and watch with me (you don’t need to stay for the whole hour).
In the middle, next to the stall selling lurid coloured sweets (unwrapped and unhealthy) is a man speaking on the phone. At least, I’m hoping he’s on his phone – I can’t actually see it but he is wearing ear-plugs. He is also talking very loudly in accented English. He’s the sort of person you want to slap: too loud, too German, too aggressive. He’s talking about, “Five or six billion,” and, “it’s well within my experience.” Like I said, needs a slap.
Then there’s the man who plonks an empty coffee cup next to me and walks away. He needs a slap too.
German man is still talking as I glare after the departing back of coffee trash man.
A group of women arrive in front of me, hugging and kissing good-byes. One is heavily pregnant in a tight striped dress, her shape straining against the fabric.
There are young people with backpacks, and a mother with a pushchair, and men, with pull-along cases, who walk beside them as if they’re walking a dog. A group of teenagers giggles its way across the concourse, and a black girl sits next to me to eat her chips (she has to move trash man’s empty cup first). We exchange a smile, but don’t speak. Speaking might be deemed weird.
There are people hurrying to platforms, and others standing in the way as they stare at departure boards. Heels click past, rushing towards the toilets (they’re free now you know, it used to cost 70p to pee).
An intense young man in a pink shirt speaks into a phone while walking towards the platforms. German man has gone now – I didn’t notice him leave. An old lady with an orange carrier bag walks lopsidedly towards the sandwich shop. Mr Pink Shirt is now standing, still talking, fiddling distractedly with his trouser zipper – not a good habit. Two women walk arm in arm reading a timetable.
There’s a babble of languages, the background drone of engines, the tap of heels on the smooth grey floor. The tannoy, which no one appears to listen to, screeches its announcements, and an orange-lights-flashing vehicle beeps through the crowds.
An old man, flat cap, carrier bag, beard, leans heavily on his stick as he wheezes behind his wife. Or lover. Or work colleague. They are overtaken by a younger couple, both with small efficient cases. Hers has a giant hat box on top, and I wonder if she’s going to a wedding. Perhaps the wedding.
Victoria Station. No one is really here, everyone is passing through, waiting to leave, their mind somewhere else. The workers are invisible, in spite of their orange jackets, their beeping vehicles, their shiny booths. Who could describe the person they bought the panini from? Or the hair of the girl at the information desk? Or the shoes of the man unloading the heap of free newspapers while hands reach out, their attached bodies barely pausing, the commuters not breaking step for a second.
The information board flips, new platforms announced. I fold my sandwich box into my bag, and leave.
I wrote this at the station, whilst also chatting to my children on a Facebook group chat. I told them what I was doing, and asked if they thought it would be okay to add photographs of the people I’d mentioned. They replied:
Mark: “No Mum, definitely not.”
Becky: “Mother, I don’t think you should have taken photographs in the first place!”
As I am at the age whereby I have learnt it is best to obey one’s children, I’m afraid there are therefore, no photos.
Thank you for reading.
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