In many respects the London Underground and the Tyneside Metro are very similar, but apart from their obvious disparity of scale and size there is one major difference which sets them apart. Ride the Metro and you will notice it immediately. It’s the passengers. They don’t all sit glumly in their seats staring into the void, reading a book, fiddling with an ipod or clutching at a strap their nose inches away from their next traveller’s armpit. And the journey is not made in complete silence. Complete strangers will smile in your direction or engage you in conversation. There’s a hum of gentle chatter, a burble of voices in the air from young and old alike.
“Cold day, are yers gannin’ shoppin’? I’m meetin’ ma friend Elsie doon the toon for lunch. She catches the bus from Heaton every Thursday. Been doing it a canny while now mind.”
I was about to reply when a louder, more strident voice, cut through the air.
“I don’t believe it. Would yers look who it is.”
A few folk checked their chatter and looked up.
“The guy I had breakfast with in Paris. Ee, man, what a night that was. I was knackered for days!”
The journey had become interesting and everyone now fell silent, heads turned, wondering who was speaking and to whom, waiting whilst the train rattled on. Everyone that is, except me.
Silently they watched as a tall, long haired lady wearing a short tweed jacket over a low cut black top threaded her way along the carriage, stopped in front of Elsie’s good friend and plopped herself into my lap flinging her arms round my neck.
“It’s been a while, Pet. Howay, don’t look so shocked that I’ve found yers. Gie us a kiss, man.”
“Shazza,” I started to say.
“Least you’ve remembered my name.”
She then landed a smacker of a kiss, winked and whispered long and softly in my ear.
“Sorry, if I’m embarrassing you. But you’ve got to admit I’ve just given you something to write about. I’m dying to tell you what I’ve been up to and catch up with you too. It’s been too long. And I’ve got a writing project you might be interested in. Over lunch, it’s on me. Least I can do.”
“Shazz,” I started to say again.
“I know yers shocked, but yers repeatin’ yerself.”
“Shazz, I’m meeting someone on the quayside.”
“Bugga them, Pet. Yers coming with me, and this is our stop. Howay, shift yersen.”
Seconds later I was on the platform at Gateshead, arm in arm with Shazza watching the train slide past and aware of all the faces at the windows looking at us.
“That’ll give them something to talk about all the way to Monument. Shazz, you are naughty.”
She laughed. “Moi? Seriously, do you have time for lunch at the Baltic. Leastways you should be able to see your friend on the quayside from there!”
So if you’re reading this, Ged. That’s why I was late, mate!