Fact or fiction?

A few years ago I made a habit of noting the random things I overheard (purely by chance, this was not intentional eavesdropping) and chronicling them on this blog in a cunningly named ‘overheard’ series. One of my favourites (aside from a locker room marriage chat) was one about a dead dog in a suitcase that got stolen

[You’ll have to follow that link, I’m not re-telling it here!]

I remember it vividly. I’d been having coffee with my friend Katie outside Cafe Nero by London Bridge’s pirate ship. It was a sunny day and while Katie went inside to use the facilities, I soaked up some rays. As I did so, I couldn’t help but overhear what the two ladies at the table next to us were talking about. It was utterly bizarre and enthralling, so I sat there with my eyes closed, trying to remember the details so I could write about it later.

It’s the kind of story that sticks in one’s head, so it’s not surprising that when I spotted the following exchange on Facebook last week, my attention was well and truly caught:

Spot that last comment? Dead dog in stolen suitcase reference. I couldn’t believe my eyes and spent some time wondering if I’d ever told Sophie the story (she was in my small group last year, so it was more than possible). At the same time as I was writing a comment to that effect, someone else joined in and things got even more curious: 

Have you heard the story? (Other than by reading this blog – and if you’ve been reading since May 2009 you deserve some kind of long-service award!) Is it a sophisticated urban myth? Was the old lady I heard telling the tale simply repeating something she’d heard elsewhere for comic effect? Or, was someone with a much, much more popular blog than mine in Cafe Nero that day and caused the story to go viral?

Who knows. Still, it makes for an excellent dinner party conversation.

Overheard at Wimbledon

Far too much conversation and not enough attention being paid to this sign:

I appear to have the knack of always sitting in front of talkative people – whether it’s at the theatre, in church or at the tennis – people who chatter away, pointlessly, despite it being hugely inappropriate. In a sporting situation, the usual grumpiness (e.g. “how much longer do you think this sermon will go on for?”) is replaced by armchair punditry. All of a sudden, the world and his wife is as knowledgeable as McEnroe, Becker, Barker and Lloyd combined.

The couple sat behind me and K were appalling. In fact, had we not left our seats at the same time as them, I’d have been tempted to tell them to shut up (though possibly in a nicer way, more appropriate to the genteel lawns of SW19). They didn’t stop talking – at all. Comments were varied and included (but were not exclusive to) the following:
“She won two years ago, but doesn’t seem to have done much since.” [Referring to 2008 Girls Champion Laura Robson who in fact reached the 2nd round of the Ladies tournament last year.]
“She’s not moving very fast. If she’d run faster she’d have made that ball.”
“What she really needs to do is vary her shots.” 
“Well done Laura, keep it up!” [Not at all patronising.]
“Why isn’t she wearing a hat?” 
“It’s the wind at that end of the court, that’s the problem…”

Goodness me, it was flipping irritating! Oh, and the older lady sat next to K (who’d had a doze before the players appeared and then took a dose of pro-plus to keep herself going) then spent a considerable amount of time unwrapping toffees in crinkly wrappers, before nodding off again. We were surrounded by people who seemed to be totally unaware of their actions – apart from a nice Australian man who valiantly cheered on the Aussie who defeated the Brit in the Boys semi-final despite being the only one doing that in a very partisan crowd.

When we moved on to Henman Hill (a part of me can’t bear to call it ‘Murray Mound’) to watch Murray’s seemingly inevitable defeat to Nadal, we found a spot with a decent(ish) view right at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, because we were so far back, it became the party zone and we were soon surrounded by drunken revellers. I hadn’t realised people came to Wimbledon to drink – personally, I go for the tennis and the Pimms is a side bonus. Ho hum…

As a side note, if you’ve often been tempted to head to Wimbledon but never quite got around to it – go. This was my first visit since 2004 and I’d forgotten just how much I love it. (Possibly because 2004’s visit was literally a total wash-out – not a ball was played.) The idea of queuing can be daunting, but it’s fun – just make sure you pick a sunny day and have a good, interesting friend in tow. There’s usually a range of suitably interesting distractions, this year included a photo booth courtesy of HSBC and a history of Wimbledon through the eyes of Robinson’s Barley Water, so the time can pass quickly. Take a bag of food and some Pimms in a can and you have all the ingredients for a perfect day. A bonus is that ground passes are rather good value too – today it was just £15, a total bargain.

Cheesy photo booth – got to love it, at 8am on very little sleep…

Overheard on Sunday


Onboard the 07.08 Heathrow Express

“The train’s going very quickly!”

Well duh…that’s how it goes from Paddington to Heathrow in 15mins – it’s called ‘express’ for a reason!

At the National Gallery of Scotland
[A mother to her baby son] “That’s Mary and Jesus and John the Baptist. It’s a Raphael – it’s very exciting. Now, where’s that Da Vinci…?”

Bless her! I nearly melted on the spot. (And I do love a cute baby.) Nice to see the art history lessons kicking in at an early age!

Overheard on the 19.28 from Richmond to London Waterloo

“Well, it’s not as though you’re 35 and have to marry the first man that comes along or be single forever…” 

“Marry him right this minute!” 

“Only on the cheeks? How very 1940’s of him. Next time maybe you should take the initiative.” 

“You found things to talk about for NINE hours – of course there’ll be a third date!” 

“Ooooh, maybe we could double-date?! I LOVE double-dating!”

In these five extracts from a phone conversation that lasted from Richmond to London (approximately 15 minutes) we have many of the problems that exist in female friendships:

(i) Ridiculous relationship advice. The woman spent the entire conversation practically insisting that her friend must like this latest man, even though the friend in question was rather confused about it all.

Don’t get me wrong, advice between friends is excellent. Whenever I have an issue there is a distinct circle of people who are consulted (always the true researcher, this usually includes a varied sample of ages, faith backgrounds, relationship statuses and occasionally genders), but their advice is considered on its individual merits. But, there will always be ridiculous advice that’s not worth taking.

(ii) Over-excitement at friends getting into relationships. When one is a smug-married (and I know this girl was, her boyfriend was right next to her, immersed in a book and muttering at intervals) the temptation is to drag every single one of your friends kicking and screaming into smug-marriedness with you – regardless of whether or not they are interested in someone or if someone is interested in them.

(iii) The classifying of men and the adoption of stupid nicknames. Referring to her chum’s potential new man as “1940’s man” owing to his chivalrous tendencies was odd, referring to her own boyfriend as “1960’s man” was even weirder. Thing is, I think a lot of women do it. Amongst my friends there are men referred to as ‘idiot boy’, ‘J-God’, ‘Fish’ and ‘Tim’. (Yes, the last one might sound like a perfectly normal name, but it is in fact code.)

Anyway, why would someone have such a conversation, loudly, with a highly irritating tone of voice and laugh (think Janice from Friends) in public? It’s the friend she was talking to that I feel sorry for. I bet she’s delighted that an entire train carriage have heard the details of her dating adventures!

Overheard prior to the evening performance of Chicago…

[Sat in row H for Friday’s performance of Chicago, I overheard this conversation from row I:]

First Woman: Do you get to go out much?

Second Woman: I’ve been breastfeeding for 10 and a half months! I’ve been nowhere!
I paid £100 for a changing bag – don’t ask me why – but it’s got these feeding pods & drinking pods, they’re amazing…
First observation, if you’ve not been anywhere for over 10 months, why would you need a £100 changing bag? Second observation, what on earth are ‘feeding pods’?
Incidentally, on the subject of Chicago, whilst it’s not in my all-time favourite musicals list, I do highly recommend getting the best seats possible in the stalls. It certainly helps you gain a different perspective on what’s happening on stage.
You know – see all the detail on the somewhat skimpy costumes; appreciate the subtleties of the choreography; observe the nuanced facial expressions…
Ok, who am I trying to kid. It gave me a fantastic view of the male dancers, well, one particular male dancer. I’m not usually one to objectify men, but Oh. My. Goodness. He was possibly the most perfect example of God’s creation. As far as I could see, all the women sat near us were transfixed.
I could also tell the tale of the amusing night I had following the performance, with one of the show’s leads, in a private members club in Soho, but I think it might cast me in not so great a light and I’ve already sounded shallow enough in this post…