It was a nasty day in London; nasty because of the weather. For the last three weeks or so it had rained on almost every day and for some reason before returning to Australia I spent the last three days in London to do what tourists do! Do the art galleries, taking in an exhibition or trade fair and just revelling in the sights and sounds of what I had always regarded as the centre of the known world from my childhood days. The forecast was hot! I laughed up my sleeve as only a few months earlier in Adelaide, South Australia we endured two days straight of 45˚C.
With my Oyster card in hand I blithely thought that travelling on the tube underground to where I wanted to go would be a lot cooler that on the surface. No don’t get me wrong it wasn’t heat as I have experienced in Australia, only an annoyance that shops and buses were ill prepared, by lack of air conditioning or opening windows! So down the escalators I went and found that far from it being cooler the atmosphere was stuffy and the ventilation non existent.
I was on the Bakerloo line and luckily grabbed a seat and planned my journey. As I glanced at the route map opposite I also noticed a stunning woman opposite me. I immediately recognised her as an old school friend of nearly sixty years ago. It was Enid. Enid is a name that is not popular anymore. She you may recall was a heroine in one of the centuries old Arthurian tales. She married Geraint and being a knight he neglected his courtly duties to attend to her. Well, why not? Clearly I would have been a hopeless knight too!
Trying not to stare, I looked at Enid again. You might have guessed by now that she could not have been my Enid who would have been 75 by now. But the resemblance was uncanny. She was slim with her hair pulled back into a little bun at the back and my attention was drawn to her hands. I loved my Enid’s hands. They were long graceful hands and dare I say it when we were supposed to be studying in the library I often dared to reach out and touch her fingers. She unflinching, would in turn take my hand and turn it over and run her fingers over my palm. And when alone we talked endlessly about music and ballet and art, but curiously we never went out together! Of course we played tennis together and with friends and we walked back to the bus or train after school but that was it. Now after all this time she was or her daughter or even perhaps her granddaughter was there opposite me.
Fortunately she didn’t notice me staring, she was reading the paper. I glanced at her hands. In my imagination I was looking at Enid’s hands again. Stop it you old fool, it isn’t her. It isn’t her! The standing passengers were now blocking her from my view. I leaned forward a bit to gain a little air from the opened windows in the doors at the end of the carriage. Where were we? Baker Street I think. The passengers came and went and still young Enid sat on her seat. She had folded the paper up now as we approached Oxford Circus. I intended to go on to Embankment to visit the Courtauld Gallery and the Impressionist paintings, they never cease to please me no matter how many times I visit them. In addition there were some animal head sculptures around the fountains in the courtyard of Somerset House that should be fun on a hot day.
She got up at Piccadilly Circus and putting all my plans aside I got up too, grabbed a pole and followed her to the sliding doors. Part of me was saying “Speak to her” and the other part was saying “You are making a big mistake.”
We exited the train and made our way to the exit. You have no doubt worked out my opening gambit: “Excuse me, you wouldn’t be related to Enid Carson, would you?” That seemed to be the right line. But I never made it. She walked far too fast. My old legs just couldn’t keep up. The train whooshed out of the platform, and I was left hot and breathless almost alone on the platform making my way wearily to the escalators. I though better of it and turned around and found a seat to wait for the next train to the Embankment. Alone with my memories.