Customer care 2

I was having breakfast a few weeks ago at Birmingham New Street station (I had to change trains. Honestly), in a place called something like the Covent Garden Company. I’d just finished my Greek-style yogurt with sliced strawberry and crunchy bits when a woman came over to clear the table. She wiped the surface with her cloth. We had this exchange.

– Have a nice day.
– Thank you. You too.
– Chance’d be a fucking fine thing.

I treasure this moment of sincerity.

Talking of Birmingham New Street, I once did spend a night there. I was sixteen and I was hitching down to London with my best friend, Nigel Foster, from the Potteries, a first for both of us and conceived, I seem to remember, as a dry run for the great escape. It all got a bit too much for us by the time we’d reached the Second City, so we decided to cut our losses and go to a club called Mothers, which had quite a reputation at the time. (Does anyone remember it?) We saw Soft Machine (with, I think, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers), and Derek and the Deviants; we were offered, but couldn’t afford, drugs. After we’d been thrown out, we caught an all-night bus – with the intention of staying on it all night – but were thrown off that as well and ended up at the station. Where we tried to sleep but were constantly moved on by police. It was exciting in a sub-Kerouac way, and then depressing and extremely cold. No one tried to pick us up. In fact, the forces of evil were pretty much absent that night; no free samples from dealers, no friendly strangers with offers of beds. We caught the first train back to Stoke-on-Trent, where my father was waiting for us in the car. He didn’t ask us if we’d had a nice day.

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