I have always wanted a drinks globe. It’s the definitive symbol of gentlemanly leisure. When I found that some friends didn’t want theirs anymore, I could almost taste the slightly dusty cognac. What I didn’t bank on is that me and my girlfriend would have to haul the bloody thing across South London. This isn’t what happened.
– I really don’t think it’s going to fit, you know.
– Just take it through the luggage barriers and don’t piss about, we’ve only got three minutes.
Mary struggled to manoeuvre the structurally compromised mass of papier mache and wood over the threshold. The equatorial girdle had already been dented and she did not want to risk and further damage to the already questionable workmanship of the globe. The London Transport barrier attendant considered the shoddy, orphaned thing with absent minded disdain, but waved them through without comment.
– Bloody … mind the legs, Jim! Don’t make the thing worse than it already is!
The station clock registered 19:53, and the worry was that they would fail. Apologies to wounded commuters were offered, and it was Jim who clutched and raised the legs, Mary who clasped and lowered the bulbous orb, running the last few steps to the platform and the open doors of the train.
The four others ensconced there raised heads and displayed a ranked collection of emotions at the sight of the incongruity being slowly lifted and wheeled into the carriage, but were otherwise silent. For their part, both Mary and Jim were questioning their commitment to hauling a shabby drinks globe, shedding dust and splinters, across that large stretch of South London. They were both however, perfectly sure of, and justified in, their desire of such a thing. Who would not want a drinks globe?
They had been at a house party in Lewisham when the subject had been raised, and it had been casually mentioned that such an item was indeed gathering dust in the cellar and had become obsolete – unfit for the collective vision of the house. It had been acquired four years earlier from number 42 in a similar bout of misplaced enthusiasm, who had, in an advertisement in the local Guardian, put emphasis upon the globe’s fine condition, whilst also stating very emphatically that they wished to be rid of it.
Of the raised heads there were four. Sitting on a fold-out seat next to the door was a large man of indeterminate age who appeared to be blind drunk, judging from his sprawled countenance and heavy head. His massive, wrinkled hands and straggled beard seemed to exist in opposition to the delicate glasses that he wore. And that executive looking briefcase at his feet – he was probably something in I.T.
The man’s name was Alan Sayer and he had not been in I.T. for some months now, he had instead found occupation in the testing and reviewing of a range of strongly caffeinated dessert wines – a task at which he was employed at that moment. At the point at which the globe and it’s bearers had arrived, he could barely see – he was very dedicated to his job – but what he could make out initially caused in him a puzzlement, which after a time gave over to a great and rising sense of hilarity. It was the great, round improbability … and the legs. The legs were the best part. He went so far as to say to himself that he had witnessed nothing more hilarious in his whole life, and took to sniggering into his lap.
Sitting on the first row of double seats was a man in shirt sleeves and a kind of thick, flannelled trouser. As their glances met, Mary noted the redness of the face and the fine beaded traces of sweat on the upper lip. Ruddy, she decided. – Sanguine. His gaze lingered for a moment as if he had not registered the thing.
Next to him was a swarthy youth with a long jaw and rather deep set eyes, and when he saw what was happening, they widened suddenly as if he’d been shot and he attempted to hide his face and shoulders behind his enormous hiking pack sitting on the chair next to him. Sitting a little way off from the rest in the corner of the carriage was a man in a tweed waistcoat and yellow silk neckerchief, his long nose stabbing down in time with the jolts of the train at the book he was reading.
Mary and Jim thought it would be best to stand, and they made their way to the space next to the middle doors, wheeling the thing. Just then, the globe started spinning. Imperceptibly at first, but steadily gaining in momentum until there was none on the carriage who were unaware of it. Mary and Jim attempted to secure it, but the combined tonnage of several thousand miles of landmass rasping below their hands discouraged them. It really did feel as if their hands were being dragged with fearful speed over the Veldts of Africa and Russian tundra and so they desisted. The surface of the papier mache on which the sea was depicted was shining now, and little clouds were scudding along its surface.
The red-faced man audibly tutted at them when he saw this and straightened his paper with a violent flourish. It is possible that he was muttering. He was muttering, and he intended to go on doing so. His doctor – a decent one from Kensington – had extolled the benefits of muttering as a cathartic process, and could not have been more emphatic about its application in avoiding strain on his weakened heart. If there was any time to mutter then this certainly qualified. The sheer nerve. On a Friday night as well, when people needed the trains more than ever. What if someone broke their bloody neck? Not to mention all that spinning and carry-on. He would give them a meaningful look when they got off.