I took my seat.
The train out of King’s Cross was unusually busy. I adopted my usual foolproof strategy for ensuring that nobody sits next to me – I opened my broadsheet newspaper wide, placed a smelly-looking sandwich on the table in front of me and adopted the facial expression of a yob.
An American embarked. I knew he was an American because he had a big hat. He sat next to me.
I quite like American people. I know there are some anti-Americans who might have a go at them for their foreign policy, not doing the Kyoto thing etc., but if I meet an American person I do not expect them to take me personally to task for Ben Elton. And the jury’s still out as to which of these has the potential to cause more long-term misery and despair.
He introduced himself, as one does on trains. I politely did likewise before returning to my newspaper.
“Is there a washroom on the train?” he asked.
I put down my newspaper and struggled with this, before giving the honourable reply. “If you’ve just come from Heathrow,” I advised, “I would hate for the first impression of our country’s sanitation to be the toilets on WAGN.”
Once more I lifted my newspaper, this time in an extremely exaggerated ‘look, I am reading my newspaper’ type fashion.
He took this in good spirits and began asking me things. It was pointless to resist.
He was from Arizona, which made him a proper American, not like those plastic ones that you see on ‘Friends’ and stuff. I explained that I’d always wanted to visit Arizona when I was a kid, because it sounded quite exciting, what with having a ‘Z’ in it. (This was before I visited Ashby-de-la-Zouch).
“Are we still in London, or is that an English village?” he asked (word-for-word) as we sped through Knebworth.
“And what are those?”
I spent ten minutes giving an interesting historical lecture on the English allotment movement, from wartime to present day.
“And that? Wow, that is lush.”
I glowed with pride.
“It’s a bowling green.”
“A bowling green. Do you not play bowls in America? Like… lawn bowls? Where you have to get each bowling ball closest to the white ball?”
“Oh! Like the old folk play!” he laughed.
“Right,” I said, in a very small voice.