Monday, 24 May 2010

Look Who's Talking: Tights and Tolstoy

When it comes to picking up a conversation with a stranger on the train, Londoners are a pretty quiet bunch.

So it's with a mixture of surprise and amusement that over the last few months, I seem to have found two sure-fire ways to get a comment from a fellow commuter.

Number one: bright tights. I work in the media. I need to be smartly dressed for people to take me kinda seriously; but make sure there's a creative edginess to what I wear, or noone will remember me, or believe I've ever had a good idea. My bright tight collection consists of yellow, bright blue, and bright red. I've got some purple ones too, but they're less significant. But I have to say, I've lost count of the number of comments I've had from total strangers about my tights.

I remember the first: "Wow, you look great! What a fantastic colour!" I'd paired the blue with a matching blue bag and a black LBD. Mr Old-Enough-To-Be-My-Father blushed after his outburst as if he'd realised all the London-train-no-talk rules he'd just broken. "Great, err... legs!" was another, directed at my yellow tights as I was coming out of Peckham Rye train station, avoiding a boy on a bike. And last week, "I like your bright red tights," said a young suited London wideboy (can I still use that phrase, does anyone know what it means?!) waiting to get on the Jubilee Line.

It really makes me laugh. I hope I've perfected my amused-but-pleased thank yous. Today's hot weather suggests these conversation starters will have to be confined to winter storage for a while later this week...

Number two: As previously mentioned, I've been wading though Anna Karenin for some time now. And never has a book I've been reading sparked so many conversations with strangers.

People really stare at the cover. Twice, lads I've been sitting opposite have tried starting conversations about it. "Err, good book?" was one. Another, realising I was about to get off, and he was about to miss his chance managed to stutter "How's Tolstoy?"

"Not good," I replied, feigning sadness. "I think it's going to end badly..." with a wink. He chuckled. "I think it's going to end badly... yeah... good one..." And he was gone.

And Anna sparked a proper, full-blown chat into swapping first names another night. "John" (they're always called John at the mo) and I talked about Tolstoy, Russian literature, long novels, short novels, murder mysteries, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, guitar teaching and more. Which is pretty impressive on a 12-ish-minute commute.

Come to think of it, I was wearing my red tights *and* reading Anna Karenin that night. Should've known...

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