Sunday 31 August 2008
Chance meeting on a train.
This happened a short while back. This incident occurred when I was returning from the far north west of Scotland. My journey had started that morning. Firstly by post bus and then a series of trains. One to Inverness and from there another to Edinburgh. Another change to the London train. Surprisingly the London train had not been that that busy. In fact I had managed to find myself a seat with a table. Just as the train was pulling out a disheveled, shabby dressed guy, roughly middle aged, shuffled down the carriage. He nodded at the seats at the other side of the table. " May I?" Certainly I had no objection as such. However, I do have problems with social interactions. That is a complex issue that I do not need to go in to here. It became obvious the man wanted to talk though. The first thing that struck me was his accent. His manner of speech, the way he spoke belied his dress. His voice was cultured, polished and softly modulated. On long journeys I try and pick up some food to eat on the way. Having already taken my knife out of the rucksack it had been my intention to have some cheese and tomato rolls. He watched as I cut open a roll and added the tomato and cheese. It would have been mean not to have passed over one to him. he ate it hungrily and took little persuading to have a second one. The guy gestured at my knife "Do you always carry a knife?" I explained that on the hill a knife was part of my equipment. He nodded and a smile flitted across his face. Cocking his head to one side, he nodded. "Yes, I saw you just before you got on the train. Your rucksack suggested you are a serious hill walker." The man began to talk. telling me how he had been drifting around Scotland for the last few months. Giving a deep sigh, he paused and then went on. "I had it all you know!" he gave a shake of his head. "Pointless, all pointless." Looking at me directly he went on. "Money, managerial position in a big firm. Wife, family, good house, expensive cars, the lot." He shrugged his shoulders. "Probably you think I'm nuts?" Quietly I assured him that was not the case. It was obvious the guy had gone through some traumatic times. "Maybe it was all my fault. I was working long hours, not at home as much as ought to have been. But I was earning top dollar and we where doing well." His voice caught for a moment, he paused for a moment and the rushed on. "My wife wanted a divorce. Non compatible and all that stuff. I didn't contest it. The kids where well provided for and that was my main concern." He gave a deep sigh. "The day the final papers where signed I just gave her the house, everything. Just walked away from it all. Even left the cars. walked out of her life for ever." He have a wry grin. "In all probability I have broken the law somewhere." My curiosity was aroused and I asked him what he meant. "As I say, the day the divorce was finalised I just walked away from everything. Left a few things with an old school chum, rang my office to say I would not be coming in, ever. I was supposed to be under contract to the company and I broke it. Just got a taxi and hopped on a train to Scotland." I asked him why Scotland? "Old family connections, I used to stay up there on my university breaks." He went on to tell me how he had just been drifting around Scotland for the last few months. As we chatted he told me a little about his degree in history. In fact, from what he said, an MA in European history as well as various degrees in business studies, finance and so on. Some of what he said sounded a tad out of kilter, but not that far. He was convinced America was on the wane as a super power. He got quite animated as he spoke. "America is finished. Only it doesn't realise it yet. The Uk is set to become a third world country. There's going to be an energy crisis. Rising food bills, fuel bills. Gas and electric are going to increase sharply." He glanced at me. "People like yourself will survive. outdoor types are usually practical people." He spoke urgently. "Ok, fine, it all sounds crazy. mark my words though. Respect for law and order is already being undermined. Life is becoming cheap. Look at history, all the great civilizations that have risen and fallen. They have collapsed from within. It's going to happen here too." He continued on in that vain for a while. Pausing for a moment, gathering his thoughts, the guy shook his head. "I have to travel south. A funeral that I am obliged to attend. Then I'm on the next train north again. " The man gave a wry smile. "You're lucky, I bet you can turn your hand to many practical things. You know, working with tools and everything. Me, I'm bloody useless at such things." He leaned forward in his seat. "Things have to change. They must. So much of our material world is futile, transient. Once I get back to Scotland I'm joining up with a small commune." From what he told me, they where a small group of people scattered over a fairly wide area and mainly self supporting. My mind still goes back to that man. A sad, lonely figure. Was he just some crazy guy looking for someone to spout his mad ideas at? To be honest, a lot of what he said, made sense. Certainly he knew his history. Me, well I am keeping an open mind.