Bowery Mural

Barry, my chance meeting with an angel

Monday, 12 December 2011

There I was minding my own business, sat in a seat on the quite busy train. Checking Twitter. "Hiya, d'you want a can?" said a voice from the aisle in a thick Glaswegian accent. No thanks I replied. That was to be the start of one of the most bizarre and very funny chance meetings I've ever had in my life. After moving up and down the aisle, his friendly voice chatting all the while, he eventually sat in the seat next to me. I budged over and moved my bags to give him room. I'd been in Edinburgh hoping to finish my Christmas shopping but all i seemed to have bought were sweeties from the newly opened Hotel Chocolat in Frederick Street. A bit small but nice all the same.

Anyway, "are you sure you don't want a can? I'm Barry by the way". "No thanks. Angela" I replied. "Nice to meet you Angela, what you been up to?". I proceeded to tell him about my day. And then he launched into what can only be described as a cross between a therapy session and a weird other-world dream like scenario where he seemed to be able to tell every little character trait and nuance I have. His banter was good though. He'd been to the Hibs V Rangers match and was now heading home. Well, Stirling wasn't his home but he was a student at the Uni (where I work!) and had lived here for 4 years. "I like your wellies, are you an outdoors kinda person? do you go hill walking?" Now, granted, my outfit that day probably gave that away since not many folk outside the outdoors scene may not recognise my Rab down jacket. "I've done the West Highland Way" he told me. 5 days it  had taken them. "Bet you've not done anything like that Angela...?". "I've been to Nepal, trekking the Himalayas, I think that's 1-0 to me". "Naw, I've done the WHW it's 1 each". We laughed. He took another swig from his can of Tennents lager. It's strange. I normally hate drunks, especially drunks on the train. But Barry wasn't drunk. Yes, you could tell he'd been drinking but not that full on leaning over slurring your words drunk. Just merry and apparently totally happy with life.

B: "Is that you going home to watch XFactor and get your dinner? What you having?"
A: "Steak"
B: "What fillet, rump, ribeye...?"
A: "Fillet"
B: "Oh get you!"
...... rare moment of silence.....
"Oh here's the ticket wife coming. She'll gie me a row for having a can. I'll just put it on your tray. Here" and he set down the can on the fold down tray in the seat on front of me.
"she'll chuck you off instead of me, haha!"
A: "I don't even drink"
B: "WHIT?! What not ever? not even when you were 15 and your pals were all getting drunk and being sick, never?"
A: "nope. Never"
B: "wow that's...em...good, and bad..."

B: "I can't believe you've never had a drink"
A "I've got my orange juice" I'd bought a bottle of fresh orange to tide me over until I got home.
B: "Aye you wi your orange juice and your wee bit fillet steak for one. What a life!"

I laughed. It was funny. It WAS funny, but at the same time it had started to make me think.

B: "Let me guess, you're single Angela" WTF! "you don't really like the soaps...but you catch Emmerdale every now and again".
A: "yep"
B: "you don't really read books nor magazines either"
A: "correct"
B: "What DO you do Angela? apart from walking up hills and cooking your steak"
A: "I go out on my bike" Admittedly i was stuck. What do I do? Really? WHAT? "Anyway, what do you do?"
B: "I'm a student. I've been a printer, a [something else I can't quite remember] and i did the taxis. Then I decided I was too clever for that and believe it or not i want to be a teacher".
A: "ooft"
B: "don't you think I'd be a good teacher? I think I'd be great"

By this point the conductor had come along. I'd seen on her badge she was called Liz. "Here's Liz coming, better get your ticket out"
B: "do you know her?
A: "no, I seen her name on the badge".... we laughed again.

B: "Awright Liz hen, how are you?"
Conductor: "fine thanks!"
She drew a squiggle on our tickets and was gone. Meanwhile Barry was checking that everyone around about us was okay and were they sure they didn't want a can!

B: "see that's the thing Angela pal. Folk just look at me weirdly, they don't make eye contact. But all I want to do is just chat to people. I'm a happy kinda guy".
A: "Happy as Larry"
B: "Naw, happy as Barry, hahahaaa".

I was warming to Barry. It was surreal. At one point I said i might have to punch him to see if this situation was real. He said not to punch him but offered his arm for me to pinch it. And in true Barry form said "aya, that was my sore tricep". I swear, it was like a scene from a Christmas movie where a ghost (or something) is sent to guide you through and take you through a sentimental journey of your life so far and help you to change what you should've done years ago.

There were other topics we covered on that train journey. I don't want to share here. Lets just say Barry was like a gift from above who'd been sent to enlighten me on a few things. I told him this. He said "Angela, I was with my family at Edinburgh festival in the summer and we did the tarot readings. The guy told me i had the gift. I could read people" and he could. Barry read me like a book. Granted, some things, like the outdoors thing, could probably have been guessed from the look I was projecting that day. But others, well, I thought to myself that I must carry my life with me in my every face twitch, smile, frown, gesture. "are you nervous?" I was playing with the label on the now empty orange juice bottle. "No, me, no". I wasn't nervous, but I was antsy, and a little bit overwhelmed by it all. The only thing he didn't guess right was my age. He had me at 28. I gave him points for that!

Although I heard my phone buzzing away in my pocket, I never checked it once, so good was Barry's company. He'd gone to the toilet, so out the phone came. A few Twitter notifications. He returned to his seat and opened another can. His last one. "Aw look, you've got an iPhone. I never had you down as having an iPhone Angela. See, there's more layers to you than meets the eye. We just need to unravel them".

I almost cried in his face at this point. Instead I looked out of the window into the darkness and mentally gave myself a kick up the arse.

The train pulled into Stirling and Barry's friend joined him. "This is my pal Angela" he told him. "Hey she goes hill walking, we should all go up a munro" Are you coming for a pint Angela?"

"no thanks guys".

And with that I left Barry and his friends at the ticket barrier in Stirling station.
I felt weird. I was smiling, my jaw ached with laughing in fact. I felt sad that my life seemed to be etched across every last wrinkle free inch of my face. But i felt invigorated having had the pleasure of spending an hour in the company of Barry. My friend Barry.

I'm now in the process of unravelling those layers to make Barry proud.
"See, there's more layers to you than meets the eye. We just need to unravel them".

Angela xx


  1. What a brilliant story! I love barry already, I think he's going to be your guardian angel in future ;)

  2. i don't know about guardian angel but Barry certainly made me think a lot. (As if i don't do enough of that alrady!).


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