Whether the habit made the career or the career made the habit, the fact remains I am an inveterate earwigger, voyeur and plot hound.
On the DLR:
■ That young man in the new and ill-fitting suit, off to a job interview and yet he’s only now filling in the form. Spelling “experience” wrong. Oh my. His future’s in peril.
■ That man in an unlikely trench coat reading an academic paper. Stratigraphic And Topological Indicators of Subterranean Oil Deposits. Has he struck oil beneath the Royal Docks?
■ That chap in paint-spattered boots and sleeveless jerkin barking into a mobile. Providing instructions for an emergency generator at a Chechan stronghold? Or castigating the missus for the whole oven chips imbroglio?
■ That exotic princess with a Gambian head wrap of vivid teal lowering herself regally into a seat. Answering the Bollywood ringtone of her jewel-encrusted iPhone. “Nah, I’m on the train. She di’unt! That’s coz she a stone-cold bitch, innit.”
Only this week, standing in a field I saw two men in suits. They saw me, also incongruous amid a cluster of casual picnickers. They approached.
“Are you Patrick Tillman from the agency?”
I shook my head. I wasn’t. But nevertheless – mystery men meet in a meadow? Which agency? The CIA? I edged closer to eavesdrop, Instagramming grass until we were an uncomfortable, unlikely cluster.
“Are you sure you’re not Patrick Tillman?” one asked, unable to fathom another reason for my behaviour. I could be, I thought, and used the very British awkwardness of the moment to tease out the truth. Chartered surveyors, waiting for a land agent.
(Or were they?)
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