Travellers Tales

Jim shouted ‘I said get me up at 7.30’, but I thought he said 8.00 so the pair of us were running around like blue-arsed flies this morning.
He managed to get out in ten minutes. Off to the dentist, having had four and half hours of sleep.
I was more leisurely and dawdled around until I realised that I had to get to TWells for the 9.01 train and it was nearly 8.30 and the traffic and the rush hour and OMG! – So I kissed the dog and ran like the clappers to the car, ran back having forgotten the keys, ran back again and drove in the fast lane until I arrived at the car park. Then I leapt out of the car, put in my first pound coin – it came back to me. The second did the same. The parking machine was broken, so I wrote a scribbled note on an old receipt, ran to the exit where a working machine leered at me, bunged in 4 pound coins, too much money as I had no change, ran back to the car, screwed up the note and put the real parking ticket in its place, then walked very fast indeed to the station.
Got my cheap day return then into the coffeebarcumwaitingroom for ‘The Mirror’ and ‘The Mail’, both of which I hate, but both of which can be devoured in under 40 minutes and both of which have opposing versions of Alistair Campbell’s diaries, all of which makes… no, never mind as it’s just another pile of parliamentary money spinning.
I grabbed a seat next to an unusually long legged man and settled down for a read.
Now I don’t mind people falling asleep next to me, although I would prefer to have been formally introduced first, but this geezer stretched both his legs into my space, diagonally under the table. I had to struggle to put my little legs (I am only 5.1 and three quarters) up on the seat opposite which meant sliding down in the seat until my chin was resting on my clavicles.
When Long John Baldy started scratching his bits, I swear I nearly woke him, but he was so deeply asleep I thought it would confuse him if an aging traveller whacked him over the head with Alistair Campbell.

Then I started thinking about appropriate travelling etiquette and remembered that some 25 years earlier I promised myself that as I got older I would resist graceful behaviour and that having my bare feet up on the seat opposite gave me a frisson of yoof.
The lad continued sleeping whilst I read the grim news and made way for the comings and goings of other passengers.
The opera singer in the adjacent seat had an ample buttock region and ill-matching jewellery, a flappy linen outercoat in Burnt Sienna – a favourite hue of the artistic type don’t you think? – and an assortment of bags. I knew she was a chanteuse because a chartreuse green basket contained her music. Vividly colourful accessories are also a dead give away.
Maria Callas stood up and bent over, scrabbling around for her score, whilst thrusting her large basso profondo in my face. After reseating herself she then set about underlining phrases with a fine HB pencil. She looked like she ought to have been a contralto, but you can never tell a Bach by its Colorotura, although she did have the gravitas of a weighty warbler, and anthropomorphically speaking, her dog, which was under the table, looked exactly like her – it was a big hairy retriever.
The hound lay contentedly at her feet and those of her fellow travellers. The commuter sitting opposite the songtress was happily reading his FT and nibbling on a delicious smelling baguette, whilst his legs were gallantly splayed out in the aisle unlike my travelling companion whose knees, by the time we had chased through Chelsfield, were practically in my gusset.
Two passengers, who fetched up in Tonbridge, declined the offer to use the pooch as a foot stall but a bouncy woman who boarded in Sevenoaks took the window seat. The dog looked terrified as she placed her cushioned frame in the seat usurping his cabin space with a waft and wave of voluminous skirt. She planted her magnificent legs either side of the dog, who sniffed and then hung his head between his paws. She took out a mirror and make-up pouch, dabbed ‘touch eclat’ under her eyes – don’t you just hate it when gels put their make-up on in flagrante? It’s the private made public. I blame it on Big Brother. She blobbed foundation on her chin, nose, cheeks and forehead, leaving them unattended as she carefully screwed the lid back on the foundation bottle before methodically wiping her fingers on a grubby tissue.
As we hurtled towards Hildenborough, she studied her face in her little compact and smoothed the foundation over her skin with pudgy fingers. On with a colourless lipstick, perfectly applied I may add, which did little for her complexion, then expertly mastered her mascara. I was worried, as we soared into Orpington that she would stab herself in the eye with her mascara wand but she was clearly a dab hand because when we reached Waterloo East she had added an unwavering eye liner. By the time Big Ben bonged out 10.00, she had added a rather fetching pink blusher. I must say her transformation from Kent to the capital was resplendent.
We arrived in Charing Cross at 10.01 precisely, which must have been a first, by which time the young man next to me had closed his legs but had involuntarily let his mouth fall open emitting traces of early morning imperfection. I scrambled out of my seat and leapt off the train, leaving my newspapers behind me. I am guilty of dreadful wastage in the paper department. I then ran towards my date.
There he was, looking all young and handsome standing under the clock, which is where I told him to wait. He said he was going to buy me some flowers but they were too expensive but then I thought, hold on, he’s my agent and my fifteen per cent would have covered at least a bunch of tight lipped carnations. Still, its the thought that counts.
We trotted off to Covent Garden where he had set up a meeting with Channel 5. As always, the hour was noisy and fun, and we left bright eyed and bushy tailed full of optimism and newly sprung hope. If anything happens, I will of course reveal all.
Then into a tiny coffee bar for my second coffee of the week. Shameful, but delicious. We talked about new projects and then we went our separate ways.
Life is pregnant with possibilities all of which are waiting to pop when the school holidays are over, although it will then be August Bank Holiday so nobody who is anybody will be working. October and November are Jewish holidays so there won’t be any meaningful developments then and next it’s the run up to Christmas which means anybody who is nobody will be in New York shopping. January and February sees the annual exodus to the Caribbean and please forget March and April because nobody who is nobody will be having their yearly Faberge Easter egg hunt, which neatly segues into the schools spring break and… Hold on… Does anybody ever do any work?
Whilst pondering the timetable of Televisual Land I wandered into Neals Yard to visit Chris George, he of cheese-making fame, who wasn’t there, but I nobbled a nibble of two creamy chedders. I felt like a very happy little mouse. Then I met up with Nina, my gorgeous trainer, for lunch.
We went to Gaby’s, which is famous for its salt beef sandwiches and falafel. I used to go there 25 years ago when I was in the West End doing me bit as an actress. Every day I would argue with Sarah, an Israeli, about the nature of being Jewish and the separatist policy of Israel. She taught me a big lesson in tolerance. I hate any kind of sectarianism so when I lodged any kind of criticism of her country she would remind me of the people who walked the streets of Jerusalem or Jericho, Haifa or Tel Aviv with the blue numbers still branded in their arms from 1939. ‘Nobody minds that Italy or France are Catholic countries, so what’s the problem with a Jewish State’ she would argue.
Mr. Littlejohn did a rather good documentary on anti-Semitism last night. 25 years later, whenever I go into Gaby’s, I am reminded that there is a place for everybody in the world.
Nina and I sat in the back of the restaurant indulging in salad, hummus and good conversation which covered, exercise, food addiction and the radio, which before I forget – I have been offered me own slot on LBC starting August 4th. It’s the 6-8 slot on Saturday nights.
Yes, they are trying me out, training me up, and paying me for it. I’m as happy as a pig in p… Do join me if you can.
I then left Nina and hopped across the road to get some money out of the hole in the wall as Gaby’s don’t accept cheque cards, then headed for the station.
The train was practically empty, until Tonbridge, when a hoard of school kids got on, with their mobile phones and noisy manners.
I wanted to do the Evening Standards crossword, but I didn’t have a pen. I was going to ask the woman eating very loudly from her crisp packet, but I thought better of it. We arrived just after 4.00, so I walked to the posh baby shop and bought a little Dior dress for my new great niece. Maddeningly expensive, but then you are only born once. Well, maybe not for some, but you know what I mean.
Got home and hugged my dog till his eyes popped, took me clothes off, put on me pj’s, wrapped up Miss Dior, answered my phone calls and commiserated with BB who had her wallet nicked in Victoria. She was very philosophical about it considering she lost every card she owns and all her money. ‘They probably needed it more than me’, she said.
Don’t get too misty eyed. Jim and I will have to bale her out, but she is a good kid.
In answer to you, dear blogpal – yes, I know feet get smaller with weight loss, but not enough to stop the obsessive purchasing of yet more stilettos.
Tonight I am chilling, then tomorrow I begin my proper writing. I have put it off for far too long and Nina is emailing me a new regime using some kind of weird stick that makes you fit without putting any stress on aching knees. If it works you’ll be the first to know.
Until then have a good evening and cusoon.

10 thoughts on “Travellers Tales”

  1. Really pleased to hear about your LBC news, Jeni! I shall be tuning in but I hope you knew that anyway. Good luck with your writing too.

  2. Well I’ve done it; I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now and I just couldn’t help my childishness …….. What did I do you ask Jeni?? I voted for Jeni Barnett as my local food hero on the UKTV food website!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry but it just HAD to be done!
    Will be listening at the weekend Jeni

  3. Hi Jeni, what an eventful journey you had it could only happen to you! Looking forward to seeing your photo, and hopefully on channel 5. Thanks to Emma for her suggestion of salt for my slugs, I already tried it, but with the number we have I would need shares in Saxo! Lots a luv xx

  4. Excellent news, Jeni, about Channel 5 possibilities and the definite LBC gig – I’m delighted for you (and us!). See, we told you things would perk up.
    What a brill idea of Jill’s – I’m definitely going to vote for you in the Local Food Heroes.
    Love, Sally xx

  5. Hi Jeni
    Great news about LBC and my new Sky+ is in so I can record you here in Welsh Wales and listen. Your travellers tales made me laugh the worse one for me is the body odour issue, when someone sits next to you that hasn’t washed or sprayed for years and you have to hold your breath for the entire trip eewww.
    love Marmite Girl xx

  6. Great to read about what you are up to as many many miss you on the UKTV Food Live. Will be letting the family know that you have a slot on LBC we will be tuning in. Best wishes Michael North, The Trail Master 🙂 x

  7. Hi Jen,
    Great news about the LBC gig I will be tuning in. Good to hear that life is all rosy for you again.
    Michelle xx

  8. You’re back!! two hours on Sunday morning here in Aus.
    I found out the hard way, since I haven’t really watched the Food channel since GFL ended I had no idea.
    Decided to have a much needed soak in the tub last Sunday morning. Miss Five came screaming
    for me to come quickly. I thought there must be a fire. Ran out with a towel on to find her pointing at the tele with
    a look of glee ” Jeni’s on” .
    Says it all doesn’t it?

  9. Chris Carcassonne, the pig tastes really good. If you lived closer you could have a share! I’d be glad to find someone nearby who felt as I do about food.

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