Thursday, 5 March 2009

In which I contemplate the mystery of the 8.25 from Chippenham

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

8.25am. I am on the train. (You have to imagine me shouting that in the manner of a banker yelling into a mobile with a bad signal.) I am on the way to London to go on the wireless and talk about the book in an act of shameless self-promotion.

I did a little bit of this last week. I know that you are supposed to have your three things to say and then just say them, whatever the interviewer asks, but I have a fatal tendency to try and answer the question. Worst question last week, from an Irish disc jockey in Dublin: ‘Do we really need another book for women?’ And she was a woman.
Not very sisterly, I thought. I have been having manic ésprit d’éscalier ever since.
‘No one actually needs books,’ I said crossly, afterwards, to my cousin, who was trying to make a chicken. ‘I mean, no one needs War and Peace or Persuasion or The Great Gatsby. All a person needs is food and water and some shelter from the weather.’
(Afterwards I thought: I almost could say that I really do need Persuasion.)

Then, this morning, driving round a mini-roundabout in Chippenham, I stumbled upon the perfect answer to the question. This is how it should have gone:
Not Very Sisterly Irish Radio Host: ‘Do we actually need any more books for women?’
Me: ‘Yes.’

So now I am on the train getting ready for Radio Two and Radio Manchester, and I still can’t remember my Three Things. What I would really like to say to Claudia Winkleman, (for it is she) is: ‘Claudia, why do you suppose it is, that in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a hundred years after our great-grandmothers tied themselves to the railings so that we might be free, the first class carriage of the 8.25 from Chippenham to Paddington is colonised entirely by men in suits?’
Why is that? No, really. Why?

There is one other woman in the entire carriage, of a certain age, reading the TLS, wearing a bold scarlet scarf. She looks like a critic or an academic. For the rest, it is entirely men with laptops. One of them has daringly worn a sage green ensemble with a pale pink rose in his lapel in the manner of absent-minded professors or the slightly odd teacher whom everyone adored at school, but for the rest it is blue or grey suit, black or brown shoes, and tap tap tap on the computer.

The lady who brings the drinks trolley (any more teas or coffees at all?) calls them sweetheart, as in ‘Anything else, sweetheart?’ They try not to look at me with disapproval, since I have broken the uniform code. I am wearing: black leather boots with stitching up the side, blue jeans, a dark purple jacket in very soft velvet which has been my favourite article of clothing for the last fifteen years, and a large red flower on my lapel. (I like a corsage; I would like to point out that I was wearing them long before Carrie Bradshaw had her floral moment.) My hair is the purple side of red, and my nail varnish, which I bought supposing it to be a classic rouge, has turned out to be more magenta in colour and has glittery sparkles mixed into it, so now I have disco nails. I think Claude Winkleman is going to appreciate this tremendously. The men on the 8.25? Not so much.

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