Saturday, August 08, 2009

A cup of tea at East Croydon Station


The train is 6 minutes late and I'm sat at East Croydon Station armed solely with my Ipod and a cup of tea with all the charm of wet cardboard soaked in dishwater. Given that there are six or seven competing coffee stands on the station platforms, you'd have thought someone could get this right, if only by a slow evolutionary crawl towards something more like tea. This is akin to the fabled "almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea" that Arthur Dent had to contend with. But, there's power in a cup of tea, even one entirely unlike tea. It's a power drawn from the endless repetition of tea making. From my frankly heathen brewing habits to those of a friend of a friend who tastes tea for a living (the company pays her dental hygienist bills) and whose tea making skills are so rarefied no one can actually make her a cup. The endless cycle of tea making has forged my cup of tea into a weapon with mystical qualities. Cup Of Tea of Warding Evil ,+4 Endurance.

What's it protecting me from? Well, East Croydon to be frank; sunburnt tourists shivering in ill thought through last-day-of-the-holiday clothing choices disgorged from Gatwick, gangs of kids in sportswear, gangs of kids in emo wear, gangs of blokes in bad shirts, plain old fashioned nutters and, oddly, Mormons. One on an earlier train derisively asked a perfectly innocent elderly Hindu lady if she found it difficult to keep track of all those gods. I have no idea why there are so many Mormons in East Croydon, they just seem to be something of a permanent fixture.

Two girls sit next to me on the bench, both sporting slightly fading '80's revival neon clutching a can of Stella each. One talks about her boyfriend with such a forceful passion that I'm convinced Mark Antony (the Roman general not the Rn B singer) is going to clatter onto the station in full armour and whisk her away. He doesn't. Pity.

That's not to say sitting here, as I have done a fair bit, doesn't have its fair share of little epiphanies. Very late one bitterly cold night I sat bewildered as a shiny Horwart's Express style steam engine flew through the station. The only other person on the platform was asleep so I can't verify that it wasn't an acid flashback. During a period where I had to use the station a great deal there was a moment each day that I looked forward to. A gentleman in full business suit, bowler, briefcase and umbrella would get off a train neatly holding a Selfridges' Food Hall bag and glide through the throng like the ghost of some pre-war commuter.

Back to my desperate cup of tea. It's cooling now and my train is even later. Guess, I'll need a refill, I want it piping hot when somebody tries to mug me.

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