There was probably nothing sinister about the three people sitting opposite me. The man was clearly unwell, which would explain why the women were propping him up. Their facemasks were a bit severe but there’s no law against covering the face. And there’s no law to prevent people dressing alike. For all I knew, the ladies could be sisters caring for a sick relative. All the same, I couldn’t help remembering the story about the man in the middle.
My photograph was taken in the Tokyo Metro. The man in the middle story took place in the London Underground and was circulating about thirty years ago. It went something like this:
A young woman boards a train late at night and is seized by a feeling that something is seriously wrong. She glances around and her sense of unease is heightened when she realises there is no way of leaving the carriage for another part of the train.
Three young men sit hunched up on a seat opposite her and one of them is staring at her with wide unblinking eyes. The only other passenger is a middle-aged man. After a while he comes across. The young woman has never seen him before but he talks as if he knows her.
“I’m having trouble with this crossword.”
He shows her a newspaper.
“Perhaps you could help.”
The young woman looks at the paper and sees that he has written on it in big black letters.
The man in the middle is dead. Get out with me at the next station and we’ll call the police.
AT A LOW PRICE FOR A SHORT TIME
In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font. Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered. Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch. Others saw her as a saint. Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages. The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middleclass is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France. Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.
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In an earlier post, I told you about the hazards faced by unsuspecting guys who go out for a night on the town. My stories were true and they happened to guys staying at my backpacker hostel in North Queensland. I learnt of something similar on a trip to Xian in China. Continue reading
My favourite pub burnt down a year ago. It was just over the border from the Gold Coast where I live and, like many old Aussie pubs, it was made of wood. I remember the friendly atmosphere and the decorated signs above the bar. They expressed simple truths in language everyone can understand. Continue reading
Some friends once invited me to become a partner in a nightclub. Like me, they owned backpacker hostels and wanted to branch out into something more exciting. After a careful look at the proposal I decided it wasn’t for me. In the process, I learnt a lot about the nightclub scene. In another post, I talk about the sort of competition people can face from rivals who are prepared to take extreme measures to force them out of business. That’s one of the hazards of owning a nightclub. Here I talk about the hazards faced by customers … male customers.
In the 200 odd years since European settlement, Australian English and British English have drifted apart. Words that met an untimely death in the old country have remained alive in Oz. New words have been invented. I sometimes have to remind myself that my British and North American friends might not understand what I’m saying. I hasten to add that I was born in the UK and retain some memory of how English is spoken in that country.
Have a go at translating the following: Continue reading
I wrote that headline when I was a science journalist and the story spread around the world like a rampaging virus. It even reached Mongolia. I know because the staff at the Australian consulate in Ulan Bator took press cuttings and sent me copies.