It is a little known fact that the medieval scholars translating ancient and magnificent tracts coi ed the phrase ” in the margins” as they made notes to themselves, literally in the margins of the page. What is less well known is that a great number of these comments were in fact insults to other monks and venerably bald men. These men of Christ regularly questioned the potency, the sexuality and the intelligence of their rivals. Archivists infact recently found one comment which simply read “Bede is an impotent arse” in a 9thcentury tome. Harsh and perhaps childish, but there in the margins.
However it is another such insult and piece of social commentary from ancient times which occurred to me as I travelled on the train this morning. Across a number of decorous and floridly translated tracts, an unknown hand has clearly scribbled complaints about globulous and oversized brethren sitting to close to him and almost suffocating him on their folds as they worked away in quiet and deliberate ignorance.
And such it was that I empathised with the perturbed Friar this morning on my way to work by the joys of the National Rail network. I am by no means somebody who rejects human contact, but I do have problems when people choose to sit on me when there are plenty of other seati g options available to them.
Feeling like a true Monday morning, I took my place on the edge of an empty bank of 4 seats and closed my eyes against an almost empty carriage. Moments later I was awoken by shuffling kicks to the ankles and buttocks to the face as something adjusted his luggage as he stood in front of me. An empty bank of 6 seats sat forlorn to my left. The rest of the carriage simply cried out for these ample cheeks to inhabit it, but no. The stumpy chap clutching his frayed, blue network rail holdall to his chest and avoiding eye contact was about to land. Slowly, but surely he shuffled next to the window and the space next to me, bent his knees, aimed his buttocks and the descended with the grace and accuracy of a wounded Hippo in cheap shoes. I was stuck, wedged in and losing the feeling in the right side of my body. Did he notice me? Of course he did, I essentially now part of him, but he chose to ignore this fact and begin reading his railway timetable.
What did I do, I hear you ask. There was only one thing I could do. I huffed, tutted, cursed his mothers fecundity, called him a vast array of gynaecological names in my head and shot him disapproving looks until he stood up and got off at the stop before mine. I am English after all, what choice did I have…..?