Bookworm By Rail


For the last two years (wow! how time has flown) I have attempted to alleviate the horrors of the morning and then the return evening commutes with my attempts at devouring a different Penguin Classic ( & more often than I’d like also the very helpful explanatory notes) in record time as I’m gently buffeted between sniffing miserable commuters and shouty pissed up ruddy faced blokes on their way back from a jolly boys outing in the ‘Big City’. I’m being aided in this attempt by a friend who runs a small second hand bookshop, although in thinking about it I suppose it doesn’t hurt him if he can flog a few titles to me in the process.

Despite the distractions of early morning surly commuters and late night drunks catching the last train home I’ve now somehow managed to have worked my way through most of the Roman offerings in the guise of the histories and letters, I’m particularly quite fond of Seneca The Younger and his ‘Letters from a Stoic’ which pop with a witty modern feeling conversational style when taken from private correspondence. I’m now deep into the Greeks (f’narr-f’narr!) and attempting to wrestle with the weighty philosophical themes around death, the concept of the conscious and the soul presented in Plato’s dialogues of ‘Phaedo’… which granted hardly makes for an easy read on a crowded train journey of an hour and twenty minutes … or having to flick to the notes and back again.

I have noticed something rather sweet about being a ‘book reader’ on a train (when ‘book reader’ started being deserving of having quote marks around it marking it out as something different I’m not sure but it seems to be something which we all think is on the way out despite the fact everyone claims to love reading books) What I’ve picked up on is that if you’re sat happily reading an old fashioned printed book rather than reading from a kindle or mobile device then other bookworms start to congregate near you, making the effort to sit in the same space as you and some even make a bit of a show in retrieving their well read and loved ratty paperbacks from bags and pockets as if its a sign or a badge of belonging to some tribe: ‘here’s my book! See I’m one of you not one of ‘them’ with their screens and infernal finger swipes!’ sort of thing.

Often they also smile with a sort of friendly recognition but the most important thing here, the most wonderful thing they do to show a mutual understanding of book reading etiquette is they remain blissfully silent!


Maybe that’s the real reason other book readers choose to sit next to or across from other book readers, they’re guaranteed a little bit of peace rather than risking sitting next to someone who might look like they’re busily engaged in reading something on their mobile phone or tablet only in fact to be setting up some shitty music play list to play audibly via tinny headphones designed all the better to annoy people with.



Electoral Dysfunction


I stayed up until 5:15am when the result was pretty much known for all watching and for the worst aspects Trump support to be crowing during interviews with two horrible plastic looking Stepford Wife soccer mom types being less than graceful in victory it has to be said. Disheartened I retired to bed and attempted to get some (even fretful) sleep before the morning commute and the inevitable heated discussions on the result.

So at the risk of sounding patronising I’d like to say to my American friends on FB whom I think I know well in some cases, less well in others but enough to guess where your vote landed, from a Brit who was devastated by Brexit (which this is drawing parallels with in some media) and who has had to put up with snidey, borderline Anglophobic comments from Canadian tourists (of all people!) hinting that all Brits must be closest racists and close minded bigots due to that outcome, that we know.
We know this doesn’t reflect everyone in America political views, we know how shocked and greatly saddened you must be, we know that you might even be worried about any possible verbal (or worse) backlash when abroad or being judged for simply being American as if Trump being elected is therefore your fault alone but hey listen, for what its worth here’s a virtual hug and assurances that a section of ‘out of touch’ woolly, liberal Britain understands perfectly those sentiments for broadly similar reasons. Its a bad time to be a liberal either socially or politically it seems as though the extreme voices on the right or for bigotry appear to be on the ascendency across the globe pandering to distrust, fear and outright hate and it can all get rather depressing when you view it in a wider context.


Try not to fret too much my dears, far easier said than done I know, but you have many friends in the UK (and soon no doubt in the rest of Europe) who can relate to being both cast as the ‘loosing side’ at home and then feeling like the ‘bad guys’ when abroad as well- maybe we could start a support club? Anyway I for one still love you and America, the America at least I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing and experiencing first hand and I will always smile and share a friendly word should we ‘political exiles’ bump into one another and we can grumble and quietly seethe together over a coffee.


On one note of a possible ‘sliver lining’ though it’s certainly seems like its going to be a good time to be in a punk band and have something to kick against. Small comfort I know but it’ll probably be more convincing and urgent than the ‘rock against Bush’ scene ever was.

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