I don’t know Stu Nathan and it’s very likely that neither do you, (unless you are either Budgie Barnett who has just come out with a new book of quickfic that’s quite lovely, yes you should buy it, where you ask, why right here or Alasdair Watson of They Fight Crime.) I don’t know what he looks like, where he lives, or why he keeps a journal. If we were to meet by chance in the street, I would not recognize him. The only reason I know his name is Stu, even, is because it says so right there on his userinfo. He is a complete and utter stranger.
Why should you care? Because you should friend him. In among his regular blogging activities, he writes incredible character pieces about his fellow passengers on London transit, who he calls Tube People. Sometimes amusing, occasionally sobering, they are perpetually excellent and well worth your time.
A satisfying excerpt from a recent post:
“They clearly don’t know each other, but they have two things in common — age and class. Bundled up against the cold in overcoats and scarves, the gentleman wears an old-fashioned check cap and the lady has a cosy headscarf. He holds her arm as they board the train in the windy West London no-mans-land on the way to Heathrow, but she’s supporting him as much as she supports her.
‘Oh, thank you,’ she says, in the effortlessly penetrating cut-glass tones of the truly posh. ‘Thank you so much, I was afraid I wasn’t going to get up into the carriage.’
‘That’s quite alright,’ he replies, in a voice you can imagine encouraging the troops at Arnhem. ‘No bother at all.’ But he’s red in the face and puffing, and half-falls gratefully into his seat.
They aren’t shouting, and they couldn’t be described as loud. But their voices carry around the sparsely-populated carriage as they make the sort of small-talk you might hear at a tea-dance. Faultless manners and old-school decorum, and you can see that everyone else in the carriage is paying rapt attention. Newspapers stop rustling. Pages of novels are unturned. The volume on MP3 players is surreptitiuously lowered.
‘You said you had children? A boy and a girl, wasn’t it?’ the lady asks, her head on one side, her face attentive.
‘Oh, yes,’ says the gentlemen. ‘They’re both fine and happy, grown up now of course. Jane’s doing something in social work, living near Brighton; it’s an area called Kemptown, if I’m remembering correctly.’
‘And does she have a young man?’
‘Weeeell…’ he drawls, his eyes unfocusing slightly and a wrinkle deepening between his eyes. ‘Actually, there seem to be two young men around; they have some sort of… arrangement I don’t really understand. They don’t seem to both live there all the time, but they’re both… around. But everyone seems to be happy with it, and she has one son by each of them. And it’s a terribly bohemian area.’
‘Like a village?’ she says.
‘Oh, very like. It’s not my place to question, I think?’
‘And what about your son? What does he do?’
‘Yes, he runs his own business. He was doing something in the City, but he decided to pack it in and do something he always wanted to do.’
‘And what was that?’
‘He opened a sandwich bar with his wife.’
‘A sandwich bar? It’s not one of those places where you can’t sit down, is it? I can’t abide those.’
‘No, no, there are seats, of course there are. And you can get other things as well, hot soups and so on, and I believe there are salads as well.’ This is said in the tones of a man who has heard of the concept of salad but will have no truck with the reality.
‘And it’s doing well?’
‘Yes, very well, I understand.’
‘Oh, good! That’s marvellous. I do sometimes get peckish, you know, and a well-made sandwich is very welcome. What’s the place called? Is it somewhere I could keep and eye out for?’
‘Yes, it’s called EAT, so he tells me.’
The man opposite has raised his newspaper to hide his face, and the pages start to rustle as his hands vibrate.