Everytime I travel through England by train, there are always interesting people to observe and eavesdrop on...Remember the last time I wrote about people I met on the train to London?
My trip back to Brighton from Leicester gave me new characters for a new post. A mother and son - who got in from Leicester (like me) on route St.Pancras in London.
So when did I first notice her- On the Leicester railway platform. She had a voice few could ignore...grating,harsh and loud enough not to require a microphone. A faux animal print jacket in a sickening colour that would make a leopard blush out its spots and eye make-up loud enough to put her loud voice to shame.
The little one standing next to her had mischief written all over his face! The number of scratches and nicks on his little blonde face gave out his favourite past times. He stood next to his MooooM and the couple of suitcases strewn around them. There were some hiccups with the train I was scheduled to take, so I put my 'spy-eavesing' expedition on the mental backburner. Getting to St.Pancras to catch the underground to Victoria to make it to my Brighton connection was more important.
But once the train rolled on to the platform and I was safely inside and baggage stowed away, the moooom and son were forgotten as I switched on my music and dived back into the book I was reading. Not for long, though...
The grating voice made herself heard over the din made by my music. Mama had chosen the seats just after mine, so I couldn't see her, but that wasn't necessary was it..Her voice did the trick. So there she was, trying to tell her distracted 4-ish year old that they had to be thankful to generous Sue, who had packed them a snack and some napkins and some plastic cutlery and a drink for little Rhys ( atleast thats what the brat's name sounded like). The little one immediately parroted, "Thank you, Sue". I wondered if it was for the benefit of the rest of us in the coach, and as I craned my neck to check if I can glimpse the exchange, I spied a couple of other necks stretching out of their seats in similar states of curiosity.
Now Rhys is your average little 4 year old charming monkey, climbing over seats, trying to get an upside down view of the coach aisle and every time he'd manage to get himself into a weird pose, a leopard skin hand would come snaking out and go "WHACCCK"...the next ten minutes would inevitably be howling and screaming. Imagine that spread out in 10 minute intervals! A "bully sermon" from the Mom set to the cacophony of Rhys' lung powered wails had many others reaching for their headsets, while I tried raising the volume of the music already set to blaring.
Now there was one constant routine that caught my attention - One sharp slap across his arms, followed by a howl of pain from the little one, followed by what I figure is an angry punch from him. To this the Mom remarks " You hit me and I punch you back, I'm your mother!" Sounded strange and petty coming from an adult, especially so in a country where beating a child isn't really encouraged.
Now the brat seemed to have been habituated to the constant whacks from moooom. In no time, he was back to his monkey ways, the streaks of tears still on his face forgotten. When the ticket checker came by, he asked if he could have a ticket. The lady asked him where he wanted to go and he said where daddy is. Rhys insisted he wanted a ticket so that he could travel by himself and leave his mom back on the train. The ticket checker laughed again and left and the Mom began loudly berating Rhys - just how could he have told her that he wants to leave her back? Hear that in that tone of hers and you'd want to personally help the boy shove her off the train. I dug my nose right back into my book and tried to drown their voices..
It took only two minutes before the entire coach was standing up and trying to check if the child was being murdered. He was wailing at the top of his lungs, claiming he was being choked, while the mother continued to wrestle him into a bulky scarf, that he kept pulling off his neck. And then came the punch line, "Stay still, Rhys, or I might just end up choking you. Trust me, you need the scarf, I'm the Mom, I know best!". She couldn't be bothered that she was being watched by the whole coach! As we sat down, the bald guy sitting next to me muttered,"You can't fight that logic, can you?". The so-far expressionless face of the Chinese girl sitting opposite me showed some signs of irritation and discomfort at the overtly public show between the mom and son.
As I got down at St. Pancras, I saw the Mooooom roughly shoving him into his pram and buckle him up despite his wails, before jerkily walking away.
Wonder what made me post this exchange. I guess the incident lingers because I have come to expect a different variety of parenting during this year in England. Children are usually treated as young adults here, asked their preferences, allowed to take their own decisions.But then again,I wonder if I judged the mom too harshly because she had a grating voice and a sense of dressing that revolted me? It can't be easy to handle a mischievous brat all by herself, can it?
The ever polite British travelling crowd didn't make a noise about the intense discomfort to the other travellers from the loud conversations, accompanying wails and the abuse on display. That's British politeness, I guess!