In February 2018, the notorious ‘Beast from the East’ snowstorm hit the UK. It was Reading Week at my university and for some bonkers reason, I decided to travel home. With trains cancelled left and right, my journey was looking pretty hopeless; I managed to get from Egham to Reading with ease but it was at my connection from Reading to Bristol Parkway that I got a bit stuck. The trains kept slowing down to a complete stop so if it wasn’t cancelled completely, my train would be massively delayed.
On top of this, it was also obviously absolutely freezing so a cold train station was the last place I wanted to be. Close to giving up, I went and sat down on a bench at platform 9 to wait for my train that I thought was never coming. After a few minutes, a girl my age asked if she could sit next to me. Miserable and cold, I didn’t really want any company but said yes regardless.
She got chatting to me; talking about what music I was listening to, where she was going, her plans for the evening, how her girlfriend loves the snow so she couldn’t be mad at the storm. She was SO chatty that I guess more time than I thought passed and our train miraculously turned up. We got on together and talked for the whole journey.
She eventually got off at Swansea but before she left we exchanged Instagram handles. We don’t really speak but she’s now a reliable ‘liker’ of all my posts.
I guess the moral of the story is that small talk with a stranger may not have earn you a close friend but you might make social media buddy that you can always count on to hype up your selfies!
I’m walking behind a wheelchair – actually a powered one – and the lady in the driving seat is doing a fair impression of Davros, Dark Creator of the Daleks. It very much appears I’m there just to sweep up the bodies. See, that’s the great relationship that I have with my aging mum.
Anyway I’m in the mood for distraction and at twenty paces I see a woman carrying a huge plant in her arms.
18 paces: we make eye contact and she says: I couldn’t resist!
15 paces: I take a second glance: Echinacea?
12 paces: Nope, Dahlia!!
9 paces: wiry stems and pink, reflexed petals: Well it fooled me
6 paces: I know, me too, to start with
3 paces: shapes becoming much clearer: Oh yeah, I see the leaves!
1 pace: big smile: They had one more, at the market
0 paces: I’m smiling big too: We’ll take a look
-2 paces: still smiling…
-5 paces: still smiling…
-10 paces: still smiling…
I got my first job as a television researcher as a result of small talk. I met a man on a train, and we got talking. It was the days before mobile phones, and maybe the book I was reading wasn’t holding my attention, so there wasn’t an entire internet to divert my attention. So one or other of us must have struck up a conversation. I can’t remember what we talked about. I guess the nature of small talk is that it’s often inconsequential, but we talked a lot, over several train journeys. At some point I must have told him that I wanted to work as a television researcher, because when he set up his own production company in Bristol, I got the job. And it was great, for a while. If this story feels a little flatter than it should, it’s because the job ended up turning a bit sour. But that’s another much more complicated story for a different day.