jfs: (boy with cat)
There's something enervating about constant heat in England; we're not used to it, and it saps away at us. Tempers fray, nerves thin; we snarl at each other where we would have let things go.

So I was on my way home from London Bridge, after an excellent night in the pub with friends tonight, and I got on the Ilford train at Stratford. And just as I sat down, two people bumped into each other, and he decided that she had been less than careful and she decided that he had over-reacted and suddenly two people were having a loud and energetic argument in the carriage and the rest of us just wanted to be somewhere else and that somewhere else was cool and at home. Short of an ice gun and a teleporter, that wasn't going to happen.

They sat. Not opposite each other.  She facing away from him; he defiantly placed facing the back of her head because he was correct and she was wrong. The set of his neck and shoulders exuded righteousness. She sat as if he didn't exist; defensive, perhaps, but no outward signs of nervousness.

I can't answer for either of them and what they were feeling but my reading of the situation was that violence was not going to happen. This wasn't a fight that was going to kick off. This was two people rubbing against each other like burrs under a blanket, and neither able or willing to turn around and say 'Sorry. It's a hot night. I've got a short temper tonight but I shouldn't have taken it out on a stranger'.

So - so far; about what you'd expect from public transport on a hot Friday evening.

But what drew my attention out of my headphones and book was the effect on the rest of the carriage.

If you'd asked me in advance, I'd have assumed that people would have got defensive themselves, in case a fight was going to kick off. Or they'd have got judgemental of one or both of the two, taking sides almost.

Instead I saw smiles. And not the 'Would you look at those pair?!' smiles. I saw people moving over, and making room. I saw newspapers being passed, and when I got off the train there was a concerted effort to make sure that the people with heavy luggage or prams were being helped up the stairs.

It's almost like there was a concerted unconscious effort to overcome the bad vibes that she and he were giving each other by trying to make the world a (very) slightly better place.

Someone tried to play the peacemaker between the two people that were arguing, and it went down like the proverbial lead balloon.

But the rest of the carriage, consciously or not, tried to make sure that even if those two people were upset, that didn't have to apply to anyone else.
jfs: (Default)
I haven't written much about sailing, despite it eating a number of weekends this year. Difficult to talk about, because it's too easy to wax poetical and somewhat purple about it; I know why Masefield wrote:

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

even if I am in awe of the beautiful simplicity of his language and rhythm.

So, last weekend, I sailed around the Isle of Wight with the Bank Sailing Club (of which I am now a member, and therefore allowed to fly a particular pennon if I am ever skippering a yacht. This pleases me immensely). We were heading almost due west, not far off rounding the Needles, and we had a favourable tide and wind - smooth seas as I took the helm. "Best course to windward" I was told as I took over - i.e. get the wind in a good place and just go.

As I sailed, we were skipping across the sun's track on the water - low in the October sky and dodging in and out behind the clouds, the rays were glistening on the water, looking like golden cobblestones on our path. But the wind was shifting round the quarter, and I was chasing with our boat, making small adjustments, changing the heading by 10 or 20 degrees each time.

The skipper came on deck. "Why the jinking?" he asked.

"I'm trying to keep her to windward," I replied. "If I steer straight west, we're making about 5 knots. If I keep her in the wind, we're making about 6."

He grinned at me; aware that 1 mile an hour's gain is actually, really, not a huge deal. We weren't racing, we didn't have to be anywhere in particular. The tide and wind were in our favour.

He looked forward.

"I have often thought", he said, "That one of the joys of sailing is that it allows one to emphasise the romantic over the merely efficient. Best course to sunset, please, Helm."

January 2017

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