They clamber aboard at Upminster – they being man, boy and girl – eventually ending up on the seat opposite us. We are on the C2C service from Ockendon towards London Fenchurch Street, the first leg of what we hope will be an uneventful train ride into town; towards Tottenham Court Road for a pitstop at Dominion Theatre for Hillsong. Of the trio who disrupt what peace we’ve had so far, the girl ends up by the window, the man by the aisle and the boy – who can’t have been more than 2 or 3 – in between them. The most noticeable thing about the man is his rather tight shirt, one which his stomach strains at ever so slightly and his flip flops. If I were a betting man, I’d place him as some sort of suburb dwelling city slicker, kicking about with the family on a weekend, slightly overdoing casual in the process, perhaps as his way to compensate for being cooped up in a suit and tie all week.
In the little maelstrom generated by their arrival, I decide to move one seat over, upon which the girl gestures to someone behind me, just outside my line of sight, someone she calls mum. From this I surmise that they are man, wife, very young son and teenage daughter. The buggy ‘Mum’ has beside her strengthens my belief that the boy can’t be more than two or three; that and the excited curiosity with which he engages his father, firing off question after question at him with no respite. The green arrows above the door (magic door his father says), the yellow lights which flash around the main door controls at each train stop and the picture of the dog on the wall (an ad for the RSPCA) are all my memory picked up from the litany of questions asked.
She – the sister that is – for her part, once all are settled in, and the train is off again, picks up some notes and begins to pore over them. In the twenty or so minutes we share space as our train chugs into town it turns out she is studying for an exam, one she can ill afford to not pass, if her studious, furrowed brow of concentration, is anything to go by. The contrast between her and her brother can’t have been starker – he infinitely curious, free and inquisitive, she intensely focused on not making another misstep on the exam that looms for her.
shit happens they say; and between keeping up with the roles and duties we assume by nature of our place in family and society at large, and the expectations that come with them, curiosity and inquisitiveness can take a back seat to all the serious, mature things life demands of us. Watching the little boy and his indulging father left me with the thought that maybe sometimes the journey itself is as important as the destination. Quite rightly perhaps, one does have to focus on the wheres, the end goals of life and its constituent phases. The journey though will throw up interesting and sometimes difficult sections which we will have to work around, with wide eyed enthusiasm and curiosity. Or maybe not?