Saturday, February 21, 2009

Things overheard



I keep no journal for overheard conversation - perhaps I should. I shifted from my crowded 'silent' carriage on the Plymouth to London train yesterday and found myself ensconced in an armchair, the window a full panorama on the South West, for a first class carriage had been placed into a second class slot.
An old lady sat down opposite me, opening a tuna snack that smelt of dead fish. She suddenly got up to move. 'I can't bear their conversation,' she told me, carying her Alison Lurie away to somewhee quieter.
The young man and woman in nearby seats were loud, but their talk was as entertaining as my book so I let them take over. He had individual opinions, and would often spin the conversation into new realms. My favourite line? I had already learned a lot abut his father, a 'messy affair' ending his marriage when our young man was in grade 4 (though he was wilfully refusing to portray himself as a victim.) 'What does you father do?' she asked.
'He's a sniper in a swot squat.'
The conversation ranged further. This occupation wasn't as dramatic as it sounded. 'You know when masked men smash their way in through windows, while some guy sits watching from a tree? My dad's that guy in a tree.'
Later we all learn he was the third best shot in the country ... and then another spin. 'Well, the third best among the type of people who would enter such a contest.' And he went on to imagine all the hoods and villains who might turn up to such an event.
'I hate soup,' he suddenly announced, spinning out of his defence against her stating squid was like chewing someone's old bubblegum. 'It's so much .... LIQUID.'
And then a riff about eating soup with spoons. Imagine being given a cup of tea, he suggested and laughed, expected to pick up the teaspoon and drink it down that way.
Which reminds me of a nice riposte in a cafe in the seaside town of Sidmouth last weekend. Four old ladies were chatting around the teatable.
'It's an acquired taste,' said one.
'Oh,' said another, 'I acquired it immediately.'