I’m a conversational vampire.
I absorb snippets of conversations from total strangers that later find a home in the mouths of fictional characters or the middle of a City Jackdaw post.
It’s not intentional. It’s not as if I’m a professional eavesdropper or anything. It’s just that I seem to pick things up when out and about that stay with me. The people out there are just great.
‘This train is the Northern service to Leeds.’ That was the announcement that kicked off the latest episode.
Then, despite the next statement stating that the next stop would be New Pudsey, one half of the young couple sat facing each other at the table opposite mine, on the other side of the aisle, jumped into life.
“Shit we’re in Leeds! Is this Leeds?” she asked in alarm. Betraying zero trust in her male companion, she turned wildly to catch my eye.
I shook my head. “This is Bradford.”
“Well, where are they goin’?” she asked the lad, now dismissing me as I’d served my purpose. She was referring to a group of girls that had just left the train and were walking across the platform outside of her window.
“On holiday?” he replied, sounding bored.
“On holiday? Dressed like that? They look like they’re goin’ to a festival!”
It was obvious that that was where these two were going. The Leeds and Reading festival was about to start, and she was sporting the festival look. Doc Martins with stockings, topped with a garish, tie-dyed shirt and silver-sequinned wings stuck to her forehead. Her boyfriend (I presumed) had similar artwork studded above his eyebrows.
“Who would actually holiday in Bradford anyway?” she continued. “No – they’re dressed for a festival.”
If that was the case then those girls had exited at the wrong station, despite this carriage being crowded with other young . . . what? Was there a term for these kids?
I googled what do you call a person who attends a festival?
Answer: one who attends a festival.
I tried to get on with my book but now I couldn’t help feeding. Like I said, I’m a conversational vampire.
“I’ve read they’re gonna have stalls set up where you can have your Covid jab while you’re there,” she went on. “Are you gonna have it?”
He shrugged, still looking disinterested. I began to suspect he was hungover.
“I don’t know either. I mean, I get it if you’re old and that. If you’re a certain age, say over forty, it’s a risk. But we’re young. Nearly everyone at the festival’s young so what’s the point? And you know that it can make your kids disabled? And it alters your DNA. Apparently.”
Old – over forty? And that last bit, like a disclaimer: Apparently.
I realised I was shaking my head and tried to immerse myself in my book once again, re-reading the same lines in an attempt to drown out this endless soliloquy. I slowly began to build up a wall of resistance and finished my chapter by the time we rolled into Leeds station.
I left the train and that young couple somewhere behind me to join other commuters on a busy escalator. We rose up to a walkway which took us high over the railway lines to then get another escalator which took us down to the ticket gates.
Those should-have-been unremarkable seconds were enough to feed again. It was a male voice, immediately behind me.
“Social media has given people too many mental issues, man. There’s men dressing up as women, women dressing up as men, aliens dressing up as children. Everyone’s lost their identity. They don’t know who they are.”
Well, of course I was curious. Who would be pursuing that line of reasoning, most of which I could go along with? Except . . . aliens?
Turning around would be too obvious, so instead, after reaching the end of the escalator, I took a few steps and then hung to the side on the pretence that I was getting my e-ticket up on my phone. I had a quick glance as they passed. These weren’t two young naive festival goers, they were a couple of professional looking men around my age.
Totally not what I was expecting. It just goes to show that you can never predict the type of thing that goes on in a person’s head.
As often happens when in a transitory place, I wondered where these two were heading, and more beguilingly where their conversation would lead too. But I had to let them go, I had my own destination to reach. And anyway, by now I was fully sated.
With ABBA’s return, I though it an ideal time to post this poem that was included in my first collection, Heading North, published by Nordland Publishing.
I’d written it whilst sat up one late Autumn night, listening to an early Agnetha Fältskog song, composed in her native tongue when she was just sixteen. A downpour occurring just beyond the limits of that darkened room contributed to the general mood: she was singing of a doomed love affair; I was thinking of other times.
“Autumn is my season, dear. It is, after all the season of the soul”
Virginia Woolf ~ Letter to Violet Dickinson ~ 1907
(Virginia Woolf working; photo taken by Lady Ottoline Morrell in 1926. (National Portrait Gallery))
While we were sat around talking heatwaves, Autumn came tiptoeing in.
My son is eleven years old tomorrow and last night we took him and three of his friends (along with his tag-along sister) for something to eat.
I was surprised when we came back outside to stumble into a proper, bonafide Summer evening. A nice reminder that the season hasn’t conceded to Autumn just yet.
I have to say that it didn’t feel particularly summery when we went inside. The summer lovin’ happened so fast.
from my poetry blogHymn To Hillbillies
I was reading Stephen King’s Joyland, which I’d picked up in a charity shop, over my morning coffee when I encountered the following line:
When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction
Is this fact or fiction, so to speak? This line was unearthed in a work of fiction. And, to further blur the lines, truth can be found in fiction and fiction hidden in truth. But what about what it refers to, in regards to history? Our own history?
Revisionism. I’ve known people alter the facts to suit and justify their own particular narrative. Events recounted that don’t quite match up with our own recollection of things. I guess we all know someone like that.
But what about me? Do I ‘write’ fiction about my past?
I think I’m mostly the opposite. At the time, wherever along my timeline that ‘time’ was, I’d sometimes put a spin on things. Make myself appear more favourable and, forever the storyteller, embellish things for entertainment purposes, playing to the audience.
And of course obscure things I’d prefer not see the light of day. We’re all human and life is a learning curve.
Now, further down the line and removed by years and even decades, I recount how things really were back then from my own perspective (and it’s all about perspective, isn’t it?), with an insight I didn’t possess at the time.
Maybe age brings with it, along with wisdom, a certain candour. A candour maybe recognised by encountering an alternate version of truth in the midst of a work of fiction.
So, we are well into the Euros. A year late because of Covid. Everything is late because of Covid. But it’s an ideal boon for a country needing lifting-because of Covid.
But anyway, that’s enough of the ‘C’ word.
I walked the dog yesterday and saw some Langley washing lines put to good use.
And then we returned home to watch England beat Germany, our long-time nemesis and hoodoo team. (I was wearing a Sweden shirt at the time, but I’m peculiar like that.)
And so-we are still in it. Our therapy continues.
Keep the washing lines clear of washing! Keep the flags flying!
A beleaguered nation needs it.