I had lunch with my good friend Linda yesterday. We used to catch the train together each morning to Manchester city centre and would then part ways. The train was always packed with grumpy people with long faces and Linda and I would see the same faces when we met each evening at Victoria station. However, the journeys sparked friendships and conversations that long outlived the terrible journeys.
The things people say; words dropped innocently into everyday conversation, can find their way into one of my books. Linda's contribution was: "Beans-On." Whenever I asked her "What do you think you'll eat tonight?" she would laugh and reply jokingly: "Beans-on - something quick and simple - beans on toast, beans on a jacket spud." Who knew that years later, one of the characters in my first book would use this very expression?
Sometimes, just listening to strangers animatedly discuss a complaint or event may inspire a written dialogue, which then leads to greater things. A joke passed between friends can be the seed to a story plot or the expression on a stranger's face when they think nobody is looking, can make you wonder what deep sadness lies beneath.
The train journeys were long and suffocating but a rich source of information mixed with people's dreams and a few characters I'll never forget: -
"Side Show Bob" whose huge feet blocked the centre aisle and Linda fell over them one day.
"Captain Pike" who, when seated, looked remarkably like an old Star Trek character.
"Tourettes" who used to make us jump if we didn't realise he was standing behind us.
And - that strange university lecturer who intrigued and then disgusted us one day with his old tobacco tin, which he stroked lovingly throughout the journey. Then, when he opened it we saw it contained pieces of string with a paper clip at either end. The disgust came when he used one of them as dental floss!!!
I still cannot fathom why people do or say some things but, may it long continue because without weird and wonderful characters, life wouldn't be as entertaining. It was my great pleasure to enjoy a brief time each morning and evening travelling with Linda as my companion in mirth.