Something completely unheard of happened in the fourth carriage of the 16.33 Moorgate to Hertford train.
It’s a relatively short and simple story and I’ll keep it that way.
Yes, as the slid doors opened, passengers boarding at Finsbury Park, Ally Pally and Cuffley recoiled in surprise. Some even shifted along to carriages three or five. But a few people (and when I say a few, I’m talking a small crowd) merrily stepped aboard and got involved.
What happened? What was it that made this journey so different to my distant previous? Meet Pig.
He’s sweet isn’t he?
Well, maybe you’re not a dog person and think, ‘No, absolutely not. Get that mutt off the train.’ But the thing about Pig is, he is actually an escape artist. Because when his owner fell asleep, this four legged Houdini took a tour of carriage four (as far as his caught lead would let him) and cheered us all up. Stranger still – he got us talking.
The bloke sat opposite me looked pretty no nonsense from the minute I sat down. But Pig, with expert nose and a taste for said man’s sausage roll (not a euphemism – he’d actually been to Greggs), chose him as subject of upmost affection.
It’s quite hard to ignore a great big lump of dog staring intently into your soul, dribbling on your shoe.
And so, the roll was shared and there was a murmur of laughter in the carriage at this unlikely new friendship formed.
“You’ve found a friend there”
“Well, I’ve got a couple at home. They all like me”
“No, no. No idea what they are. Came from a rescue”
“Oh nice. My wife wants a dog, but I don’t know. Could I trust a dog with the kids?”
This is where another voice pops up. There are now three, I repeat three strangers chatting on the train.
“I’ve got a rescue. My youngest is three. She loves him. He doesn’t leave her side”
Four. The fourth passenger now speaks.
“Sounds like mine at home. Can’t get enough of the kids”
What happens now, is that phones start to emerge.
We’re all oohing and ahhhing at Barry’s German Shepherd sharing an ice lolly with his girlfriend’s son.
We’re beside ourselves at the video of Sue’s cat drinking from the same water bowl as her husband’s chocolate Lab.
Suddenly, we’re all talking and chatting and its not even about dogs anymore. Pig’s shedding white hair all over a tall guy’s black suit trousers and it’s almost (almost) a party atmosphere. I think to myself “I wish I bought canapés”.
There is genuinely an entire carriage of strangers talking to one an another. I’m fairly sure that every person that got on that train, solemn and furrow browed, has since cracked a smile (minus Pig’s owner who woke up in panic, presumably concerned that her dog had disembarked somewhere between Harringay and Hornsey).
It seemed each person had stepped into that carriage absorbed in their own world, disconnected from one another and, quite honestly, looking like they were carrying their individual midweek angst pretty heavily. With some chatter they’d all cheered up. The mood had lifted. We all seemed happier.
Fairly ironic then, that this was the journey home from recent AYME fundraiser that celebrated the power of conversation to create connection and break isolation, regardless of whether you’re stuck in bed or playing sardines on the underground.
So thanks, Pig for proving that the theory works. And not just in a room of keen and paying attendees, but on an afternoon journey from Moorgate to Hertford too.